Once in a while when I’m talking with fellow gamers, the subject of whatever recent trendy Kickstarter games and MMOs comes up, usually with a comparitive list of which games people have given what to. Sometimes the “confessions” admit to staggering amounts — in the hundreds or even thousands to an idea of a game. A hope of a game. A promise of a game.
I find it a little amusing that in an age where we bristle at mobile games that dare to charge us more than 99 cents, we’re also seeing gamers dump multiple times the amount of money of a brand-new AAA game on these projects. I’m sure there’s an essay about perceived value in there, but that’s not my goal today.
When we have these conversations, I have to admit that I’ve never bought into any of these campaigns. The closest I’ve gotten was to pony up a few bucks for Starbound and Trove, but those both were heavy into development at the time and weren’t doing an official campaign of any sort.
So why haven’t I spent money on Kickstarter? It’s not as though I find all of the prospects boring. On the contrary, I am excited by many of them, including Wasteland 2, Shroud of the Avatar, Star Citizen, that Double Fine adventure game, the Veronica Mars movie, and so on. There are some good ideas out there that I do want to see succeed. But if they do, it’s not going to be on my dollar.
Being realistic, Kickstarter is an investment platform that is promising to deliver a product instead of a financial return on investment. We collectively chip into the pot to get a game that we want and that might not get made through normal publisher/investment routes. We stick it to the publishers and feel good about it.
But it still is an investment. I stand to gain but also to lose. An early lesson I learned was the Star Command campaign, which promised a really awesome FTL-like Star Trek parody but ended up delivering only on part of the game. Seeing the fans crushed at having been promised one thing, spending money for it, and being given an inferior product was an object lesson that I didn’t want to go through personally. We’re still watching how many of these MMO Kickstarters are shaping up, and I can tell you that there will be tears from those who won’t get the game that the devs talked up while passing around the hat. I can only imagine the nerdrage from gamers who have personally funded development of a disappointing title.
I’m also somewhat of a frugal guy. Yes, I do impulsive purchases here and there, but I don’t generally pay money for a promise of an idea that’s years off. If it comes out and it looks good, then I’ll buy it. I don’t really go for pre-orders much either, other than the occasional MMO collector’s edition. If the community wants to fund a game that I can experience for a nominal cost when/if it comes out, then I stand to benefit without much risk on my behalf.
I don’t see the appeal of risking my money, anyway. Other than getting a game made, the primary motivating factors are to get into the early testing (meh) or being showered with various digital rewards. Most of those rewards operate under delayed deployment too, so it’s an investment twice over.
Really, there’s so much to play right now that could be taking my money that I’m not tempted by Kickstarter. If a game’s going to fund, it’ll fund with or without my $20, I’m sure.