It is safe to say that since it’s launch in 2009, Kickstarter has created a crowd funding phenomenon. The New York based company has been the driving force behind some great projects. From gadgets such as the Pebble Smartwatch to movies and television shows like Veronica Mars and Reading Rainbow that people have been wanting back on the air for years, the site has served as a voice and a banner for people to come together and put up money to get these things done. Perhaps no industry has shown more evidence of this than gaming. Currently 2 of the top 3 and 7 of the top 25 highest grossing Kickstarter projects are video games. This includes the ranking number one highest funded project, Star Citizen which holds the Guiness World Record and is currently sitting at over $99,000,000 raised. Granted, not all of the money came from Kickstarter itself however that is where the project got started and originally gained most of it’s momentum. The point is that games such as Psychonauts 2, Battletech (which conveniently I was just talking about in this post), Shenmue III, The Bard’s Tale IV and many others that could not get funding from a major studio are now seeing the light of day based purely on the demand of people who want to play them. It really is a great sign for a developer that you know that there will be a market for your game when it is released and that you aren’t going to have to try to sell it to someone up front, because the only people you answer to, your backers, are the ones that are giving you the money to make it. Clearly it seems like a perfect win-win system that will become even more popular in gaming development in the future, which is why it really got me to thinking when I saw an article pop up on my feed today about a Kickstarter project gone awry.
Project Phoenix is a Kickstarter campaign being run by the company Creative Intelligence Art, Inc. and was launched in 2013 with the aim to “set a new standard of excellence for the Japanese gaming industry”. First off, that’s quite the boast there. It was also stated to have a hot-shot head programmer at the helm although at the time they declined to actually name who it was (later revealed to be Moon Studios programmer David Clark of Ori and the Blind Forest fame). Unfortunately for their Kickstarter backers, it has since been revealed that not only was Clark no longer joining the project, but the game has now been delayed until 2018. Now delays are not something completely uncommon in the gaming world, and it is often you will hear a release date being pushed back for a few months to put some last minute “polish” on a game. That being said, 2 and a half years? That’s brutal. Especially because they are not currently issuing refunds to those that funded the project and who are now wanting to get off of what looks to be a sinking ship. The situation has brought to light some of the pitfalls of backing a project such as this. What happens when they team doesn’t deliver the personnel that they say they are working with? How long is too long of a delay? Should a backer be able to withdraw money should they not like the direction the project is taking? How much should their opinion matter, or should it even matter? It’s not like it is completely unheard of in the crowdfunding community. Now granted, I understand that there is risk involved when you decide to back a venture that you are taking a gamble based on what you see and then you have to just live with the results, however in this case it seems that these backers have taken a gamble when they were presented with one picture, and now that picture has been gradually changing over the last two years, and now they have an even longer wait than what they have already endured, and who knows how much the finished product could change between now and then?
All in all, crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Gofundme are becoming an ever more viable and powerful source for individuals to bring their products to the world, and there is evidence that this is only going to get more popular as time goes on. For every Star Citizen (who I may also point out has not actually delivered their game so who is to say it will be worth all the hype it has generated) there is going to be a Project Phoenix. Some people are going to make money and reap the rewards of having faith in a small group of people wanting to bring something new to the world, and some people are going to be burned. Hopefully this is not the case for those who funded PF, and hopefully we will all get to enjoy a game that breaks the JRPG mold and becomes wildly successful. Hell, I mean here I am talking about the game and it isn’t coming out for years so they must be doing something right. Only 2+ more years to wait!
What are your thoughts on the potential pitfalls of Kickstarter, and would you be willing to wait this long if you believed in a studio? Sound off in the comments!