Since its beginning Kickstarter has built up a big reputation, and is almost always in the news, whether it be through positive or negative press. For the uninformed, Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform, by which anyone can simply upload a video, and people can then start investing in/backing whatever it is they are doing/trying to sell, and this model has turned out to be just as troublesome as it sounds.
The success of Kickstarter projects is something that has varied to a huge degree, with Oculus starting as a crowd-funded project on Kickstarter and recently being acquired by Facebook for $2billion, I would say this project is one of the Poster Childs for how crowdfunding does work. However, not all Kickstarters work out this way, with many projects going completely unfinished or not delivering what was expected. Gaming is a big area for these failures, in that people think it is much easier to make games than it is and even experienced developers can make mistakes….and then make the same mistake a second time….and then start their own crowd-funding platform. In the sections below I am going to try and give you an idea of what you are genuinely going to get when you back a something on Kickstarter, and why (for the most part) it is rarely a good idea.
Gaming is easy pickings for Kickstarter projects, both because every 12-18 year old thinks they can make video games, as well as the fact that a lot of people don’t realise how hard it actually is to build the games that they are being promised, and fail to realise that if they are sat in the bedroom asking for crowd-funding rather than working for Blizzard-Activision, it is extremely unlikely that they actually have the skills necessary to make “basically a Fallout Open-world MMO” or “Grand Theft Auto but running in the Unreal Engine 4 with RPG elements”. In terms of advice, using a bit of common sense you should be able to say to yourself “hey, this 12-year-old being filmed on an iPhone in his backyard probably isn’t going to make a ‘UE4 COD Zombies RPG’”, however just as a general rule I would try to avoid Kickstarters headed by Younger people/kids, and this is for a few reasons. Of course, kids are often just a bit dumb, and think they are more capable than they are, however even with young adults problems are posed, again for the fact that they think too highly of their own ability.
This isn’t to say crowd-funding is bad for the games industry, and that’s far from the case in reality, with Shenmue 3, the Banner Saga trilogy and Elite: Dangerous all being crowd-funding projects, however these games are grains of sand on a beach full of trash, and although they show what good crowd-funding can do, they shouldn’t be taken as the representative of what a crowd-funded game will look like. To take a reference of a more accurate representation of what you will get from Kickstarting a game would be Yogventures, a project headed by The Yogscast (formerly referred to as the ‘Kings of YouTube’ by the BBC in their heyday), in which they were somewhat scammed by a studio promising they could make their game, and when the studio realised they weren’t up to the task, the Yogscast were basically left ‘up-creek without a paddle’, and after public apologies reimbursed their backers with a copy of the game ‘TUG’. ‘TUG’ (at the time) was a completely broken, and just overall poor game, and was in no way a valid replacement for the game that was promised. For the most part I feel for the Yogscast (namely the owner Lewis Brinley) as I feel they themselves were let down by the studio, but have since had to face the backlash for the failure of the project, which is recognised as one of the worst Kickstarters of all time, with 5 backers paying $10,000 to meet them as well as feature in their series Shadow of Israphel, which has since been cancelled, very possibly to avoid fulfilling these rewards, as to try and bury to remnants of the failed project.
This idea of ‘celebrities’ attempting crowdfunding back-firing is somewhat of a trend, with Peter Molyneux’s kickstarted mobile app ‘Godus’, which earned over $500000 and was no better quality than a standard indie game/app, and was, even more, jam packed with micro-transactions than an average mobile game. Another example of this that I referenced earlier, is Tim Schafer, an absolutely legendary developer, creator of some of the most beloved games of all time, and yet he still couldn’t deliver what he was supposed to with either of his two high-profile crowd-funded games: Space-base df-9 and Broken Age. Spacebase was the first of the two and almost definitely the bigger flop, with mostly negative reviews on Steam the game is, in the most literal sense possible, unfinished, with Double Fine (Schafer’s studio) marketing it as almost a community effort to finish the game. With the game, in essence, being a clone of the 1990 classic ‘Angband’, a game about the Tolkien Dwarf fortress, you would think the game would be relatively simple to make, and it should have been, but Double Fine clearly seemed to struggle. Broken Age was eventually finished, with the second part of the game being released nearly a year late, and (in my opinion) not holding up to the quality of the first half. I think with Broken Age Double fine, spent all the crowd-sourced money on hiring Elijah Wood and creating the Double Fine adventure documentary, and simply ran out of funds to make the game by its intended release date, and (supposedly) then needed to reinvest sales from the first half of the game into making the other.
Although its name may carry a much different reputation than it did a few years ago, the impact Kickstarter projects have had on the Technology industry is undeniable, and in many ways have changed the world. As previously mentioned the Oculus DK1 was a Kickstarter project, which has now led to an actual VR industry to form, with several larger companies building headsets. On top of this the ‘first’ smartwatch, the Pebble, was a Kickstarter project. Beyond this, it’s more so been the case of making what was industry tech affordable for the consumer, for example, TRINUS, an all-metal 3D printer/laser engraver that has a retail price of $350, or maybe more applicable The Micro, what is touted as the first consumer 3D printer.
Tech, like gaming, is another area rife with young adults, who know how to write a couple of lines of code and think they are Steve Wozniak, and because of this the technology section of Kickstarter is often filled with opportunistic/gimmicky tat, or just genuinely awful products. In terms of opportunistic projects, I mean things like the hundreds of personal trackers or ‘safety devices’ posted to the site, preying on people fears of being vulnerable, when in reality almost 100% of them as just geotags, that work via a smartphone app. There is a lot of these sort of projects, that try to prey on the fears of (mainly) overly concerned “millennials” (by this I don’t mean all ‘millennials’ I’m referring to the stereotyped character, of telling people who spank their kids that it is child abuse et cetera), a good example of this is CalmChild, a project trying to publish a book, which helps you teach your child to meditate. Although on the surface of things, teaching children meditation isn’t a bad idea, as introverted activity such as meditation can be healthy for the mind, however, I feel the sort of person who would do this, would stress to the child that they know that the child suffers from stress, and acknowledge the possibility that the child will end up with mental health issue, which in my opinion (with a wealth of Phycological research to back me up) is detrimental to a Childs mental health and overall view of the world, and in reality it is more important to teach kids to be good people, not teach kids how to cope with bad people/stressors.
On top of this, there is the obvious mound of tech to ‘increase your productivity’ or to ‘improve your diet’ when in reality both of these things are more so down to will power than what an app on your phone tells you to do (not to say fitness trackers are bad). As for any type of crowd-funding project, you run the risk of the product simply never making to market, or the developers/manufacturers ripping you off to some degree. A good example of this is actually one of the most popular Kickstarters I’ve ever seen, and that was the Tiko Unibody 3D printer. Everyone within the CAD/CNC/3D-Design industry/community talking about it, the Tiko was set to make 3D printers an almost household item, with its sleek design and low costs, yet currently, I know a total of 2 people who own personal 3D Printers, and insanely they are both Ultimakers, not Tikos. There’s a small chance that this could be down to the fact that very few backers have actually received there Tiko and many of those who have, have received it fairly recently (shipping started November 2016, a year after the initial shipping date, with most people still yet to receive them at the time of writing February 2017) and those who have received them have reported them being extremely poorly made, with most of the comments on the Kickstarter page from people who have received their Tiko, still saying it wasn’t worth the money in the first place. The company has also refunded pre-orders today, meaning they are likely taking the money and running in terms of the crowd-funded side of the business, so to all those who bought a Tiko, I feel for you.
In terms of ‘other’, I am just referring to all the other categories on the website as for the most part, very few of them are worth the time to speak about. The comic book section is exactly as you would imagine (people who can’t draw, write, or pitch), the art and photography section is exactly what you would imagine (pretentious people who think owning an expensive camera makes them a better person) and it’s a similar case for each of the categories. Of course, there are a lot of genuinely great art books on offer, and likely good comic books and food products and indie movies, however, for every genius there is 100 idiots trying to earn a quick buck without think of the actual responsibility they are taking on. In reality, most of the stuff on Kickstarter is good fodder for critique and it becomes a rather one-sided argument when I point out every poor idea people try to sell. Instead, to give somewhat more of a fair argument I will finish the article by linking several Kickstarter projects, that are currently live that I believe are worth your time and money: