But, again, it’s not all bad. And I don’t want you to think I’m against Kickstarter or crowdfunding as a concept. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. This is good advice for life, video games, and especially for crowdfunding. There are plenty of success stories out there, such as Undertale, Shovel Knight, Divinity: Original Sin I and II. And next year, I’d wager we’ll be adding Bloodstained to that list.
In case you somehow haven’t heard of it, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website. Anybody can go on there, pitch a good or service, and try to get people to back it with real dollars. Most of the time, there are reward tiers to backers who donate certain amounts. For example, Bloodstained offers prospective backers the game (check), the soundtrack (CHECK), a keychain (check), a lapel pin (check), an artbook (check), a shirt (be strong…), and other fun goodies.
With all the stuff I brought up, I never even touched on the Retro VGS/Coleco Chameleon/Retro Chameleon. That's another train wreck in the making...
Video games only actually reach their funding goals about 25% of the time, falling significantly below the 45% rate of Kickstarter as a whole. There is a certain nobility to giving it your all and simply not making it. Frankly, half of all businesses fail within the first four years. Stretching it out to ten years, a whopping 96% of them do, but we’re all better off for them having tried. Having said that, what do you think about a Kickstarter that fails to get funded, but then production on the game continues anyway?
Have we seriously just become market research disguised as paying customers? How did that even work? It’s not uncommon these days to find products that, in all likelihood, will get produced, but they’re running a Kickstarter anyway just to prove there’s already a market for said product. I love Don Bluth. I’ll even forgive him for A Troll in Central Park. But he’s kinda guilty of this. I also want to declare my undying love for Dragon’s Lair (yes, I’m a masochist, but I love animation and the 80s). Still, the Kickstarter project, which migrated to Indiegogo (also known as “I knew my project wouldn’t get funded on Kickstarter”), was to fund a 10 minute concept piece to draw the real backers into funding the 70 million dollar budget for a feature length movie. I really want to see that come to fruition, but this dude just cannot abide that.
This looks like an implement of torture from the Spanish Inquisition.
What about games that are successfully funded and do ultimately get finished, but are still underwhelming? I have the perfect example for you for exactly that in Godus by Peter Molyneux. Godus is a god game in the vein of Populous. This game raised over 800K, but underdelivered on many fronts. For all of his successes, Mr. Molyneux has a habit of that (Glitch-ridden Fable III says “Hi!”)…
Or what about crowdfunding agencies? They exist only to promote your project. They’re not cheap! At 35%, they make your normal casting agents (bloodthirsty leeches in their own right) look like choir boys! Nothing says grassroots like an agency propping up your idea!
I genuinely don’t know which is worse, a fake game as a means to beg online, or dropping all pretenses and literally begging online. That’s pretty darn close to The Buy Nothing Experiment. Not surprisingly, this went unfunded. Is it any wonder that this failed to reach its desired 10K? A better question is what the Hell were the five backers on to have given money to this?
Ok. I know I need to stay on topic with the ethics of Kickstarter in video games, but the comedic value in some of these exhibitions of creative brilliance just can’t go to waste, so let’s have a little fun with them first. Here’s another novel panty idea called Pussycat Panties. It’s exactly what it sounds like: panties with pictures of cats on them. But here’s the real surprise, this thing actually got funded! Well, the second time they tried it anyway…
Does this look like a trustworthy company to you?
Though outright theft isn’t the half of it either. Narrow Monolith once ran a Kickstarter for a game called The Tower. This game is, in Narrow Monolith’s own words, “a terrifying, permadeath survival horror game, based on real events.” Sounds juicy! Where do I sign? Unfortunately, The Tower was already available for purchase on Steam BEFORE they did a Kickstarter for the game. They “cleverly” left that little tidbit out. Maybe Narrow Minded would have been a more appropriate company name…
I was going to pass on this one, but since you used a naked lady in your ad, I think I’ll drop the nearly $400 on one, even if I’m not worth $9B.
Still, you’re not actually buying a product with Kickstarter. You’re investing. These are two wildly different things! Once the money leaves your hands, you are completely at the mercy of whomever you gave it to to actually deliver what they promised. There’s no mechanism to actually make people deliver on the content they promise. It’s low hanging fruit, but take Mighty No. 9. Delay after delay, lack of notice, and blatantly insulting your backers would normally signal the death knell of a product, but what do they care? They’ve already got your money. I didn’t back that one, and, while I want to like the game because of my love of Mega Man, they’re making it incredibly difficult to do so…
And of all projects that succeed in getting funded and actually do bring their products to market, 9% of them still fail to make good on their backer rewards. This may sound like small potatoes and a small number, but just imagine 9% of all luxury cars purchased not having radios. There’s no way people would stand for that and we shouldn’t stand for it in crowdfunding either.
But iBeg takes the cake. It billed itself as a homeless life simulator. It raised $15,165, then promptly vanished. Even after the game disappeared, the company still solicited donations on their (now defunct) website. But this one seems strangely honest. Perhaps it was never intended to be a video game at all, rather, it was a real life game where they begged like digital bums. If you give money to a hobo, what do you expect him to do with it? I can only assume these guys spent their thousands of dollars on booze and drugs.
Maybe if they had used a wide angle lens?
Still, at least that game got made at all. That’s more than you can say of Clang. This game managed to shore up $526,125 from 9023 peeps. While a prototype build was released to said backers, the finished game never came to be. And then there’s Grapple Knight, which appeared to be to Bionic Commando what Shovel Knight was to Ducktales. Like Clang, this one was funded, but never actually produced. It’s a pity. I love Shovel Knight and Bionic Commando (and Ducktales!). I really would have liked to see this one make it.
Tentacle Bento is… Just use your imagination. Thanks for the pigeonholing, guys! And especially, thanks to the assholes who FULLY FUNDED this game…! Kickstarter did step in and shut this one down, despite that it met its funding goals. If you’re exceptionally curious, the game did eventually get brought to market, but that’s all I’m comfortable saying about it.
On the other side of the coin are the angel investors. These are wealthy folks who normally invest money into projects they want to see succeed, often for large portions of ownership hanging in the balance. They’re known to swoop in (that’s not a Cards Against Humanity reference) and save projects that otherwise would have failed, for a price (just like Ted DiBiase). Are they distorting the concept of crowdfunding by doing so?
This segues nicely into another bizarre development regarding Kickstarter. The projects you choose to support are tantamount to political speech these days. Yes, it seems that politics has its tentacles in everything (get back to your own paragraph, Tentacle Bento!), and Kickstarter is no different. In some circles, you’re ostracized (that means you’re transformed into an ostrich) for supporting certain projects or you become a pariah for NOT backing others. And I’m not just talking about Ron Paul: Road to REVOLution, though that game has its own problems. Like his fellow intellectual thief, Anita, the creator of this game ripped off then slightly modified other games’ sprite sheets to create this game.
Is any of this ever going to change? Not likely. Kickstarter takes a 10% cut of whatever money is raised. Render to Seizer what is Seizer’s indeed. By Kickstarter’s own released numbers, they’ve raised billions (yes, with an S, multiple billions) of dollars for projects over the years. This means, even with a conservative estimate of 2 billion dollars raised, Kickstarter has made 200M for itself. Now THAT’S walking around money! I genuinely don’t begrudge anyone for making money. In order for Kickstarter to make money, they must provide benefit or the 100% voluntary exchange would not have occurred. I only bring this up to say that if they generate that kind of money, there’s simply no incentive for them to change.
But it’s not just that she delivers less than what she promises. Nor is it that she fails to actually do the research she claims. Those are enormous problems, no doubt, but she doesn’t even often play the games she covers. All too often, she rips the footage right out of other folks’ let’s play videos, then surgically selects only the worst bits of footage to showcase her inane points. She’s a sex hustler… Wait, that came out wrong… And that wasn’t much better. Let me try again. She’s a gender hustler (better), a con artist, and a cry bully, but what does she care? If you’re one of the 6968 people to feed her money through Kickstarter (to say nothing of her other schemes…), there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
For that matter, how does spending money on advertising at all factor in to the ethics of Kickstarter? Your product doesn’t exist yet (in theory). I get advertising for a product, but advertising to get the money to create the product at all? Hmm. Like using an agency, it will certainly drive up your funding goals, as you’ll need to charge enough to offset what you’re spending on ads or agencies. Ask yourself, is that really what you should be asking your potential backers to spend their money on? Should a backer be paying to bring in more backers? This reeks of pyramid schemes. Or Susan G. Komen.
Longtime fans of this site, close personal friends of mine, and anyone within earshot knows what a huge fan of Castlevania I am. It’s my favorite gaming series ever. Too bad Konami killed it, buried it, dug it up in order to incinerate it, then pissed all over the ashes… Seriously, Konami, pull your head out of your ass! I’m willing to forgive you, but you have to make at least some semblance of effort! Pipe Dream, I know…
So far, Bloodstained has actually gone above and beyond the Call of Duty by even releasing the earlier mentioned demo. Backers of certain tiers have already been promised access to a beta build of the game later, but the E3 demo was a nice bonus. We’re literally getting more than what we bargained for with this game!
That’s exactly what happened with Red Ash. Wanna know why its Kickstarter failed? You know you do! Well, there are multiple reasons. First of all, this is another project pitched by Keiji Inafune of Mega Man fame (and Mighty No. 9 infame). If you can’t remember, stop taking the blue pill and read a few paragraphs back. Mighty No. 9 is already fraught with peril. Inafune’s name simply isn’t as upstanding as it once was. Second, and this is a huge no-no, he initiated this Kickstarter BEFORE FINISHING MIGHTY NO. 9! Capcom has a proven track record (for better and for worse, it has one). You, Mr. Inafune, at that time, did not, and now that you do, it’s not one that’s going to garner you much support. I’d love to see a sequel, literal or spiritual, to Mega Man Legends myself, but not like this. Not like this! And remember, even after the failed Kickstarter campaign, production proceeded anyway!
Even though those last two titles were forced into the digital dustbin of history, I do, at least, get the vibe that their creators genuinely wanted to deliver, but just failed to do so. Yogventures, which raised $567,665, never materialized. The 13,647 people who backed it have nothing to show for it. This game seems to have been grossly mismanaged. Paying an artist 35 grand for 2 weeks of work? Where do I sign? That’s almost as much money as Anita made for NOT speaking at a booked engagement! Seriously, she made $397,778 for CANCELLING A SPEECH! Good work if you can get it (and you’re willing to sell your soul)…
This brings me to another beef I have with some less than scrupulous companies. Maybe I’m just naïve here, but I envision Kickstarter as a means to bring goods or services to market that otherwise wouldn’t be. How does that jive with gigantic companies or wealthy investors turning to Kickstarter and asking for money anyway? You can afford it! Make your damn product your damn self! I’m talking to you, Eric Scmidt of GOOGLE (Now Alphabet)! You have a net worth of 9 billion dollars. Don’t you dare come to me and ask for money, you asshole! Use your own damn money! God knows you have plenty! Admittedly, the Nebia showerhead does look pretty cool, but it’s a travesty how this was handled. Then again, Google is increasingly known for delivering a crappy product these days. Just look at YouTube…
I wanted to include the Susan G. Komen logo here, but they jump your shit for that. It's ok, though. They give 15% whole percent of their donations to actual cancer research.
Apparently there are at least 182 cat ladies in the world.
That pales in comparison to our next Kickstarter debacle, though. Confederate Express was, if you believe the Pashanin Brothers, going to be a strategy-oriented tactical RPG. Unfortunately for the 2386 saps who forked over $39,739 bucks to them, the Pashanin Brothers are scammers in the fullest extent of the word. This wasn’t the first con they’ve pulled off, nor was it the last. They seem to be professional squatters, if that’s a thing. They’re crooks. They didn’t even seem to hide this with the logo for Confederate Express.
It's better than nothing, but backers are still crying like animé fans on prom night.
Thankfully, all is not lost! Last year’s incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night fills my heart with gladness. Take many of the best people to have worked on the series, such as Koji Igarashi (there’s a reason his games are referred to as IGAvania games) and MICHIRU YAMANE (one of the best gaming composers ever), and have them work on Totally Not At All Castlevania But It Is. I’ve been a backer from the very beginning. And now that I’ve gotten my hands on the demo from E3, the game also instills confidence that it will be great upon its release in 2017!
This is the face of success and class.
And then there’s Feminist Frequency. This may be cherry picking (was that pun intended? You decide), but Feminist Frequency failed to deliver many of the videos it promised, despite getting funded to the tune of six figures. Although, given what they call “triple-checked research,” that may yet have been a good thing… But suffice it to say that charlatans like Anita Sarkeesian (Anita Charlkeesian?) are allowed to do whatever they want with the money they vacuum out of the pockets of the do-gooding dupes. Between her various ventures, she’s managed to gyp about a million dollars out of people and there’s nothing they can do about it.
I can even prove that last statement! At least there’s some good to come from all these Kickstarter travesties. Uwe Boll has had not one, but two colossal failures on the platform. First, when Postal 2 only managed to get $29,977 of its needed $500,000, falling only $470,023 dollars (or 94%) short of its goal, and second, when his proposed Rampage 3 failed to meet its comparatively meager $50,000. Yes, even in jaded 2016, you can still find proof of God, as long as you’re looking for it.
I do want to end on a positive note after all that. So far, Bloodstained is simply amazing! There’s been a void in my heart for the last few years with no Castlevania to fill it. Thankfully, Iga still knows what the fans want and he is delivering it. The first time I booted up the demo, I was awestruck at the music on the title screen. And who am I kidding. We both know I’ll be upping my reward tier to get that shirt. Is it too early to call Bloodstained GotY 2017?
Really, all parties involved share some of the responsibility to make crowdfunding great again. Kickstarter needs to implement some internal quality controls. Developers need to be on the up and up by only offering goods and services they can actually deliver and someone, somewhere might actually want. We, as backers, need to do our own due diligence and make sure we’re only backing the best products. The best way to improve any market is to let the bad ideas naturally atrophy.
Unfortunately, all is not right in the state of Kickstarter. It’s easy (and entertaining!) to browse through the various offerings and find such intellectual abortions as Baba Invisible Panties. Seriously, what were they thinking? “Hey, Bob (or is that Baba?), do we have a panty liner, some tape, and a few hooks lying around? I just got a great idea for an invention!” Surprising absolutely nobody, this only received 1% of its required investment.
Here’s one right out of South Park, Dolphins Wearing Hats. I wish I could say that was a joke. Oh wait! It IS a joke! Sadly, it’s not a very funny one, though…