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How Game Developers Turn Kickstarter Failure Into Success

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the pay-me-to-overpromise dept.

The Almighty Buck 30

Nerval's Lobster writes When you ask random strangers on the Internet to give you money, there are no guarantees. That's true in almost any scenario, including when video game developers use Kickstarter to crowdfund the creation of a game. While 3,900 or so games have been funded on Kickstarter, more than 7,200 game projects failed to hit their goal. Within those two numbers are some people who fall into both categories: developers who failed to get funding on their first try, but re-launched campaigns and hit their goals. Jon Brodkin spoke with a handful of those indie game developers who succeeded on their second try; many of them used the momentum (and fans) from the first attempt to get a head start on funding the second, and one even adjusted his entire plan based on community feedback. But succeeding the second time also depended on quite a bit of luck.

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The song says (2)

war4peace (1628283) | about 2 months ago | (#47722823)

"If at first you don't succeed..."
But the fact that 7200 games failed to hit their goal doesn't mean anything by itself. Maybe they were horrible at "selling" their idea, or had unrealistic financial goals, or kickstarted too soon, etc.

Re:The song says (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 2 months ago | (#47722907)

You mean an "Overnight Success" really isn't overnight?

Re:The song says (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 2 months ago | (#47722945)

Any startup is risky for sure. To get money from traditional funding sources, you need to have all your ducks in a row, a well developed plan, and convince a lender (who is usually pretty damn good at risk assessment) that you've got a shot. Even then, success is only moderately likely.

Kickstarter doesn't even have the barrier of convincing some suit that you might be able to make money. You have to convince regular people, who don't have the same skepticism as say a bank, although I think this has been and will continue to develop over time in the "crowd funding community" as people see more failures and understand why they failed/what the red flags are.

That said, imo kickstarter is all about the long shot. It's about backing stuff that would probably be too risky or too niche for traditional funding. I've backed some projects. Some have succeeded, some have not, but in general I've gone into it knowing what it is (a gamble).

Re:The song says (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 months ago | (#47724311)

A lot of these kickstarted projects aren't from "startup" companies. Some are companies with products behind them already, they just want a different funding source, not be dependent upon some big name publisher calling the shots, and make a game that's their own with their name up front.

Re: The song says (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 2 months ago | (#47726801)

Kickstarter is a sham. You're supposed to get equity when funding. "Backing" is just giving free money to strangers.

Re: The song says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47731109)

Kickstarter is a sham. You're supposed to get equity when funding. "Backing" is just giving free money to strangers.

And for giving said "free money" I have several very expensive and rare things, not to mention access to games (both computer and war games - think models) that may never have been made. Seriously, there may be no legal protection for backing and no actual equity but many of these companies do an amazing job interacting with the community and games like Wasteland and OGRE were highly informed by the backers.

I have received all of my rewards to date and I've backed nearly 5000 dollars worth of stuff. Some of that was late, some of it was, amazingly, early (these rarely make news) and the vast majority were very well done. Games that had launch issues (like Shadowrun) were patched and some mea culpa was done on the funders' behalf by the developers. Every shipping problem of physical goods has been corrected by the companies at their own expense. Hell, I've even got comic books that would have never been made because they're too niche, along with hand signed thank yous from the guy who did it.

The shocking thing about Kickstarter is that games get actual support again, it's not up to some publishing suit who says, "No" and the developers feel obligated to their fans to do it.

I don't kid myself, I'm not a real investor when I toss 100 dollars at something, I'm defraying their costs and reducing their personal risk of failure toward 0, this means more ambitious stuff happens, and I'm glad it is.

Re:The song says (1)

kuzb (724081) | about 2 months ago | (#47723059)

...or their game just plain sucked.

Re:The song says (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 months ago | (#47723245)

But the fact that 7200 games failed to hit their goal doesn't mean anything by itself. Maybe they were horrible at "selling" their idea, or had unrealistic financial goals, or kickstarted too soon, etc.

Or too ambitious.

I participated in two projects that had four kickstarters - two failed, two succeeded. Each project had one failed (the first one) and one success, on the same project.

The difference was easy - the failed ones were too ambitious - too much pie in the sky and too broad a scope. So when they failed, the went away, thought things through, then a few months later, they re-launched with a narrower scope, more focused product, etc.

They simply took the reasons for failure to heart, redesigned things around, tried to cut back on what they were offering and narrowed things down to the point where they could ask for less money (you're far more likely to succeed if you only need a couple hundred thousand than a million), make timelines more realistic, focus the presentation on more specifics and give a general "yes, we can do it" sense of realism.

And to be honest, 1-in-4 success is fairly high, I've seen fairly terrible Kickstarters that amount to "look at what I programmed in a day! Give me money!"

So basically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47722865)

it's like any kind of start-up or idea that you try to realize? I would never have guessed.

Most of the failures never would've made it. (5, Interesting)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 2 months ago | (#47722913)

Most of the failed gaming kickstarters never would've made it to production anyway. Retsupurae did an excellent series of these titled "Kickstarter Nonstarters", which showcased a bunch of kickstarters that failed to make funding. They included:

- A horrible 3D version of the hentai game Monster Girl Quest (the fact that the subtitle is "Lose and you get raped! should tell you everything you need to know, though it does have a pretty interesting plot).. that is also sanitized of porn. The guy who was proposing it made a video (creepily enough) with his wife and 6 year old son in it.

- A "remake" of Chrono Trigger, made by a guy claiming to be a former Square-Enix employee. Apart from the obvious problem of this guy not owning the rights to Chrono Trigger, there was also the fact that he clearly hadn't worked for Squaresoft in the 1990s because the entire thing was made in RPG Maker.

- A city-builder game made by a guy who had zero credentials and no clear programming expertise. The only thing he had to show off at the time his kickstarter went up were a couple of amateur-quality models he made in Blender.

There are hundreds of these that go up. Even if they made funding, most of them would be slapped down immediately by a C&D letter, and I wouldn't doubt if a large percentage of those failed kickstarters are ones like this.

Re:Most of the failures never would've made it. (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 2 months ago | (#47723293)

Indeed.

Kickstarter recently(ish) stopped screening projects, so now there are even more completely ridiculous projects with no hope of producing anything viable.

Here's a really sad one from a guy who clearly has a mental disability: https://www.kickstarter.com/pr... [kickstarter.com]

Re:Most of the failures never would've made it. (1)

phorm (591458) | about 2 months ago | (#47723345)

And yet... funded at $504 (of $500).
Maybe people felt it was easier than donating directly to help the guy out, but still...

Re:Most of the failures never would've made it. (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 2 months ago | (#47723651)

Most of the funding didn't go through (I'm guessing some jackass used a prepaid visa card and drained it before the funding period was over), so he actually only got like $76 or so.

I suspect most people funded the guy so they could poke fun at him in the comments, which I guess is one way of raising money.

Re:Most of the failures never would've made it. (1)

KevReedUK (1066760) | about 2 months ago | (#47737755)

Yeah, but he had a cute cat. Maybe the backers just wanted to make sure it remained fed for the forseeable future...

Re:Most of the failures never would've made it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47723357)

>> Here's a really sad one from a guy who clearly has a mental disability: https://www.kickstarter.com/pr... [kickstarter.com]

Dafuq did I just read?

Re:Most of the failures never would've made it. (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 2 months ago | (#47723401)

Or a kid's first attempt at a project... backed by his family... who knows.

Re:Most of the failures never would've made it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47726941)

Or a kid's first attempt at a project... backed by his family... who knows.

That's the person's third attempt.

Re:Most of the failures never would've made it. (1)

phorm (591458) | about 2 months ago | (#47723351)

OCRemix initially made a kickstarter for an FFVI music remix. Initially they ran into legal issues with Squaresoft, but apparently sorted that out and then successfully funded the second incarnation.

If a third-party can successfully garner funds and create a prototype, I wonder how many of the big entities would be willing to license such projects for a cut of the profits at the end?

Re:Most of the failures never would've made it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47725709)

Just to be pedantic, it's Square Enix now. I make the distinction because Squaresoft was awesome whereas Square Enix brought you FF X-2 and the various FF MMORPGs.

Gimme money! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47722973)

I understand there's some things that kickstarter is good for. But all those $5,000 projects? What ever happened to believing in your own idea enough to put your own money behind it? Or working hard to save money. Spending less on other stuff to pursue your dreams.

I've seen some kickstarters basically act like charities. "We will give you a 'thanks' for funding us, but nothing else."

Re:Gimme money! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47723557)

You kickstart a project because you want the finished product in return. If you expect anything more than that or tier rewards, you are seriously mistaken; worse still if you think kickstarting a project is the same as buying stock.
As for what happened to putting your own money behind a project: the economy happened.

Re:Gimme money! (1)

un1nsp1red (2503532) | about 2 months ago | (#47724427)

What ever happened to believing in your own idea enough to put your own money behind it? Or working hard to save money. Spending less on other stuff to pursue your dreams.

Kickstarter happened. Go back to any point in history and you will find people who would have taken free money had that been an option. Don't act like those were more virtuous times. The option to find backers/suckers (other than family) just didn't exist.

Re:Gimme money! (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 2 months ago | (#47733029)

I'll grant you that the pool of people with spare income was smaller and that getting their attention was much harder but patronage of the arts is how much of the worlds great art came into being. Kickstarter is a variation on that.

Yes, people could possibly starve themselves a bit more and save up the money they need for a big project over the course of twenty years. By then though the time for their idea could have passed completely. Or they may have lost the ability to follow through on the project. Kickstarter is also a good way to guage whether there is any share market for your idea, a project that fails to fund still gives a lot of useful feedback.

There will always be scammers out to grab a quick buck. But that isn't a problem that is exclusive to kickstarter, and from what I've seen isn't even all that rampant. Hell I have much higher confidence in the honesty of any random project on Kickstarter than I do of most any beggar asking for money on the sidewalk.

7200 failed game projects? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 2 months ago | (#47722979)

Wasn't the Atari 7200 a complete failure too?

How many delivered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47723033)

Now for an even more telling statistic - of the 3,900 or so games that were funded, how many actually delivered their game?

Re:How many delivered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47723379)

Planetary Annihilation is one that I have been following closely. The game is already great even in Early Access and it should be ready for release soon.

Re:How many delivered? (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 2 months ago | (#47723691)

I've backed around a dozen projects so far, mostly games. And I don't think a single one has outright failed yet. A few have delivered in full or part already; Planetary Anihilation, Stonehearth, CastleStory, Delvers Drop, Shadowrun, Ring Runner.

Re:How many delivered? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 months ago | (#47724341)

I only backed one, for more than the cost of a normal game, and it's due to be out this year and looks good. I almost backed another but it was funded already so I figured I could just wait rather than get caught up in an impulse buy.

A lot of the extras I think are pointless for these. I don't want a "making of" video, I don't want early access to a steam-only beta, I don't want a special forum title. However sometimes I do like the stretch goals, a lot. Like the stretch goal to make the game DRM free or to make a Linux and Mac version.

Re:How many delivered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47724681)

Like the stretch goal to make the game DRM free or to make a Linux and Mac version.

If Linux support is a stretch goal, and not planned for from the very beginning, then it will not happen, even if they reach the goal.
Okay, so maybe 1% actually follow through on it, but the number of times I've seen developers renege on such cross-platform "promises" means I don't give anyone money until I can see it working.

Re:How many delivered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47726923)

It depends on the engine really.

Lots of these projects are using Unity3D and Linux as a stretch goal is valid since it's the extra testing and support (much of which is done by the community anyway so it's the administration of testing and support) that is being promised.

Promising another PC like platform is more valid than promising consoles when the developer doesn't have any of the qualifications to get the dev kits until the project is finished and a success on it's primary platform.

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