Opinion – This Crowdfunded Year

You ever heard of the phrase “put your money where your mouth is”? That’s the point behind crowdfunding and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. While these sites have been around for a good long while now, it’s been a little over a year since the video game industry discovered them.

And it’s still kinda hard to tell whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that they’ve become as large as they are.

On paper, it sounds absolutely crazy. After all, we’re talking about a service wherein by chipping in, you can be a part of helping to resurrect IPs like Broken Sword, (Planescape) Torment, Tex Murphy or Wasteland. Or help fund genre games by developers renowned for their past work, such as Double Fine doing an adventure game, Obsidian Entertainment doing a 90s style RPG, or even a new game by the duo behind Space Quest. What sane person who loves video games wouldn’t want to pitch in something?

BannerSaga_AxemanOn the other hand, there is that fear of if they never come through, that you’ve been fleeced by game developers. Now, not saying that it’ll happen, but it is a notable fear. Especially if you’d pitched in an insane amount of money — there just isn’t that guarantee that it’ll happen. Of course, it’d be a gigantically idiotic show of form if that ever happened, because who’d want to buy something from the guys that didn’t make good on their crowdfunded game?

That’s also another fear: What if the product isn’t exactly what you pitched in for? Take the recent case of the Banner Saga. While it was a smash hit on Kickstarter, the game hasn’t fully come to fruition. What has come out of it though, instead of the single player RPG that was initially promised, was The Banner Saga: Factions, a Free-to-Play PvP game set in the same universe. While developer Stoic made it clear that the game had multiplayer in both the initial pitch video and the backer rewards, it soon became apparent that quite a lot of people didn’t see the word “multiplayer”, prompting anger and demands for refunds.

I have this exact fear about the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter. While I’m still amazed at the fact it raised two million dollars in four hours on the day the campaign was announced (and it’s currently approaching $4 million at the time of writing), imagine how pissed the fans would be if the project wasn’t what they were expecting? Especially those that are so stupidly passionate about the show, eight years after it finished airing, they’re willing to drop $10,000 to see anything new Veronica Mars related.

I don’t want to be sounding too negative on crowdfunding, because I’m legitimately not.The fervour of “holy shit, we’re getting a new game in this long dead series” is utterly compulsive, enough to ignore common sense. And there have been plenty good to come out of the idea — just take a look at PC/Mac title FTL: Faster Than Light. For a title that was initially pitched at $10,000, it not only made a lot more that, it was one of the better received titles last year, sitting amongst games that had more than 10 times its budget.

Personally, I still think it’s too early to decide right here and now if Kickstarter, or crowdfunding in general, is either the best or worst thing to happen to video games. It is still an endlessly fascinating experiment to see just what’s being brought out and trotted as the new crowdfunding project king. That’s the true success of this story — that we live in a world where long dead IPs and genres can be revived in such a way.


Come back on Thursdays for more thoughts and views from the NG+ cast and crew.

[Image credits: Kickstarter, Stoic Studio, Steam]