We all know how it works on paper. Talented and not-so-talented developers come to the community with great ideas, which may never have a chance elsewhere. We’re given the opportunity to help make these projects a reality and to own and play the concepts we’d like to see, but there are two sides to this crowdfunded coin.
One of the most important aspects that backers often forget is the fact that as backers we are the investors behind such a project, which means that like any publisher we are here to take a financial (if not sometimes more personal) risk in regards to what a product is going to end up being. To many, financial risks may seem like an overstatement, but big or small, you’re still investing into a product that can end up either good or bad and quality is something that can never be guaranteed, even if there is talent involved.Now, let’s start with a Kickstarter that went on to deliver on its promises of quality, which is the Harebrained Schemes-helmed Shadowrun Returns, which was released back in 2013. The game was supported by over 32.000 backers, earning up to over 1,8 billion dollars in pledges, ranging from pledges from $15 USD up to $10.000 USD. Whilst criticized, Shadowrun Returns earned an average Metacritic score of 76, which was followed by numerous content updates and an expansion named ‘Dragonfall’.
Now, what does this tell you about Kickstarter campaigns? Truth be told, not much other than giving an example of what happens when a campaign goes right. Backers got a solid game accompanied by their corresponding backing rewards, but what happens when stuff goes wrong? What provides us with certainty when a project is funded? Bluntly said, absolutely nothing. There have been multiple instances of projects either becoming ill-received or in the worst cases they sometimes even cease to exist.
A recent example of Kickstarters gone wrong is ReRoll, an ambitious RPG project developed by ex-Ubisoft developers. The project was fully funded when the developers stated that “the money raised with the [Kickstarter] campaign plus our personal investments were not enough to develop the game on our own.” Now, how were backers compensated for these events? They were given an Early Access copy of Bios, a completely unrelated title. This free gift was worth $14.99 USD, but here’s the catch: a large percentage of backers spent much more than this, with some backers pledging over $250 USD to the project during the campaign.By no means is this a jab at the developers themselves, but this is a prime example of the risks that we as backers are taking when contributing to a project. The question has been raised whether there are certain dynamics within the Kickstarter-ecosystem that need to be adjusted in order to protect backers, but there is the harsh reality that like any company, players have essentially become shareholders within the industry in a way, where we both win and lose based on the decisions we make.
Now, does this mean we should stop backing projects based on these events? Absolutely not. There have been excellent projects that were made possible due to crowdfunding. The question here is rather: should we adapt to a system where risk is more universally accepted? As backers, we are no longer simple consumers, but a part of the process, which changes the dynamics of how safe we are when it comes to getting our money’s worth. When you’re buying a game on Steam that you don’t end up liking you try to get a refund, but you can’t refund something you essentially paid to make. This is ultimately the biggest issue that comes from both sides, which is the issue that the dynamics of investing and businesses vastly differ from the rights we’re accustomed to as a consumer.We’ve seen a lot of great and terrible things come from crowdfunding, but the most important fact is that we wouldn’t have ever seen a lot of these projects if these platforms didn’t exist. You’re going to be burned every now and then, but there is enough value in the Kickstarter ecosystem that’ll surely deliver many great projects to come.