July 04, 2013, 6:00 AM —
I first discovered Kickstarter at about the same time game designers seemed to. Between late February and early September, 2012, I pledged on about 30 gaming projects. Then I started to get jaded and got a lot more picky about my pledges. The last time I pledged for a game was April of this year.
Of the 37 or so total game related projects I've pledged for, five have delivered and a few more have sent along alpha code to mess around with. Of the five that delivered, one was a super successful project (FTL) and the other 4 came in right around the funding amount they'd been hoping for.
I have come to believe that the worst thing that could happen to a Kickstarter campaign is to have the actual funding amount far surpass their goals, leading to all kinds of stretch goals and other attempts to expand the original concept of the project. These stretch goals almost always knock the release schedule for a loop and often cause the project to change in ways you might not expect.
My classic example of this is The Banner Saga which was supposed to be a single person tactical game delivered in November 2012. They were asking for $100,000 but got over $700,000 which caused them to greatly expand the scope of the game. They wound up releasing a MP competitive title called Factions last February with a promise that the single player title would follow. And I'm sure it will eventually, but they say they're making a 'much bigger' game thanks to the extra funding. But personally, I'm not interested in a bigger game; I was looking forward to a quick, relatively simple tactical game that I could play over the holidays last year. The Banner Saga may turn out great, but it's not going to be the game I gave my pledge towards.
Now all of that is a long-winded preamble for the news I wanted to share today. We've got another potential Kickstarter debacle on our hands. In February 2012 industry veteran Tim Schafer turned to Kickstarter to get funding for a game with the working title of Double Fine Adventure. He set a goal of $400,000 and an estimated delivery date of October 2012. Instead of $400,000 the project pulled in $3,300,000+.
I'm not sure of all the gory details since; I'm not a backer of this project and Double Fine only wants backers to know what's going on. But in an update on July 2nd, Schafer apparently announced that the project, now called Broken Age, has gone over budget. (I'm using posts at Ars Technica and Penny Arcade Report as sources here.) He asked for $400,000, got $3.3 million, and is apparently somehow running out of money. What the heck?
Schafer is now planning an "Early Release" launch on Steam (which is a way for game developers to generate revenue from incomplete games by letting customers buy their way into alpha/beta testing phases) to generate more revenue in an attempt to finish the game. If I'm understanding things correctly, they're aiming for January 2014 for the Steam "Early Release" of the first half of the game. The second half will follow in the April-May time frame. Anyone who purchases the first half gets the second half for free, and of course Kickstarter backers get it all for free.
So backers who were expecting to playing this game in October 2012 will finally have a finished project in April 2014. Now Tim Schafer and Double Fine have a huge fan following so I'm sure all will be forgiven, but I'm really happy I didn't back this project.
Ben Kuchera at Penny Arcade summed it up pretty well when he said:
"The question is what the backers will think about all this. Double Fine recently ended a second Kickstarter, for the game Massive Chalice, and their continued success with this funding method is going to be predicated on backers feeling like they’re being treated with respect and are getting the content they paid for in a reasonable amount of time.
The realities of development don’t matter here as much as perception; if backers begin to think these solutions aren’t fair, or that Double Fine just needed to cut the game and release sooner, funding for future games may not come as easily."
I'm admittedly a curmudgeon so it's probably not a big surprise that I've become jaded about Kickstarter, but I have to wonder how many of these project delays it'll take before other gamers abandon this new crowd-sourced system of game publishing.
Has anyone else besides me given up on backing Kickstarted games?
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.