Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Kickstarter Dilemma

Kickstarter is becoming a great way for fans and enthusiasts to fund indie video games, films, graphic novels... you name it. And many of these creations have become wildly successful once released. However, what happens if you don't get what you pay for?

Here's the example: there once was a Kickstarter game called Star Command that was pitched as a turn-based tactical game with spaceship combat, which got everyone way excited and consequently convinced them to open their wallets. However, once the project got funded, the developer turned around and changed the gameplay from turn-based to real-time. Instead of getting XCOM, it was like taking a half step toward making StarCraft. Needless to say, the investors were pissed.

X-COM versus StarCraft
Both are space combat games, but one is turn-based tactical and the other is real-time strategy... very different end products.
But wait – do they have the right to be? With Kickstarter, you're not really an investor nor are you a partner. You're kind of altruistically helping a cause in return for getting a little something for your trouble or the opportunity to buy a pre-release copy of the game. I can see it both ways. From the fan's point of view, it's not fair. If I see a description for a fantasy game, I'm going to be royally upset if I get a western game.

On the other hand, from the developer's point of view, their ultimate goal is to make a fun and profitable game. If they start making the game and discover that it would be more enjoyable to tweak the gameplay from the original description, it's technically their call. However, to soften the blow, here's a little advice from K, a fellow developer:
  • Change the message on Kickstarter to convey "Trust us; we know what we're doing."
  • Throw the fans a bone. Make mini-quests or something that are in the style of the initial plan.
Anyway, philosophical point aside, Star Command just released and is getting only so-so reviews, despite all the changes made. As with many things, looks like you win some and you lose some with Kickstarter.

Related Links:
Star Command Is Not the Game You Kickstarted

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