Money Troubles: What Happens When Kickstarters Fail?

By John Walker on October 19th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

Since Kickstarting games became a thing, everyone has soothsayed the possibility of how it could go wrong. There are two significant ways, really. A high profile game comes out, and is a big pile of doo-doo. Or a high profile game never comes out at all. Crucially, neither is in violation of any part of the Kickstarter model, and both are something that really should be accepted as a possibility by people pledging to projects. But that doesn’t really change the fact that when it happens on a big scale, people are going to get a lot more wary.

And now the first example we’ve spotted of a game not appearing has happened, with the documented struggles of Haunts: The Manse Macabre. A successful $25,000 Kickstarter that has not only missed its release date, but isn’t sure if it will ever make one.

Haunts perhaps received its primary attention after advertising on the My Brother, My Brother And Me podcast. That brought it to our attention, and we covered it in the Katchup. It was to be a multiplayer game in which people played as either the haunters or the haunted, humans or ghosts. Running for over a month, the Kickstarter was very slow to make its money, adding on about a thousand dollars a week, until a big spurt forward in its final run. In the end it exceeded its $25k goal, reaching $28,739.

And now it may not happen at all. Here’s the thing: videogame projects don’t always work out. They never have. No matter who is making the game, nor how it’s funded, sometimes games just don’t get to be games. The issue today is, Kickstarter funders haven’t previously experienced this.

Haunts developer Rick Dakan explains in great depth, and with great sadness, about why his project has fallen to pieces. Starting with a very small development team, over the last few months most of them have left. One was always going back to his job at Google, but they’d hoped to have got a lot more done before then. Another received a job elsewhere so handed in his notice. And now Dakan is left with a buggy, unfinished game, written in a programming language he doesn’t know, and in something of a pickle. Development took much longer than expected, new bugs are replacing old bugs, and it’s just Rick and his artist Austin left at the studio. None of this was planned. And certainly none of this appears to be a misuse of $29k.

When you pledge money to a Kickstarter, you really are only ever funding the development of a project. But when tier rewards tend to promise the final result, and when the reward level that promises to provide the vanilla version of the game is usually the most popular, it’s hard not to perceive it as pre-ordering. It shouldn’t be, but it sure feels like it is. And it is of course ambiguous. The Kickstarter rules make it clear that projects can fail, and that developers should be open and honest about the issues they’re facing, and be clear about how the money is being spent. However, it then also states that failing to meet promises is a legal matter.

Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?

Yes. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill. We crafted these terms to create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don’t. We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfill.

As the statement says, while backers can take legal recourse at their reward not being received, it’s still pretty shitty if they do when there’s good faith in place. And that’s a position some developers are going to be in. The money’s going to be spent. They’re not going to have $30k to give back to people once a development has failed. Because they spent it failing. And I’d argue that’s perfectly reasonable.

Clearly this changes if a developer can’t justify how the money has been spent. If you discovered you’d chucked $100 toward someone’s Caribbean holiday, then yes, at that point it seems fair to want it back. But in the case of Dakan and Haunts, they’ve posted video footage of the state the game’s in, how close it is to completion, and thus what it appears they’ve been spending the money on.

What we’re seeing here is the first Kickstarter funded gaming project to meet the fate of so many privately funded games. Backers are learning the lessons long known by publishers – funding game development is a risk. When Tim Schafer’s adventure Kickstarter brought the phenomenon into the mainstream spotlight, he stated from the start that the project might be a massive failure – that was partly why they chose to make a documentary of the process. But this is a disclaimer pretty much no one else has made since. Most pledge videos and statements promise the moon, with enormous ambition, and no caveats. And it can surely only be a matter of time before that bites something high-profile hard on the arse. Because it’s really not unrealistic for a couple of million dollars to be pissed away on a doomed game. In fact it happens very regularly, with far higher figures, whether that game is shelved mid-production, or released to dreadful reviews and minimal sales. And it’s just unrealistic to think this is always because of the traditional publisher models. It’s going to happen to crowd-funded games too. And the crowds are going to have to figure out whether they’re willing to be a part of that.

So should people be demanding their money back for Haunts? Well, if at all, not just yet. Dakan still has plans to see it finished. After what he describes as “an enormously rough couple of months” and a year of his time, Dakan is now in talks with another studio who might be able to finish the game. Talking to Blue Mammoth Games, he hopes they might take on the rest of development, with Dakan and Austin continuing in their roles. That’s a decision that will be made in a few weeks. And despite all this, and despite all the money being spent, Dakan has pledged to refund anyone who wants their money back out of his own pocket.

“We’re going to make this game, and if you can hang on for what looks to be a long road ahead, we will get it finished, but that’s not what I asked you to sign up for and it’s not what you gave us money for. email me directly through Kickstarter if you would like your pledge refunded.”

Taking what Dakan says at face value, it’s a sad tale. But taking it from a more mercenary view, it’s an example of how pledging to a Kickstarter is a risk. While Kickstarter strongly encourages developers to be open and clear about the issues they’re facing, and how they money is being spent even when it’s going wrong, they also mandate that refunds should be given. But it’s crucial to realise that Kickstarter has no way of enforcing this – once the money’s been handed over, that’s the end of their involvement beyond hosting the page. Should people wish to get their money back, it wouldn’t be by going through them. On the day that happens on a high-profile, big budget project, it’s going to get ugly. In the meantime, hopefully this is a reminder to those pledging that they’re doing exactly that – they’re not buying. And ideally, perhaps, people will acknowledge that pledging to a Kickstarter project is closer to philanthropy than pre-ordering.

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153 Comments »

  1. lizzardborn says:

    If he did it in good faith. Well there are some things that he can do. He can semi open the game and all assets – he may gather some support and polish it. And that is the least he could do to the pre ordered. He may keep editorial control or something. Also he could always deliver executable binary – there is slim chance it will be worse and buggier than VtM:Bloodlines.

    So I think there may be some resources in the community he may be able to use.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That’s one of two responsible choices. Right now he’s trying to make a revenue sharing deal with another developer, where they finish it, and split the revenue, which I think is probably the best option. If that doesn’t pan out, releasing the source is the next best thing.

      He’s said that if he can’t get a deal going he will release the source.

  2. bill says:

    Fair enough.

    This is why I’ve felt slightly uncomfortable by the way Kickstarter has been recently taken over as a method of pre-ordering games… because that doesn’t seem to be what it was intended for. It was a method to help people get started and try and reach their goals/dreams.

    But recently, at least in gaming terms, that purpose has been superseded by the big names and professionals making big promises.
    If give 20 bucks to someone to try and put up a robocop statue or turn their family’s own boardgame into a real product then I don’t really care if they fail. But if i’m giving money to a professional game developer/studio then it’s much closer to a pre-order. And if people don’t get what they ordered (or expected) I’m expecting some big backlashes.

    TBH, if it’s not philanthropy and it’s not a pre-order then it’s an investment – but it isn’t that either as backers don’t get any share of the profits like real backers/publishers would.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Well, that’s the issue right there – It’s not a gift as you get to choose a reward, it’s not an investment as it will never earn you anything, it’s not a preorder, it’s not a sale – it’s new and it comes with exactly no protection, chance of money back or chance to change your mind (once the kickstarter has ended), unlike a retail transaction or even a preorder.

      What is clear is that there will, at some point be a huge “I’m entitled to xyz” backlash if a project fails. It may not be this one but it will happen and I expect it to happen sooner rather than later. But people need to understand this is riskier than even a preoder, and when they click pledge, they need to understand they may never ever see any promised rewards!

      And John is exactly right to point out that just because you’ve kickstarted an industry veteran, doesn’t mean this can’t happen to them. Any project can fail for any number of reasons.

      Anyway, best of luck to the developer of this game, he’s clearly done everything properly and I hope he finds a way to make his dreams happen!

      • InternetBatman says:

        I don’t know if he has done everything properly. He only sought $20k to pay two programmers, an artist, and himself for a years worth of work. Even if more than one of the people working were volunteers, it’s no wonder that they left for jobs paying several times that.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Well, I assume they knew the terms and conditions of the work they were doing and the reward for that work. If they agreed to get a certain amount of work done in a certain time for a certain pay, should one not expect it to be done? Perhaps his mistakes are naivety, believing in the promises of others without setting fines into their contracts for not reaching milestones, but you could hardly criticise him for that.

        • Shuck says:

          This is the problem that almost every Kickstarter I’ve seen has – they’re not asking for enough money to fully fund game development. So when some of the developers discover, for various, unforeseeable reasons, that they can no longer afford to work for free (or for far below reasonable wages), they can’t afford to hire anyone to replace them. Plus, games always take longer to develop than expected.

      • tetracycloide says:

        Actually there seems to be a significant chance of getting your money back even without legal action. He’s offering refunds as he’s legally obligated to do and if he didn’t people could take legal action although they likely won’t. Projects do fail and given the sums of money we’re talking about for each individual it’s probably not worth pursuing individually (although taking this to small claims on a case by case basis would be interesting if just to see the result as would a class action). Even in the worst cases though ‘no chance of getting your money back’ isn’t entirely accurate.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          If a kickstarter fails and starts getting refund requests, they are in a position where the only thing they can do, unless they have access to a significant percentage of the funds they asked for, is declare bankruptcy. And if they do still have access to that kind of money, they should be continuing with their game.

          I get the feeling he is being a nice guy here in offering the refunds and I don’t see how he could possibly fulfil them and keep food on the table, unless he goes back to live with his parents and puts the next years worth of earnings into refunds, which really isn’t reasonable for either party.

          • tetracycloide says:

            Well yeah, a possible consequence of pursuing legal action to recover money from someone or a group of someones with no money is bankruptcy. That doesn’t really change anything. Bankruptcy doesn’t typically mean ‘no one gets their money back.’ It usually means something closer to ‘some people get some of their money back.’

          • D3xter says:

            Read this, also what RPS quoted above about what the creator of a project is legally obligated to do: http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/accountability-on-kickstarter

            Also as I’ve said somewhere further in, there’s apparently already US legal precedent: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/831303939/hanfree-ipad-accessory-use-the-ipad-hands-free/comments

            From those comments:

            “The court has entered default judgment against Seth Quest in favor of myself and my co-plaintiff Chris Thompson. Seth now has a judgment against him in an amount reflecting both of our Hanfree unit purchases, and our court costs and expenses, plus interest. The judgment was signed by the court on August 22, 2012 and mailed this past Friday.”

            “Holy crap, the court just sent me notice that I’m a creditor for Seth Quest because he managed to swindle me here on Kickstarter. After they grant his bankruptcy request, I suppose he’s free and clear. Live and learn.”

            “First, there really is no difference between those of you who’ve taken no legal action, and people like Chris T. and myself who have. We’re still all in the same boat.

            Second, I have now reviewed Seth’s specific bankruptcy schedules (anyone who wants to do so can email me at neils at asu dot edu). His financial affairs are a mess, he has no real assets, he has debts in addition to ours, he’s been sued by multiple credit card companies, and he has very little monthly income. This is something each of you should think about as you try and assess your chances of recovering anything. In my personal opinion and speaking for myself only, my chances of recovering anything are zero. You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.

            Third, each of you may be interested in appearing at the creditors meeting that has been scheduled on October 16, 2012 at 10:30am (US Pacific time) in San Francisco. Seth is obligated to attend this meeting and answer questions about his financial status from the trustee. Creditors may also be allowed to ask limited questions, although I’m not totally clear on that procedure (as I said: I’m not a bankruptcy lawyer). If you are not in San Francisco, you MAY be allowed to appear telephonically, but you must make the request to do so in writing well in advance of the meeting. I do intend to make a request to appear by phone.

            The bottom line is that Seth is not a millionaire, and he appears to have squandered the entirety of our funds, presumably on the Hanfree project but I can’t know that until I have his bank records. For me the last “fruitful” step of this process, if you can call it fruitful, is to learn the truth. I want the bank records to learn what was done with our funds. If they prove misuse, that still won’t render Seth a millionaire with which he can pay us back. But at least I and all of us will finally know what really happened and draw whatever lessons we choose to learn from this experience.

            And as for Seth, if he or anyone he’s associated with is reading this: I don’t have personal feelings of ill will toward you, young man, but I do assume you’ve learned some very harsh lessons from all this. When entrusted with the money of other people, extreme caution and professional advice for how to handle it is warranted. And when confronted with a crisis situation in your life, being forthright, honest, upfront, and prudent is the best course forward. You didn’t really follow any of those points in your handling of this situation. Hopefully you can recover from this and become a better person from it in the end.”

            Basically they won in court and were recognized as “creditors” of his company and the project, and while they might not get their money back since there doesn’t seem to be any to get they defaulted him and may be able to acquire any assets he was liable with.
            It will likely depend from project to project, I don’t think many people would consider taking any legal action if $10-20 pledges were lost, but there is the very likely possibility of a company getting fucked if they don’t make a best effort to deliver on the promises laid out on the KickStarter or misuse the funds, so just as people keeping in mind that nothing might come of their pledges, companies better keep that in mind too.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            When someone goes through bankruptcy, their assets are liquidised, usually every last thing – with some exceptions. A wheelchair user would be allowed to keep a wheelchair, unless it can be sold and a more basic model to meet their needs purchased. That’s a long process. After that a pot of money is established; the liquid assets.

            Lets say it is £1000 and he owes his creditors £10,000. That equates to the recovery of 10p for every £1, however, some creditors are naturally favoured at the expense of others – sadly there seems to be no moral grounds for this, in this example, a credit card may be repaid as much as 50p for every £1, that money being taken from backers!

          • drinniol says:

            At least in Australia, secured loans and debts incurred by fraud are excluded from bankruptcy. There may be a case for the second if similar law applies. Unsecured creditors get an equal return on each dollar owed.

          • drewski says:

            It’s critical to remember that the receiver/liquidator/trustee gets paid first out of any proceeds, though, then secured creditors, then unsecured creditors (such as Kickstarter backers).

            I’d say there’s about a zero per cent chance of anyone ever recovering money from a failed Kickstarter through bankruptcy proceedings.

      • LintMan says:

        It is a donation, even though you are getting a “reward” or “gift”. This has long precendent from before Kickstarter ever existed. The twist is that the reward here isn’t just an off-the-shelf item, but something subject to all the same vagaries, problems setbacks and delays of any other software project and thus subject to failure, especially when there is no deep pocket behind the project to provide further funding.

        If you think of KS as a preorder mechanism, you’re likely at some point to end up feeling very angry or burned. If you think of it as a donation, for which you **hope** to be eventually rewarded, and you manage your donation amounts with that in mind, then you are much less likely to feel burned.

    • LintMan says:

      This is why I’ve felt slightly uncomfortable by the way Kickstarter has been recently taken over as a method of pre-ordering games… because that doesn’t seem to be what it was intended for. It was a method to help people get started and try and reach their goals/dreams. But recently, at least in gaming terms, that purpose has been superseded by the big names and professionals making big promises.

      I think there’s room for all of these things on Kickstarter. Even “big names” and professionals have dreams and goals that the traditional games publishing industry won’t support – they’re just bigger scale. But that’s OK, because with their greater expertise and reputation they can attract the kind of funding necessary to (hopefully) enable those bigger dreams.

    • Branthog says:

      The problem with certain Kickstarter projects (especially games — both video and board) are that they come with a catch-22.

      If you have nothing to show for your project, nobody wants to back you. After all, how do they know you can do it or how realistic it is?

      On the other hand, if you have a lot to show for your project — or if you are a small developer or indie — a lot of people won’t back you, because “hey, you clearly don’t need our help to make your game as you’re already deep into it, so you’re just using us for some easy money”.

      I think the same thing, when I look at a project, too. Sort of damned if you do and damned if you don’t, I guess. There definitely is a sort of… gross… feeling about a lot of projects, though. Even if they’re cool. You just sort of get this sense of “these guys are just behind on payroll and looking to us to keep lights on for another month; reality of ever releasing be damned” or “these guys are an established little developer making small games that is just coming to crowd-funding for easy money, because why not”.

      I have no idea what the answer is. I guess the best solution would be for these things to be vetted, better. To be curated. Not just “do you pass these requirements? Okay, go!” but for someone or a few someone’s to actually sit down and determine if something is worth being listed as a project. If something is unique, clever, quirky, compelling, and keeping with the spirit of crowd-funding. Of course, it’s easier to jsut take 5% of everything than 5% of really good stuff.

  3. Tracer-Bullet says:

    Given how early on in the development cycle so many of these Kickstarter projects are created, I’m going to imagine that the amount of fallout from failed projects will only increase in the next year or two. Kickstarter have made a shrewd business decision in distancing themselves from holding responsibility for users to claim back funds on projects they feel are mismanaged.

    But I wonder if that’s going to bite them in the ass in time. As the amount of failed Kickstarter projects grows, not just for video games, more and more people are going to realise how little control they really had on what their money was used for. Saying that a creator has a legal obligation to give back the money is an empty gesture in their terms and conditions. It only takes being seriously burnt once as a consumer to make people lose face in the platform entirely. Maybe Kickstarter should have done more to ensure that funds were allocated correctly and created measures to protect the investments of its users.

    I wonder if the true end of the Kickstarter gaming bubble will be the first real high profile project to fail. Its only a matter of time, given the large failure rate amongst traditional game development studios. I can only imagine the chaos that would erupt if say Wasteland 2 collapsed due to unforseen circumstances.

    • tetracycloide says:

      All legal obligations are empty gestures until someone actually takes the dispute to a court.

    • D3xter says:

      I really hate it when people with no clue of what is generally being reffered to as a “bubble” or what it entails, refer to the “KickStarter bubble”

      KickStarter isn’t exactly the only crowdfunding website out there you know…

      There’s even “social issue”-based crowdfunding e.g.: respekt.net or charity-based ones like: helpedia.de

      This is a very interesting read: http://www.scribd.com/doc/92834651/Massolution-abridged-Crowd-Funding-Industry-Report

      Just fyi, pages 6 through 10 are full of different crowdfunding platforms participating in the research.

      2. MARKET GROWTH AND COMPOSITION

      As of April 2012, based on Crowdsourcing.org’s Directory of Sites, the most complete database of crowdfunding sites, there were 452 crowdfunding platforms active worldwide. The majority of them are in North America and Western Europe. Together, these platforms raised almost $1.5 billion and successfully funded more than one million campaigns in 2011.

      3. CROWDFUNDING MODELS

      Equity-based and lending-based crowdfunding (i.e., for financial return) is most effective for digital goods (e.g., software, film and music). These categories, on average, raised the largest sum of money per campaign. Donation-based and reward-based crowdfunding for cause-based campaigns that appeal to funders’ personal beliefs and passions perform best (e.g., environment).

      Nothing is going to happen to “Crowdfunding” if a few (even high profile) projects don’t come to be, even if DFA, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns and Project: Eternity all fail together it won’t change much in the bigger picture, only make gamers more apprehensible about using it.
      There’s already projects that failed in the past and it’s only natural that projects will fail in the future, but for the “concept” of crowdfunding to be killed entirely you’d likely have to do something radical to the Internet or via direct state regulation.

      Also related, the respective overall growth between 2011 and 2012: http://www.abload.de/img/crowdfunding94shm.png

      • Ahtaps says:

        But do any of those others get anywhere near as much press coverage as Kickstarter? (Well, aside from when they shut down like the recent 8-bit Funding) In the average Joe’s mind, Kickstarter *is* crowdfunding so the bubble is everyone jumping onto Kickstarter to put up money to get something out of Kickstarter projects, similar to all the investors investing in .coms, or social games, or mobile games.

        Kickstarter and crowdfunding were around before Tim Schaefer did his project, but after it gained a massive amount of funding, other developers suddenly raised their noses and smelt easy funding on the wind because people were willing to fork it over on the promise of a game. If this bubble bursts and people start realising that Kickstarter projects are not delivering on the promise of a final product, those people are going to stop providing funding until a product actually exists, forcing developers to look for alternate means of securing the funding for their project or finding alternate means of encouraging people to pledge.

        So yes, there is a bubble forming around Kikcstarter and what separates it from other crowdfunding sites is that it has planted the idea in people’s heads that pledging money gives a tangible reward for your “investment”, and similarly, developers have been inspired by success stories that there is big money in it. Once (and if) the bubble bursts, people are going to stop investing because they aren’t guaranteed anything in return and developers are going to find there is less motivation to use it because no one is pledging.

  4. trjp says:

    It’s a small point but you are NOT making an investment – Kickstarter do NOT want you using that word.

    You are ‘donating’ – investments are regulated by corrupt people in grey suits and have allsorts of legal obligations (which are skirted if you’re wealthy of course) – donations are not.

    You should see any and every commitment you make to Kickstarter as a charitable donation with a chance of some return – I actually dislike the idea that Kickstarters come with a copy of the game (something many people believe is a must if you want to get funded) because then it’s just a pre-order system.

    You are basically saying “wow I like that – here’s a £5 to finish it” and nothing more…

    • Uthred says:

      No, you’re saying “Here is some money to complete this product” right up until the moment its funded, at that point the creator has a legal obligation to provide the rewards promised.

      • trjp says:

        The problem is that the ‘rewards’ are, too often

        a – more expensive and time-consuming that the creators realise
        b – dependant on finishing the game

        You can’t fulfill the latter one if you don’t finish the game and that’s going to happen quite a lot.

        I cannot even begin to emphasise how hard it is to get from

        “I’ve had a brilliant idea and spent a load of time building something to show you which looks cool”

        and

        “Here is a commercially ready project”

        People think you’ve made it when you reach part 1 wheras that’s like making it to your front door on a walk to the moon.

      • tetracycloide says:

        All a legal obligation really means is you have grounds to sue them if they don’t deliver. But then what? For most backers suing over $5-500 really isn’t going to be worth the time and effort. Which means you have to get a class action going or be a pretty major backer. In class action cases even if you win it’s highly unlikely you’d get everything you pledged back assuming there was anything to recover from the defendant anyway. In a bankruptcy action debts are usually paid off biggest to smallest (I think) out of whatever assets a court deems should be given to the bankruptcy proceedings. What all of this adds up to is that if everything falls through and the money is spent on what it was promised the money was spent on there are certainly recourses backers can take but pretty much none of them will result in getting all of the money back for most.

      • mouton says:

        Legal obligation? Really?

        You sign no deals, it is all faith. If you lack faith in your chosen developers, do not give them money.

    • Lemming says:

      It’s not a donation, either. It’s a pledge. You are a Patron. It’s Patronage.

  5. MistyMike says:

    Good faith is one thing, the lack of management skills is another. 3d Realm were making DNF in good faith too.

  6. SkittleDiddler says:

    The way I look at it, I spend enough money annually on shitty games that have already been released, so I’m not willing to potentially waste my money on something that may never pan out.

    We’re going to be seeing an increasing number of Kickstarter failures as the Pay2Fund model becomes more prevalent.

    • The Random One says:

      Conversely, I’d rather waste $20 because I backed an indie game that never materialized than because I bought an AAA game that sucked ass and I couldn’t play for even one hour.

  7. Yachmenev says:

    Everyone should expect this be a possibility. I´ve payed more then $500 for kickstarter projects since (and including) DFA, but I´ve done that knowing it´s a gamble, and that I can afford to gamble with that money.

    I would not chase a refund for any of those money as long as I feel that the developers aren´t changing direction in the middle. If they fail trying, that´s sad, but ok. If they suddenly involve publishers and/or completely change the plans for the game, then I would ask them for a refund. But I wouldn´t count on getting it.

    Kickstarters are gamble, period. And I wouldn´t feel sorry for those who haven´t understood it.

  8. Crimsoneer says:

    This isn’t the first – just the first people have taken notice off. I backed City of Epic back in June 11 ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1171791306/city-of-epic-an-exercise-rpg ) and there hasn’t been an update in an age, so I think it’s pretty dead. I’m sure there have been a fair few smaller projects that just never got done.

    • Hulk Handsome says:

      Oh, I was only recently wondering what happened to that game! I read about it ages ago and was looking forward to it. Sad to hear it doesn’t seem to be panning out.

      • Crimsoneer says:

        Actually, I’ve just looked into it and apparently stuff is still happening…the main dev had a child, but stuff is still being worked on. Just slowly :P

  9. drplote says:

    Well, if people get all legal on him, he can always just deliver them the buggy, unfinished game. It would probably satisfy the wording of the reward tier.

  10. grechzoo says:

    Yeah, firstly, dont ask for money until you have the game in a state that you know 100% worst case scenario something will be out the door down the line.

    Also no offence to the leader of this “company” but why in the hell would you allow your game to be written in code you don’t understand. unless you cant code at all, and you were just playing manager (in that case you aren’t good at that either ;))

    circumstances do go against you. but its never just blind bad luck. his mistakes and oversight were a massive factor in this failing.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      A game is more than code – that’s like backing a coder and when he tells you his artist has jumped ship and he can’t make any graphics complaining that he was not an artist.

      There are many skills which go into making a game, no-one can have them all.

      • malkav11 says:

        There have been plenty of games developed and released by a single person. So it’s perfectly possible for one person to have all the requisite skills. But it’s certainly more common for people to specialize.

    • trjp says:

      You need to look up what ‘Kickstarter’ means – you’re saying it has to be almost done to be started…

      Words – having meanings for a reason.

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      You don’t expect the head of a movie studio to know how to do hair and make-up, so why does the head of a games company need to know how to program?

      The mistake here was not going with an industry-standard programming language like C++. While a good programmer can pick up a new language quite quickly, it’s the lack of resources available that causes issues: libraries, decent debugging tools, IDEs, etc.

      Presumably the programmer they had who disappeared off back to Google was the one who pushed for using the Go(ogle) programming language. If anyone should be held responsible for the project’s difficulties it’s him…

  11. jalf says:

    Shouldn’t this *also* be a reminder that you have to be a bit critical in what you pledge towards?

    A proven track record, a realistic schedule, some kind of evidence that making a game is not beyond them is something to look out for. FTL and the Double Fine thing are both great examples of Kickstarters I found trustworthy. One was being proposed by an established team with an impressive track record, who have plenty of other projects to make money off. And the other was very far through its development when it was put on Kickstarter, and they didn’t ask for money to “make a game”, but simply for money to “allow us to finish and polish the game we’ve already built”.

    Having a great idea, or *wanting* to make a great game isn’t by itself going to get a game done, no matter how much money you give them.

    Kickstarter is basically a way for us to play publishers. And with that comes the same risk publishers always run, and so we have to do the same thing they’ve always done: look critically at the proposed project, and the team behind it, and decide “is this worth betting on?” We don’t have to worry about whether it’ll sell, but we *do* have to worry about “are these people going to be able to deliver what they promise, in the timeframe they promise, on the budget they’re asking for?”

    As for getting a refund, I don’t think so, except in extreme cases. The project’s backers decided to trust in the project. That was their decision, and, well, it was their own responsibility to educate themselves and decide if the project was trustworthy.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. So far I’ve backed Double Fine, inXile, and Obsidian, even though many other projects are interesting, because I know that barring the apocalypse all 3 of those companies are going to release something, even if the final game ends up being garbage.

  12. WMain00 says:

    It’s a shame, but good faith only comes into play if the person in question has given money to the developer on the basis of donation. Since Kickstarter projects though invariably give off the air of investing into a project, this makes the person believe that they are entitled to an end product. If an end product is not released then the person is in his legal rights to demand the funding back.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Even if they were genuine investors, they wouldn’t be entitled to anything – go invest in a dot com startup and see for yourself!

      Kickstarting is like an investment because of the risk factor involved, but it shares no other similarities. It is like a retail sale because you give money and want a set reward for that money, but shares no other similarities. It is like a donation because you are giving money freely on the understanding that you have no further control over it but shares no other similarities.

      Kickstarting is quite unique at the minute, and if I were to draw a scale of risk reward, Donation sets the zero point, no risk, no reward, then retail sales, very little risk, small reward, then investment – high risk, high reward, then kickstarting – even higher risk, small-medium rewards.

      • ReV_VAdAUL says:

        I just want to say you’re making an awful lot of sense in this thread, thankyou.

      • tetracycloide says:

        Kickstarters terms are closer to a loan with unique repayment criteria than an investment. Certainly less risk than investments where you literally have no legal recourse if everything flops, like stocks.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          I should point out, I’m using the term risk, not only in the case that the game is not made, but also to cover situations where the game/rewards are not to your taste or buggy etc. Basically any scenario where you wouldn’t have purchased the game at retail for the money you pledged.

      • Cadence says:

        It’s not really new, I would say its an updated form of commission .

        The difference is mainly that the commissioners get different types of rewards (based on how much they pledge) and that it is the ‘artist’ who is the initiator (with a very detailed pitch).

      • Lemming says:

        It’s not that unique. It’s patronage.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          I thought patronage confers artistic control? I am probably wrong!

          • Lemming says:

            No it’s literally just backing out of philanthropy. Like people being patrons of a school or museum.

          • drewski says:

            The artist will generally be aware of the fact if they produce something the patron doesn’t want/like, the patron will stop supporting them, but otherwise it tends to be fairly hands off.

  13. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    I never have and never will donate to kickstarter. It simply isn’t a sound system of investing money into something – however good the intentions might be. There’s a whole host of unanswered questions when it comes to consumer rights, it’s almost scary.

    The clock is ticking on the concept, it’ll all go tits-up in a spectacular fashion and I’ll be sitting in my deckchair watching, munching on popcorn.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Well, that’s the point – you have no consumer rights as you are not a consumer until the day the game is released and even then, without a sales contract, it could be argued you are never a customer/consumer!

    • HisMastersVoice says:

      Well, it’s not a sound system for investing because it’s not an investment system. You’re not investing in anything when you kickstart a project.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      Edit: Gah, forget it.

    • Hodge says:

      I never have and never will (participate in it). It simply isn’t a sound system of investing money into something – however good the intentions might be. There’s a whole host of unanswered questions when it comes to consumer rights, it’s almost scary.

      You’ve just described every economic model ever presented by the human race.

    • MadFox says:

      I would agree if you were backing a product but backing an idea makes sense. I like old school cRPG’s and am willing to fund it in the same way a patron supports an artist. I’d like a good product but creating the opportunity for greatness is more fulfilling than just getting a great game.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Yes, those poor consumers. What will they ever do if the project they foolishly donated to doesn’t come to fruition?

      Oh, that’s right. Move on and probably forget about the whole thing a short while later. Not every industry needs to be tightly regulated and foolproofed. Some fish are way too small to fry that way.

    • drewski says:

      I can understand why people don’t want to participate in crowd funding, but I don’t understand the smug superiority complex people like you display.

      If you think it’s a bad idea, that’s fine – why be an asshole about it?

  14. S Jay says:

    Of course 28k sounds like a reasonable amount of money for a small team, but thinking that the risk is spread in 10-50 dollars chunk, it is a pretty reasonable risk. If the game indeed does not deliver (and there was the aforementioned good faith), I believe most donors will live with it.

    And if anything, will make people think and evaluate better before clicking the “pledge” button.

  15. oldmarriedman says:

    The questionable part I see is that they clearly didn’t have a good idea of how stable their team was. They kickstarted a project, knowing that one of the two developers they have was going to leave at some point? And it sounds like the other one started looking for jobs? I feel like this is one of the things that should be revealed in the new required risks section for each Kickstarter. “Hey, if our timeline slips, we might lose all our developers, and we have no plan for how to replace them.”

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      The kickstarter was for only 28k (which wouldn’t pay two people’s salaries, let alone four plus any outside assets they needed to hire/buy) so they were probably working for little or no pay.

      It’s not unreasonable that he was also looking for a job if those was the circumstances, but to ditch the project completely after getting one is another matter.

    • Jay says:

      There does seem to be an awful lot of projects where the developers just haven’t thought it through.

      I’ve seen a few too many impressive-looking presentations from teams who’ve never even finished a game before, which should be a massive red flag. I know they’re probably going in it with the best of intentions, but if you’ve never actually got something out the door, it’s easy to underestimate the vast gulf there is between a functional prototype and something fit for public release. If you’ve got to worry about multiplayer elements, that just compounds the problem even more. And that’s given an ideal environment, before you factor in your team’s commitment levels and things like that.

    • Azophi says:

      Exactly. For experienced developers, an awareness of what is likely to be disruptive or worse will be present. For new ones, there will be a good chance of over-promising or having too much faith in one’s own abilities.

      In the case of an actual publisher, that higher risk would be mulled over by a great many experienced people able to look over how possible the project is, and what resources are available. Your average internet user browsing through projects doesn’t have that experience or that time and is much more likely to get burned. For Double Fine, Psychonauts is a great CV. For RandomIndieDeveloper, a basic tech demo and a manifesto are much dicier offerings.

      But of course, the whole point of Kickstarter is to push these small developers with radical new ideas, not to keep funding tried and tested developers, of which there is only a small pool. Double Fine is a great fanbase success story. A great Kickstarter success story for games may not yet have happened (FTL, as you mentioned, being one that just needed some polish and finishing) though I’m not all that aware of all the Kickstarter projects out there.

  16. Zakski says:

    Your life is complete now John, you got mentioned on the bbc

    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-20003916

    • Lambchops says:

      We had Alec on earlier this week talking about XCOM too. C’mon Jim and Adam, pull your fingers out (I assume Nathan has a note from his mother explaining he’s American and doesn’t need to get quoted by Auntie Beeb)!

  17. ffordesoon says:

    Good article. It’s always worth it to temper blind enthusiasm.

    That being said, it is worth noting that pre-orders don’t guarantee a game will ever be released either. For example, I’ve had The Last Guardian pre-ordered since it was announced, but I have no idea if it’s ever going to come out, and the recent absence of news about the game beyond staff shakeups hasn’t been encouraging. There is a very real possibility it won’t come out. If it doesn’t, I don’t really have any legal recourse, but if I had put down money at GameStop, I would get a refund. There are plenty of differences between this situation and that one, but at the end of the day, I’m not getting what I paid for in either case.

    Just saying.

  18. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    The truly worrying thing about Kickstarter is that, knowing how amazingly good financial types are at extremely complex fraud, there may well be some very plausible looking and attractive projects on there that are deliberately designed to defraud.

    If there aren’t yet it is certainly there will be, the financial sector too is greedy and evil not to exploit every single way they can possibly rip people off with.

  19. trjp says:

    People here talk about $30K as if it’s a lot of money when – in terms of paying a wage – it’s absolutely nothing.

    Even if you assume someone works for UK Minimum Wage and incurs no other costs (unlikely) that’s 1 person working for 18 months. If you change that to the UK Living Wage that drops to a year and if you apply it to the sort of wages someone with the skills needed to make a whole game can demand in a proper job – it’s about 3 months. 4 people on ‘contact’ wages? – it’s measured in hours… ;)

    Do you know what sort of a game 1 multi-talented person can make in 3 months? It’s not the game you’ve got in mind I’m sure… ;)

    I reckon some of my 1 button mobile app ‘experiments’ have more hours in them than that – hell the silly things in my sig have a couple-of-man-weeks in them alone…

    Asking for these $25Ks and $30Ks worries me because it really doesn’t amount to much – which means someone is probably planning on burning their savings or working for nothing and that means they’ll run out of time/money at some point (or be forced into work which will mean they never finish it and so on).

    Making games requires commitment and stamina – if you are running-out-of-money it won’t give you the push it takes to go from ‘something which looks cool’ (most KS projects) to something which works properly (a massive leap).

    Why not ask for what it’s actually going to cost – and then, when you don’t get it, you’ve learned something most of us already know :)

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      “Why not ask for what it’s actually going to cost – and then, when you don’t get it, you’ve learned something most of us already know :)”

      I fear you’re being a bit optimistic there. Not knowing about business but starting one anyway is why so many startups fail so soon after being started.

    • Jay says:

      Under-budgeting does seem to be a very common problem. There seems to be a lot of small teams starting out on year-long projects on the kind of funding that wouldn’t pay one person to stack shelves for that time. Couple that with the tendency to underestimate required development time and a lot of teams are setting off practically doomed from the start.

      I think that’s to be expected with a new opportunity like this, though. Over time, developers and supporters will get wiser to the costs and resources involved and things will level out a bit. There’s just going to be a bit of a rough patch in the near future as everyone works this out.

      • Shuck says:

        The problem is that games that ask for reasonable development funds don’t get backed. Even RPS proclaims that they’re asking for “huge” sums of money, when in reality it’s still usually not enough. The reality is, most Kickstarters are asking for tiny sums – I think a good percentage only ask for $2000. I don’t know why anyone bothers with sums like that, as it’s a useless amount towards developing a game. The first game ever successfully Kickstartered was a console/PC title that only asked for that amount. It still hasn’t come out, nor have there been any status updates. So this is hardly the first game to run into trouble due to insufficient funds, it’s just the first to actually be honest about it.

        • Jay says:

          You’re absolutely right, that’s another big factor I didn’t take into account. KS projects seem to have normalised an idea of development costs that has almost no grounding in reality. Take almost any target on there and you could easily add a zero to it and still come up short (not just for development, but for a reasonable amount to kickstart with). And you’re right, It’s not just developers being naive, it’s becoming the expected norm.

          • Shuck says:

            As a developer, the fact that this is becoming the norm is disturbing to me. People had a weirdly deflated sense of what games cost to make to begin with. Not only is this adding to it, but it’s creating an expectation that game developers should live on wages that would put them well below the poverty line, assuming they’re even been paid.
            And whereas realistically an unknown developer* couldn’t hope to raise much money from Kickstarter (as the sums required to make any game are quite large relative the amounts of money flowing through Kickstarter), there’s now the added issue that asking for a reasonable sum makes developers look greedy, fraudulent or otherwise unreasonable. Even big-name talent have to use stretch goals to hit the amounts that are close to what the budgets of the original isometric RPGs had (which are absurdly cheap by modern development standards), which means they’re either counting on hitting those stretch goals or getting outside funds to meet basic development needs. Meanwhile, the popular perception is that they’re rolling in ridiculous sums of money.

            *Of course, most developers, even of well-known games, are unknown, and some of the game industry people who are known, aren’t actually even developers. So the vast, vast majority of developers start off in the position of not being able to use Kickstarter the way it’s intended to be used.

    • InternetBatman says:

      In the US, where $7.50 an hour is minimum wage (which in many locations is not enough money to live off), that’s 25 man-months, or half a year for six people. He might have gotten around that with offering revenue shares / making them salaried (game companies do this a lot to avoid overtime in crunch), but eventually people need to eat.

      • Shuck says:

        The amount of money they asked for, after the Kickstarter/Amazon fees (but before taxes), amounts to a per-person sum that wouldn’t even cover my health insurance costs for a year. It’s less than two months of the median wages where they live.

    • rawrty says:

      Yeah, as soon as I saw they only asked for 25k I was not surprised. Especially reading further that was to support 4 people! This is exactly why I don’t pledge to many of these games that ask for so little, unless the game is almost complete (e.g. FTL, but even they were a little low on their asking price imo, luckily they made 20x that).

      Sure the same thing could happen to a larger operation at a larger scale, but professional studios with experience behind them have a pretty good idea of realistic budgets. Startups from people who have never owned a business/developed games always seem to ask for amounts on the low side. But as people have pointed out, this will probably correct itslef in the future.

      Wish these guys luck though….I think in the worst case the source is released, someone will finish it and people will get to play the game, but unfortuantely that scenario leaves no revenue for the guys behind the kickstarter.

  20. BobsLawnService says:

    The only honourable thing in a case like this is to make the project Open Source so that backers have a small chance to actually get what they paid for some day. Easiest thing in the world.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I’d say the easiest thing in the world is probably reading the rest of the comments in a thread before posting, but here we are. The developer is trying to rescue the project with another publisher, and has said that he will release open source if this fails.

  21. namad says:

    this is a pretty big problem with every single developer of games on kickstarter; I’ve thought this way for a while, but… EVERY SINGLE REWARD FOR A PC GAME SHOULD BE SWAG! every single reward should be signed concept art, autographs, tshirts, mugs, access to early builds of the game, and none of the rewards should be the finished game! why? kickstarter rewards are all legally required to be handed out, this isn’t supposed to be a platform for funding things that might not happen *as rewards* so you wanna get people to fund a game? promise them a tshirt that costs you 10$ for every 20$ they give you, promise them things you can deliver, because you’re 100% legally obligated to deliver every single reward! it might make sense to promise a game for a kickstarter project wherein you’ve already got a game and you just want to work on it a bit more, if you fail, just give them what you’ve already got? but really… I’ve always thought kickstarter rewards should all be swag, a lot of people are amped up about swag, you can promise (not in the rewards section) that all backers will get a coupon for a discount for the final game if it comes out? sure? you could do that! I don’t really see this sort of thing as whatsoever acceptable at all, it’s a breach of contract, good faith isn’t something that enters into it, this is why I haven’t backed any games, I’d rather just pay full price on release (unless maybe a low end reward was purely swag, however as a result of all the low end rewards being the game, the swag doesn’t appear till mid-end pledges and ends up horribly overpriced swag by then)

    • Jabberwocky says:

      Disagree.

      Do you want the devs spending their time and kickstarter money designing, ordering, and shipping swag? Or do you want them to use it to make the game that got everyone excited in the first place?

    • rawrty says:

      Actually I think the swag is more problematic, especially for people that under estimate the money required to make a game. I mean 25k is a ridiculuously low amount already to fund 4 people working on a game. Now what if they have to spend time and half that money to print t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs, etc… For the small-time guys I’d rather keep the swag to a minimum and just focus on the actual product.

      • Shuck says:

        It’s a trade off – if you’re offering any physical items as rewards, the costs can eat up much of the money you’ve raised. If you offer the game as a reward, you’re now legally obligated to finish it, even though there’s always doubt about that happening, even if you weren’t hugely under-budgeted (which Kickstarter games are). Since the game is already insufficiently budgeted, not raising enough money seems preferable to being personally liable for sums of money that could easily bankrupt you.

  22. Entitled says:

    Everyone keeps worrying about what will happen when the first “big name project” will fail, but the thing is, that those are big for a reason, they come from respectable creators with a proven track record.

    It’s just like internet shopping. When it all started back in the 1990′s, there were reasonable concerns about obscure websites selling you stuff that you don’t really see, and that’s creators you can’t really find. Worrying about them, is one thing.

    But worrying about what will happen if Amazon.com eventually stops sending out products and leaves with all our money, is not realistic.

    We just need to hope that crowdfunding gets crystallized soon as a well-established business model, instead of just staying an ambigiously defined “donation system” that Kickstarter’s owners wanted it to be. It needs to get bigger, with more professional studios launching games, as a more routine procedure.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      I agree with you to a point and there is definitely a potential crowd-funding could crystalise into a major thing but as Sheng-ji has been pointing out in the comments, there are no consumer protection laws relating to this and unlike internet sales there really aren’t any precedents that can be adapted. With internet selling you could at least adapt legislation/case law that applied to mail order catalogs or telesales or whatever. Kickstarter being new and so unique has much more room for exploitation or people simply loosing out.

      The big projects wont fail thing is wishful thinking, as John pointed out but also because Ouya is going to fail and that raked in a lot of money and got a lot of people very excited.

      • Entitled says:

        Well, of course, big projects can fail, but they also have both much more failsafes, and through the reflector lights on them, less chances for grossly misspending the money.

        If Obsidian fails with Eternity, they can still visit a publisher with the half-finished game and at the worst case, give up their IP rights to still finish it.
        While Ouya might “fail” in the sense that it will be a low quality product with few if any significant games supporting it, the people behind it would get a class-action lawsuit in their face if they would try to spend all the money on yachts for themselves and then fail to release any product.

  23. namad says:

    this article is a bit silly, if someone wants to purely “pledge” that’s what paypal is for, kickstarter is a system whereby you trade rewards for “pledges” when someone puts up many other categories of ‘thing’ for crowd funding in the non-gaming realm the whole… promise to reward people with swag you can definitely give them even if the project fails mentality, very few of the rewards for other projects tend to actually offer you the final completed project itself! so yeah… although really I’d imagine releasing the source code or even just the compiled and buggy unfun horrible gamestate would probably satisfy legal requirements in the case of “half-finished” games.

    • Dark Nexus says:

      “very few of the rewards for other projects tend to actually offer you the final completed project itself!”

      Really?

      It seems like the vast majority of kickstarters that are actually for some kind of product (which, in turn, seems like the vast majority of kickstarters) include at least one tier that has the final product as a reward.

      • Shuck says:

        This didn’t use to be the case, at least. All the early game Kickstarters I’ve seen didn’t offer the game as a reward (which was just as well, as they were asking for tiny sums of money and many haven’t come out). Kickstarter certainly wasn’t intended to be the pre-order system that many have tried to turn it into.

  24. InternetBatman says:

    I think that Kickstarter should force creators to have a risks pane, and delineate the largest risks and their consequences, and then have a separate pane detailing an estimate of how money will be spent. Then they could have strict penalties for purposefully misstating risks.

    It would make the system better by making it more open, and help backers make a more informed choice.

  25. Emeraude says:

    As I’ve been saying for quite some time now: the whole system seems to be fueled on a general hypocrisy where every party involved looks the other way as long as it thinks it can benefit (not that I’m not guilty of that myself)… The backers who see Kickstarter as philanthropic endeavor (or investment) willingly remain oblivious of the problem raised by those who use it as a pre-order/subscription model (if only because it brings more money to the projects they want to see funded), who in turn try to disregard the fact that they have none of the legal protections from the model they use as reference. The people at Kickstarter reiterate and update the principles upon which their site is built, but offer no proper regularization mechanisms (at least that’s what it seems to me thus far), and the people who creates the projects are more and more framing them in a language that maintains the overall blurriness (though I do believe there is no ill intent here, rather they are caught in an ongoing process they do not control).

    There’s a mess in the making here…

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I’m not getting why people who donate out of philanthropy are being hypocritical? Seems like they’re the ones who recognise the kickstarter tenet that they’re not making an investment. Why are people misguidedly donating to preorder their problem?

      • Emeraude says:

        Probably a mistranslation on my part – of which I apologize. Didn’t know how to translate “politique de l’autruche” and that’s the closest I could think of at a moment’s notice.

        That’s what you get when trying to communicate in a language you’re barely decent in.

    • InternetBatman says:

      We’ve seen some small signs of movement towards greater responsibility on the Kickstarter front, with their recent rule that projects must show a prototype rather than a concept piece. Backers have been and are talking about the problematic nature of kickstarter; for instance, there’s a five page thread on the forums about it.

      I think Kickstarter is still a work in progress, and situations like these are part of ironing out the difficulties.

  26. The Smilingknight says:

    Money Troubles: What Happens When Kickstarters Fail?

    Well, nothing much. Of course.
    People react, adapt, blah, blah, blah…

    What? What did you expect? Fireworks?

    Stop trying to look smart by behaving like some old grumpy crow gavking about doom, DOOOMM, it willl faaaaiiiiillll…..!!
    (that goes for all of ya)
    (haha!)

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, that’s my feeling too. RPS posts and comments have been worrying about the “first big Kickstarter failure” since the beginning, but I don’t see what the big deal is. This post is well-written, but that might have something to do with its having rolled around in John’s head for months.

      • The Smilingknight says:

        You got it Frank.
        Answer could also be put down into two words, actually. (no, not 42)

        Its:
        System evolves.

        What a big surprise, eh?

  27. Scratches Beard With Pipe Stem says:

    My pledge attitude is, if this project doesn’t get funded, there’s a 0% chance I will play it. If I help fund it and it gets funded, there’s a 75% chance I can play the finished game. So is it worth the gamble to me? If yes, then I’ll pledge.

    That percentage chance varies with the reputation of the developer.

  28. D3xter says:

    Ugh, another one of these articles, as if most of the people pledging didn’t know the risks, and the authors of any of these articles have some special deep insight that the dumb KickStarter masses don’t and they absolutely have to enlighten everyone and their dog about the unbelievable dangers and go out of their way to WARN people from KickStarter, despite them saying rather clearly that they’re “not a store” and most recently even having implemented a policy to display possible risks at the bottom of project pages.

    The thing is, for instance on this project only one guy gave them more than $250, and it isn’t as much of a “financial loss” or “risk” to the single individual that likely put in the price of a meal to make something cool happen as it is for a publisher to put in millions themselves.

    And you know what? I’d rather put in 100$/€ in a game that has the potential to be great and exactly what I’d want to play and seeing it fail than paying 50$/€ for another publisher-funded game that reminds of Gears of War or Call of Doody and is another mediocre disappointment to mildly entertaining at best (which a lot of people do throughout the year, even by the way of Pre-Order).

    Heck, what I wouldn’t give if someone came with a KickStarter to continue making a Star Trek series in the style of DS9 or TNG on the basis of that it could happen alone xD

    Also, this is a “large” project now? And how has it “failed” if he wants to finish making it? I’m sure there have been other “failures” in the past.
    KickStarter made various Blogposts about “Accountability” and how the model works, there were game projects before that you can presume failed since they haven’t shown up like this one from 2010: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hlogas/ill-make-the-world-you-shape-the-story-lets-b/

    There was also a project which failed recently, where the maker DID even use some of the funds for other things than the project apparently, it also got into court and the “backers” won as “creditors” of the company but apparently largely couldn’t recover their funds, read through the comments here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/831303939/hanfree-ipad-accessory-use-the-ipad-hands-free/comments

    We effing know, get over it already, this wouldn’t be the first, nor would it be the last. It’s like every single publication would LOVE KickStarters to “fail” to tell people how they WARNED everyone of doom instead of mentioning it once or twice and then concentrating on the positives it has brought and will likely continue to bring to the industry, and the ideals the model is based on and I really don’t get it.

    • theleif says:

      Judging by the comments in this thread you seem to be right, but I’m pretty sure these skeptical articles have contributed a great deal to that sentiment, and without them the backlash would have been bigger.
      It’s always good to be skeptical, and it’s not like these critical articles seem to have lessen the amount of pledges anyway.
      That said, I have personally backed 13 project now, and I’m pretty sure that some or even most of the projects will fail to meet my expectations.
      And I’m fine with that.

    • The Smilingknight says:

      Its not that complicated to understand. Rather, its something a bit shitty to accept.

      Its the same old “impulse” to feel better or “get a kick” on someone elses failure, in any sense.
      one of the tactics you can use, is the also very ffing old tactic of being the doomsayer about everything, and then latch onto any single case that turns out right, by shere coincidence.

      Then you can gloat and say “i told you so”.

      Additionally insulting intelligence is the often sort of sideways low, of just outright presuming that all who invested money are some sort of naive suckers who will… (guess what?) – feel very bad when that “first big failure comes”.

      Therefore you get to feel better and gloat about other people being stupid and failing and feeling bad, while you also paint yourself as someone meaning well and trying to help them all.
      So you kinda – cover your ass, and still get the warm fuzzy feeling in your gut.

      :tips hat:

    • Yglorba says:

      To be fair, part of the reason people are accepting this so calmly, I think, is because places like RPS constantly warned them it would happen — so it’s not a surprise.

      If you read between the lines on this article, it’s pretty obviously saying that this was expected, that it’s normal and inevitable now and then with something like game development that’s at least partially an art rather than an exact science; the article is trying to convince people not to give up on Kickstarter, not to spread gloom-and-doom.

  29. Arglebargle says:

    Kickstarter has some language and rules for this sort of thing. Since we are already seeing crowd funding going outside of any organization designed for it, wonder when some undeserving yahoo with a name will see this as a source of free cash.

    Of course, that trick only works once, but what a trick!

  30. Radiant says:

    Essentially you’re investing money using kickstarter.
    But with very little checks made on the people or company asking for money.

    People should be made aware of the risks and the exact state of whatever company you are investing in.

    Half the time there are no clear goals, no basic project management, no risk assessment [what are the consequences if x y and z doesn't happen, what will they do if x y or z break down] and no project plan.
    Just some guys with pretty pictures and a smile.

    It should be incredibly difficult to get your project on kickstarter.
    To the point where it prohibits 99 percent of the applicants.

    • InternetBatman says:

      This model is very different from investment, where you spend money and get part ownership of an organization. Kickstarter is more like distributed patronage, where you spend money and get part of a completed work.

  31. MythArcana says:

    Wait. What’s all this about getting jobs? That’s the real amazing story here.

  32. ButchCore says:

    About the final quality of the product, I would say that it’s out of the question to demand anything else from the developers than the game being true to its overall promises. You just can’t ask to be satisfied or refunded, nor the game to have great reviews and sales.

  33. PikaBot says:

    My criteria for kickstarting is as follows:

    1. Is this a project I would like to see happen? Does it have an interesting idea, or premise, or build off a body of existing work that I find exciting?

    And

    2. How realistic is it that this project will come to fruition? If the people making it are Double Fine or Obsidian or some other developer with a history of putting out good games, that’s a big plus in this corner, because they know what they’re doing. There’s also the question of scope compared with budget, whether they have working content or not, whether the project looks like it’s in good shape.

    If both are true, then I chip in. If not, I don’t.

  34. mollemannen says:

    sure i feel sorry for the dude but once you start a kickstarter you must be almost sworn a blood pact that you see the development of the game trough. hearing about him having such an unstable development crew (one who works at google!) they should have discussed it more amongst themself if kickstarter was such a good idea and if it was a project they really wanted to do or just used kickstarter for an easy funding alternative.

  35. Slinkyboy says:

    I have a solution: Release the game as the finished product as promised and move on. No need to refund. I funded a few too many games on KS, but not this one. Still, I don’t expect to get my money back from anyone of those other games I KS, I expect a game or a failure as the article said. Good to point it out.

  36. vonkrieger says:

    The thing that bothers me is that he clearly always knew half of his development team was going to depart halfway through the project.

    Is that something he divulged in the project’s description?

  37. Meat Circus says:

    Games have an option open to them that other kinds of Kikcstarter will not when they fail.

    If you really think you’ll be unable to finish the game, why not open source/public domain what you have, and invite the community to assist you in finishing it off?

  38. ukpanik says:

    The two people that left…if they had any honour, they would still work on the game in their free time.

    • Dark Nexus says:

      That would actually require them to have the skills to do the remaining work.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That’s absolutely wrong. It’s not their name on the kickstarter, who knows if they get any revenue sharing, they were well underpaid to begin with, and one of them gave notice before the kickstarter was created.

      Employees have an obligation to work for free for the gain of another entity they used to work for?

  39. Yosharian says:

    You give a kickstarter project your money, you forfeit any and all rights to that money. You are not a shareholder or an investor by law – you DONATED that money.

    Anyone bitching or crying over their lost money for KS projects that fail has completely missed the point of the kickstarter concept.

    • The Smilingknight says:

      arent those people suckers, eh?!

      haha,
      :lets high five!:

    • Entitled says:

      “The point of the kickstarter concept” isn’t to lose money on failed projects.

      Your issue is the same as everyone else’s who complains about people “bitching or crying” over problems: Just like when people criticize a shitty game, and someone replies that “there is no point bitching, you are not entitled to have it exactly your way, you should have accepted the fact that not every game is perfect when you ordered it”

      That’s technically true, but also totally couterproductive. Just because REALISTICALLY, you can expect that problems might arise, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to minimalize their harm next time, or to let the ones resonsible know that things are not OK.

      It can’t be expected that all the Kickstarters will succeed, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be bitching and crying about the ones that don’t, or that we shouldn’t try to make Kickstarter more accountable just because it currently has it’s faults.

      Kickstarter is not a donation system, as long as creators can sell products that they are legally expected to deliver. It needs to either fully embrace that fact, or ban backing rewards and let us develop a proper crowdfunding system instead.

      • Yosharian says:

        No, that’s not true at all.. when I pay good money for a game, I expect it to be good, and I’m as pissed as the next guy when it isn’t. I bitched about ME3 quite a bit, and not just about the ending either. I would never say someone isn’t entitled to complain about a game they’ve bought.

        The key thing here is that Kickstarter isn’t the same as buying a game, and that’s something that seems to be lost on some people. It’s also popular with indies and otherwise-unknown developers. Putting these two things together, it’s really obtuse to complain about failed kickstarters.

        People who do this remind me of ignorant people who dabble in the stock market and then are surprised when they lose their investment. As if it’s the same as putting your money in a bank.

        Bottom line: backing a Kickstarter project does not entitle you to a good product, or even any product at all.

        • Entitled says:

          Yes, it does. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use legally oblige the artists to create the promised products, and there is already US legal precedent for courts recognizing KS backers as creditors who are owed by the developer.

          Yes, the Kickstarter method inevitably increases the *risks*, but that doesn’t mean that all these risks are perfectly acceptable and nothing should be done about them. Just like how ordering a game online inherently increases your risk of you not getting it compared to walking to Gamestop and bringing a copy to the cashier,(it can be lost in delivery, it can have a damaged box, etc), but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have 100% the same right to getting it regardless.

          • Yosharian says:

            I just don’t see it that way.

          • Entitled says:

            Then you see it wrong.
            Opinions have their limits: when Kickstarter says that creators are obliged to deliver products, and the law agrees, saying that you have a right to the value that you spent on Kickstarter, and you say that no, you don’t, then someone is wrong, and it’s neither Kickstarter, nor the law.

  40. Shooop says:

    He did say he’ll give refunds to everyone.

    But still, this is depressing. I suppose it’s better though than actually making the game and it turning out to be amateurish and god-awful.

  41. CrashMaster says:

    I view every dollar I pledge in Kickstarter as a non-deductible charitable donation.

    I have a small amount that I’m willing to give each month, if I give more than that to a project, I don’t donate to others for a while. It’s like gambling or loaning money to friends – if you can’t afford to lose it (financially or emotionally), don’t put it on the table. I tend to not donate to projects that have already achieved their funding goal… I think my donation budget is better spent helping someone meet their goal and it keeps me out of the mindset that I’m buying a reward.

    Was I interested in seeing Wasteland 2 become a reality? Abso-fricking-lutely, but they had plenty of money coming in (ended up tripling their goal), so I donated instead to someone trying to start a business that only needed $1500. I’ll buy Wasteland 2 when it gets a little closer to Oct 13th, 2013.

    I never pre-order or pre-purchase a piece of software that doesn’t have firm release date and strong evidence that it’s something I have a chance of liking, because doing otherwise is a recipe for disappointment.

  42. Calabi says:

    I’m not sure what the big deal is. If you dont understand what Kickstarter is you shouldnt be allowed near money.

  43. belgand says:

    So when is Terry Gilliam going to launch a Kickstarter for his next film?

  44. Hoaxfish says:

    1. I’ve only ever put in the minimum pledge required to get the game. Obviously this is basically pre-ordering… but it’s also the amount I’d accept if the project falls over. If Obsidian keep the $20 I sent their way, I’m okay with that, because I don’t mind supporting their company in general.

    Higher pledges are meaningless to me as all I want is the game, not little bits of chintz to lose, break, pay postage for, etc. I don’t want the devs round for tea, I don’t want them spending the money to fly anyone anywhere, etc.

    If I didn’t want to at least support the development/company, I could just as easily wait until the game was released, and buy it in a sale.

    2. I’m fairly cautious, so far I have backed 10 projects; 6 of which are by companies who’ve made well received games before (not just companies that include people who were in good companies at one time), 3 of the games are already far into development (including playable demos at the time of the kickstarter), and 1 handled their Kickstarter in a very professional manner (intelligent stretch goals, etc).

    3. I have seen one kickstarter that apparently didin’t deliver after the dev apparently started hearing the Sun telling them to kill people (yes, the big burning star that lights our sky).

    4. The Women Vs Tropes in Games seems to have gone quiet. The last I heard was that she had asked her backers to do the content for her (e.g. “give me examples of this trope”). Someone else decided to do a youtube series called “Video Games vs Tropes vs Women” to actually deliver the content that the actual Kickstarter currently hasn’t.

    • jrodman says:

      You’re always free to back a project for say, 40 bucks, and select the 15 dollar “just the game please” reward.

      Not that you should think you have to, but there’s no reason to be limited by a lack of interest in the higher rewards.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        Well, to be honest, I’m trying to spend as little as possible, while getting the one thing I want. That’s obviously counter to the idea that I’m “supporting” the company beyond my own self-interest, but a failed Kickstarter is still taking my money while I would get nothing.

        Essentially I suppose I’m accepting the devs’ estimation (rather than my own) of the “risk vs reward” balance of “what’s needed to make this game” and “how much are you willing to lose”.

        Of course I can simply not agree to the dev’s offered “contract” if it’s too pricey.

  45. wodin says:

    I wouldn’t ask for my money back. If I back a KS I don’t think it’s guaranteed to happen. Those who do ask for it back I feel are being unjust. I expect the money was spent in development costs.

    How many games have we heard over the years that get canned before they are finished..and no doubt lots of money had been spent on the..think Prey 2.

    SO yes backing a KS is a risk and if you can’t afford to lose the money then don’t do it.

    Star Citizen is a current game that amazes me. The average amount people are spending to back it is astounding and they all are 100% certain it will happen..like it can not go wrong. His ambition for starters is massive and really the amount of investment needed for his game is millions. Infact he needs 5 million before you get the full game..he also says he has investors..well I take that at face value. Anyone can say the will invest that doesn’t mean they will. Also those investors will be looking at how many invested not the actual amount and at 10,000 so far that isn’t much and he is already stated it’s a worry. His stretch goals are bizarre aswell. If he had decided to announce two games one an SP game and one an online MMO like game I’m sure he would have hit 2 to 3 million on each game, instead he is lucky to get 3million full stop. Many are staying away especially the ones who want a SIngle player only game. I keep seeing people saying they hope it goes to a single player sandbox after the missions yet Chris has already said that part is closed of and for multiplayer only.

    I’m holding off on the SC crowdfunding. The only one I backed so far is Wasteland 2.

  46. Jelly Paladin says:

    What happens when a Kickstarter fails? Probably not much. Let’s look at Erythia, a Kickstarter game whose creator has dropped off the planet, which is far worse than admitting to development problems and offering refunds. The project ended on June 3rd. Starting from June 24th, eleven people have shown up to chime in with concerns about lack of updates. From a glance at their profiles, only two of them haven’t backed any projects that were created after June. Eight of them have backed multiple projects created after June and two have backed 60+ projects in total (created at any time).

    In other words, even people at the forefront of voicing criticism or worry that they bought into a scam in the past don’t let it stop them from finding and supporting other honest projects in the future. It wouldn’t have stopped me either. The project ended before I joined Kickstarter, but I’ve backed 17 other games. If a couple of them fall apart, great. I’d rather get burned for giving $10-15 to a struggling indie team that never finishes its game than for spending $40-60 on a big-name game that I wind up hating.

  47. Apolloin says:

    Kickstarter ISN’T an investment system – it’s rewards based crowd sourcing. An example of investment would be equity in the company, equity in the product or a royalty of some description. Personally I don’t understand how Kickstarter can claim that if the project fails you shouldn’t lose your money, because in my experience a single SKU studio will basically ride a failing project to Hell before they quit. In short, there’ll be nothing to recover. Enjoy your status as a ‘mangy dog’ creditor (last in line after everyone save the salaried employees to get money) all you like, the most it will get you is the ability to spend a thousand times your donation in legal fees.

  48. Lemming says:

    He was lucky to get two programmers for any length of time with that little amount of cash, but the good news is he’s got some semblance of a game to shop to a studio which should make it an easy sell.

  49. malkav11 says:

    FWIW, the game was -not- originally pitched as a multiplayer versus title. It was pitched as having a branching story-heavy singleplayer campaign that would reference classic horror films and stories (some of the high end rewards involved backer input into this singleplayer content). The previous sign that maybe this project wasn’t going to be a success story was the announcement that they couldn’t get the campaign into a state they deemed fun enough to release and scrapped it entirely in favor of focusing on the multiplayer that they considered to be what was fun about the game they had. There was significant upset from backers (like me) who had no interest whatsoever in a storyless multiplayer versus game, with or without AI skirmish modes. Dakan later clarified that there would be story on a per level basis, just not the overarching campaign that was originally, and made the same offer of refunds.

    Personally, I invested a whole $5, so I’m okay with just seeing how it plays out.

  50. UnSubject says:

    For those interested in such things, I’ve been (slowly) working on a list of all successfully funded Kickstarter video games and if they launched:

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0ArI6cEh7KqUKdFJKOXhxdTJUUU9wZ3czbm5UMl9WekE&output=html

    Any mistakes in there are mine and I haven’t recently added the most recent successes. It can be hard to work out if titles are still active (and sometimes even launched!) given the state of the Kickstarter page and / or ‘official’ site.

    As best I can tell, Haunts isn’t the first ‘failed’ Kickstarter. Liquisity 2 got to the ‘first’ Kickstarted video game that was cancelled – the dev got to a point where it was entered in an indie game comp, didn’t like the feedback and quit the project. Kickstarter funds were refunded. That was July 2010.

    Then there are also titles like Rapstar Heroes where the development team disbanded and Cadet 227 where it looks like the dev took the money and eventually used part of those funds to create another title.

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