Kickstarter: A Little Discourse
So, there is this thing called Kickstarter. I’m sure you’ve heard of it but let’s go over the basics. It’s a site on which people and companies can present ideas, products and try to connect with, or build, a potential audience in order to ‘kick start’ their product by the funds they receive off of said audience. After development, they publish whatever they accomplished with a special bonus for those that have supported them during development. A neat little system, really. It can be used for anything - from tabletop games, to Marshmallows, to, and this is where we come in, videogames. Finally an opportunity arose, for those developers that couldn’t get their ideas funded by publishers that didn’t believe in the project. As well as that, it also opened the doors to indie companies to make their own little creations, this time with an actual budget and the resources that would help them develop the game.
Now, Kickstarter has been used by a few companies to fund their products. For example, two developers that worked on the Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander formed Uber Entertainment Inc. With Kickstarter, they were able to gather more than $2.2million for their Planetary Annihilation project and benefited from a whole lot of free PR by people simply getting excited on the announcement.
A perilless blessing?
Another great example is Project Eternity by Obsidian Entertainment. Planned to be a based on classics such as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, Project Eternity reached its $1.1million goal in less than two days only to finish with $4.163.208.
While both of these might be high profile, they certainly aren’t the only ones to mass great support. Double Fine Adventure, first set at $400.000, received $3.3million. Reaper Miniatures, a company hoping to launch a new range of tabletop models, hoped for £30.000. They received $3.4million! And OUYA, a new console by the creators of the Jambox ‘needed’ $950.000. In true shut-up-and-take-my-money fashion, they got literally bombarded with money: $8.5 million!
Other, smaller games, too are getting the money they need. Sometimes the developers ask for little more than $1.000 to fund their little project. It’s nice to see that the time of the big publisher, and not the community, deciding what will be released on the market, have taken a beating. They are not over yet, not that they ever will be, but at least it wrestles the decision monopoly out of their hands by a bit.
So you’d think all is good, no?
Except that it isn’t. As always, someone just wants to see the world burn.
Obsidian Entertainment announced that they have been approached by producers with a few ‘interesting’ ideas on how to use Kickstarter. Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart said that they were:
“… contacted by some publishers over the last few months that wanted to use us to do a Kickstarter. I said to them 'So, you want us to do a Kickstarter for, using our name, we then get the Kickstarter money to make the game, you then publish the game, but we then don't get to keep the brand we make and we only get a portion of the profits.
They said, 'Yes'.”
Project Eternity was backed by more that $4.0million
It’s not really surprising. Every time a great idea comes around, someone will try to exploit it - we already saw it with the DMND Controller. That’s just how things are. There are always people that compete with each other to hit a new low, just to hold the record. It’s the same with publishers, really. They’ve done so much, but not only (!) useless things in the past, that it’s no wonder a few of them think they have to top it all up like a cherry on a cake.
Obsidian Entertainment hasn’t told us who these worthless, pathetic, waste-of-good-genes jerks are – probably for the best. The last thing these guys deserve is to have their names up in lights. You might think why; shouldn’t they receive the shitstorm they deserve? Well yes, they should. But just because they deserve to receive a summary execution, doesn’t mean that it’s the best thing to do. Why? Well, two reasons:
Firstly: People forget. Yes, they do, they really do – and easily! It’s a fact. Sure, we don’t like to admit it but we all know it. However, it’s a reality. Politicians count on it to the degree that they allow themselves getting booted out of office just to make a spectacular comeback two years later.
Secondly: any publicity is good publicity. A company wants to have their name in the spotlight. It’s because of this that they spend so much on PR and clap their hands like little five year olds on their birthday, when they get a little bit of free publicity. Why do you think celebrities are relatively passive when the press follows them around and uncovers a scandal? Well in order to stay in the focus – which is their only way of securing a continuous income – they need to have some kind of press, be it good or be it bad. And because they know that people will forget/ forgive their ‘human’ slip-ups but remember their name and face, it’s a small price to pay.
Obisdian was targeted by some shady Publishers
But let me get back to how this applies to said publishers. Well, both points run into one simple line of thought. If their name got released, they’ll receive a shellacking. However, while they might have to run the gauntlet now, in three months time, no one except those that actually bother to do some research and stick with their self-imposed principles will care – or remember – what this company did. The others will just have a vague recollection of the companies name and that only brings forth neutral, if not positive, consumer feelings.
You don’t believe me? Well, let’s think about the following scenario:
‘NAP3’, a fake but for the sake of argument, well-established publisher contacts Obsidian with the same proposal as mentioned above. Obsidian declines and reveals NAP3. Now, NAP3 was the company that published three GOTYs in the last three years, holds the publishing rights to series with a strong fan base and has influence on the market. A huge outcry follows. We will hear things like, ‘How could they?’, ‘What is wrong with them?’ or, my personal favorite, ‘I will never buy a game published by NAP3 again’. Four months later, the highly anticipated sequel to one of their games comes out: Great graphics, immersive story, sound gameplay, bombastic sound – awesome reviews. In short, a triple A title. How many consumers will remember, or if they do, actually care what NAP3 tried to do four months ago, for a game they haven’t played yet or aren’t actually interested in? That’s right, practically no one – we’d like to say differently, but no, no one will give a damn.
Responsible consumerism is a must everywhere
You might now say,’ Bis18marck70, what you say is true – but for the sake of morality or what not, we should know nonetheless, even if, in the long run, it won’t make a difference. ‘
Perhaps you are right, yes. Yet, the world doesn’t turn the moral way unless it’s the same direction as the easy way. Whoever ‘NAP3’ is in reality, it wouldn’t care if Obsidian revealed them. They would benefit from it.
You might also say, ’Bis18marck70, if not for the sake of morality, shouldn’t we expose them to make an example?’ Well, I see your point. Expose the publisher and hope that other companies learn from it. Yet, if we know one thing, it’s that the same ‘mistakes’ are repeated over and over again by those too stupid, too bold or too lucky to care. Who’s to say that other developers wouldn’t have agreed to this little ploy? It’s entirely possible. A few better clauses for the developer, a little production money and there you go, the one or other stressed developer office might consent.
The bottom line is, the more we discuss this issue, the more people will turn away from Kickstarter. It loses its credibility and consumer trust. Who wins in that case? Yup, the Publisher. And that’s why I say that ‘NAP3’ should die slowly, in the dark, with no one to remember their name and sorry-arse face. This issue should not be forgotten, but it damn well shouldn’t be used to give these little bastards a little free time on the boulevard.
Anyway, let’s not dwell too much on these pigeons. Kickstarter is a great little tool for up and coming companies, and is even beneficial to those that already have a budget and steady income to simply invest more money into the development of their product. It’s a shame that some try to exploit it. But then, that’s life.
Right, that’s enough for now. I’m off to get a Popsicle.