When Tim Schafer and Double Fine unveiled the power of Kickstarter earlier this year it was clear that they were on to something. As more and more fledgling projects converged to the website for funding, it was obvious that Double Fine’s success with the crowd funding site was not a fluke and that other indie developers could also use the site to raise capital. For a time it seemed as if any hopeful developer could be successful and any project could meet its goal. As more people flocked to the site to support projects it seemed less like an online crowd funding site and more like a plain old online store. No one seemed to mind the fact that none of the supported projects had been released and people continued to head there to “purchase” games almost as if they were pre-ordering from GameStop. Well it seems that now the honeymoon phase is over as two projects failed last week, one for not meeting its goal and another for losing its way after funds had been collected. It may be bad news for these games, but their failures may serve as a reminder to everyone as to what Kickstarter actually is.
Although it’s not uncommon for a Kickstarter project to fail in meeting its goal, it is uncommon for one that receives as much press as Shaker did. Even though the prospect of playing an old-school RPG is really intriguing, it does remind everyone what Kickstarter stands for. As PC Gamer points out it was a project that failed to deliver any solid details about the game’s development. That’s a surprisingly weak proposition considering they had a project goal of a million dollars.
It’s a good thing, however, that the project failed. Not only does it show that the Kickstarter community is learning which projects to back and which projects not to, it also serves as a reminder to other developers hoping to score some easy cash with a flimsy pitch. In an update to their Kickstarter page, Shaker’s developer Loot Drop admitted that their pitch “just wasn’t strong enough” and that it was better to go back to the drawing board than to try and force the project to completion. Perhaps Shaker will end up being a great game someday, but for now the Kickstarter community has decided that it just didn’t have what it takes. Even if they had raised the cash though, it wouldn’t have guaranteed success.
This brings me to Haunts a turn-based horror game which actually met their goal of $25,000 in July, but has since halted production as their programmers have moved on to other projects. They actually had a much more detailed pitch than Shaker did, showing off some actual gameplay as well, but unfortunately work was not completed before their funds ran out and their programmers had moved on to other projects. Essentially this means that the roughly $28,000 they collected is now gone with nothing to show for their 1,214 backers. Rick Dakan, the project’s lead, has stated that he would be glad to pay refunds out of his own pocket to those who wish and that even though he doesn’t know how he’s going to do it, he is determined to find a way to release Haunts to the community. A noble gesture, but one that may not be replicated in future Kickstarter failures.
While Shaker’s failure is a reminder to developers, Haunts’ failure is a reminder to the community. Kickstarter is not an online store and there is no guarantee that money spent equals a tangible product. It’s an investment with a very real risk for failure. The community would be wise to remember that investing in a game doesn’t necessarily mean that game will ever see the light of day. While it’s sad to see anyone fail, it does serve as a valuable lesson to only back projects that seem realistic and not just the ones you really want to see.
Perhaps both of these games will be released, someday, but that won’t always be the case. This time around it seems that both developers are being honest with the community about their project’s failures, which is a good thing, but in the future there is no guarantee that other developers will do the same. If you’re going to invest in a Kickstarter project, remember, pick your projects wisely.