Daily Archives: March 11, 2013

Kickstarter as Just Another Marketing Tool

I think we all sort of get the idea of Kickstarter.  It is a way to fund a creative project via “crowd funding,” an off-shoot term of “crowd sourcing.”

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More specifically, Kickstarter is viewed as a way to fund such projects that are unlikely to be able to find funding through more traditional means or which are too small to attract institutional investors.  At this point, the most “funded” Kickstarter project, the Pebble watch, raked in just over $10 million.  That is a lot of money, but it is the outlier as far as projects go.  Most projects fall under the $10,000 mark.

Or at least they did up to this point.  Now Kickstarter seems to be getting cachet as a “place to be” for funding.

And so we have Shroud of the Avatar. Lord British is asking for a million dollars to help fund his return to his RPG roots.  That seems like a lot to you and I.  But when you are paying salaries and such, you can run through a million dollars pretty quickly.

It is likely that Mr. Garriott de Cayeux has invested his own money into the project.  But even if Lord B is merely adhering to the start up code of Silicon Valley (never use your own money… and I bet Curt Schilling wished somebody had mentioned that one to him earlier) he could get a million dollars invested via other means (and still keep full control) based on his name alone.  But a million dollars isn’t going to make this project.  The Kickstarter page says that there is already a good deal of money invested in the game.

The telling piece is the response to the “Why Kickstarter?” question at the bottom of the page.

Kickstarter has really changed the landscape for game developers. It allows us to connect directly with you, the players, and it keeps us from being so dependent on the traditional publishing model. It gives us a direct feedback loop with people who like our game and have decided to back it. We can hear what you like and don’t like and can make additions and changes based on that feedback, before the game is launched. Kickstarter has opened up a new era of game development that really benefits gamers.

While there is something to be said for not being dependent of the traditional publishing model, I get the feeling that funding and independence isn’t the key here.  Rather, it feels like Kickstarter being using as a marketing campaign that pays for itself.  It identifies people who not only have interest in the game, but those who are willing to put up money in advance and lets them pay for the privileged of  testing and giving feedback.  For just $400 they will give you access to a special developer forum!

And, of course, it also lets the team get a sense of how many really interested fans they have out there waiting for the project.  It is a very effective trial balloon.

So it all works very well for Lord British, giving him a pile of things he wants besides money.  And, of course, there is the money.  He is past the two thirds mark for his million dollars at this point, so he’ll get some cash, as will Kickstarter, which gets 5% off the top.

And Lord British is hardly alone.  He just happens to be the Kickstarter of the moment and can hardly be blamed for making effective use of such a popular tool whether or not his project really “needs” the money.

I just wonder what this increasing wave of popularity for Kickstarter as a funding platform.

Does using Kickstarter for publicity purposes defeat or diminish Kickstarter?  Do projects like this help other games that might really need the funding by drawing more attention to Kickstarter, or are they just taking dollars away from such projects?  What becomes of the small projects now?

(Of course, Wall Street is unhappy with this whole crowd funding thing on general “where’s my cut?” principles.)