The Kickstarter Dilemma

Sing for your manhour-based supper

Be it Kickstarter, be it IndieGoGo, be it whatever new flavour of eBusking comes to pass, crowdsourced funding of indie games’ development is a remarkable and wonderful addition to this ever-changing industry. It will lead to great things, I am quite sure. But it does present a number of issues for the media – or at least for this particular site, whose loose remit is ‘post about what we’re personally interested in.’ Lately, that comes with an additional responsibility.

1) If we post about a Kickstarter project, we’re essentially implying our readers should donate to it. Everyone makes their own spending decision based on their own feelings and research of course – but it can still be the case that for many of our revered readership, the deal wasn’t even on the table until it appeared here.

2) Without having played the game(s) in question, and most likely without seeing anything meangingful of it for many months to come, we can’t attest to that project’s quality, to the likelihood of the results being as described, or of it even coming to pass at all. This is why ‘celebrity’ KS projects tend to get covered more frequently here – the odds of a big name pulling off what they promise would seem to be much higher than an apparent unknown living up to their claims.

3) We receive several emails about new KS projects each and every day. That’s on top of all the mails about other indie projects, and mainstream press releases, and updates to MMOs and F2p games and and and. We can barely read about them all, let alone post about them all – and, even more crucially, let alone post about them from an suitably educated position that ensures we’re doing our duty to you guys.

4) If we do post about one, that might well be instead of posting about another KS project – or an already existent indie game that you could pay for (or not) and play right now, rather than months or years down the line.

5) Occasionally an indie or KS-funded game leverages its community to mass-mail us in the hope of posting about it. As well as being a practical complication to doing our jobs (imagine if your inbox suddenly filled with essentially the same message, dozens or hundreds of times over), it presents a huge moral dilemma. Some might argue that it’s passion at play and deserves coverage as a result. I’d argue that’s mob rule – so if we post about it, we’re posting about it for the wrong reasons, because we’ve been battered into submission rather than because we’re enthusiastic about it. If a big publisher did similar, and if we posted as a result, it would be a scandal.

6)This sounds horrifically arrogant, but the extent of RPS’ reach means that we can potentially alter the fortunes of KS projects we do post about. That’s a frightening responsibility as much as it is an exciting one.

The golden ideal, of course, is getting to play some aspect of Kickstarted games before we decide whether to post. Trouble is Kickstarter basically exists to fund games that don’t. Though even that’s changing – we’re seeing more and more projects that are already significantly into development but opt to switch to crowdsourced funding, and that presents a whole new dilemma. Support projects that already have money, or those that don’t.

So, while we do have plenty of our own ideas about how to approach the crowdsourced revolution, I’d like to open it up to the floor. What are your requirements for placing your faith in a KS project? How do you feel about our covering stuff of lesser or non-existent heritage? Should an ambitious but unproven KS game from an ambitious but unproven dev be posted about at, potentially, the expense of an indie game that’s already on sale (edit – I mean this in mean in terms of the quantity of games we can physically, as mere mortals, hear about, research, in ideal circumstances play and then post about in a given day/week/month/lifetime)? How much information should we track down on a KS project before we cover it?

Again, our decisions will be ultimately our own and, as with the Kickstarter stuff itself, mob rule won’t force our hand, but I am very interested in what those outside the gaming press feel are the essential factors and best practices in this brave new world of paying for a game before it exists.

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