Tobold's Blog
Friday, February 22, 2013
How did Kickstarter work out for you?

I haven't supported Kickstarter projects very much. But I'd like to talk about the two projects I did support, because to me they somehow seem typical of the experience I also hear other people have.

My first Kickstarter project I donated to was Banner Saga by Stoic. That was supposed to deliver a single-player tactical turn-based game by November 2012. Now it's 2013, and the single-player game is still nowhere to be seen. Current estimated release date: "Our best guess right now is between mid and late this year." Not good! Instead Stoic made a multi-player game called Banner Saga Factions that is now being released. No wonder the backers are angry, the FAQ looks like a selection of hate mail. I consider this project typical, because I've heard of a lot of other projects that are late and/or delivered something rather different than promised.

My other Kickstarter donation went to rebuilding EN World, a hacked pen & paper RPG site. Now there my motivation to donate was a very different one: Mostly charity, with any rewards I might get being "nice to have" but not essential to my decision to donate. And I think this is another thing which is typical to Kickstarter: People voting with their wallets to express goodwill or charity towards some cause or genre of games. The big advantage of that approach is that it is a lot harder to end up disappointed if you weren't expecting much in return anyway.

So how did your Kickstarter experience go? Did you regret donating, or did everything work out for you?

I have funded FTL, Wasteland 2, and Sir, you are being hunted.

FTL is released, and really fantastic.

Wasteland 2 is in development, I think the target is later this year. While I am not as enthused as I hoped by the first gameplay video, it still looks like something I will enjoy.

Sir, You are being Hunted was funded quite recently, and I just have hope, really.

There are a couple non-kickstarter alpha funding things that I regret immensely, but Kickstarter has treated me decently, at least so far. Ask again in 12 months and you may get a vastly different answer.
Closest I've come is to supporting Chris Robert's Star Citizen.

Although it sounds frankly far too ambitious, I'm happy to give the project money just to balance out all the wing commander games I 'copied' as a kid.

Otherwise I've purchased the final product of 3 kickstarters, but not supported them pre-release. I'm a huge fan of the concept, but not of the practice it seems.
I have not supported any kickstarters yet. I would love to, but I don't have the disposable income to take any risks like that. Well, buying any game I suppose has some risk to it, but at least I can read reviews and watch let's plays on Youtube to see if it's really something I want.
I also funded BANNER SAGA and am pretty disappointed with where they've gone. I invested in a single-player RPG, not this thing they've been showing off.

Worrying so much about balance--which has no place in a single-player RPG--is obnoxious. The whole experience has soured me on Kickstarter.

I've also kicked in for Shadowrun and Wasteland 2. We'll see how those go.
1. Pathfinder Online Technology Demo
2. "Be Here Now" – The Andy Whitfield Story
3. Star Citizen
4. Elite: Dangerous

I doubt I'll ever play Pathfinder but the others I'm happy I helped fund in a very small way.
I've donated to a few, although the majority of them are music related. None of them are late, but the earliest is slated for release fairly soon. (It was to help fund a local opera production coming in March. I don't like opera, but there are a lot of talented vocal students at the local university, so I'm happy to help get a new company off the ground.)

The other items I donated to will be released later, such as FATE Core, a CD or two, and some other RPG material.

No video games or anything of that sort.
I've funded 22 projects, mostly games and geeky technology items. Of those I've received the full item for 8 items, partial items for 2, and have not received anything for 12. The longest I have waited on a project without seeing my reward is about 11 months.
I haven't invested in a Kickstarter because I see it as basically an investment. You are not saying that the group making the game or music is actually going to make a successful product, but you're saying that you believe that they have a possibility to make a successful product. If it does, then you get your reward, but if not, you are out of your investment.

I have purchased games that have started as Kickstarters and will probably continue to do that, but I don't feel the need to be an investor. There is a reason that it is hard to get investors to fund a project, and its not because people don't want to give money, its just that people with the money to fund projects often have a trained eye to see what has a high chance of being successful.
I funded Dungeon World, the MakeyMakey, Ogre, Reaper's Bones and The Gamers - so far, DW and MakeyMakey have delivered, and I couldn't be more pleased. Ogre's on track, Bones are enroute, and the film is finishing up its final shoot.

Seriously - I have nothing at all to complain about so far.
Tobold, you are treating Kickstarter as a consumer and that's the wrong perspective (I think).

I'll even define consumption for you: the most commodity for the least possible price; preferably, with 0% chance for the commodity being damaged (rotten, etc).

From this perspective, some of the best buys are Steam sales and GoG bundles with tens of classic games for 1.99 each.

Kickstarter is not a fire sale. You don't get stuff for peanuts (unless it's too good to be true).

More importantly, it doesn't deal with commodities (for the most part). If there's a Die Hard 6 on the way (commodity), trust me it's not going to be funded via Kickstarter but by guys in suits looking at spreadsheets of ticket and dvd sales, vod and tv rights.

Kickstarter (indiegogo, etc) is about choice. In marketing terms, it's about niche vs mass.

Post your project, find if there's a niche (or not). No one is telling you how to serve that niche once you have found it. You could take the money and run. Or you could bait and switch.

In the long run, if you are letting people down, another product/company will deliver on those initial promises and you'll be out of business for good.

So treat your pledges like an investment in choice.

There are risks but ask any investor in startups if they are willing to take the 40-60% chance you'll never deliver a product. They will sign you a check then and there. The survival rate when it comes to startups is 10% in 5 years, 5% in 10 years.

So take the 50% on kickstarter projects and run!

P.S. I realize that some angel investors get huge returns on the few startups that succeed. I am also aware of a phenomenon called lottery where one lucky winner takes home millions, despite the lousy 1/10^10 chance.
Am I the only one that feels video games are a poor fit for Kickstarter? Out of all industries, the game industry is one of the most difficult to predict costs and what the final product will look like.

A better usage might be something like a new or out of print book. You can know the exact product on offer, and know the exact cost to do a reprinting. Pledge $10, get the book. If it doesn't reach the goal, no one is out any money.
To date, I have backed six projects that were successfully funded.

Spirit of the Century Presents: The Dinocalypse Trilogy - 2 of 7 ebooks have been delivered

Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack - It took a while, but the PDF was finally completed recently.

Wasteland 2 - I just wanted to see this built. It'll come when it comes. I haven't even been following development.

Idle Thumbs Video Game Podcast - This kickstarter was an opportunity to support a podcast that I have loved for a long time. All I got out of it was a postcard, but it was all worth it.

The Order of the Stick Reprint Drive - I paid $25 get get an crazy about of stuff. All physical goods have been received, digital goods are still in process.

Double Fine Adventure - This has absolutely been worth the price. Even if a game never comes out, watching them develop it through the documentaries has been amazing.

Funny enough the one project that I would have contributed the most money to (Project Gorgon) was the only one that failed.
18 so far (4 didn't make funding), but I think my risk is low in delivery (except for 1 or 2 projects - more risk lies in the type of product vs expected):

1. Double Fine Adventure
2. Wasteland 2
3. Grim Dawn
4. Carmageddon Reincarnation
5. Malevolence - delivering beta
6. Conclave - delivering beta
7. Project Eternity
8. Sword of Fargoal 2
9. Elite
10. Godus - bit shaky about this one :)
11. Maia
12. Forsaken Fortress
13. Sui Generis
14. War for the Overworld
15. Meriwether
16. Legends of Dawn
17. An Honest Liar - not a game
18. Asylum
Too early to tell. Project Giana was finished surprisingly quickly and it was good, but the others are still in development: War for the Overworld, Elite: Dangerous, GODUS, Maia, Star Citizen, Life Begins at Incorporation, Planetary Annihilation, Tropes vs. Women and the Turrican Soundtrack.

Aside from GODUS and Life Begins at Incorporation, unfinished projects have been posting on-topic updates like models and videos, so at least they're doing something with my money.
6. Conclave - delivering beta

I'm in that beta. I missed the Kickstarter, but then took them up on their offer to retroactively become a founder. Great game!
I've only funded Greed Monger. Still too early to say if it was a good investment or not.
As a policy I try not to pay for imaginary items or promises from strangers, which is essentially all Kickstarter is for me. Maybe that sounds hideously cynical and not in the spirit of things, but I'm just not comfortable with it!

I'm all too familiar with the development cycle of mods and games. Stuff happens. People fall out, quit, decide it's not worth it. There can be some massive bug in the code that would require months of delays and possible abandonment. There are too many variables for me to feel secure that my money is doing any good at all.
As far as Banner Saga goes, I couldn't have said it better myself:

"1. Pitch video: "we want 100k and we'll be releasing a multiplayer component before singleplayer game".
2. Kickstarter result: 700k
3. Stoic: we received 7x more money => the game will be bigger => the development will last longer. Oh, an by the way, here's the multiplayer part we promised.
4. Public outrage.
5. Me - completely baffled by 4."
Locke, that is an extreme misinterpretation which even Stoic doesn't support. Quote Stoic: "Where did this Factions thing come from anyway? I don’t remember hearing about it.

We mentioned a free multiplayer standalone at the end of our Kickstarter pitch video. At the time it was more of a side note, and not what we wanted to focus on."

The multiplayer part wasn't even mentioned in the text pitch, only as a side-note in the video. And we were promised a single-player game for November 2012, not November 2013.
Still, if I had invested for Banner Saga, I'd be cautiously optimistic. [And I don't agree that balance has no place in single-player games - it depends on what you're trying to do.]

I think what ticked a lot of people off is that their multiplayer game includes micro-transactions.

They may be thinking: "Wow, we got so much more funding than expected, we ought to act like industry pros!"
I don't see how that's an "extreme misinterpretation". At worst an oversimplification maybe. Even the quote you posted states the MP component was intended from the beginning. Less of a developmental focal point, but intended nonetheless.

Taken in context, I don't see a reason for the big uproar here. Sure, we only have their *word* on the matter, but it seems pretty reasonable to me. The MP part provided them an opportunity to polish an extremely important aspect of their SP game (the combat system) which easily explains the added focus and (besides being an industry that is notoriously late in delivering) they received a ridiculous amount of funding above what they originally intended. Instead of pocketing that, they decided to sink it into the game and deliver a bigger, richer package.

Considering the quality of the product they *have* delivered, their continued assurances that their promised product is still on the way, and their reasonable explanations for why things haven't turned out *exactly* as promised, I think they've earned the benefit of the doubt. At least from the standpoint of this backer.
Personally, I'd rather see Multiplayer components released early, then bring about innovations that make it to the Single Player game. Haven't seen it yet, but hey, here's hoping.

Also, I'm surprised there was only one mention of Planetary Annihilation! That's the only kickstarter I've backed yet, and that was mostly just so I could get access to the beta.

One of my brothers and I play the hell out of Supreme Commander 2 (the best remake of Total Annihilation so far) in co-op skirmishes against the PC (the original's netcode hasn't held up as well), with the TA soundtrack in the background. This was a no-brainer purchase.

Everything else that's been successfully kickstarted I've been pretty ambivalent about. I'll buy the new Double Fine adventure game, Wasteland 2, Star Citizen, Banner Saga (single-player), Death Inc, Star Command, and probably Elite, and whatever the expanded RPG'ized FTL-clone coming out is. (Actually, that one might need a few of my dollars to help it along, so I'll probably fund that.)

The only bad decision I've made for Kickstarting was probably putting a dollar in for Embers of Caerus. They did a 'I give a buck about sandbox MMOs' drive, to try and prove a point, as part of their Kickstarter. I was incredibly dismayed to discover it was going to be free-for-all ('Open') PVP with corpse-looting. Just like every other sandbox MMO doomed to obscurity and failure (less one notable exception).

Still, I put the buck in anyway, then told them why I and no-one I know was going to be a customer. But hopefully someone will use the ashes of their bitter ruin as inspiration or warning to avoid that godawaful, tired trap of would-be sandbox devs everywhere.
Defense Grid 2 and Reaper Bones for me. Both reliable companies with a track record of more than one product out the door.

Seems to be working out fine so far.

The Steam serial of Defence Grid was delivered, though I haven't used it since I already own the game. The Containment DLC was produced and added immediately to my collection on receiving the serial.

The only thing one can argue is that I may have paid $10 more than just waiting to buy it off Steam on release, but that's both an investment for Defence Grid 2, if ever produced, as well as support for the company and game line as I enjoyed the heck out of the first game and paid only 75% off on Steam for it in the beginning.

Customer/brand loyalty, in other words.

The Reaper bones shipment is due in March, so still waiting, but production seems to be going well via the updates. Having bought and enjoyed their products before, I have trust in the company to do what's right, even if they hit some unanticipated snags or delays, due to the quantity of response they have garnered.
Get fed up with paypal so I closed my account down and transferred the contents to the Dwarf Fortress people.
The Kickstarter concept is too vague for me. I'm not parting with anything until I see something tangible. If they can't even produce a homebrew proof of concept then they nothing in which to invest.
Unrelated to games the only time I remotely got in touch with Kickstarter is I bought a Pebble watch from an early backer/adopter since he changed his mind on buying it. Ended up paying 60 USD less than I'd otherwise have (90 instead of 150 USD, + S&H). Received the watch end of last week.

Not unboxed it yet (yes it probably takes 5 min to get it up and working but I want to do such properly), bit busy with more important stuff first.

I like Kickstarter at heart but I'm not sure the electronic, virtual, non-personal (non face to face) platform of the Internet is a good basis for pseudo investments. Not without thorough investigation. Which requires a lot of time and effort.
My stats:

Backed: 69
In Progress: 3
Unfunded: 4
Cancelled: 2

Of the remaining 60:

Shipped: 27
Partial: 3

Finally, of the 30 not yet shipped:

On schedule: 16
Shipping late: 13
Unlikely to ship: 1

My takeaway: Mostly, if you're careful, you can pick things that will, at least, eventually pay off. That being said, people suck at coming up with deadlines and target goals. Even the big ones (Carmageddon, for instance) falter when it comes to telling people when they will ship out to you.

Any Kickstarter purchase you make should be with the understanding that most of the time, it will come later than stated. It's rare to find projects that go exactly as smoothly as projected, even from the big names.

I did back Banner Saga, and I am still hopeful for the eventual game. I understand their choices, and while I disagree with them, I still want the product to succeed.
I've supported 3 kickstarters:

Castles & Crusades full-color Player's Handbook (delivered on time), though to be fair this was simply a color edition of an existing book.

Tunnels & Trolls Deluxe (due this August, so plenty of time). I know many of the people involved in this one and have confidence they will make deadline.

Legends of Dawn CRPG (said they would have it to us this month....they have 3 more days to deliver). If this takes more than a month past due date to deliver I'll be disappointed, as their KS entry indicated they were close enough to completion that a February 15th delivery date was all but certain.

Actually, speaking of Carmageddon, that is the other project I supported (and this one directly via Kickstarter). Realizing it is more of a nostalgic thing (barring artwork it was a good game IMO) ie. will play new game 1 hr and toss it away, it'll serve as a first-hand experience with the Kickstarter project if you discount the Pebble one.

They send me a mail to update my personal information "for example for t-shirt size" but I misunderstood this and wondered if I bought instead of the game, bought a t-shirt. Which I most definitely wouldn't want to wear much less own! Later on I went to the website and all they wanted was my steam ID.
* Kingdom of Loathing comic - got PDF and print version
* Amanda Palmer CD - got Album and MP3s
* one more in progress

That's 3 backed and 2 shipped - I'm happy.
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