M. Jared Swenson Productions

This blog chronicles my projects, developments, and all things related to tabletop gaming. I will try to avoid rants and reviews. Mostly games I'm developing, and progresses from my campaigns.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Kickstarter Bubble

If you have heard much at all about Kickstarter yet, you may have heard about how many millions of dollars are getting pushed through it and many a people's dreams are getting funded.
Kickstarter is amazing. There are a lot of genuinely great projects people are pitching that I get excited about. Mobile Frame Zero funded with $82,000 at the end. And Roll20, a really attractive virtual tabletop for playing pnp rpgs over the internet, is still going with $30,000 as of the time of this post. This website has finally given power to the players. To the consumer for directly choosing what they want to see in the next game or product, as apposed to corporate investors eying a pitch and choosing for us based on 'trends' fed to them from inaccurate market research.

That all being said, Kickstarter unfortunately is in a 'bubble'. This is still a new evolution, and the world doesn't know quite how to treat it yet. People are getting millions of dollars for undeveloped, unfinished, and even mediocre ideas. Kickstarter backers are being way to generous with their money. Some of it's justified and some isn't. I'm not saying that i know better than you how you should spend your money, but consider what I'm about to say.

The big video game kickstarter craze started with Tim Shaeffer's Doublefine Adventure. A project that completed with over $3 million dollars funded. A lot of people know and remember Tim Shaeffer with his famous older work and would love to see him produce another game. He even promises to release a documentary of the project as it is happening. The fame of the name and this complete transparency to the project has caused them to gain so much money. Soon other developers started jumping on the bandwagon, such as Brian Fargo with Wasteland 2 (which finished at about $3 million), and Jordan Weisman with Shadowrun Returns (which is at $1.75 million at time of writing this).

But in order to pop this bubble, something this big needs to fail. Something as big as any of the above needs to become a total flop or failure and that would cause backers to be much much more cautious with their money, and developers to become much much more thorough with their pitches.

I will sometimes see a promo video for a project where the person says"'hi i need money. i have this idea. if you give me money i will make it happen" and all he has to show us is a brief explanation of his idea, or a bunch of buzzwords. When i see that project reach its funding i can only help but shake my head. I am afraid that people will start seeing kickstarter as being an easy way out. What people had to really really try and work for and spend their own precious money to make a pitch to get funded is now all gone out the window. Any idiot with an idea and a camera can film his face and ask for money, and the trusting backer will give it to him. Projects like Chronicles of the Void and Farewell to Fear give us absolutely nothing. As apposed to Mobile Frame Zero, and Serpent's Tongue actually give us something to chew on. Give us more reasons to fund their project.

So what should kickstarter be for? In terms of non-electronic games, Kickstarter should be for finished games. I'm not joking. If your project hasn't already been playtested a million times and the writing isn't already done, and you don't have any artists or editors or publishers lined up, and you don't have at least a sample product to show other than you talking over a shitty slideshow (as with that Farewell to Fear self righteous pretentious crap) then i wont even bother to give you a dollar. Because when this bubble pops after enough games flop or fail to deliver what backers were expecting, then it's only going to get harder and harder to convince people with that $10 to trust you.

Kickstarter money should go toward paying the editor, paying the artist, paying the marketer, and paying the publisher. Not pay for you to quit your job so you can brainstorm your idea a bit further. I want to see a game that's ready for the market as soon as it's pitched.

I fear that many project people are assuming that the kickstarter backer should not be treated with the same fear and respect as any big ticket investor, and because of that, Kickstarter may soon lead toward failure on many levels.

What i am saying, is i want projects to take Kickstarter more seriously, not as an ez-mode for starting your career.

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