$10,000,000 Given To Kickstarter Games Since March

By John Walker on April 19th, 2012 at 11:30 am.

Pretty tempting, huh?

No one can have escaped the chatter about Kickstarter. It’s being a collection of remarkable stories of significant funds raised by crowd-sourced budgets, gamers investing in projects in the place of publishers. And those numbers are significiant. Since the beginning of March, gamers have pledged over ten million dollars to games via Kickstarter. And that’s to projects that have achieved their funding, or are just about to. It’s not including hundreds of thousands more in games only midway through their run.

To clarify, the way Kickstarter works is that projects must reach their targets to receive any funding at all. If a developer wants $100,000, and only $98,500 is pledged in the time period, then they receive nothing at all. Once they get to their target, everything that arrives on top is cherries for them. In many cases, fleets of lorries carrying cherries.

Of those that have finished their run, that started since the beginning of March, an incredible total of $6,977,432 has been successfully given to gaming projects. Then you can add on the figures from those still receiving donations but have already received their minimum amount – in other words, guaranteed money. That adds on $2,362,256, bringing things to $9,339,688. And then there are three games that seem very likely to make their big money in the next couple of weeks, Leisure Suit Larry, Grim Dawn and Moebius – that’s another $701,670, giving the extraordinary grand total of $10,041,358.

And this number is a wild under-estimation for how much will have been given in the two months since the 1st March, with dozens of projects already having thousands pledged their way, and very many already deeply into the tens of thousands. Clearly some of these will fail to reach their target, but many will keep adding to this total.

(I should add, Kickstarter’s layout of projects isn’t enormously helpful – these figures have been reached by totalling up all the gaming funds I found, and some could easily have been missed.)

And of course this isn’t a phenomenon that began with Tim Schafer. For someone with more patience than me, who is willing to total up the giving to games since the beginning of the year, a couple more million could be added on. However, it’s also of crucial note that of the total from the last month and a half, 85% comes from just five games.

Clearly with this remarkable phenomenon of gamers paying for games before they exist, and in some cases, before the idea for what the game will be has been had, there are those warning of doom and danger. It really should go without saying that you should carefully weigh up the potential of a project before handing over your prospective cash. If a team of two are pledging to make a COD-beating shooter for $50,000, you might want to question adding to that total. But that’s common sense. The largest chunks of the money have been given to known developers with significant experience.

And it’s good news for Kickstarter too! That’s half a million they’ve made from their 5% cut, just from gaming in a month and a half.

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56 Comments »

  1. Hoaxfish says:

    There’s something of relevance over on indiegames/Gamasutra about Star Command (iOS game), and just how much of the money it got from Kickstarter it actually got. A large chunk of which went on backer rewards.

    edit: turns out this is a second-hand link, since the same info is also linked to in the penny-arcade article.

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      That was an interesting read. Worth noting that even after they shifted $10000 on posters and T-Shirts (!) and the other extras on tax and kickstarter fees, they still had the original $20000 that they asked for.

    • Shivoa says:

      What I don’t quite understand from that story was the tax. The money was income, for the company making the game (however that is defined), and would be offset against costs with tax paid on profits. I’ve always been lucky (or cursed, depending on your perspective when rent is due and work has been done but there is no money yet) to work first (incurring cost) before getting paid so the numbers are easy to add up on the tax return each year and you bring the losses forward to offset the later profits. Surely there is a way of putting this down an investment in future development and so being offset by future cost (so the tax would be a temporary measure that would be later returned, even if the tax office doesn’t just let you keep it all for now and then come back next year to make sure the maths added up).

      If you’re treating this as a personal income than maybe it doesn’t work out that way but then you should be looking to register your company and put yourself and team on the pay-roll and then pay yourselves with this investment. It just seems like the maths (and future estimated costs in the business plan for paying everyone to make the game you just got investment for) should work out to not paying tax on it as income (where I live there may well be issues with paying for sales tax and maybe even something I’m forgetting) as it isn’t profits until all deliverables are completed (ie the game is done).

      Edit: maybe I should be more careful on that last sentence. It is profits but offset by new liabilities that will create future loss and that seems like a very common situation for a lot of companies and where the tax office will have a well established path to let them know about it so the numbers don’t go weird.

    • CMaster says:

      Yeah, I’ve thought some projects seem a little overgenerous with their donator rewards. So paying the game’s likley retail price gets you the game, fair enough. But if paying an extra $15 gets a t shirt too, then most of that extra gets soaked up in the tshirt (yes, you can get printed shirts for pretty cheap, but how bad quality do you want? How much time/money is handling, delivery, etc going to take?). Equally, if for a $5000 donation, they’ll fly you out, put you up and take you on a night out, that could easily eat up most of the very generous donation. Note that stuff like Wasteland 2 were very careful to mostly give away “free” things like named in game features, and the opportunity to hang out, rather than stuff that costs money.

      Course, some of these kickstartes probably don’t need the money. Some will produce whatever they are going to make anyway, and Kickstarter is basically just a preorder store. For them it’s reasonable enough to just sell merchandise in effect.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      That is no worse or better than retail IMO. Difference being it’s still a valid way of paying, so all good.
      In retail most of the money goes to distribution and advertising anyhow.

      • frightlever says:

        In retail you hand over your money and are handed a bag with your purchase in exchange. It’s not quite the same as Kickstarter.

        • Furtled says:

          It kind of works the same as a pre-order – as long as everything goes right you get goods in exchange for your cash. If it goes wrong? Well, that’s the risk you have to take.

  2. SurprisedMan says:

    I’m glad you mentioned what you did at the end there. I felt Ben Kuchera’s article really didn’t give us consumers enough credit. Sure, some money will undoubtedly go on projects doomed to failure or rubbishness. But on the whole, people go into Kickstarter fully aware of the risks they take paying for something that isn’t done, and will set their level of involvement according to how big a risk they think that is.

  3. andytizer says:

    It’s a shame that Kickstarter won’t branch out to accept non-US bank accounts, as this would increase the potential number of projects hugely.

    Edit: Yes I mean Kickstarter projects require a US bank account and social security number to be created. UK or international projects without this cannot be accepted.

    My own Kickstarter (as a UK citizen) actually goes through my brother (US green card holder). If successful (very unlikely!) I expect to pay tax twice through both the IRS and HMRC.

    This is in addition to the 10% fee of Kickstarter and Amazon Payments, and the well-documented 5% of ‘no-shows’ whose payment details are not valid at time of the funding goal.

    • kikito says:

      I have funded a couple projects with my non-US bank account, with no issues (my account is from Spain).

      • Jiggeh says:

        Same here, I’ve had no problems whatsoever donating money from my Swedish bank account.

      • Premium User Badge

        AmateurScience says:

        I think andytizer meant for the creation of projects rather than the funding of them. At the moment you need a US account to start a project. Funding can come form anywhere that can use Amazon payments.

    • Groove says:

      It really is, it would open so many doors.

      I know that there are good alternatives to Kickstarter, but most people that trust Kickstart haven’t even heard of the similar global sites.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      They explained the reason for US-only in this blogpost: http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/amazon-payments-and-us-only
      (it’s because of Amazon Payments)

      • andytizer says:

        Whilst I can see they are being restricted by Amazon Payment’s stipulations. However sites like IndieGoGo seem to be able to offer exactly the same financial service, but with PayPal, with no region restrictions at all.

        • InternetBatman says:

          Paypal has proven time and again that it doesn’t handle large amounts of money well. It’s still not unusual to hear about them freezing accounts or taking forever to deliver the money. I wouldn’t want to use them either.

        • bottleHeD says:

          IndieGoGo is different. They transfer the money regardles of whether you’ve reached the limit or not (which can be disastrous for the project creator). Amazon Payments, however, acts as a sort of escrow account, and funds are transferred only when the target is met.

          • Premium User Badge

            Bluerps says:

            Yes, and apparently only Amazon Payments provides this kind of service, at the moment.

      • Lemming says:

        It’s a sound explanation, but they need to clarify why they haven’t considered Google checkout, which allows the kind of transactions they are talking about.

      • MaximKat says:

        You’ll also notice that they say that they’re looking at the “new” paypal feature that does the same. The post is 2.5 years old.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I would not be surprised if Amazon themselves were being blocked by something further up the chain, such as financial legislation.

    • Exitalterego says:

      While I haven’t read up on Kickstarters own policies and reasons behind only allowing US created projects, this kind of funding is technically illegal in the UK. Further reading about changing this here:

      http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-02-09-ukie-lobbies-to-make-crowd-funding-legal-in-the-uk

      I just wish that EG had provided a source link!

    • lyons says:

      For people outside america, you could always use http://www.indiegogo.com

    • Strange_guy says:

      Yeah, I’ve heard on the xenonauts forum they wish to get a bit more funds to develop from kickstarter and I think are planing to start it when they have a fairly stable alpha to use as a demo. When it was first mentioned they said they wouldn’t be able to use kickstarter as none of them are US based and none of the work arounds could be done, but apparently they’ve sorted something out as they are now planing kickstarter rewards.

  4. rustybroomhandle says:

    I’m a little sad about some that did not make it, like Feeble’s Fable. But then, besides showing off some stunning artwork, the sales pitch was a tad dull.

    • sneetch says:

      Yeah, I think some of these Kickstarter hopefuls need to realise just how important it is to get that sales pitch right and right first time.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      For “unknowns” (not superstars a-la double fine, wasteland 2) to succeed, people are much more interested in what’s already available to show.

      Something like FTL had everything from videos to a playable demo, where-as other games have “an ideas guy”.

      A couple of the apparent “celeb” kickstarters have me suspicious of their success (the current company for Shadowrun’s output is a little less stellar in my eyes), the tactical shooter and LSLarry games are both on tenuous ground when it comes to what they’re actually “selling”.

      • Lemming says:

        That’s why Fargo created the ‘kick back’ solution, which I hope gets some use.

      • InternetBatman says:

        The Shadowrun guys look like they have a much better output than Brian Fargo, who’s most recent game has a 68 on metacritic.

        The harebrained schemes company produced a successfully reviewed iOs game cheaply and in a matter of weeks. The AR game looks a bit silly, but not substantially different from Doublefine’s AR game.

        • Hoaxfish says:

          Harebrained Scheme’s “Crimson: Steam Pirates” was backed by Bungie’s Aerospace thing, but was also accused of being a rip-off of Steam Birds. Horns and Halos appears to be a basic photo toy. And Strikefleet Omega isn’t out yet (apparently it’s in crunch-time right now). So, there’s not much to judge on how well they’d do with a roleplay game.

          I won’t say InXile are exactly stellar either. I do recognise them as “celeb”, but certainly don’t exclude them from being of questionable ability. Bard’s Tale and Hunted, go some way as RPGs, and with Choplifter are on platforms outside of the iOS sub-industry. However, as you say, they were not exactly well received by their review scores.

          edit: found some harebrained games on metacritic, just not listed under their page.

          • InternetBatman says:

            What were they? I looked on metacritic and their page too. Were they hiding them?

          • Hoaxfish says:

            “Crimson: Steam Pirates” is listed as made by “Bungie Aerospace Corporation” for iOS, coming in with 88 on critic reviews… I shouldn’t have used the plural when I said “games”.

  5. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    I do think there will be a kickstarter that commits a big fraud but that is just the way of the world with anything that involves lots of money.

    While you are right to mention the risk of over-ambitious projects I am sure there are also some very unpleasant people out there who are scheming right now how to fake up an attractive looking project to encourage investment and heck maybe even fake up a few progress reports after they’re funded. However eventually they’ll claim the game can’t be made and they’re very sorry for their fans and then they ride off into the sunset.

    So yeah, always be aware the projects you back are a huge gamble. I’ve only backed Grim Dawn so far but I know the money I put down for it could end up buying me nothing.

    However also be careful the people you’re considering pledging to aren’t just commiting fraud.

    You might think you’re smart and savvy but thats how fraudsters get you, always second guess yourself and remember the playing field is titled pretty heavily towards fraudsters these days in areas much bigger than kickstarter: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-obamas-jobs-act-couldnt-suck-worse-20120409

    (It is sad that acknowledging Kickstarter as a valid form of funding was used to mask the dangerous deregulation that is the majority of the JOBS act).

    • Premium User Badge

      equatorian says:

      I’m pretty sure that most of us go into these things aware that it might be fraud, or old developers interested in just cashing in their names for a quick buck before claiming Development Hell and disappearing into the sunset.

      I’m pretty sure that most of us who ended up funding all these projects just feel that we want these things to have the POTENTIAL TO EXIST so much that any risk of fraud is worth it. Condition that happens with a starved market; once it gets more saturated, I’ll bet that we’ll see more prudent Kickstarter funding from then on.

  6. CMaster says:

    Now let’s just hope that as many of these kickstarted projects deliver.

    I’m pretty sure some will fail to ever show a result at all, either through malice (taking the money and running) or more frequently simply failure to put together a coherent product before the money runs out.

    I’ve chipped in for FTL, and I know that will deliver, what with it being playable already. I hope that some of these other projects result in something I want to play, too.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Yea, there’re plenty of examples of games simply spiralling out of control, both in terms of budget and design before Kickstarter was even a thing.

      I hope at least some of the big names succeed just so that the backer-mob doesn’t dismiss the whole idea and move onto the next thing. And obviously if the smaller games become successes it’ll mean all the more for it as a way of funding indie projects.

      • CMaster says:

        It’s something we see a lot less these days, with big publishers so heavily managed and so on. Most games that get any kind of promotion are ultimately released and are at least functional, if not necessarily good.

        I’ve been gaming since the 90s though, and I remember games that got magazine covers and full page adverts just vanishing in to nothing, or eventually fetching up 12 months late and literally broken (anyone who accuses say, Bethesda or Obsidian of making broken games clearly didn’t play back then). I do think seeing small, often inexperienced teams wind up with $100k +, we’re going to see a lot of this happening again.

        • Belsameth says:

          Daikatana! \o/

          • CMaster says:

            Honestly, Diakatana might have been the most heavily promoted and hyped, but it was far from the worst failure.

        • Premium User Badge

          equatorian says:

          By Bethesda and Oblivion, did you mean Bethesda and Obsidian?

          Because it’s actually a pretty funny joke if it’s intentional…

    • Freud says:

      It’s probably healthy if some projects fail or become disappointing. It will hopefully make the sellers and buyers on Kickstarter more thorough in the future making Kickstarter better in the long run. That is unless some Madoffesque arse ruins it for everyone.

      Besides, expecting sunshine stories from every project is unrealistic. There are lots of publisher funded projects that fail one way or another too.

    • ceriphim says:

      What’s the deal with FTL lately anyway? They were all over it for a while and haven’t updated anything since, what, the end of February?

      I haven’t gotten any email updates from them via their subscriber link and last I checked (last week) the website hadn’t had any updates either. I’m not super nervous about it (since they already had working demos and new-ish videos), but still. How ’bout announcing a date for that closed beta, guys?

  7. Hoaxfish says:

    Going completely in the opposite direction to the article, it’s roughly the last hours of the Banner Saga kickstarter.

    As far as I’ve seen it’s being handled really well, and if the last push is as big as some of the others it should be able to reach its “highest target” (70k for “player cities in multiplayer”, while it is currently a little over 60K)

    Also, going by the kickstarter blog, the new “highest amount backed” is not a computer game, but an iphone/android “watch” (wireless peripheral thing) coming in at ~5million in 6 days:Pebble e-paper watch (99 for the minimum backer reward of the actual product, and still 29 days to go)

  8. MadTinkerer says:

    I think it will be a little while before a major fraud is perpetrated. A LOT of projects are still not making their goals, including several I funded and hoped would make it. (In fact, with one project I am the only backer. Their pitch was awful, but I backed them because they happen to be working with similar tech that I am and I know their idea is feasible so I wanted to encourage them. But apparently I’m the only one in the world who feels this way. Oh well.)

    Anyway, currently, the effort required to get people to part with a sufficient amount of cash outweighs the maximum effort someone pulling a con would be willing to put in. The entire point of a Producers-style con is that you put in just enough effort to trick people into thinking you are making a high quality production. But if the effort needed to pull the con is the same or greater than if you were actually in the process of a legitimate production, or if the marks are unable to meet the budget needed to make the con profitable, the con becomes unfeasible.

    Now what will tend to happen instead is that folks with completely innocent intentions will turn out to not have the management / production skills to finish the job for the (relatively little) money they raised. This happens all the time, the only difference is that a lot of people are actually paying attention to Kickstarter now. So far, thanks to people’s skepticism, the only projects with large targets succeed if the team has already worked on projects with much higher budgets. In other words, no one is giving hundreds of thousands to an unproven team.

    Meanwhile, Class of Heroes is quite a good Wizardry-style game. Yeah, it has Anime-ish graphics. Yeah, it’s for the DS. But it’s just as old-school fun as Avernum and Grimrock. It’s too bad that the campaign to get the sequel out looks like it’s not going to make it. Evidently, while the various point & clickers and oldschool RPGs can be produced digitally for a low enough target, it seems Kickstarting DS games is currently prohibitively expensive. Yeah, the target is high, but the physical production of the cartridges requires that kind of money. Oh well.

  9. Premium User Badge

    svendelmaus says:

    Interestingly, browsing IndieGoGo led me to Thomas Was Alone, which I believe I read about on this very site; has the success of Kickstarter slopped over to IndieGoGo, asks someone not willing to do the work of investigating?

  10. Kartoffeln says:

    Hey, how can I change my Avatar? Do I have to register in the forums too for that?

  11. D3xter says:

    Even more interesting, there’s now a Kickstarter that broke $5 Million Dollars in funding: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android and it’s still going strong.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      my post, mentioning that is “awaiting moderation”… but anyway

      There seems to be an equally large Phone/tech “bubble” going on, with quite a few big rollers for iPhone related projects.

  12. Norramp says:

    I really think we could be doing this just as well without the 5% charge for managing the money. If this trend really takes off they’ll be getting tens of millions of dollars that should be going toward development.
    If the projects were smaller 5% would be fine, but I don’t see Kickstarter as a permanent option.

    Ideally developers should be managing these things themselves (I was happy enough with the way Minecraft worked).

  13. Demiath says:

    The only thing that really matters when it comes to the “risks” of backing Kickstarter projects is the simple fact that the vast majority of donors only give the lowest amount possible, typically below $30. That’s not a big loss even for the most cash-strapped of school kids out there, especially not 18 months down the line when that one-time payment feels awfully remote. By contrast, paying $60 up front for an instant opportunity to be disappointed by Generic Shooter B is a hell of a lot more painful both in the short and long term…

  14. ShEsHy says:

    And why isn’t Nexus 2 on there???

  15. SometimesYou says:

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    Have a nice day anyway!