Kickstarter is a fantastic site. Crowdfunding is one of the greatest inventions of the last decade.
Many people use this as a method of getting extra funding for their projects. But how much funding is too much? Who should be using Kickstarter?
Dan Crawley of “Gamesbeat” writes a fantastic article about the subject, and how larger developers using crowdfunding can both hinder and help smaller bedroom indies. Larger developers, with better experience with PR and marketing, can get in most of the viewership they require. But despite this, their funding goals are sometimes too high, and they simply fall short of their goals.
“7FRAMED” is one example. By ambitious artists in Montreal, Canada, they asked for $300,000 to fund their game, a first-person cinematic adventure where you are framed for a murder in a hotel, and follow the orders of a phone call to run. While filled with a few too many quick-time events, the cinematic polish and quality of the environments, voice acting and character models were incredible, and yet, they received under $18,000 before canceling. That’s despite all the press from major outlets it received.
“Nevermind” faired a little better, but came short, making under $130,000 of their $250,000 goal. With the promise to use new technology to make “a bio-feedback horror” story, it had some fantastic screenshots and potential. It even had support and input from Jenova Chen, from “thatgamecompany” that worked on games like “Flow” and “Journey.”
“To The Death” made about $36,000 out of its $400,000 goal. Made by industry veterans who worked on past projects including Call of Duty, Titanfall, and God of War, this got plenty of attention, but to this day I’m confused why such experienced developers would make a 2d beat-em-up side-scroller, or why they needed $400,000 to make it (although the video actually does look kind of cool).
Another project is “Cradle,” the beautiful and mysterious adventure game that received under $130,000 of its $350,000 goal. Even though they clearly state how most fans were “surprised” at how low the goal was, it couldn’t be met. It’s a shame, considering how beautiful the current videos of the game are.
The above projects look like fantastic games. Some of them got a ton of press. Some of them have industry veterans for integrity. But looking at projects like “Project Eternity,” “Mighty No. 9,” and “Double Fine Adventure (Broken Age),” all of which received well over a million dollars in funding, they got too greedy. Even though most AAA games require hundreds of people and millions in funding to get made every year, indies need to think smaller. No matter the project, it’s unrealistic to expect to raise more than $100,000. Even $50,000 is a little high for a project that can be made for free on a computer. With over a billion dollars funded to Kickstarter projects so far, some backers may either be wary of how their money was used or what they got back, or the novelty might have begun to wore off.
Not that it isn’t possible. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the most recent project to reach such a high amount, thanks to a ton of press and generally impressive and crowd-pleasing tech demos of incredible realistic medieval settings and combat. Another project, “Koe,” also surpassed their goal (although more modest), purely from the concept of making a educational game that was actually fun as a RPG. This shows that success is still possible, even today.
“…No matter the project, it’s unrealistic to expect to raise more that $100,000… not that it isn’t possible… “
Not all projects get what they deserve, though. I really liked the concept of “Imagine Nations,” a evolving open world you could see change and adapt overtime as you played as a character within it. It’s a true next-gen concept, and yet they made a measly amount, under $7,000 of their $200,000 goal. And I’m only mentioning projects here that actually did well: my game made just a little over $300 before failing, and I take some comfort as well as disappointment that so many projects I’ve seen, many of them actually good, get less than a dozen backers over the course of their campaign.
And what do we learn from all this?
Some people blame the concept, a lack of press, bad videos or screenshots, lack of fame or questionable integrity as reasons to why a Kickstarter campaign would fail. But from the above projects, all of which ran in the last twelve months, have targeted these issues, and some of them are genuinely incredible games that deserve attention. There’s no real rhyme or reason to why a crowdfunding campaign might succeed or fail anymore. For every reason you give, I can give a counter-example that proves it wrong. And given the impressive amount of funding they did get from backers, maybe they just needed a smaller goal. Or, given that many of these projects are still on-going even without funding, perhaps they never intended or required funding, but just a little extra press to make them stand out.
So be wary, indie developers, when setting your goals and expectations. And how much is too much to ask for funding? Even at only $5,000, many people argue my requirements to buy software licenses, lose money as taxable income, and “unforeseen expenses” made it unjustified (ok, that last bit did sound fishy, some more research might have been warranted). And yet, all the above games have much higher goals, most of which for identical reasons, in addition to paying themselves a full salary (thus not really being “indie” anymore), and such comments for them are much more scarce. The best I can say is that the funding amount doesn’t matter… just make your project look as cool and as polished as possible. If you do that, most won’t even see the number.