Reviewer Rodeo: Kickstart My Heart

Reviewer Rodeo: Kickstart My Heart

Welcome to the ZTGD Reviewer Rodeo. Each week, we’ll grab on to the hottest issue, hold on for dear life, and wrassle it to the ground.

This week we take a look at the recent surge of Kickstarter, a way for developers to fund their own games with the help of the community. Is it a dream come true, or a nightmare just waiting to implode? Find out what we think about the matter.

Kelsey “rinelk” Rinella
There seem to be a lot of users who think about Kickstarting the way they think about purchasing an existing product. Realizing a vision with a quality product on time and within budget is pretty rare in any complex enterprise, though. I suspect that Kickstarter tends to put less pressure on developers to get their business plans in order up front, and so we’ll see some games either folding completely or developers coming out with products which fall far short of their goals or take many years to complete.

What’s interesting to me about Kickstarter is that all of this has to be obvious to them. I’m really excited to see how proactively they manage it. In the boutique boardgame space, it’s moderately common for companies to begin development on a game but forego many of the later costs of development and printing until they reach a certain number of pre-orders (I believe GMT’s P500 list made this practice popular). Game Salute’s Springboard functions similarly, in that they provide some degree of quality control and connect games to adequate logistic support the way a publisher would, but integrates Kickstarter into the funding side. Something similar seems like it would be extremely helpful for video games. Like Game Salute, it could be a separate entity, or Kickstarter could start offering a more curatorial or supportive role to help people with the practical side of making their artistic visions real. Like Springboard, Steam and the Android and iOS App Stores solve the problems associated with taking a finished product and making it available to gamers, but there’s still a need for some degree of expert investigation of the plausibility and promise of Kickstarter projects.

The former logician in me also really wants to see a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to do a later Kickstarter campaign with higher production values and more study of the costs and reasonable goals of the project.

The craze really started with the immense success Tim Schafer had with the service.

Kickstarter is ideologically so appealing that I fear my blindness to its faults. We all want to hear that the boring stuff we were never any good at (but for which other people get status and material rewards) isn’t really that important, so the message that you can go light on the bureaucracy is very welcome. Similarly, the domination of capital allocation by very wealthy individuals or organizations, often with interests quite different from the rest of us, has long been justified by the efficiency of this arrangement. There’s an intoxicating pull to the idea that we could remove the bias toward the very wealthy and accomplish the same levels of economic efficiency with a more egalitarian society.

The things they teach in business school matter, though. They may not make an inspiring pitch, but they’re crucial to bringing the excitement and vision we see in those pitches into the world. Essentially, Kickstarter has kindled the flame of youthful optimism in my breast, but I have lost faith in our institutions and our culture’s ability to make any meaningful changes. I want to be smarter than everyone who uncritically likes Kickstarter, and to acknowledge the serious problems it faces when it deals with big money, rather than small. There’s something I may want more, though.

I want to believe.

Ken “ZeroTolerance” McKown
When the Kickstarter craze first cropped up, I’ll admit I was skeptical. Tim Schafer has earned the trust of enough gamers to pull this off, but once other developers got wind of it, it was bound to create an influx of projects. And an influx of projects it indeed spawned. It seems on a daily basis we are receiving PR emails about Kickstarter projects. Everything from generic iOS shooters to more well-known titles such as Shadowrun are up for funding. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for games seeing the light of day, but at some point we have to take a step back and think about this.

Some of the most classic franchises can see a new light thanks to the service.

These developers are asking for your money simply out of trust. There is no guarantee you will ever see the game they promise, nor is it guaranteed to be exactly what you ask for. What stops a company from telling you they will revolutionize one genre, only to pour two months into some generic shooter and leave you feeling thrown under the bus? My point is that while these projects are definitely producing some cool stuff, we have yet to see most of them materialize. Don’t be so quick to send your money to developers on a whim. Do your research, see where they are and most importantly, if you are uncomfortable with it, send them an email and ask questions.

This is your money; you have every right to know where it is going. Don’t be afraid to interact with the developers. Fund the projects you trust, and above all else always look at is a donation, never a guarantee. I love the Kickstarter idea, but I feel like a lot of companies are simply using it as a scapegoat to circumvent publishers, and not always for the right reasons. Marketing and distribution are sometimes vital to games, and developers forget that all too quickly. Sometimes it is best to have a partnership, while other times it is best to just get the games into gamers hands.

Continue reading our thoughts on Kickstarter on the next page…

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