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Could Kickstarter Become A Double-Edged Sword?
Kickstarter is a beautiful thing. Game companies that want to make a project but can’t get it approved now have a place to let fans prove they want these titles. Double Fine Adventure set the bar high, raising close to $4 million in the time the game spent on the site. Other titles, like Wasteland 2, have had new life breathed into them through this excellent source of income.
It can only be assumed that Kickstarter will be a big part of the gaming industry for now on, and while that will mean a ton of titles getting a chance they wouldn’t normally see, there could be some interesting side effects to this new approach.
Developer/publisher relationships could change, as any developer who gets their idea turned down can just say “screw that, I’m going to Kickstarter.” The new influx of games that normally wouldn’t see the light of day could also mean an influx of crappy games that shouldn’t have seen the light of day. There’s one issue, however, that could go nuclear because of Kickstarter and what it does, an issue I hadn’t thought of until my CY and J co-host mentioned it to me during a recent recording. It can be summarized in one word:
Disgruntled gamers have been a part of the industry forever. No one game is going to make everyone happy, as nothing makes EVERYONE happy in this world, but unlike the days of yesteryear where these grips were confined to the rooms where the game was played, the Internet has given the disgruntled a place to vent. Forums light up daily with fans griping about every single aspect of a recent release. Look at Bioware; they release the final game in a epic space trilogy, but any press you hear about it now pertains to the rabid fanbase clamoring for a new ending. Forget the excellent gameplay, the intriguing plot points, and the memorable characters that kept these players busy for near 30 hours; that ending is all they can focus on. The reaction has been absurd, but picture this:
What if Mass Effect 3 was Kickstarted? Could you imagine the backlash these folks would rain upon Bioware if they had contributed to the project, only to not have it meet their lofty standards? The forums would be a warzone, more so than they are now. These fans would demand a refund, even though the money was already spent. They would cry out for Bioware to write them all checks, even though it would technically be impossible. Worse yet, a few of the particularly rabid “fans” might try to take back their money by force, inciting violence at the offices of the famed developer. It’s one thing to not like a game you purchased, it’s another entirely to not like something you contributed to.
This is the risk Double Fine and inXile are running by using Kickstarter to fund their projects. Their games could be excellent from start to finish, true works of digital art, but one thing goes sideways and POOF!, all the fans care about is sticking it to you for not liking the game.
It’s a damn shame, but it has to be considered in the “Should We Use Kickstarter?” process. Hell, I thought about asking the higher ups here to put Leviathyn on Kickstarter in the hope of raising money for the site. The theory is sound, but it would only take one person who puts money into the Kickstarter doesn’t like what I write about Sega’s booth at E3…and the entire site could get turned upside down.
While I love Kickstarter, the implications of the power it provides need to be seriously considered before traveling this route. If the fans are “entitled” and unreasonable now, I can only imagine what will happen when disappointment strikes a game that the fans help make.,