Power To The People: The Trouble With Crowd-Sourcing

Crowd-sourcing. Crowd-funding. The next big thing. A flash-in-the-pan fad. Call it whatever you want, but right now, the gaming industry’s fallen in love with the idea of putting its fate in the hands of heaping piles of people. Double Fine Adventure was – so clearly that you could see it from space – the point where everyone took notice. Shockingly, crowds did, in fact, exist before that moment, but DFA caused them to really, truly become a thing in the industry’s eyes. Last week, however, saw Phase Two of that movement kick off with things like Penny Arcade’s Kickstarter, World of Warcraft’s Guild Mentoring Program, Steam Badges, and Steam Greenlight. Problem is, with the exception of the latter, we’re sort of doing a really miserable job of leveraging communities, you know, well.

Let’s start with Penny Arcade, since it’s the most immediately egregious. The basis of the idea – at least, as it’s been stated – isn’t actually the affront to human decency that many people are making it out to be. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik want to remove ads from the picture (or short series of pictures attached to funny words, as it were) and let fans dictate some of the content they produce. Great. Cool. Even in an ideal world, I’m not sure if it’s a model that could work for anything not called Penny Arcade, but it’s interesting to see a gaming industry titan attempting to join a club formerly plastered with signs that read “Struggling Indies Only.” I mean, imagine if, say, EA felt confident enough in something like this to give us a real Ultima sequel. Or Lucas might finally dust off X-Wing. Or, gosh, we could get more Freedom Force or No One Lives Forever somehow maybe please.

The backlash to Penny Arcade’s first lumbering steps, however, has been positively torrential, and there’s a very good reason for that: Penny Arcade has presented all of this in such a profoundly arrogant, irresponsible manner that it’s set off a sequential chain of knee-jerk reactions powerful enough to register as a seismic event. $300 gets me the privilege of entertaining Jerry and Mike on Twitter for a year? Oh man, which reward tier lets me pen a religious-zeal-tastic Holy Book in their names and not get sued for it? Other tiers offer similarly egocentric rewards that feel more obligatory than genuinely thankful.

The unavoidable impression, then, is one of the Big, Bad Mega-Company clumsily blundering into an institution the infinitely lovable Little Guy built up. It’s as though Penny Arcade didn’t give the idea that it could set a precedent even a second of thought. With this amount of backlash flying, though, I can guarantee that other major companies – whether developers, publishers, or simply a part of gaming culture – will certainly have many seconds of second thought about doing it at all. And, worst case scenario, some of them may see the end – in this case, success and some pretty serious funding – before the means and come to the conclusion that they don’t need to respect their communities either. No matter how you slice it, this is not a good precedent in the slightest.

Meanwhile, two other major companies, Blizzard and Valve, both attempted to rally their communities toward non-monetarily-focused causes and – once again – backed solid ideas with bewilderingly weak executions. In both cases, the end goal was to foster better community involvement – specifically, encouraging experienced players to help newbies in WoW and getting Steam users to be more active via profile comments, game recommendations, etc.

Taken on individual bases, those are great goals to pursue. If we could somehow find a way to make helping our fellow players feel more welcome and capable tangibly beneficial to our own experiences, that’d be amazing. I mean, which would you prefer: a mountain of tutorials that don’t really teach you anything or a knowledgeable player patiently showing you the ropes?

Unfortunately, WoW’s currently offering such fantastic incentives as MVP status on a forum and “recognition for your guild as being participants in the program.” Valve, meanwhile, is handing out badges, which are basically achievements by another name and smell just as weak. As with the Penny Arcade situation, we’re seeing a lapse in understanding of how to really engage people in the activities they’re performing. Make it interesting, make it fun. Barring any horrible blunt force trauma to the head, I already know I did something. So why is my only reward you telling me that I did it? Why not integrate these things into games or services with care? Why not give us a reason to be better people instead of lackadaisically pretending in pursuit of some title we barely even care about?

Communities are tremendously powerful things, and gaming communities especially overflow with passion that often verges on terrifying. There’s no doubt that we have a sleeping giant on our hands, but it seems like the majority of efforts to wake it have been poorly planned, badly thought-out, and generally slapdash. That said, I’m still crossing my fingers that we’ll sort these things out with time. I mean, Steam Greenlight’s an incredibly promising means of getting communities involved behind-the-scenes, and Valve’s also said some encouraging things about how it hopes to incentivize players teaching other players in extremely nuanced games like DOTA 2. These are examples of careful study and foresight, too – instead of simply applying what already works to an entirely new situation.

Overall, though, the industry’s off to quite a slow start, and I desperately hope it picks up the pace soon. This could be the beginning of a new movement in games – a destruction of the wall between both player and creator and player and other players. There’s potential here for everyone to simply communicate and benefit from each other without crossing telephone lines or being cut off by some third-party that’s not really in touch with either side of the conversation. But it’s going to take work and – perhaps more importantly – boatloads of new ideas that might just fail.

At the end of the day, though, it all goes back to people. Even if you’re dealing with millions of them at once, figure out what makes them tick and respect them as individuals. With that as a starting point – whether developer, publisher, or gamer – I think we’ll all end up in pretty good shape in the long run.


  1. mjig says:

    Gotta be honest, I was confused with the popularity of crowd funding right from the start. I don’t even think it’s an acceptable idea for “the little guy”. I think that it’s a bunch of idiots donating their money to a project without even seeing a demo first, and then wonder why the industry giants treat us like garbage. It’s because they can, because we consistently prove how idiotic we are as consumers.

    The biggest issue for me is that it removed all risk with a project. Normally, you would have to get a loan, or get a publisher, then focus on making your game good enough to be able to pay back that loan. This way, you get an interest free payment to make your game that you never have to pay back. It removes the entire purpose of a marketplace in gaming.

    • 13tales says:

      A publisher or other lender would take a risk and support a game without seeing a demo- why should people who play games not have the ability to support ideas they consider worthy?

      I see some pretty strong negative reactions to crowd funding sometimes, and I find it hard to comprehend. It’s a way sidestep the gatekeepers of the industry, a way for those who really love the medium and would like to see some innovation, to support it directly. Admittedly, that’s the best it can be. I’m sure sooner or later we’ll see the worst, in terms of outright fraud or similar.

      For now, though, I’m loving this. Neal Stephenson and a bunch of obsessive swordfighting fans want to make “Guitar Hero, for swords” ? Awesome. Can he (they) do it? I’ve no idea, but I can sure as hell spare $10 to watch them try.

      • Belsameth says:

        This, basically.
        While it is quite a hype currently and it’ll surely calm a bit after a high profile failure (Ouya, anyone?) Kickstarter or other crowdfunders aren’t only a bad thing. Sure, there’s caveats, but that’s the case with anything…

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    • Nim says:

      The situation might remedy itself towards a more sane attitude to crowd-sourcing as soon as the first projects fails.

      • Salt says:

        The odd thing is that there are plenty of failed projects. Failed game projects too. For instance I stumbled on a small Kickstarter project from 2009 for a game that was never completed.

        The project was to add more stuff to an already existing freeware game and polish it up to be a commercial release. The developer is well known in indie gaming circles, had released several games previously, exhibits his work in galleries, wins awards at GDC, and the game for this project was fully playable from the outset. I find it hard to imagine a Kickstarter project from a solo developer that could appear more safe.

        But three years on and the game hasn’t been released. So far as I can tell there’s been no word from the developer on what’s going on with the game. Just a couple of hopeful comments from backers on the Kickstarter page asking if there’s any news. It’s “only” $5000 and “only” about 30 backers affected so it’s not a big flashy news story. But it is a good example of how delicate even the most seemingly safe game projects can be.

      • D3xter says:

        Crowdfunding is a $1.5 Billion “industry” in 2011, set to be $2.8 Billion in 2012, good luck with that.
        “Crowdfunding” isn’t equal to KickStarter :P
        link to marketingcharts.com

        It’s a good and very desirable thing to take the power away from gatekeepers.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      That’s not really true though, is it?

      In one sense it’s low-risk because there’s no contract there – you get the money and then you use it how you see fit, and it’s not money you’re obligated to pay back. But in another, the whole funding process is public, which means that it’s that much more visible when it fails. NOBODY wants to be the guys who raised millions on kickstarter for the game that never materialised, or everyone hated. A lot of smaller developers trade in goodwill, and if they lose that, they’re nothing.

      “The industry giants treat us like garbage” Not quite. The industry giants don’t care about us either way. We make up a tiny fraction of the people that actually buy games – that is, the people likely to be having a discussion on a website like this. The industry giants do what they can to sell as many games to as many people as possible, and if they step on a few toes of the most avid gamers then what does it matter do them? That’s why so many of their decisions seem, to us, variously evil, good, or just confusing. They’re not thinking about us when they’re doing it.

      Finally, on idiocy, I like to think that I’m a grown up and can decide what to do with my own money without having other people opine about how clever it is or isn’t. Do you think people are not aware that the project might not pan out? Do you think that they are incapable of adding that risk into the equation when deciding if and how much to back? And can you not allow for a little bit of heart to play into things? Part of the reason I chose to back Double Fine Adventure was because I wanted to say Thank You to Tim Schafer, not only for the games but also for being a big influence. Was that idiotic? If it was, then so be it, but I already feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.

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        FhnuZoag says:

        No one wants to be the first. But if kickstarters start failing to deliver one by one (and some, doubtless, are going to fail. A lot of these projects are over-ambitious, and plenty of these games are going to turn out mediocre and fail to please the array of contradictory desires the pledgers have), or deliver terrible products, then the incentive for people to produce diminishes.

        That’s what’s bubble-like about all this. I’d be a lot happier with kickstarter if developers made it more contract-like: that there are real consequences for them if they fail, and proper milestones for them to meet. All the incentive right now is to exaggerate and present unrealistic plans.

      • RobF says:

        “NOBODY wants to be the guys who raised millions on kickstarter for the game that never materialised, or everyone hated.”

        True, but some people don’t care either. That’s a thought that helps keep the honest people honest and that’s sorta fine but people fail in public massively all the time at public expense and carry on same as they ever did. Simply because they just don’t care.

        • SurprisedMan says:

          I think of it a little like natural selection. Many of the people who run successful kickstarters that deliver great products will try it again, while those who delivered bad product or failed to deliver won’t be given a second chance. And people will increasingly look to the former as the standard by which future kickstarter projects will be judged, and if a project doesn’t look like it will deliver at that level, increasingly it’ll fail at the funding stage. At the moment we’re on the first generation of post-DFA kickstarter where there are bound to be a lot of failures. But through this process the general quality ought to go up, until eventually we get to the point where a project just won’t be funded unless it can show itself to be credible. Some bad ones will always slip through, but every time one does, the immune system will improve as a .. result… this metaphor is becoming pretty mixed.

          • Salt says:

            Relying on bad projects being filtered out because the proposer will not be given a second chance after taking your money and failing doesn’t work very well on a planet with quite so many billions of potential proposers.

            It’s nice to think that in time the community will learn to recognise quality game projects but I am doubtful. There will always be a very strong allure of the imagined product, which is often more appealing than the thing can possibly end up being.

            I strongly suspect that many projects would actually get less backing if they appeared on Kickstarter later in their development. Finished “fairly good” graphic assets and a playable demo do not inspire nearly as much imagination from backers as concept art and prose.

          • SurprisedMan says:

            Suppose that you’re right, Salt, and that enough people never learn to ensure there’s always a rich supply of poor and vapourware kickstarters. I don’t think that’ll happen, I think people will become more aware on average, even if it takes a few failures for that to happen. But let’s say it does carry on that way.

            So what? I personally don’t intend to pledge money for projects that I don’t think are either a) very likely to deliver or b) appealing enough as a long-shot that I’m willing to have a bit of a gamble on it. There’ll be good projects and bad projects, and the art of being a backer is in figuring out which ones are worth your time. If I get it right most of the time, that’s pretty good going. If some other people land themselves a string of stinkers, that’s too bad.

            Sure, there would be advantages if delivery and a certain amount of quality is assured, but then again part of the appeal is that it is a place where untested ideas can be thrown around, and anyone can have a go at pitching something. It’d be a shame to lose that, and I think to keep that you just have to accept that a number of successfully funded projects will fail in some way. Will this burst the bubble? Maybe, but I prefer to think that it might just mean that people are more cautious with their backing.

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            FhnuZoag says:

            Well, you’re ignoring a hidden cost here. While to some extent, kickstarter might be compelling people to open pockets who don’t normally, but some proportion of pledgers will be pledging instead of spending their money on a non-kickstarter game. It’s possible to envision a case where poorly thought out visions of hopeful utopias on kickstarter crowd out proper games that people have actually put work into, and so the overall quality of games suffer because people throw their dollars at [insert dumb project], instead of keeping [insert quietly working indie developer] from starvation.

            I much prefer the alternative, traditional process of game development, wherein an idea is had, a proof of concept is made, people play the proof of concept/demo and like it, and then some daring players might pay to get beta access immediately, while others might pre-order (and so have the option of cancelling the pre-order if the project goes sour) and still others can wait for release. Not only does the developer have a healthy sense of duty towards people who have paid, but you have a much more flexible development process because there’s a lot of stages where the developer can say ‘okay, this isn’t going to work’, or ‘oh man, let’s make this a much bigger and more expensive game!’ and try something else without massive bad blood and broken promises.

          • wodin says:

            Salt pretty much everygame I’ve ever bought never lived up to my precieved idea of what it would be like and how long I’d play it etc etc. I can’t count how many times I’ve been excited about a game and think it will be the ultimate and I’d be playing it for years…yet not one of them lived upto the idea of it in my head. SO thats all part of the course and thats why we are always buying new games.

      • Reefpirate says:

        I think I kind of agree with the OP but I promise I won’t call anyone an idiot.

        There is a problem with there not being any risk, and I think we’ll end up seeing quite a few of these Kickstarters either failing or asking for more money before they’re done. There really isn’t any risk involved when you get this money for free on good faith, and I imagine it will be harder to keep the project on track.

        Think of all the games that do have vanture capital support, or have large loans that need to be repaid, or have shareholders and still fail. Amalur is just one large dramatic example, but if the threat of defaulting on those gigantic loans isn’t enough to keep your budgeting and project management on track, I have a hard time seeing ‘risk-free’ Kickstarter funds keeping a project honest.

        I do have high hopes for some Kickstarters. Personally I am looking forward to Wasteland and the Shadowrun game. But I’ve barely given any money to either of them because I’m not convinced they have what it takes to pull it all together, as experienced as they are.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Kickstarter is just a different type of patronage system. People who buy custom art don’t know what they’re getting, they buy it based on how they like the creator. The reason people put money down on some projects is because it won’t be made otherwise. It’s well known that publishers don’t want to produce another top down isometric wRPG or a high quality adventure game.

      And normally the risk is so low, that if you lose the money, it’s not very much. The potential reward is much greater than the risk. For what I spent on the doublefine kickstarter I could get two meals out at cheap restaurants. I can skip that for a new Tim Schaefer game.

    • Shuck says:

      “The biggest issue for me is that it removed all risk with a project.”
      The problem for me, as a developer, is that this is exactly what Kickstarter doesn’t do in practice (only in theory). Only a few big names with highly nostalgic games can get away with just a presentation and some concept art to get (relatively simple, low-cost games) fully funded. Most developers, if they’re going to get any amount of money from people on Kickstarter, need an actual game demo of some sort, so they’ve already invested significant time and their own money into the project. The amounts of money they’re raising aren’t enough to do much with, either – certainly not enough to fully fund the game – leaving the vast majority of the risk on the developers themselves (like with most indie development).

      This is a far cry from what Kickstarter ideally does – guarantee an audience sufficient to support a project before resources have been put into it, so that indie developers aren’t risking their life savings to produce games no one wants, and so the audience can help make the games they want to play actually get made (that might not otherwise exist).

    • MasterDex says:

      It’s quite arrogant to label people as idiots for supporting something they believe in. For centuries, humans have supported their friend’s ideas, even going so far as investing in those ideas. Sometimes that doesn’t turn out well, but sometimes it does. Crowdfunding is no different. People are backing projects because they have faith in them, and because they’d like to see them succeed. That doesn’t make them idiots, not by a long shot.

      Furthermore, there is no removal of risk. If anything, there’s an increase of risk. With no publisher to provide support with things like marketing and so on and with the developers solely responsible for the outcome, those using kickstarter for their projects are putting a lot on the line. First and foremost, these people are putting their reputations on the line. No one wants to have helmed a kickstarter project that utterly fails. Though such a project could be swept under the rug if a publisher were involved, when you’ve been funded by the very people that are going to be playing your game, you’re in for a world of hurt if it goes wrong – and gamers know how to make a big hoopla and hold a grudge. Secondly, those people are putting their well-being on the line. Without the publisher, funding is going to be tighter, and if the kickstarter goal doesn’t fill the budget, it’s out of the pockets of the developers that additional funding must come – and that has its own implications.

      TL;DR – Crowd-sourcing isn’t the stupid thing you make it out to be, nor is it “the easy way” for developers. It’s just one more method of funding for people with ideas. Like every other method, it has its pros and cons.

      • jalf says:

        No, it is arrogant to pretend that all beliefs, all ideas and all opinions are equal.

        If you believe in something idiotic, then it can hardly be arrogant call your behavior idiotic.

        If you back a project which says that “if I can gather $100k, then everyone will suddenly be able to fly” then well, it’s easy to see why people might call you an idiot.

        It is certainly wrong to call people idiots simply because you disagree with them.

        And yes, I also think it’s wrong to call people idiots because they do a single idiotic thing.

        But it can *absolutely* be idiotic to “support something you believe in”. And if you do support something idiotic, then I have no problem with people calling you out on it.

        • MasterDex says:

          I never implied that all ideas, beliefs and so on are equal so I don’t know where you pulled that from. When I said it was arrogant to call someone idiotic for supporting something they believe in, I was talking of Kickstarter, not every little thing in the world. I thought that was self-evident considering the article my comment is under, but I guess not.

          Also, your example of some idiotic kickstarter might not be so idiotic in context. “We’ll all be able to fly if you help fund my project” could translate into an inventor asking for funding for a working, affordable personal-flight system – Something many people, both big and small, have attempted to no real success – perhaps until all those “idiotic” people fund this crazy guy and his vision.

          Long story short, you took my comment far out of context. We’re not talking about religion or fairies or believing you’re strong enough to take on a bear with a hand behind your back and one eye closed. Humans believe in a lot of silly things, we don’t need anyone to tell us that. But no, I was referring to Kickstarter and crowd-funding the entire time – Context is crucial, my friend.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          The Wright brothers scammed you out of your money too?
          I know how it feels, man. I’m going to invest my pension into lottery coupons. Screw crowd sourcing.

        • theblazeuk says:

          This comment is a pretty good demonstration of how all ideas are not equal.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Even if we simply only allowed already established industry names to do this(who in turn can do their own internal hiring, thus creating new established “veterans”) kind of kickstarting, we’d still be fucktons better off with the new flexibility of concepts, ideas, creativity, daring and overall developer-consumer dialogue than the closed-house, DRM-first, publisher-gotta-love-it safety-of-profit-must-be-given state of affairs we have now.

      I don’t see how its idiotic to give someone who has been known to make great games for 1-2 decades money to do something unhindered by corporate blandness policies, without DRM and with visible updates for everyone involved.
      Not sure how you would ideally have us do all of this.

  2. Tei says:

    Theres today a nice iama from a publisher in reddit. He basically say that publishers fund the stuff people buy. So the problem is not who fund what, but you. What people like you buy, and what we gamers buy less. KS is solving the wrong problem.

    Note: iucounu made me think. I will probably change my opinion about the topic. I am considering now KS as a way to “distribute” the risk that now is on the publisher hands.

    • simoroth says:

      Indeed. But the publishers have been terrible of late at figuring out what people want to buy. This leads them to under-marketing rather fine games and then using that data to say “See you don’t want that nobody bought it!”

      At Develop conf I had a few chats with publisher types about Maia and they told me it was “nice” but probably wouldn’t sell enough to recoup my investment as it “didn’t appeal on a commercial level”.

      My server got close to a million hits that week, so I don’t buy it. They can’t conceive of a world where niche markets are profitable.

      • Nim says:

        Niche markets by their very nature prevent maximum profitability for investments.

        • Hallgrim says:

          That is only true if niche products cost the same to produce (per sale) as mainstream ones.

        • Llewyn says:

          Except it really is far more complicated than that; factors such as costs (both development and, in other markets, unit), pricing and market saturation have a huge impact on the profitability of both niche and mainstream markets.

          • Nim says:

            You are of course both correct. My comment was intentionally generalizing.

    • iucounu says:

      I’m a publisher – not a games publisher, but a books publisher – and Kickstarter et al are the first genuinely different business model for publishing in years.

      Digital distribution – Steam, Amazon, iTunes etc – are profoundly disruptive to the retail end of the publishing business, and they have huge knock-on effects in terms of the amount of money that’s available. But they don’t really disrupt *publishing*, per se, because publishing is two things: the management of risk, in the manner of a venture capitalist or investment banker; and the efficient purchasing of publishing services.

      Take books. Nobody knows what’s going to be a massive breakout hit. Nobody is able to predict the success of, say, Fifty Shades of Grey, or Harry Potter. You spread your investment across a wide portfolio of products, so that the fact that most will lose money is offset by your big hits. If you end up, in book publishing, making a double-digit profit margin, you are doing extremely well. (It may be objected that we know that, for example, the next book by JK Rowling will make a lot of money – but where that certainty exists, the rights to publish will be correspondingly expensive.)

      So it follows that what any publisher wants is the completely unexpected hit. The very profitable long shot bet that comes off, subsidised by as many fractionally-profitable sure things as you can muster. That’s your risk management.

      Even a self-publisher – an indie author or game developer – has to manage that risk, because they will need to spend money up front.

      Kickstarter removes that. The book/game/film is essentially pre-sold. The risk is transferred away from the author or publisher and distributed among a lot of customers. That’s a genuinely new and interesting way of raising money on the internet.You say that KS is solving the wrong problem, but it seems to me that it’s a much more efficient way of matching up customers to products than we have managed to date.

      I still think there’s a role for publishers, but if you kick away the risk management pillar of our business you end up with us being a publishing services company working for authors. That seems like a crisitunity.

      • Reefpirate says:

        I appreciate your insight from a publisher’s perspective. I hadn’t thought about this whole situation from the publishing perspective that much.

        But you mention that KS passes the risk on to the consumer and I agree with you. However, I see a problem here because while the consumer takes on the risk there is little to no real security for their investment. They are not guaranteed a repayment or even a product for their investment. There is minimal security in the goodwill of the KS funding recipients, and believing for example that Brian Fargo is true to his word which is not to be taken too lightly. But isn’t there a large risk that a lot of people are going to get burned with this whole KS hype-train?

        • Brun says:

          Yes, of course there’s that risk – it’s the same risk that any investor faces when he ponies up money on a project. However, the risk for each individual is substantially less (because it is distributed among a large number of other individuals) than it would be for a publisher backing the same project. That way, if there is a failure, the “burn” hurts each customer less than it would hurt a publisher.

          You keep saying that you worry that a lot of Kickstarters might fail and people will get burned. I would argue that because Kickstarter is completely up front about that risk, anyone who does get burned will have no right to complain. Investing in a Kickstarter is a risk – you have no guarantee of a product. But the whole point is that by taking a greater risk, you are rewarded with a better game. You are trading “investment security” for quality.

          TLDR: The only people who will get “burned” are people who don’t understand what Kickstarter is.

          • Reefpirate says:

            You make all very good points. The risk is understood up front, which puts me at a little more ease. However, I still think there is a moral hazard here where there is less pressure on the developers having free money up front.

            Either way it will be fun to watch it all play out! Call me cautiously optimistic on this one.

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            FhnuZoag says:

            A publisher would not be throwing all the money at the developer in one lump sum, though, and a publisher would be able to exert considerable oversight over a developer to ensure that it remains on track.

        • iucounu says:

          Yep, that’s risk. Suddenly when it’s on the consumer, it feels different, eh! Which is why people moaning about greedy publishers always makes me pull a wry grimace, while I’m heating my soup over a flaming trash-can of an evening. But it seems to me that it’s (a) very easily understandable – you know at the point you pledge that the product doesn’t exist yet – and (b) generally about small sums of money. As a Kickstarter user you can spread a small amount of money around a lot of projects – a few dollars here and there – rather in the manner of a micro-scale publisher. You don’t get security, but you can hedge your bets.

          People are going to get burned now and again, but those stories will be the rare exception rather than the rule, I think. I certainly haven’t heard a huge number of horror stories.

    • jalf says:

      Am I the only one who hasn’t noticed any “massive backlash” against Penny Arcade?

      And, to be honest, I don’t really see what there is to complain about either. Their rewards are silly and pointless, but the entire point in Kickstarter is that you fund a project: the reward is that the project gets completed. Everything else is a nice side bonus.

      I funded the Double Fine adventure game because I wanted that game to be made. Of course, the backer rewards available have an impact on how much I choose to support them with, but it’s an extra. One that I may or may not care about. I’ve funded a few projects where I literally didn’t care about any of the rewards. I just wanted the project to succeed.

      And *if* I had supported the Penny Arcade one (I haven’t, because, well, it just doesn’t seem like a big deal. I can live with ad-supported content), then I’d be doing it for the sake of the project, and not because Gabe would then retweet something I said, or whatever other awards are available.

      I don’t see anything obviously wrong with what they’re doing. If anything, I’d like to applaud them for keeping a focus: the money you pay them are for what’s stated in the project goal. The less is spent on various contrived rewards, the better. Some KS projects have ended up literally costing the people behind it several man-months just to sort out the rewards, getting them printed/manufactured/whatever, signed and shipped, as well as costing a nontrivial amount of money to sort out.

      I think *that* is a dangerous precedent.

      • InternetBatman says:

        There has been one. It was even parodied in Something Awful, which doesn’t devote a huge amount of time to videogames.

    • sophof says:

      That sounds nice in theory, but people can not buy what is not in supply. It is not a coincedence that kickstarter games focus on genres that are more or less ‘dead’ and that we won’t quickly find a cod clone being kickstarted.

  3. mondomau says:

    “Penny Arcade has presented all of this in such a profoundly arrogant, irresponsible manner that it’s set off a sequential chain of knee-jerk reactions powerful enough to register as a seismic event.”

    And yet it’s already far exceeded it’s first goal with 29 days yet to go. So not that despised, apparently.
    I get where you’re coming from, and I think ‘kneejerk’ is right – is it not possible (and I’m not saying I think this myself) that this is more a vocal backlash against Kickstarter itself for becoming too ‘mainstream’ or possibly the result of resentment towards what is now the steamroller of Penny Arcade success in every field they turn to and have missed the underlying intention her? I mean, they even call it ‘Penny Arcade sells Out’, so I can’t help but feel a lot of it is tongue in cheek.

    If there’s one thing crowds of people love more than success, it’s railing against ‘too much of it’.

    • Milky1985 says:

      I think the main issue with teh penny arcade thing isn’t the idea, which a lot of people are ok with, but the fact that they are doing it on kickstarter, somethign that ia aimed at getting things going or started as the name implies.

      They could just have easily done this via there own site, and not basically forced a few other kickstarter projects down the queue, thats what people are saying.

      And i agree on that, kick starter was the wrong place to try to get themselves away from the ad men, sure it good that they are making it so that they can call up the add men when they are stupid (as with some of there post it seems like they have shifted to be more forgiving of some of the gaming behmoths in the past couple of years) but not a place aimed at starting stuff up!

      • JackShandy says:

        “They could just have easily done this via there own site, and not basically forced a few other kickstarter projects down the queue, thats what people are saying.”

        But that’s not how Kickstarter works at all. They released stats after the success of the Double Fine adventure, showing that other projects got a massive spike in donations at the same time. Double Fine’s success introduced people to kickstarter, and those people then spread their wealth around other projects. The same must be happening with Penny Arcade. They’re a big site, and they must be bringing in a lot of people who’d never heard of kickstarter before.

        • Hallgrim says:

          That might make sense if they hadn’t mentioned Kickstarter a dozen times, both in their daily blog thing and in their comments.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I think it may not entirely be the same people backing it as those who’re outraged by it. I’m fairly certain they’re popular enough to have a significant “web-presence” of both groups without overlap.

      Probably the thing that gets me is the fact that people were still upset about Penny Arcade’s adverts in the first place. They take up a relatively small area of their site, and are “products approved by Penny Arcade” rather than anyone with money. Sure, some of the time I think PA has shit taste and are losing their edge (they defended ME3’s endings, and Diablo3’s DRM, some what at odds with their “by gamers for gamers” origin) but their adverts are innocuous.

      I’m probably more confused by the existence of their Ping Pong card game.

      • Baines says:

        Penny Arcade lost its “gamer cred” years ago. They went from being fans to being a business. While saying it might make me sound like a disgruntled griper, the change does affect people. When PA started, they were outsiders who loved a hobby. But over the years, they became pals with the developers who made the games that they used to be sharp about. They were wooed by the publishers, given special access, given promotions, and given money. As this happened, their comics became less sharp and more forgiving, and eventually becoming defensive of things that they would have skewered in the past.

        They saw their words affected not tens of people, not hundreds, but rather that they could visibly affect the opinions of hundreds of thousands of people. They decided to become their own empire, increasingly branching into other areas. They made a gaming event as fans, which eventually grew into its own business, a business which increasingly had the same properties that they were opposing with the origins of PAX. They made a game, adamant that it would do things right compared to the other games that they had previously knocked, only for it to be just another game with the same kinds of flaws that got knocked in other games. Even now they want to continue to expand as a media empire.

        And they cut back on games. You could see it in the comics, which started becoming about everything other than games. You could see it in their opinions, such as when they said that if a game didn’t catch them in the first few minutes, then they tossed it because there were so many other games to play. You could see it when they talked about what they were playing, which was mostly WOW, at most two or three other titles, and a wargame or pen-and-paper RPG or two.

        And the ads… Their policies changed on them over the years as well. PA started with ads that were supposedly only for products that PA approved. PA had other restrictions on ads that they’d run. But over the years, ads started getting a bit…iffier. PA relaxed other restrictions. And when PA presented its Kickstarter, they mentioned getting away from the influence of ads as a positive.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I definitely agree that they lost their credibly. For me it’s happened twice. Once was when the writer went on that massive tizzy against wikipedia. The second was the blogpost where they said used games were immoral.

          The editorials make it clear that they are now posting from well inside the game industry rather than consumers looking in.

          • qrter says:

            The whole rape-thing with PA was a decidedly ugly thing – not so much because of what was discussed, but because of Gabe’s tone – agressive, dismissive and arrogant. And then Tycho’s sheepish silence.

            They handled that in such a bad, bad way.

          • Apples says:

            Yeah for me they’d already pretty much faded into obscurity, but that furore was when I went to actively dislking them. The fact that they thought a decent, rational, correct response was to laugh along with the rape/death threats, not apologise, not dissuade fans from continuing to make threats, sell shirts presenting rape as a sport, and tell all offended women to basically piss off and not go to their convention… yeeepppp
            (I was not offended by the original comic, by the way – only by their reaction)

          • InternetBatman says:

            I can’t believe I forgot about that. I think the Sarkeesian thing took up that mindspace for me. Yeah, his reaction was absolutely classless, even if I enjoyed the initial comic.

          • Kaira- says:

            It certaily doesn’t help that the comic itself is reaching Buckley-levels of badness.

          • InternetBatman says:

            @ kaira. That’s true, but the Trenches is pretty good.

          • Premium User Badge

            zapatapon says:

            @internetbatman That’s because Scott Kurtz is with them on the Trenches.

          • Gormongous says:

            Sadly, I don’t really find it that baffling. They reacted to the rape-culture accusations the same way they reacted to the Strawberry Shortcake cease-and-desist and to Jack Thompson’s antics, with disdain and ridicule. That’s how Penny Arcade has always handled its detractors.

            Only problem is, Penny Arcade’s part of the industry now. Its detractors aren’t going to be the corporations they won fame for cutting down to size. Its detractors are going to be young men and women from their own fanbase that they alienate with their actions.

            When a media phenomenon becomes large enough that one segment of its fans can attack another segment over differing perceptions of said phenomenon, then it’s reached its zenith. When the phenomenon itself takes part in that attack, I say it’s passed its zenith, at least for me. I hadn’t really laughed at a Penny Arcade comic since early 2008, anyway.

    • Urthman says:

      Nathan, I am actually, literally shocked that a writer for RPS would fail to see those silly Penny Arcade reward tiers as the silly jokes that they are. I mean, for $15 Gabe will think about you during sex? C’mon, that’s pretty funny. They are humorously making the point that if someone wants to give them $300 to support their work, tossing them a T-shirt or a coffee mug is pretty silly and a waste of money. If I want a Penny Arcade T-shirt, I can buy one in their store, if I want to see a new Lookouts comic, I’d rather that my entire donation go towards making the Lookouts comic.

      RPS HUMOR FAIL?!? I never thought I’d see such a sad, sad day.

      For me, the weird part about the Penny Arcade Kickstarter is that, if I wanted to make comics for my fans and had a choice between my fans paying for it or Ubisoft, I’d stick Ubisoft with the tab every single time while pointing and laughing at the scowling SAM FISHER FACE in the banner on my website.

      The really funny part is when they show a picture of “Without ads, our website could look like … THIS!” and it’s exactly what their site looks like right now to anyone who enables AdBlock.

      • colorlessness says:

        Literally shocked? Like, someone shuffled along your carpet and then touched you, discharging static electricity? Or you stuck your finger into a power outlet?


        • Urthman says:

          Shock (shok) n. – 3. A severe offense to one’s sense of propriety or decency; an outrage.

      • Lacero says:

        Jokes are funny until they’re about you…

        I wonder if some of the dislike of penny arcade for this is that they’re pointing out how silly it is, people who really like the whole t-shirts and “meet the team” rewards of kickstarter see penny arcade’s jokes as offensive.

        (The penny arcade ones for “meet the team” are so creepy though! Like they’ll give you a receipt each time they pat you on the back. They are jokes right?)

        • Urthman says:

          It’s hard to imagine someone who enjoys the Penny Arcade comic and would find those reward tiers more offensive than funny.

  4. TheWhippetLord says:

    The psychology of this kind of stuff fascinates me. Give people the illusion of being part of something bigger than themselves and they’re far more likely to help you with time/money/publicity than they otherwise would. Same reason corporate sites tend to call their forum link ‘community’.
    Maybe it’s not as cynical as my jaded old mind sees it – I’m a grumpy old git who still thinks ‘Web 2.0’ was a collection of annoying fads. (Yes, aware of irony in last sentence. :) )

    • AngoraFish says:

      The first thing that came to my mind reading this comment was ‘professional sport’…

      • TheWhippetLord says:

        True enough. Or nationalism: “suppport the troops”. Or charitable help to people you’ll never meet, I guess. To me it’s fascinating that as a species we’ve evolved so many strings that we can pull to manipulate each other. Kickstarter is an ongoing experiement that will show us how far this stuff can be pushed.
        No doubt even more blatant cash-ins to come. But also wonderful stuff I hope.
        Meh, going seriously OT.
        People are wierd.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I don’t really see the Penny Arcade Kickstarter as being all that outrageous. For one, there really is a decent build up of rewards across the levels of pledges. Second, the comic and it’s creators are all about words and the collection thereof, so I can see why having access to a twitter account would be a pretty great reward for a devout fan. They’ve always been generous to their fans, and I doubt they’re just going to be occasionally reading these fans’ tweets and laughing as they roll in their piles of money.

    • Hallgrim says:

      The PA KS violates the terms of Kickstarter. “Removing adds from our incredibly popular website” isn’t creating anything. They could have started this project on their own website, and gotten just as much money. Instead they are polluting KS with a high profile non-project.

      By their own admission, they did this because KS was a convenient way for them to collect money. Why on earth they didn’t run their own donate project is beyond me. Unthinking arrogance seems like the best explanation.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        Surely it is for Kickstarter to police this, if it needs policing. It is not without the realms of possibility that PA communicated with kickstarter to ensure that their KS scheme conforms to kickstarters requirements.

      • Glycerine says:

        I’m not sure why you’re so angry about this – who does it affect negatively? As somebody already mentioned above, the stats released by kickstarter show that when there’s a lot of publicity/funding around project X (in this case PA, but previous stats are for Double Fine), funding for projects increases across the board. The people who would be contributing to small indie projects don’t stop doing that because there’s a big one on the scene, and lots of people are brought to the site who wouldn’t otherwise bother.

        ‘Nothing is being created’ seems to be a bit of an odd take on it – at the very least they’re creating a webcomic for a year with some ads removed. Afaik it’s not a requirement that the project wouldn’t be fulfilled without the funding (as many of the larger indie games that’ve had failed kickstarters are creating the games anyway with loans/more self-funding/publisher-funding). Otherwise, even at the first stretch goal you’re getting clearly new, original content that wouldn’t otherwise be created.

        Suggesting that they went with kickstarter through ‘unthinking arrogance’ seems to be over-egging it a lot. Certainly they could’ve run it from their own site, but if they’re wanting to take payments from a large number of customers to advance-fund a project, isn’t that basically what kickstarter does? If it makes the process easier, why shouldn’t they use a tool like that?

        FWIW, i’ve not contributed to the kickstarter, and i’m only really a passing fan of PA. I’m perfectly happy with the amount of content they produce now and with their ad-supported model. I just don’t understand what all the anger is for – if you’re not interested in it, don’t pay for it. Crucially, i can’t see what they’re taking away from anybody else (except perhaps if they get funded and fail to deliver, which seems unlikely).

        • Brun says:

          at the very least they’re creating a webcomic for a year with some ads removed.

          This. The PA KS is paying for the creation of the webcomic, since with ads removed they won’t be getting revenue from those. So something is being created – it’s just something that was already being created, but now with a different source of money.

        • Hallgrim says:

          Why does my disagreeing with what they are doing make YOU so angry? Judging by the wall of text you definitely have some skin in this game… you should be wary of labeling people with emotional states.

          “Certainly they could’ve run it from their own site, but if they’re wanting to take payments from a large number of customers to advance-fund a project, isn’t that basically what kickstarter does?”

          Depends on whether you think Kickstarter is a one-way paypal for developers, or a place for people who couldn’t otherwise get the money to get the funds for their projects.

  6. malkav11 says:

    It’s kind of weird to me seeing Penny Arcade regarded as “mega-company”. They’re hugely popular, sure (hence the cult of personality-type reward tiers), but even if they’re not -just- two guys doing a webcomic anymore, they’re still not exactly a monolithic operation. It’s what, fourteen people? Which I’m pretty sure includes Tycho and Gabe?

    • katinkabot says:

      The thing is, PA has a lot of clout. In a multi-BILLION dollar industry. When they endorse a game it means something to the gaming community which makes them a valuable brand. It’s actually pretty amazing that they’ve stayed independent for this long. Also, staff size doesn’t mean much. For example, Facebook – being the behemoth that it is – runs a relatively lean staff. What that means is less overhead thus making the folks that own the company – so Tyco, Gabe, and Robert – more money. Though they aren’t a monolith in the traditional sense(EA, Blizz), PA has a powerful brand which has the ability to motivate a huge community(from pro to casual gamers) to open their wallets and throw money at whatever the it deems worthy.

  7. lewi says:

    This comment has been removed.

  8. Gundato says:

    Surprised Ouya wasn’t mentioned. Almost everything about that reeks of “scam”, and I suspect that is going to mark when the “bubble burst” as it were.

    As for PA: To be fair, their asshattery is what the fans expect, so I imagine that is why they are still being successful. But I do wonder if they are going to set a precedent for major projects with no discernible reward for the backers (outside of a warm fuzzy feeling).

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I gather that the reward is that the KS allows the entire PA staff to focus on PA activity rather than funding. So there will be just more content in general next year than they would otherwise be able to produce

    • AmateurScience says:

      Me too, I have to admit I found the Ouya pitch beguiling, but a night or two to sleep on it and some reality check journalism from PA Report and Eurogamer really poured a lot of water on the fire.

      Given their intention to ship my March next year I can despite not having a working prototype, controller or any devs signed on to port games to the system I honestly can’t see how it can work out. I’m not saying it’s a scam (it might be) but it *is* outrageously ambitious and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be one of the biggest projects to fail to deliver on it’s targets.

      At least with games, even if it doesn’t work out, the dev can release the alpha code and leave it to the community to patch something together, not much we can do with half a console.

  9. mlaskus says:

    Steam Badges… I don’t care for no stinking badges! I’ve had three neat rows of potatoes on my profile page and Valve took them away! I liked my potatoes. :(

  10. Lobotomist says:

    Problem with crowdfunding is that may often be mistaken for democracy. In other words everyone will want their say.

    So one will want 3d graphic, second pixel graphic, third hand painted graphic … and so on. And if they dont get it. They will be pissed.

    And what if project you put your funding in – takes steps that you drastically disagree with ?

    This are valid concerns.

    How much should crowfunded developer mind founders input ?
    In my country we have saying : too many nannies , spoiled child.

    The “vision” gets watered down and dragged in to many directions.

    I think this is biggest problem. And why i mostly avoid any crowdfunding. Unless its for project that is mostly in its finishing phases.

    • AngoraFish says:

      but most kickstarters aren’t offering to give you editorial control, and if you contribute expecting to be the director then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. In a democracy, not everyone gets to be Prime Minister, or even a member of parliament.

      KS is democratic in that the community more generally has some say in which projects are successful and which are not, not just a minority of producers and marketing consultants.

      World history is full of altruistic benefactors that didn’t always get it right, as will inevitably be the case with some kickstarters. For every DaVinci funded by Medicis and Borgias, dozens more have disappeared into rightful obscurity. Nonetheless, the world is a better place for the existence of just one DaVinci.

      Surely even a 1% increase in the hit rate for funding genius is better than zero?

      • Lobotomist says:

        I know that both Wasteland and Shadowrun kickstarter (which i took part in) is claiming and asking for input. And i can only foresee lot of anger there.

        I understand that you and many other perhaps could easily watch the game take shape in direction opposite from what you hoped for. But for many others it would be hard.

        I mean , interwebz. People moan and whine about games all the time without even have penny invested. Imagine what happens to the same people when they invest sums of money…

        Just saying.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          They will just whine the same way. I don’t see how your point takes anything away from KS. People will be mad? So f’in what?!

    • eld says:

      Look at current projects and see how the respective communities are handled, you’ll see that it’s quite friendly.

      Most are more than happy to see their favorite developers just do their thing.

    • MasterDex says:

      “In my country we have saying : too many nannies , spoiled child.”

      In English-speaking countries, that would be “Too many cooks spoil the broth”. Same idea, if too many people are involved, it can negatively affect the end result.

      It’s a good point. With so many individual backers, those running kickstarter projects risk corrupting their original vision to make Tom, Dick and Harry – and their thousands of friends – happy. But traditional funding models also carry that risk.

      There’s another famous saying – “No man is an island”. What that means is that no one is entirely self-sufficient. We all rely on others, so it can be hard to avoid too many cooks.

  11. Hoaxfish says:

    Minor point, I think community Beta testing (whether invite-only, or completely open) are a form of Crowd-sourcing (i.e. your mass quality control/bug testing department for almost free, and sometimes they pay you).

  12. Neurotic says:

    I think the problem is right there – as soon as you start to try “leveraging” people, you’re screwed because people are not really heavy, immobile objects that need to be wrenched and jimmied until they move. Bad connotations man, bad connotations.

  13. rustybroomhandle says:

    Crowdfunding is an old concept in media.In the USA, public broadcasting is publicly funded, and TV/radio stations hold several fund drives a year.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Beerey says:

    This may just be me, but the impression I got from the PA kickstarter was that the rewards for donating will be the ad removal and extra projects. The key word there being donating, which traditionally isn’t really associated with rewards. I’m not funding an unproven idea which may or may not turn out well (at least not with the initial goal). I’m donating money to see a site without ads primarily, and the stretch goals are just a bonus. Less risk, less reward. I think Tycho and Gabe see it this way as well, from my reading of one of their news posts where they compared this project to the first few years of the site when they ran on donations.

    I think your conclusion of the “profoundly arrogant, irresponsible manner” in which they’ve run this Kickstarter kind of ignores the way in which they’re leveraging the platform. The rewards may very well be there just because they’re obligatory. I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing when you don’t view it as a traditional ‘we have an unproven idea, please fund it now in exchange for a payoff which may or may not be good in one to two years’ kickstarter. I’m not sure I personally even need a reward for this kind of project which is donating for a guaranteed and defined payoff.

    All that said I don’t really understand the ‘massive backlash’. So what if they’re leveraging a platform in a slightly different way to what we’re used to? Does it really matter if it’s done through KS or their own site, beyond vague arguments about ‘less visibility for other indies’, or typical chip on the shoulder posts about their arrogance and hubris etc etc?

    • AngoraFish says:


      KS rewards are meant to be trivial and quirky. We’ve seen far too many KS campaigns where the goodies ended up eating far too large a percentage of the final proceeds.

  15. Phantoon says:

    “a destruction of the wall between both player and creator and player and other players.”

    What, are you saying Valve hasn’t been trying to get people to make the leap from players to content creators? I really hope that’s not it, and that you’re not implying that badges were to be an end all plan rather than a tiny piece of a giant puzzle that includes:

    The SDK
    Steam Workshop
    Portal 2 level editor
    The aforementioned project Greenlight
    Source Filmmaker
    Steam itself as the service
    Badges, which no one really cares about because they’re not hats
    Things that are not hats

    Because that would be silly. Also, hats.

    With the latest move of Tribes: Ascend being available on Steam, it looks like Steam will become a horrible monstrosity of every game you want, on every platform. So basically Skynet. I’m sure Minecraft was considered a misstep at Valve, and with how they’re annexing everything like the German army, I doubt they’ll flub something like that again.

  16. Fede says:

    Gamersgate has tried to build a bit of community too, with people getting blue coins (the rewards seem to be mostly around 500 blue coins per question, with 1000 blue coins being ~ 1$) for answering questions and helping out (GameTutor). The rewards aren’t big, but it’s a nice idea.

  17. Godwhacker says:

    Wait, aren’t the Steam badges just fun things to have? There’s no pressure to get them and there’s no reward.

    • MattM says:

      I agree, they don’t give you much but they don’t ask much. It is just a low-key thing that tracks your past participation and encourages you to explore a few features of steam.

    • rockman29 says:

      I think RPS is just saying it could be a lot better.

      When it says ‘post on your friend’s page,’ people will go do that and then not do it again until the next big sale with badges. So RPS is saying it’s not enough, I think.

      I think Valve and Steam need to make it just easier to do these things AND promote them at the same time (and use better promotions… like maybe even rolling credit beyond the length of sales).

      I do like the retroactive badges though, like the 2 year service badge I have.

      I think for starters they should make their Steam browser use Opera or something that isn’t achingly painfully slow and frustrating to use for commenting and such. And also a UI update that is faster and doesn’t need to constantly load pages to see different content on the community pages.

      • Godwhacker says:

        Yeah, the HTML Steam interface could be a lot better, but I still think the badges were just intended as a bit of fun and a way to get people to explore the different things they could do with their accounts.

        For example: there’s a dedicated screenshot button that doesn’t require you to press PRTSC, load GIMP or MS Paint, save as JPG and then upload somewhere people can see it. You just press F12 and then it’s basically done.

        I mean, that’s really good, right?

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think he completely misses the point of badges. The community participation badge is something that they have every sale in a different form. It’s not there to help people, it’s there to advertise Steam.

  18. maicus says:

    I like penny arcade. I would like to see more projects by penny arcade. Crowd-sourcing revenue so that they can focus on their own IP sounds perfectly reasonable to me? I’m confused about where the downside is.

    • alundra says:

      The downside lies in that the initial idea was small time indie companies and/or cult projects, like the mentioned freedom force or NOLF.

      Right now it’s become a travesty being hijacked by all sorts projects totally unrelated to the original ideas *and* big time companies hijacking people’s naivety to secure recouping the budget in advance, easy money as you can see.

      This has become like the indie bundles, now you see a company like EA offering a bundle of indies just to ride on a fad born out of people’s good intentions.

      A police of sorts could be instituted to control these kind of stuff, but ultimately it relies on people and their ability to think for themselves.

      • maicus says:

        And the original idea for google was that it would just be a search engine.

        Kickstarter has pretty much singlehandedly proven that large projects can be crowdfunded, and the idea that companies of all sizes wouldn’t want to experiment with the inherent possibilities of this is kind of missing the point. When something like this grows so organically, why cut it back for the sake of purity? Theres nothing sacred about asking for money. Why can’t we kickstart Greece?

  19. rockman29 says:

    I would be happy to teach people to play DOTA2, but it’s not like there is a button you can click to say ‘I’m willing to teach people DOTA2’ and have other players see it. I would have no problem if I am going to play some DOTA and then before I start a game a player asks me to teach them stuff, that would be really cool imo.

    Also, Valve’s measurements for community contributions are so disgustingly abused. People just advertise in the chat for “4×4 trading upvotes on your karma” or something of the sort. So basically some players have 35 wins, but then have 500+ upvotes on each of their 4 karma scale thingies (which makes zero sense unless it were abused). So essentially their karma system is already incredibly broken and gives credit to people who abuse the system instead of players who actually deserve it.

    And the chat is also used to sell beta keys for DOTA2 and other games…. it’s like Diablo II’s trading chat, it’s pretty lame.

    Valve has not done a great job in actually implementing their great fabulous ideas about making communities regulate themselves.

  20. cccreative says:

    When I think of crowd-sourcing I think public radio. Crowd-sourcing makes sense for people and companies who provide a “free” service from the start and ask people to support it (if and only if) they love it. I think it’s great, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

    It’s kind of weird that all these companies are rushing to adopt crowd-sourcing as a means of income. For example, Penny Arcade has been running off ads and products for years. We already buy their books, games, merch and more to support them. We’ve already put up with their ads and don’t really care either way. There’s nothing saying, “We need the support of our audience to continue making great content.” They don’t need it. It’s more likely that we’re supporting their selfish need to feel like they fit into a more independent business model. That’s why it’s stupid.

  21. InternetBatman says:

    I don’t think this article is very good. It’s trying to take a few very disparate occurrences and fit them to a weak pattern.

    For Steam badges, it misses the point entirely. The purpose of the pillar of community badge is to advertise steam, not help people. Badges will probably be a bit like Gamerscore, there for competition.

  22. sonofsanta says:

    Penny Arcade’s KS is interesting in that it’s not really crowd-funding, but crowd-patronage, which hasn’t been done before. It’s a good concept and one that has legs in this post-copyright era we’re entering.

    However, it still feels like the wrong company to be doing it; PA is clearly very successful (and for good reason) and their ads have never been particularly egregious, as they approved them directly. For people who profess to a great love of this industry, they sure are sucking a lot of money away from smaller projects that could do with it more.

    If they’d approached it as a Kickstarter to fund some side projects for a year – at $250k, a Lookouts comic, $500k the roboty one etc. – and stated it would be achieved by making the site ad-free because that would save them the time spent drawing the ads and doing the commercial work, it probably would’ve provoked much less of a reaction. As I say – crowd-patronage.

  23. psyk says:

    Fanboys got to love them

  24. Apples says:

    The trick is to be the underdog. I don’t think it’s anything much beyond that. Things that need to be funded by the people should be things the people want and the not-people (i.e. corporations) don’t want. Penny Arcade and Valve are absolutely not underdogs, nor are they really ‘of the people’ no matter how much they attempt to engage with the people, and they don’t need crowdsourcing. Trying to drum it up just looks like they realised they could take money from people or get people to do things and pretend to look humble and friendly without putting in a lot of starting effort.

    Basically until there isn’t a huge, multimillion industry around media, it’s impossible to take companies which participated in that huge industry seriously when they pretend they somehow now can’t or don’t want to partake of it, and that they particularly care about their players in any form other than ‘are they still paying?’.

    The only people I gave money to on KS were Steve Grand and Double Fine, and I don’t even remember what most of the supposed rewards were. I don’t even think they’re necessary; the reward should be, er, the product. I appreciated my postcard from Steve a lot but I would still have given him 50 quid without it!

  25. MythArcana says:

    I don’t know why people expect miracles with these programs. They raise $300k or so, send it to Steam as beta, then sell the piece of junk for $2.99 per unit. The kids get tired of it after 2 days then the modders take over to try to fix it. Valve then assumes babysitting duty from that point with their workshop and then we…

    Rinse and repeat…Rinse and repeat…Rinse and repeat…

    Meanwhile, I’ll be chuckling in the corner with my $60 Dominions 3 [or insert deep hardcore game here] and wondering why people are so goddamned dense.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Price is absolutely not a determinant of quality. Orcs must die was $3.75 a few days ago and its a great game. Metro is $5 right now and its a great game.

      Also, what’s wrong with the game being open to the workshop? What’s wrong with people making a game better?

  26. benkc says:

    I’m another person who didn’t realize people were upset at the PA kickstarter. I didn’t feel any desire to contribute, because I’ve never had a problem with the ads, even before using adblockers. I’ll spend my money elsewhere, thanks. But anger?

  27. yutt says:

    Wait, the Penny Arcade funding, making PA reliant on the patronage of readers, instead of the industry it participates in is bad? These full-page ARMA II ads blanketing RPS are the great alternative? Why wouldn’t you wanted to be independent and reliant on readers instead of advertisers?

    I notice attacking Penny Arcade is a trend among the RPS writers. I can only assume none of you have had a single encounter with Mike or Jerry, who are wonderful, charitable, down-to-earth people and incredibly humble despite their enormous successes.

    Watch 5 minutes of the PAX East 2012 Q&A, better yet watch the full video. If you aren’t in tears at the raw humanity and love that the pair show their fans, the enormous positive impact they have on the lives of the people who appreciate their work, you aren’t human.

    Is NPR bad for crowd-funding? Should I cancel my RPS subscription? Is incredibly arrogant that Rock Paper Shotgun receives money from fans in exchange for only your words? I’ve been subscribed for years now, should I stop supporting something I get value from because somehow needing money to pay employees is a display of arrogance? Please let me know!

    Edit: Also, the “outrage” about the PA campaign, coming mostly from people who harbor a generic hatred for anything related to PA, isn’t displayed at all in the funding: link to kicktraq.com

    Unless a projected $1 million is now failure.

  28. Yar says:

    I’ve been a huge fan of PA for 10 years and have spent sizeable sums of money in their direction. And their Kickstarter ticked me off big time. They are a profitable corporation, with business managers and marketing folks and advertising experience and all sorts of stuff. First of all, what they are asking for is revenue to fund corporate operations, not starter funding for a year of comics. A year of comics don’t cost what they are asking, we know that because they did many years of them on far less. And their corporate operations costs are only what they are because of the business they were able to build on ad revenue (and merch revenue and conference passes, etc.). This isn’t about a creative project. And that would all be only rules-lawyering if it wasn’t for the fact that the start-up capital, all-or-nothing, deadline-focused nature of KS means that the PA KS is a powerful competitor to other KS projects going on. PA, with their huge web presence and all their marketing and business and advertising professionals, are competing with actual creative start-up projects, to get money. That is a real problem. Although I can’t prove it, I guarantee you there are projects out there right now that will fail because the money went to PA instead. If they had just put up an ongoing fan-funding operation via their web site, this would be great. But instead they dishonestly dressed it up as a “project” with a needed amount for start-up and a deadline, and offered some arrogant and insulting rewards to boot.