Opinion: Why I won't be backing Kickstarters anymore

In 2012, UK editor Mike Rose backed a total of 18 game projects on Kickstarter, pledging more than $300. In 2013, he can't really see himself backing anything via the crowdfunding platform.
In 2012, I backed a total of 18 game projects on Kickstarter, pledging more than $300 towards initiatives that took my fancy. And yet in 2013, I can't really see myself pledging anything at all via the crowd-funding platform. At a time when Kickstarting video games is a hugely common occurrence, there's a number of negative points that are beginning to seep in -- not just for myself, but for plenty of others that I've talked to on the matter. First and foremost, there's a huge amount of saturation going on. It feels like a new Kickstarter project that we're all meant to care strongly about is announced every single week, and I now find myself sighing upon hearing about new campaigns far more than getting excited about them. But there's a lot more to it than simply an over-abundance of projects to back. As I mentioned back at the start of the year, 2013 will be the dawn of Kickstarter buyer's remorse -- a twinge I've already felt just this week. [Note: Since this article was originally posted, Stoic's Alex Thomas has responded to the author's and others' criticisms in a blog post on Gamasutra.] One of the first Kickstarter projects I backed was The Banner Saga, a turn-based strategy game based in viking culture that sounded right up my street. For $10 I could get the first chapter, with a November 2012 release planned. I threw my money down eagerly, as did over 20,000 other gamers. The project smashed its $100,000 target, with a total of $723,886 cashed in overall. banner saga.jpgBut then came the delays, and the stuff that I really didn't want at all. The Banner Saga was first delayed into the first half of 2013. Fair enough, I thought -- games are delayed all the time, so there's no reason to believe that Kickstartered games would be any different. But the latest move by the development team most definitely goes against what I paid money for. The Banner Saga: Factions was released last week, a free-to-play multiplayer grind-a-thon that is based in the world of The Banner Saga. As a result of the work on this multiplayer standalone -- a release that I do not care about in any way, shape or form -- work on the single-player campaign has been pushed back once again. "Our best guess right now is between mid and late this year," says the team. Essentially, what has happened is that the team decided to build this free-to-play game due to the huge influx of extra cash that it received during the Kickstarter, and is now no doubt focusing a good portion of its attention on balancing and building additional content for this game, rather than actually making the game that myself and many others pledged towards. In simpler terms, I was coerced into funding a game that I have absolutely no interest in, with the promise that the thing I actually do want will be coming at some point. This free-to-play game will also bring extra cash in for the team, meaning that it will no doubt slowly but surely begin to focus on the desires of its Factions players, rather than the people who gave it a voice in the first place.

Kickstarter Remorse

This is my first solid feeling of Kickstarter remorse, and it works to fuel my reasoning that backing Kickstarters is not as worth it as I had once hoped. I enjoyed backing projects on Kickstarter because it felt like I was helping the developer out and keeping their dream alive. That sentiment has most definitely ebbed away now. What it all comes down to is this: The potential rewards for backing a Kickstarter aren't worth the risk. If The Banner Saga devs decide to continually focus on this free-to-play game, and push the main spectacle back further and further, there's nothing I can do. I pledged money based on trust, and nothing more. And if any of the other 17 projects that I've backed (none of which have come to fruition yet) decide to bottle it and I lose my money, it's a similar scenario. In comparison, I could have just waited until the game's public release and probably paid at extra $5 to definitely receive a game.

But I already knew all this. I was always aware of the risks, and the fact that my money may end up being flitted away. What I came to Kickstarter for was the feeling that I was part of the development, and giving the studios I backed a pedestal. Yet here there's nothing but disappointment. One part of feeling like I'd helped a studio out with my pledge was receiving useful updates about how development was going, and seeing new information before anyone else. Unfortunately, updates on Kickstarter have become frequent and unnecessary. For most of my backed projects I've turned email updates off, and for the others I usually read the update subject line, then hit "Archive" instantly without opening them. I honestly couldn't care less if you've put out a new podcast, or got some new concept art to show me -- I want real content! Wasteland 2 recently updated with a preview video of how the game is going, while Sportsfriends only updates to let me know when my alpha builds are available to download. These are the sort of updates I want. Don't feel obliged to release an update if you have nothing decent to show me! I stand by my theory that 2013 will be the year that Kickstarter buyer's remorse begins to sink in for many. That's not to say that backing numbers will decrease (there's still plenty of people out there who haven't experienced Kickstarter yet) but it doesn't look good for the future of the platform.

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