Thursday, July 23, 2015

Kickstarter from an Indie Perspective

The fact that I am not talking about 2600 development should be a good indication to regular readers that I have not yet received my final marks for my Homebrew 2600 project. This means that I am falling back to my rant on Kickstarter.

The idea behind Kickstarter, and it's now numerous clones, is that poor artists/inventors are unable to publish their works because they do not have enough money to fund the development of their dream product. This not only is bad for them but bad for the people who actually like the product that they want to develop. The solution, crowd-funding. The people who want to see the product come to light can vote with their wallets and give money to the creator in exchange for product related rewards based on how much they donated. In the case of Kickstarter, the donations only get given to the creator if there are enough people interested in the project to fund the project past their minimum goal.

This sounds ideal for Indie developers, and a number of Indie projects have appeared on Kickstarter. The problem here is that as more people discovered Kickstarter, the more projects started to appear. Now we are at the point where there are far too many Indie projects so just being on Kickstarter is not enough to allow for people to discover your project. Instead, indies must now be able to market their kickstarter in order to get enough attention so that people will look at their project and potentially donate to the project. Needless to say, many Indies are (like me) totally abysmal at marketing so many awesome projects simply never get the attention that they deserve.

The marketing problem is actually even worse. Scammers, who will always exist where there is easy money to be made, tend to be really good at marketing. They, however, are just pretending to be creating a really interesting project with no real plans on even attempting to create something. Their goal is to get the money and then vanish. This makes it worse for newcomers to Kickstarter as if people don't know who you are they are much less likely to fund your project as legitimate Indies look the same as Scammers. Personally, I think the solution to this problem is to have simple prototypes available so potential funders know that a real product is possible. This can backfire, as many people can't seem to comprehend that a prototype is NOT what the final product is going to be like. Even when there are disclaimers on the prototype!

The next problem that happens is the fact that many Indie developers have never actually worked on a real commercial game so have no clue about costs. As a result, you see projects that have a far-lower estimate than they should. Even if they do get funded, they will not have enough money to actually complete their project to the quality level desired. This leads to either products being released half-finished, or projects being cancelled. Both situations reduce the number of people willing to risk taking on a Kickstarter project.

If things were not difficult enough for Indies attempting to kickstart a project, real commercial companies have discovered Kickstarter. In some cases this is a good thing as you have "dead" game categories such as adventure games being resurrected on Kickstarter. This is however bad for the Indies as why would someone take a chance funding an Indie game when they can fund a "real" game? In cases where the commercial developer is actually funding a game using Kickstarter this is not an overly bad thing but unfortunately, there is a trend towards another type of commercial funding that is starting to happen far too frequently.

Some commercial kickstarters are not actually using Kickstarter for funding but are using it as a type of pre-order system to determine if the game is worth developing. On the surface this may not sound too bad, but most of them do not disclose this fact so their funding requirement is substantially lower than the cost of the game. When you have a AAA quality game asking only for a million dollars, when in reality the game is going to cost 100 million, the game that is properly asking for a million is going to look pretty bad by comparison. This means that indies actually having a realistic budget are still at a huge disadvantage because people who don't know what is involved in creating a game see games costing a hundred times that amount being listed as being the same cost.

Would I do a Kickstarter? I actually am thinking about doing one. This would probably be combined with my final Computing Science project assuming my professor agreed. The idea here would be I would develop the prototype and Kickstarter campaign as my final project. The Kickstarter would then be used to decide if this project would be turned into a proper commercial project by funding the project. Essentially, I would be using it for what it was designed for and get money to finish the project.