How do the Gamers of the world (these forums) View Sponsorship-based Development
Published on May 7, 2011 By ScottTykoski In PC Gaming

So I have a question for my fellow gamers....

Is the Kickstarter system of project funding something you view as a positive way to get involved (and possibly score some unique rewards) or as a system for developers to beg for dough?

Thanks for any insight! 

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on May 07, 2011

I think it's a good idea, because players are becoming increasingly picky about their games and this way they get to pick and choose from the early development what indie devs focus on. Likewise, it is a reality check for developers. Maybe that idea that sounded so awesome isn't so awesome after all.

It's helping out by matching potential buyers with potential products.

on May 07, 2011

Yeah, it seems like a win-win situation in general. As a developer, you're testing to see if there's a market, involving that market AND raising funding. Players get to participate in the creation process and get unique rewards for their early-adoptership.

I'll be curious how many people whare your view. Thanks for your take, Heavenfall!

on May 07, 2011

Could someone define the Kickstarter term for me? I'd love to weigh in but I'm not exactly sure what your talking about.

on May 07, 2011


Effectively it's a way to crowdsource funding for some kind of project. If enough people kick in some cash, the project gets funded and can go ahead.

on May 07, 2011

I believe financial gain should come from what a company has done instead of what it is going to do. The Kickstarter system is part of a disturbing trend in the game industry where profits are made by minimizing release-day content and maximizing "support" services over a period of time. Without the Kickstarter system (and others like it), companies who follow this warped business model would immediately tank and never get a chance to see the light of day. Giving people "unique rewards" for contributing during development only exacerbates the issue. Not only is a company getting money before it can prove that its game is good but it is rewarding customers for this backwards behavior.

Also, I don't buy the argument that the Kickstarter system is of value because it allows fans to steer the game into the right direction. It is the company's job to to do target market analysis and forecasting, and an evaluation of the overall viability of the game before it gets put into production. There is a reason that Brad is a game developer and I am not - he knows what works and what doesn't. Giving people like me the reigns to the game's development is counter-productive and goes against part of what a game fundamentally is. It is an expression of art, a vision that the game designer has. It is not and should not be a jigsaw puzzle of different fans' wants and desires.


on May 07, 2011

I like the basic concept, no doubt, but I don't like the business angle.  For instance, let's say I pony up 20% of the requested development cost.  My return is nothing outside of having participated in steering the ship a wee bit.  Now if a project was fully funding by individuals, I'd expect some sort of return.  So if there was some sort of profit sharing available to the individuals putting up, then I think that's great.  Everyone is a winner if the game does well.  Anyway, I do think its cool that you get something from the project based on how much you committed, but I'd much rather have a cut of the money, tbh. 

edit - if the project doesn't get fully funded - do you get your money back? 

on May 07, 2011

I find that, for the most part, people don't really know what they want.

An individual person "might" understand some basic elements of what he likes. The problem is when you apply this to a wider set of individuals. Like they said in Men in Black, "A person is smart, people are dumb, panicky dangerous animals."

It's bad enough on your own. Anyone else remember the first time you played a game in God-mode? I remember. It literally killed the game for me. I could not play it anymore.
I "thought" I knew what I wanted: infinite ammo? can't die? walk through walls? sign me up! (I was 15, sue me). After about an hour of playing, I couldn't look at Doom again.

While that's the most base of examples, I've seen this happen in game after game where the developers get feedback from the players. Players ask for things, thinking it will improve the gameplay for them. The developers eventually listen, and probably through pressure from the threat of loss of income (subscribers leaving), they give in. Soon after, gameplay becomes worse and people leave anyway.

On the flipside, I've seen at least one game where a "pay up front and be a given privilege" bit the players in the ass. The example I think of is the Hellgate: London collapse. Decently fun take on the diablo gamestyle, but some people bought into the "pay a buttload of cash and get premium subscriber content forever". The problem? The game collapsed before a year had gone through. As a saving grace, the company that bought the game and servers, left the servers up just long enough for those that bought in to get at least got the same value had they been a premium subscriber the full time the servers were up.
It could have easily been shut down and "oops, sorry.. thanks for the cash though" situation.

I will admit, there can be benefits. I think that good game designers who know what makes a good game, and what will sell, should seek private investment over this option.

I'm not saying that using Kickstarter is a recipe for doomed failure, but in my personal experience with gaming for the past two decades, better games are made without the committee effect. It tends to make games into camels.

on May 07, 2011

Thanks everyone for your thoughts!

Could someone define the Kickstarter term for me?
What Tridus said, as well as the fact that sponsors can receive unique 'rewards' based on what they pledge.

If not enough people pledge enough in the allotted time, the funding fails and no money exchanges hands (pledgers don't get screwed, and project creators aren't stuck trying to make a project with X$ when they really needed Y$ to do it justice).

A lot of musicians and film makers seem to be using it.

Anyway, I do think its cool that you get something from the project based on how much you committed, but I'd much rather have a cut of the money, tbh.
I've seen rewards to this effect. If their goal is 4k and you put in a whopping 1k, they'd factor you into a revenue sharing system.  Definatly a cool idea.

It is an expression of art, a vision that the game designer has. It is not and should not be a jigsaw puzzle of different fans' wants and desires.

but in my personal experience with gaming for the past two decades, better games are made without the committee effect. It tends to make games into camels.

I could certainly see that being a problem if the project is led with lose reigns, but most of the rewards I see are for little, almost cosmetic input into the design (name a person/level, design a character/weapon, etc.)

And I see Kickstarter really being for little indie teams, no so much for bigger/established dev teams. If you've put a game on store shelves, you should have an idea for how the market's the smaller guys that may have a 'big idea' that, it turns out, is a total dud. Throwing the idea out for crowd-funding help out in multiple ways - though I can appreciate the fear that people put dough into something that some indie devs totally bail on, leaving sponsors screwed.

Lots of good points, thanks!

on May 07, 2011

All projects are funded in advance.  If they aren't, there is no project.  A developer may get their rewards after the sale, but someone has to provide living expenses while they work on it, even if that means a second job for a guy programming in his den during his free time.


To get investment capital  the standard way, you have to show, fairly reliably, potential for massive revenue.  Venture capitalists are going to want to sink a few hundred grand into a project expected to return millions.  A lone developer with a pet project that will likely do little more than break even on their living expenses can never receive such funding, the reward doesn't match the risk.  Things like this fill that gap by allowing less successful projects to be funded by people interested in them.  I can't see that as a bad thing in any way.


Besides, maybe if people start funding art again, instead of uncle, it will stop being shit...

on May 08, 2011

To me it's like commissioning art.

Some of the most famous paintings from the renaissance were commissioned works. On the other hand, a ton of forgettable art was bought and paid for before it even entered the artist's mind.

I like to think that the best games come straight from the heart to begin with, with little to no interference by publishers, fans or other sources of influence. As the game gets along, those groups all get their chance....but not from inception.

So to me it's kind of a risky gamble for the climate of game development. When players are literally paying your bills before you've made a game, they own you, and your game. You can choose to disobey them....but not if you want them to continue supporting you. I believe deeply in creative freedom, and I think nothing gets in the way of creative freedom more than when you have to do fundraising just to get started, and you're beholden to someone else before you've done anything. I don't see that as a good climate for game development. I know this is how it works in the AAA market....and that might explain why we're all so sick of the caliber of many AAA games.

Of course, being broke gets in the way of creative freedom too....but when I look at the # of indie projects that started and finished purely out of love, and went on to great success, it makes me question what kind of game someone needs to make that requires fundraising. If an indie dev on a random game forum posed that kind of offer, I'd laugh and not respond. The risk of failure to me only gets greater the bigger the project gets and the larger their financial requirements are.

So in the end, I'm not comfortable with it. I pay developers for things they've done, not things they want to do. Toady One and Dwarf Fortress are the exception, but only because Toady has clearly demonstrated he can do it, and has put out a wealth of stuff for free. Paying him is a guaranteed promise that he'll continue to develop the good things he's already created. He's got a model I can get behind: I"m going to do this whether I get paid or not. Paying me will help me do it more instead of getting a real job. You wanna pay me? God bless you. You don't? Enjoy your download anyways." That's a situation where I'm comfortable putting money into someone's coffers. "I need to make X to fund my game or it tanks and never releases" is not a model that works for me, even if I get my money back. I'm tying up my money ahead of the fact contingent on someone else succeeding and everyone else paying. It just sounds like a cluster fuck. 

I don't have money to throw at people in the hopes they might put out a game I enjoy. I'm glad if this works for someone out there, but it's a model I'd hate to see take over. As gamers we should pay for what we're getting, not for for what we hope to get. We're already doing that today half the time when we buy, after we slice through all the hype, half-truths and exaggerations that come straight from developers and publishers. I don't follow the logic that since a lot of AAA games are crap investments when you buy them, we should just put our money up front first as though that will ensure we get the game we want. That makes no sense to me at all.

So yeah. It sounds like hedge fund investing, only I'm doing it with my money, my fun and my dreams. And when you offer to cut players in on the profits to entice them, it beings to sound like a pyramid scheme.

on May 08, 2011

And if you want a tangible of example of what this looks like from the developer's end...

Project Zomboid: Managing Expectations

It's a very fine line devs walk when they try, or are forced, to work this way.

on May 08, 2011

Besides, maybe if people start funding art again, instead of uncle, it will stop being shit...

I was thinking that too. Artists who have to sell their work to somebody make very different art then the guy with a government grant who gets paid no matter what nonsense they slap together.

on May 09, 2011

Thanks everyone for chiming in. Seems to be a fairly hot-button issue...I posed the same question over at IndieDB to get some dev input and they seem to echo alot of your thoughts.

nenjin: Get link, thanks for posting that. Very interesting to read about how those expectations can quickly exceed a small team's ability to quickly produce.

on May 09, 2011

Which we're all familiar with that in game development and game purchasing, for sure.

But when you've set up those expectations by asking for people's money, it takes on an entirely different tone and meaning.

And then you have the eccentric millionaire problem: Let's say you're making an RTS or TBS, a very standard one. People pay in, they want their units and what not....but then some guy comes in, dumps some serious cash into your project and says "I want [system totally unrelated to RTS and TBS gaming] in your game. And I've paid to have that expectation fulfilled."

What then? Cave to the wishes of your biggest supporter? Calmly explained to them that any requests paid for still have to respect your development wishes? Rethink your design to accommodate someone else's model? Do the same thing on case-by-case basis with anyone that chips in?

Creative freedom is the freedom to say "no" more than it is the freedom to say "yes", to me. And it feels like one of the first things lost with this model, and is at odds with how the model runs best (saying "yes" as much as you can to generate more investment.)

The way I see this model working best is with indie developers who don't have serious salary requirements and teams. The kind of team that still has 9 - 5's to make their house payments. Because they can always keep working with zero investment, if they started for love and not money. Once you have a budget and people rely on those donations to get forced into making ugly choices, and saying yes even if you don't want to.

I do see this working in some ways for smaller teams. You have your donation link up there and you say "Anyone that donates any amount is buying a full copy of the game when it's released." You don't rely on their donations, but you are fueled by them. Once the game reaches completion, you say "Very soon we will be taking down the donation link. Any donation made up to that point still gets you the full game. Once the donation link goes down, the game is purchasable at its market price." People look at what you've got so far, you get a nice revenue bump just before the link goes down, and then you move on to a standard release model."

I know this doesn't work for the scope of a lot of games people want to make...but these days the stuff a small competent team can produce in anonymity is just looking better and better, and more interesting, than these multi-million dollar games with high price tags. I already support a few games like this, Dwarf Fortress being one.

In a perfect world, this model would be almost a charitable thing done by gamers, where we give to video games purely so they can grow. But gamers are inherently self-centered I think, to a degree. We're interested in our experience, our fun, our group's fun, our communities' fun. Our interest in gaming is selfish because it's entertainment more than art (despite the fact the US government officially recognizes games as art.) So grappling with what gamers want vs. what you want vs. the fact development relies on support just leaves me with cold feet on this one. At a rate of $1, I'm not that bothered. That's charity, and $1 x 30,000 is still $30,000. But much beyond that and it turns into gambling from my perspective. 


on May 09, 2011

Well I think there's a distinction here to be made. If you're looking for investments to *start* the project, you would have much more freedom in saying "No" to a potential investor. You can have your vision for the game, and if the investor wants to dump a bunch of cash on your lap but make a totally different game, you can say "No" and wait for another one. You lose time, but otherwise it's not necessarily a big deal. Your example is more of an investor coming along in the middle of the project with the money that's needed for the project to survive. In that case, absolutely, saying "No" becomes much more difficult because your expenses don't really just stop (I suppose you can just put everything on hold and hope that someone else comes along and the same people would be willing to pick it back up, assuming they weren't on full-time jobs on the project). 

I think the main concept though is to get investors to fund the project before it's started, not to keep it alive after it started. Of course estimates can be low and the project can be over budget, but then that's just needs backup plans (ask for more before project gets started and stash it away for a rainy day, etc).

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