Just two years ago, it seemed like the crowd-funding website Kickstarter would be the source for every video game that people could ever want. However, after the failures of several funded projects, the potential pool of donators has somewhat dried up. Regardless of the publicity and star power certain Kickstarter projects have been receiving from major website outlets, no Kickstarter project in 2014 has achieved the runaway success of 2013’s lineup.
For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter’s mechanics, the website allows creators to set a goal for the amount of money needed to complete their proposed projects with a time limit of usually over a month. Creators also have the ability to reward especially generous project backers. Additionally, the creator can establish “stretch goals” in case people continue to fund past the goal, which are usually promises of additional content.
Though there are multiple types of projects that appear on Kickstarter, the ones that gain the most exposure are video games, thanks in part to the plethora of video game websites that offer publicity.
Despite being created in 2008, Kickstarter did not get much exposure from the press until around four years after its birth. One of the most notable successes, which occurred in February 2012, was the top-down strategy spaceship simulation game “FTL: Faster Than Light,” which received more than $190,000 past its goal of $10,000. The game would release just seven months later to critical acclaim.
Just a year later, Kickstarter received several more success stories in the form of two projects that were posted in September 2013. One was “Hyper Light Drifter,” an action role-playing game with intricate and detailed sprite-based animations. The other was “Mighty No. 9,” a spiritual successor to the “Mega Man” series produced by co-creator Keiji Inafune. Both games were massive successes. “Mighty No. 9” in particular received $3,845,170 in funding, far past its goal of $900,000.
What attributed to their successes could have been “Hyper Light Drifter”’s gameplay trailer that accompanied the pitch, which showed that the game was already deep within development, and of “Mighty No. 9”’s pedigree.
However, it would seem that the success stories of games like “Mighty No. 9” cannot be replicated. Though not necessarily failures, the projects posted in 2014 failed to match the runaway successes of games from the previous year.
Part of the problem could be attributed to controversies and failures of projects in the previous year. Two in particular circulated through game websites and brought up unforeseen consequences to otherwise promising projects.
The game “Double Fine Adventure,” now known as “Broken Age,” failed to properly allocate funds and was left needing more money, despite raising $3,336,371 in its February 2012 campaign. The result was the game being split into two parts, with the second part being slated for a release later this year. Gamespot writer Martin Gaston, in his article “Broken Age needs more money, says Double Fine,” referred to the game as having been a “Kickstarter Success Story.” This led to further questions of where the money from the Kickstarter campaign was going to.
That being said, “Broken Age” still managed to be released. The Kickstarter open-world sandbox game “Yogventures,” done in collaboration with the YouTube network The Yogscast, was officially canceled in July 2014. $567,665 was wasted on a project that never saw the light of day. According to Gamasutra website writer Alex Wawro in the article “Developer of cancelled Yogcast game reveals where the money went,” the cancellation was the result of troubled development, including a developer leaving without returning his payment, which left the developers with negative funds.
These two high profile cases have potentially left possible backers with a bit of skepticism. As a result, people are not as quick to fund a project past its goal in the first week, regardless of the quality promised.
While there is still a sizable list of games that have met their funding goals, few of the ones in the 2014 timeframe have achieved a funding percentage past 200 percent. Those that did manage to achieve enormous funding usually had more humble goals, such as the revival of the massive multiplayer online game “Dream of Mirror Online,” which had a goal of $310. Others that attained greater success were visual novels.
Furthermore, several projects from developers with popular mainstream games under their belt struggled to attain their goals. The most notable of the failures was “The Black Glove,” a game created by former developers of the critically acclaimed and commercially successful “Bioshock.” It only received $216,517 out of the $550,000 it needed.
As of 2014, potential backers seem to have lost their enthusiasm for crowd-funded games. While crowd-funding has still proven to be successful, there may never be another super success like those of 2012.
Follow Christopher on Twitter: @ChristopherYuC1