Big Publishers Accused Of Trying To Manipulate Kickstarter Fever

The last twelve months have seen an outbreak of Kickstarter fever. Old devs, new devs, indie devs, everyone with an idea and some concept art has been scrambling to the service in an attempt to get their dream game made.

Part of the appeal for both backers and developers is that, in theory, it removes the need for publishers, and all the focus-testing and creative meddling that often goes along with them.

So this statement, from Obsidian's Feargus Urquhart, is more than a little concerning. Writing on the Project Eternity Kickstarter page, he says:

We were actually contacted by some publishers over the last few months that wanted to use us to do a Kickstarter. I said to them 'So, you want us to do a Kickstarter for, using our name, we then get the Kickstarter money to make the game, you then publish the game, but we then don't get to keep the brand we make and we only get a portion of the profits.'

They said, 'Yes'.

Sadly, he does not name names. Nor does he give enough information to deduce just who it might have been. If you just assume it's all the big publishers, then, you'll be at least partially right!

Project Eternity [Kickstarter, via Destructoid]


    Hard to believe they'd think there would be any devs gullible enough to fall for that.

      I imagine they'll start adding sweetners to make it worth their while. For example "use kickstarter to get us one game and then we'll give you a contract for two more legit", contracts to develop games are what developers need to survive so it could be a deal with the devil that is too good to pass up for a struggling dev.

    To be honest. Kick starter might be the solution to reduce bad games in the market.

    I love how these indie developers are starting to actually become a competition with the mega publishers. Kickstarter is revolutionary, this is literally going to change the industry forever.

      That's a definite possibility... And I love the fact that it's not only the gaming industry that Kickstarter is having a real effect on... Musicians, artists, writers and boutique manufacturers (among many others) too are having some great successes with the KS model... Hell, even Reaper Miniatures (yep, as in tabletop gaming) broke a bunch of records with their kickstarter... Got me for $120 on the first five of some eventual 20+ stretch goals alone.

    if people want kickstarter to work as long as possible (people just haven't figured out a way to exploit it for pure evil yet, that day will come) public naming and shaming is an absolute must

      No way they're going to do that, though. They wouldn't want to burn any bridges - they might want (or at least need) to work with that publisher at some point in the future.

        Yeah, having a publisher is something most indie devs would love.

    Wait a minute, I don't get it. I only see a problem with the last part about not keeping the brand.

    I mean they've used Kickstarter legitimately to get funds for development. Then when it's done and they've given their backers what they promised they then might want to sell it on store shelves or with online distribution networks and it has always been the most common way to let publishers handle that and get some profit out of it.

      This being a PC game, they've already lined up the biggest distribution platforms , Steam and GOG. Who needs the likes of EA and Activision?

        Well the point is that publishers have spent several years cultivating relationships with various marketing and distribution channels.

        Simply having a game on GoG or Steam only means that GoG users will get an email and Steam users MIGHT see the game on the 'New Release' tab, if they weren't warranted with one of the billboard feature slots. Also, take a quick guess at whether Activision, EA, or Microsoft have to submit games through the same Greenlight system as indie devs.

        You think that's enough for marketing? Depends on how much money you want to make.

          Honestly, I feel that publishers do still have a role they can perform in the games industry outside of AAA-funding.

          But one of the things that would have to change is that the developers are the ones retaining all the game rights and earning all the sales, and the publishers are just doing the bitch-work of marketing/distribution, and getting a slight cut for their services, instead of holding the purse-strings and dictating how much slips through their fingers into developer mouths.

          Without being the ones doing the bankrolling, they no longer need to be in the position of power, but they can still serve a purpose.

          There's these things called game journalism and word of mouth. People talk about good games. Advertising rams crappy games down your throat and tricks you into wanting to buy them. The most advertising Black Mesa ever did was a trailer on YouTube, yet everyone knew about it.

    I was wondering if this story would show up on Kotaku.
    It's certainly a thing.

    Pretty safe to assume the publisher in question was EA. Seems like the slimy kind of thing they'd do...

      Safe to assume any publisher would do that. Dick moves aren't just limited to EA.

    I believe the publisher wouldnt be activion or EA in it would most likelt be Bethesda as bethesda did screw over obsidian with royalities because it only got a metacritic score of 84 when an 85 was needed for royalities. never mind the fact that it was bethesda who only gave obsidian 15months to make New Vegas and were also incharge of bug testing but did hardly any of the though.

      Zenimax owns Bethesda , Obsidian and ID. They are the publisher.

    What i don't get about Kickstarter is the amount of saving for bigger companies. They basically get the funding for free yet does this reduce the price of the final product in anyway? If not, doesn't this just mean that kickstarter has inadvertently raised the price of products/revenue.

      See in most cases one of the lower-tier benefits is the actual game on release. Scumbag publishers would have pricing tiers like being awarded an 'exclusive' pre-order of the game.

    If it was done transparently to the consumers, and externally to the Kickstarter site itself - I think it might ultimately be a good thing to have some publisher owned games move to a crowdfunding model. It would mean the publishers could stop worrying about potential sales and stupid crap like metacritic ratings and see guaranteed sales for their IPs before they even devote resources to create the games. It could potentially stop great IPs from fading away forever because of marketing decisions, and might even revive long dead ones. It would put us in control of what games we get. But I'm sure they'd manage to eff that up too, with ridiculous pricing tiers etc.

      Publishers are the reason why game devs turn to Kickstarter in the first place. It's meant to cut out the greedy middle man. Why should any publisher be allowed on the platform? If a publisher comes in the the dev is responsible to the publisher, and the funders.

      A man cannot serve two masters. And really, when one master is a High King of Douchebaggery (Insert publisher name here), it shouldn't be too difficult a choice to make.

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