Most Kickstarter Games Are, Surprise, Missing Their Release Date

Most Kickstarter Games Are, Surprise, Missing Their Release Date

While some high-profile success stories are giving people hope, let's not pretend that everything is OK with every game funded on Kickstarter. Because it's not.

UnSub has for a few years now been tracking the progress of successful Kickstarter video game campaigns (only those that actually hit their funding target).

This latest version of the study looks at every Kickstarter video game that had promised to be out by January 2014, and sees whether it made its target date or not.

Most Kickstarter Games Are, Surprise, Missing Their Release Date

While the number of successfully-funded games is increasing - from 5 in 2009 to 207 in 2012 - the percentage of those games actually finding their way into people's hands on time and in their full and promised state is going in the opposite direction.

According to UnSub's data, in 2009, 40% of campaigns delivered fully on their promise. By 2012, that number had fallen to a tragic 16%.

Smoothing the figures out over the space of four years, "the data indicates that only around 1 in 3 have fully delivered their promised title to their backers".

Things get a little better when you allow for partial delivery - games that have delivered a first episode, an early alpha build, etc - but not by much. UnSub says that when this concession is taken into account "then about 1 out of 2 projects have delivered something video game-ish for their support. Which leaves the other half of projects with backers that are still waiting."

Most Kickstarter Games Are, Surprise, Missing Their Release Date

That's insane. When Kickstarter first blew up a few years back, it was seen as a means for people to get games made outside the traditional publisher system. It was a way to let anyone make a game, so long as their idea was a popular one.

The reality, as these figures show, is a little more sobering. While high-profile games continue to be released, and are turning out pretty great, those are often from veteran developers with established studios and experience in making video games.

The other side of the Kickstarter equation - inexperienced gamers with big ideas - are obviously finding that making a video game is a lot harder than they thought when they first put together a budget, posted some concept art and asked for your money.

UnSub's research doesn't accuse people of taking money and running, or of projects vanishing into vapourware. If anything, it's just showing that when people who have never made a video game before start promising release dates, you might want to take them with a grain of salt. Maybe get ready to wait years, not months.

You can read the full report below, and if you're up to it, you can comb through the data here.

Kickstander: Only Around A Third of Kickstarted Video Game Projects Fully Deliver To Their Backers [evilasahobby]


    And missed ship dates are different to the Triple-A studios how?

    Most major titles these days seem to miss their ship dates, many don't ship at all.

    These rates of completion on time are higher than I expected.

    Last edited 28/01/14 10:03 am

      This was actually my first thought when I read the headline. Remove Kickstarter and is it accurate to say "Most Games Are, Surprise, Missing Their Release Date"? Kickstarter may be worse, may be better, I don't know, but this is what I'd like to see info on.

      And missed ship dates are different to the Triple-A studios how?

      Kickstarter funds are finite. Triple-A studios will have contingency plans for delays in development. They can cover extra losses in the short-term if they're confident they'll make it up in the long-term. See Rockstar delaying GTA V by 6 months. If you're a small developer who's raised $100,000 and that's your budget, if you miss deadlines you don't have any extra money to continue developing without going back to crowdsourcing or finding someone willing to fund your game (basically a publisher which defeats the whole purpose of crowdsourcing).

      Many small-time developers think that they can easily budget themselves. 'Oh, we need to spend an extra thousand dollars for licensing some software? No problem, we got loads in the bank'. I have a feeling stuff like that happens a fair bit and people realise too late that they've blown their budget

        Kickstarter funds are finite. Triple-A studios will have contingency plans for delays in development.
        Good point.

        " Triple-A studios will have contingency plans for delays in development. "

        "Push it out the door and patch it later" seems to be common plan nowadays, unfortunately.

      I wouldn't say 'most' major titles. I'd say maybe just the ones you care about, so it feels like most?

      Did some quick research on the top 20 titles on metacritic (first list to hand) looking for any mention of delays or outdated release dates, and pretty much all of them seem to have hit their release dates. (Caveat - doesn't address your point of 'didn't ship at all' because obviously you can't review a canned game.)

      I haven't gone back and compiled a list of ALL the major games in the last year, but that list seems to indicate a trend - a trend which leaves me under the impression that at least more than 50% of AAA games actually make their ship date, AND ship complete (bugs notwithstanding - we're talking about the difference between buggy and going with Steam Early Access or deciding at the 11th hour to go episodic and only releasing ep1). Enough that it's news when a major one actually gets their date pushed back.

      Probably because publishers have more invested in hitting specific marketing/distribution windows globally - especially retail. Kickstarter-backed games are usually digitally-delivered without a brick-and-mortar distribution presence, or if they do, not until well after release.

      I suspect a commenter working at EB would have a better idea of which titles they've received updates about the release date getting pushed back on. But in my experience of pre-ordering, you're more likely to get told it's released early, rather than late.

      The difference is that if I pre-order a Triple-A studio game, and they don't ship, I get my money back. Tripple-A games that don't ship generally don't even give you a chance to drop cash. However, when a Kickstarter game doesn't ship, the people who gave it money don't get a refund, because the money has been spent

    pretty sure i've only gotten 1 of the many kickstarter games i've backed so far :\

      Kickstarter is still relatively young in regards to games being created.

      I had quite a large backlog of kickstarter projects I'd yet to receive my thank-you from. Different types of project have different time-frames to completion.

      Game wise, the only one I've seen through is Broken Age, and that was made by an actual experienced studio.

      Ultimately, it's really hard to try and quantify how long development will take, as well as then work out how much it will cost to make [and, actually feed yourself and your staff] during this time.

      I've just made myself have the attitude with kickstarter of "Wow, it would be really nice to see this thing exist in the future. Here's some money to hopefully make that happen".
      I've seen some backing communities descend into some pretty vile displays with delayed projects [pebble watch.... my goodness]. But it usually works out eventually with some patience :p

    Project planning and timing is difficult.

      That and I'm not sure how many home-based developer groups even have those skills - not including a two-week workshop for a cert4 or something. Business types and creatives... like oil and water.

      One of the benefits of the traditional publisher model is being able to increase your budget as well, without having to slink back to kickstarter, hat-in-hand, or putting up an early-access build and hoping the alpha revenue will get you over the finish line.

      It's a shame that this safety net goes hand-in-hand with creative interference and mandating focus-group-driven design, to hedge bets on the popularity of the product.
      (Oil and water, I tellya.)

    I think the problem is, like you said, inexperienced developers thinking of going it alone and not through a publisher route set themselves unrealistic timeframes and funding requirements for what the want to do. A week delay on a game can cost a few grand extra and when your kickstarter budget may be in the tens/hundreds of thousands that can quickly eat away at your funds.

    Yeah I've been waiting like over a year for a kickstarter I pledged to. It was meant to come out last year in March, now they say it'll be release in February.... Yeah doubt it.

    Fingers crossed for Mighty No.9 .

    You've got to pick what you back carefully and be prepared to wait as long as it takes. I actually like that side of things - the anticipation - like having something in the oven. Here is the list of games I've backed personally:

    Maia, War for the Overworld, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Planet Explorers, Divinity: Original Sin, Dwarfcorp, Balrum, The Long Dark.

    50% have playable builds released (most on steam) with another looking very playable but not yet public (Balrum). Another (Torment) is from a large studio with a great deal of cherry-picked talent behind it. Which leaves two punts - Dwarfcorp and The Long Dark - I must have been feeling generous on the days those two closed - and do not eagerly await their updates like I do the other games I have backed.

    My Motto/TLDR: Don't back anything without a solid playable build or serious muscle behind it.

    Last edited 28/01/14 11:34 am

      I think the whole 'regular updates' part is one of the downsides of Kickstarted games. At least with AAA games, they work on it for a couple years quietly before hitting the hype cycle six months before release. Hell, even then I think that's too much hype, too much revealed and even getting tired of the game before we lay a finger on it.

      There was SO MUCH hype and so many updates over so many years for games like Broken Age, and then what we get is a couple hours bite-sized gameplay. For all the expectations and money and pedigree, yes... it was pretty good. Satisfying, mildly humorous, cute. But over so fast. It'd be like hyping yourself up for the entrees you're going to have at this fancy restaurant next month, talking about it the entire time and looking up what others had to say about it and just generally geeking out with your friends about how awesome that particular entree is... then you eat it in five minutes and it's done. (Broken Age for this, and to a lesser extent, Banner Saga. Shadowrun is probably the most mileage I've got out of the kickstarted games

      Or it's not finished and you play it to the limit of your enjoyment before it's even feature-complete, getting tired of repeating things over and over for each build or playing it with enthusiasm til you hit show-stopping bugs. (Planetary Annihilation, Wasteland 2, Kenshi.)

      In future if I'm going to back something, I'm going to try very hard to forget it even exists until I get my Steam key in the mail, so it's a pleasant surprise.

    Fire this stupid little monkey already. He's the video game equivalent of today tonight.

    Soo... judging from the chart only 1 in 3 games arrive on time?

    As someone has said that is different AAA development because? And honestly that chart can be misleading since it doesn't differentiate from how late a project can be. 1 month late is still technically a tolerable delay for most projects. And there is a difference between that and projects that get delayed 6months to 1 years and 1 year+.

    If anything the only really useful data there is the hiatus/cancellation %. Which is good to see that things have definitely improved since 2010.

    Kickstarter delays up to three months for any type of project, I consider "on time" delivery. Anything up to six months is ok as long as there is regular updates, yep go nuts. Longer than that I would like at least once per month updates, and it sucks, but I'll get over it.

    Personally, I have a feeling that most of the time it's either a case of people not realising more money does not equal the ability to cram more features in within the same time frame (ie. Unrealistic stretch goals) or just getting hit by that thing we call reality. As someone in the software industry, I can attest to estimation being incredibly hard, especially for things where you only have a handful of people working in a small studio, maybe for the first time. People (ie. Backers) just need to realise that software development is a completely different game to most of the other things you find on Kickstarter and you are going to have to expect delays.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now