Kickstarter has done a lot of great things for the gaming industry; it provides the space and capability for indie developers to create their dream projects. Thanks to crowdfunding, these Kickstarter games are backed by fans rather than big publishers, thus granting devs more freedom. This arrangement also gives fans the ability to support the games they’re most excited about rather than having to buy the same five AAA franchises.
As the FAQ points out, Kickstarter isn’t a store— backers aren’t paying for a finished product, but rather providing the finances to help a project happen. According to critics, that gray area leaves far too much room for creators to take advantage of backers. Should creators be held to a higher standard by both Kickstarter and the backers that fund them? Are a few poorly run Kickstarters a sign that we should stop crowdfunding games altogether?
Peter Molyneux’s Godus is one of the many reasons people critique crowdfunding. The first controversy involved the fact that an established, successful game developer like Molyneux was using the crowdfunding platform at all. Many critics claimed that, given the money he’d made working for Microsoft, crowdfunding was unnecessary. While there’s some truth to that claim—Kickstarter is generally thought of as a platform for lesser-known devs to fund their work—crowdfunding also gave Molyneux and 22Cans the freedom to pursue their vision without the restrictions that come from traditional publishing, as well as allowing the team to gauge public interest in the idea.
The game easily surpassed its fundraising goal, but, from there, things fell apart. Two years later, and promises have been left unfulfilled, the game is still in early access, and many features are missing. Molyneux has admitted that this is largely due to his overpromising, but critics believe that ‘under-delivering’ is a more apt description. Backers funded the project with the belief that multiplayer and a Linux port would be available though neither are included, and the downsized 22Cans team has backers wondering if it will ever happen at all.
If Peter Molyneux, a superstar in the world of game development, can’t deliver on a Kickstarter game, and only a third of Kickstarter games ever get made at all, what reason is there to continue supporting them?