2014 Might Be The Year To Believe In Kickstarter And Video Games Again

2014 Might Be the Year to Believe in Kickstarter and Video Games Again

That sound you've been hearing all week? Oh, it's nothing: just the collective exhale of millions of people who are all grateful that Broken Age doesn't suck.

After the tidal wave of cash and enthusiasm about Kickstarter's possible impact on video games in 2012, 2013 was the year that malaise set in, with scams, dubious stories and general fatigue becoming part of the conversation. But the release of Broken Age's first act, The Banner Saga and République — all well-received games made possible by crowdfunding — could be a reason to have some renewed optimism about what Kickstarter can mean for video games.

Of course, those titles above come from experienced developers who already had impressive games on their resumes. And that probably makes all the difference. But there's no denying that Kickstarter — and the crowdfunding revolution it's leading — has changed the way that video games get money. It's an avenue that minimizes the influence of publishers and other traditional power movers and closes the gap between players and creators. But, for all the hosannas of unfettered creative freedom that get sung, the well-intentioned act of giving money to a production campaign still amounts to a roll of the dice. Backers and consumers who choose to wait don't know what they're going to get until the creating's done.

We're only beginning to see the first few harvests of the crowdfunding crop cycle but already there are cautionary tales. Ouya's struggle for relevance. Developers leaving. Games that hit funding goals with no further communication from project leads. Campaigns where breathless support curdles into rancorous bad-mouthing.

Exposing the business management skills of developers and adding in the emotional component of fan investment has proven to be a volatile mix. When Valve passes yet another year without showing Half-Life 3, observers have the emotional distance to snark at the legendary lack of information. The biggest Half-Life superfans may want a return to Gordon Freeman's universe more than oxygen itself but, even at their most frothy lather, the stake they have in the existence of HL3 is a psychological one. With a crowdfunded game, however, people identify with the money they've put in. Adding that currency to the hopes-and-dreams dynamic that fuels so many Kickstarter campaigns creates a mechanic that's the metaphorical equivalent of splitting the atom. Sure, all that radioactive energy could kill you. Harness it the right way, though, and your needs for cash, marketing and inspiration all get taken care of in one fell swoop.

Every day, it seems like dozens of game-centric Kickstarters are rattling their cups in your faces, jostling for your attention and donations in ways that range from desperate to annoying. Add it all up and it's easy to be cynical.

That's why it's important that, right now, Broken Age stands as the anti-Ouya: a big-deal Kickstarter product that isn't derisively snickered at and that sort of justifies the annoyances of crowd-funding. The wait for the final version of a Kickstarted product is agonizing because, again, that's your money that you're waiting on to come back to you. But when it ends with sharply realised games like, say, Shadowrun Returns, it feels like the donation, the wait, the doubt were all worth it.

Looking ahead, 2014 might also see the releases of Project Eternity and Wasteland 2. Other buzzed-about crowdfunded games like Mighty No. 9 and Star Citizen are probably at least a year out, but when they do finally launch, backers and buyers will likely find some kind of comfort knowing that it's a project where the creators did what they wanted. If you'd heard about a new video game Kickstarter last week, your impulse might've been to ignore it. This week, though, reminds you of what's possible when the money, the passion and creativity of a crowdsourced video game clicks.


Comments

    I feel like i was just realistic about kickstarter from te beginning. Cool concept but backers need to be aware that there's an inherent risk, that's all.

      Absolutely. Kickstarters can completely bomb, or turn out awesome. You just need to go into it with managed expectations.

      Unfortunately there are many people out there who just don't approach kickstarter projects with a realistic mindset.

    HL3 will be a release game with the Occulus. Of this I'm certain.

      This would not surprise me at all tbh.

    Cryamore and Soul Saga are two games I'm looking forward to this year with planned dates of 2014 from Kickstarer. Cryamore is gonna play like Secret of Mana with Zelda Puzzles and Soul Saga is gonna play like an Turn-based RPG with an world to explore.

    Last edited 18/01/14 3:40 pm

    I stopped Kickstarting games a long time ago because game development is an incredibly long and risky process. I'd hardly call Broken Age the Anti-OUYA just yet. People forget that the money raised by Kickstarter has only produced half a game, the second half of which relies on what happens now with sales of the first half.
    We’re only beginning to see the first few harvests of the crowdfunding crop cycle Only if you ignore the tens to hundreds of games that have already been released or are in beta at the moment. That's the problem with articles like this one, they ignore the fact that many smaller games have already been Kickstarted and released in the interim since Broken Age first popularised the service. It's also ignoring the many hundreds, probably thousands of failed Kickstarter drives and projects that weren't able to finish. Even in the past few months there have been several projects that have failed to release and some that have come down to an indefinite wait because the team just can't make it with the funds they have but want to keep working on the game.

    I don't mean to sound negative about the whole thing, Kickstarter has been a boon for many small companies that would otherwise have to deal with publishers. People just need to remember that for every success story, there are many more that are less successful.

    Planetary Annihilation was on Kickstarter and is rocking fun. 7 days to die... less fun, but progress is there.
    I've kicked about 12 projects, each one has delivered, including the games.
    They do tend to update more often, maybe they understand community better than a watch maker.

    I am still baffled why Ouya got the backing it did. It was a tablet stuffed into a box to play on your TV. The insides were out of date when they posted the kickstarter, let alone when it started producing, and to suggest it could go up with 'real consoles', or even the Wii U, seems silly.

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