"Big Names" Aren't Drying Up the Kickstarter Pool

"Big Names" Aren't Drying Up the Kickstarter Pool

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Cindy Au of Kickstarter says the belief that big-name game makers are swooping in and muscling indies out of the crowdfunding scene is simply incorrect.

It was just over a year ago that the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter wrapped up, drawing in a little shy of $3 million and turning the business of indie game development funding upside-down. A lot of amazing projects have been funded since then, from a new Torment to a whole new console, but there have been some expressions of concern that the seemingly inexhaustible enthusiasm for crowdfunding will inevitably attract the wrong crowd - that is, big-time developers and publishers who don't necessarily need the money but decide to make a grab for it anyway.

Case in point: Richard Garriott, he of the space tourism and the magic castle, who is in the midst of Kickstarting - successfully, I might add - his new MMO Shroud of the Avatar. Why does Lord British need your lunch money for the week? I have no idea, but nearly 16,000 people have given it to him and there's still more than two weeks to go before his Kickstarter ends. And in the eyes of some, that money being given to Garriott is money that isn't going to someone else who might actually need it.

Kickstarter Community Chief Cindy Au disagrees with that assessment, however. "I get frustrated when people say that these big names using Kickstarter are sucking up all the money in the room and that there's none left for anyone else. I think that's a great fallacy, it's just not true," she told Joystiq, "Projects are very much community driven. Your community is coming to fund you. Just because they funded someone else at another time doesn't mean they are going to deny you. This isn't a single pool of money that once someone has taken it that it's all gone."

I would not think to argue with someone who actually knows what she's talking about, but individual "money pools" are finite: money I give to Lord B. is money I don't have to give to someone else. On the other hand, it's my money to give, and I should be able to throw it around as I see fit. The trick for anyone launching a project on Kickstarter, Au said, is to build up a community first and then launch the funding process; the more that potential backers have to see, the more likely they are to throw their support behind a project.

Source: Joystiq

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What's this? You mean the people who supported a Veronica Mars movie wouldn't have supported Taily otherwise?

It's kinda silly for someone with tons of dollars crowdfunding a game, but I doubt it's a 1:1 thing. It's true money someone spent on Shroud of the Avatar is money they could of spent on some other project. It's also money someone could have spent on extra Doritos or cocaine some not illegal items.

I don't think that many people specifically set aside money just for Kickstarter or similar things.

Big names aren't drying up Kickstarter
Inundation is drying up Kickstarter

It would be good to see data about this, especially being someone from Kickstarter itself. But it's totally believable, and it's possible that big-name KS projects have the inverse effect: people who would never look at KS goes there because their favorite dev is launching a campaign, and then decide to look for other interesting and worthy projects to back.

tautologico:
It would be good to see data about this, especially being someone from Kickstarter itself. But it's totally believable, and it's possible that big-name KS projects have the inverse effect: people who would never look at KS goes there because their favorite dev is launching a campaign, and then decide to look for other interesting and worthy projects to back.

Here it is:

http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/blockbuster-effects

Though we probably didn't even need exact statistics for that, it's just a good example in general: Double Fine got almost as much donations as the whole gaming section through 2011. Does it mean that it instantly dried up the finite backer money for the rest of 2012 on it's own? No, quite the opposite in fact.

Dollars Pledged to Games:

2009: $60,601
2010: $546,362
2011: $3,855,692
2012: $83,144,565

I don't doubt for a minute that it has no effect on indie titles, however I fundamentally object to giving free money to people who are multi millionaires. If you can afford to spend $23 million dollars on holiday for yourself why are you wanting people to give you $1 million. If you don't want to have sign a publishing deal don't spend your money on rocket trips.

The reason it is not yet impacting smaller proejcts is because, as Entitled pointed out, the field is growing still. Eventually it will however hit a ceiling, and that's when the competition will get fierce. At that point, big names and people who have resources to pour into a successful Kickstarter marketing campaign will take the cake and leave everyone else in the dust.

The better known and wider used Kickstarted gets, the closer we'll get to that ceiling. I doubt 2013 will see the 2150% increase of last year.

Monsterfurby:
The reason it is not yet impacting smaller proejcts is because, as Entitled pointed out, the field is growing still. Eventually it will however hit a ceiling, and that's when the competition will get fierce. At that point, big names and people who have resources to pour into a successful Kickstarter marketing campaign will take the cake and leave everyone else in the dust.

Nonsense.

If you actually clicked on the link, the statistics showed not just that the field is growing, but that even while it is growing, the newcomers are actively leaking away from the bigger projects to smaller ones. What indicates that this direction might change?

Let's look at a simplified example. Let's say that 1000 units of money are paid in one month, and they are divided like this:
1000=500+300+100+20+20+20+20+10+10

Now let's say that next month there is one new big hit bringing in new people, and the traffic triples. Now that money will be distributed like this:
3000=1200+800+400+200+100+100+50+50+20+20+20+10+10+10+10

If you would be right, and there would be anything indicating that bigger projects have an ability to draw away people from the smaller ones, then even now with the general growth, the second month's distribution would look something like this:

3000=2500+300+200

In other words, we should be seeing small projects becoming unfundably unpopular, and mid-sized projects getting less money, as only the biggest ones grow disproportionally large.

If people would have a natural tendency to migrate from small projects to big ones, they would have already started doing that, even if the quick growth would somehow obscure it for the moment.

But this is not the case. Quite the opposite! Apparently, even beyond the general growth's effect, people have a natural tendency to start wandering away from the biggest project that they came for, and start investing in smaller, unrelated ones.

As seen in the statistics, gamers who came for Double Fine, eventually ended up increasing the profit of smaller Comic Book, Technology, but even Food, and Dance projects.

It's likely that their increasing numbers will soon slow down, but there is nothing to suggest that they will entirely reverse their behavior, and start abandoning small projects for the sake of big ones.

Normally I would just jump right into this Kickstarter craze and kickstart everything I felt held promise, but I want to see a 'return' on my 'investment' with Wasteland 2 first.

I realise that Wasteland 2 is not directly linked to other projects on Kickstarter (apart from Torment) but I want to see if the model can actually work when handling AAA-type games.

Maybe it is true that on the same day money you give to one fund is the max you would give to any on that day. But what about the next day or three days from then? Those of us who have jobs, who believe in kickstarter projects, are prepared to fund simply - however many projects we believe in. Because it's a doable sum each time.

Monsterfurby:
The reason it is not yet impacting smaller proejcts is because, as Entitled pointed out, the field is growing still. Eventually it will however hit a ceiling, and that's when the competition will get fierce. At that point, big names and people who have resources to pour into a successful Kickstarter marketing campaign will take the cake and leave everyone else in the dust.

The better known and wider used Kickstarted gets, the closer we'll get to that ceiling. I doubt 2013 will see the 2150% increase of last year.

The thing is though kickstarter projects are not really all that interchangeable. Sure there is a small minority who would still have spent that money on kickstarter if X big project had not come along but they are very few and dont have much effect. Its the games themselves that get people to donate to them not the general idea of kickstarter.

You are not trying to attract the kickstarter community when you launch a game but rather the community that would be interested in your game.

Big names at this point are helping kikstarter. Admit it none of us would've heard of it if werent for big name double fine. Now a ton of Veronica Mars fans have found Kickstarter.

Huh...

Is anyone else imagining what the response would be if Bioware kickstarted Jade Empire 2?

VoidWanderer:
Huh...

Is anyone else imagining what the response would be if Bioware kickstarted Jade Empire 2?

I think it would be impossible as I am certain EA would have grounds to sue Bioware.

The PUBLIC response would probably be positive if they mentioned in their Kickstarter how they want to make games like they used to without corporate oversight. You know, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, or as you mentioned, Jade Empire.

I would emphasise "yet."

As larger groups come in, you're going to see a rise in cynicism regarding Kickstarter. Granted, people should have been more cynical in the first place, but not on the level I'm talking.

Little Gray:

The thing is though kickstarter projects are not really all that interchangeable. Sure there is a small minority who would still have spent that money on kickstarter if X big project had not come along but they are very few and dont have much effect. Its the games themselves that get people to donate to them not the general idea of kickstarter.

You are not trying to attract the kickstarter community when you launch a game but rather the community that would be interested in your game.

I think what's missing here is some solid (independent) research in use-cases for Kickstarter. What I mean by that is:

- Do people "shop" Kickstarter (i.e. browse it searching for projects to support) or are they more likely to come there for just one project, support it and leave?
- If the former, by what criteria do people choose which project to support?
- If the latter, how flexible are people's wallets? Do people support project on a "first-come, first served" basis?

It's reasonable to assume that either one may be a large part of the user base, and in both cases different factors (marketing versus timing, respectively) influence people's behavior differently. What both cases do have in common though is that there IS a limiting factor - something that keeps people from supporting EVERY project they might be interested in. And that limiting factor is one of these three:

- time
- cash
- awareness

Simply put: not everyone will be able to support every project they are interested in. In an emotion-driven medium like Kickstarter, it would also be interesting to know if people generally act objectively enough to spread their contributions thin if more projects interest them or if they still support some more than others.

So, yeah, if anyone needs a topic for their next dissertation... go for it.

Zachary Amaranth:
I would emphasise "yet."

As larger groups come in, you're going to see a rise in cynicism regarding Kickstarter. Granted, people should have been more cynical in the first place, but not on the level I'm talking.

I wouldn't be so sure about that. I feel significantly more cynical about random artist with a handycam asking for $10.000 and promising the sky, than about proven developer team asking for $2.000.000 with the chance of fraud being practically nill, the chance of bankrupcy unlikely, and the chance of bad quality end result no worse than with prorders.

I would guess that it will be as it was with online shopping, or paper money, or bank cards.
When these were invented, first everyone asked reasonable-sounding questions about "how do I know that my money is really represented here?" "how do I know that I will receive something if I send my money here?"
But as big corporations started to use it in an institutional fashion, everyone just got used to them functioning as promised, based on trust.

Sure, people are starting to sound somewhat cynical in realizing that KS won't bring infinite innovation, perfection, and the end of capitalism, but that's not the same as outright mistrust in whether you are being scammed right now.

VoidWanderer:
Huh...

Is anyone else imagining what the response would be if Bioware kickstarted Jade Empire 2?

Given that among the kind of devoted fans on whom a KS project is relying, it is already common knowledge that Bioware's creative leadership is already left, and it's pretty much just a brand inside EA, and that ME 3 and DA 2 were both hated, I presume that the response would be the chirping of crickets.

On the KS page. On forums, it would be the kind of rage, hatred, and mockery, last seen when EA tried to release an "indie bundle".

"money pools" are finite: money I give to Lord B. is money I don't have to give to someone else

True, but that doesn't mean that when I give money to X I would give money to Y. More likely I'd keep it, or buy ice cream with it.

This reminds me of the piracy discussion.

Monsterfurby:

Simply put: not everyone will be able to support every project they are interested in. In an emotion-driven medium like Kickstarter, it would also be interesting to know if people generally act objectively enough to spread their contributions thin if more projects interest them or if they still support some more than others.

So, yeah, if anyone needs a topic for their next dissertation... go for it.

But that's not what this article is about!

There is a finite amount of money in the world, and some things get more of it than others. That's not even a question.

The problem is when people claim that big Kickstarter projects get disproportionally more than the small ones, that they are "drying up" the market for the others.

If this would be the case, we wouldn't need individual use-cases to understand how this happens, we would already see that every time there is a big project, small projects get poorer. And growth has nothing to do with this, since growth could also be concentrated around a few big projects, but evidently it isn't.

Sgt. Sykes:

"money pools" are finite: money I give to Lord B. is money I don't have to give to someone else

True, but that doesn't mean that when I give money to X I would give money to Y. More likely I'd keep it, or buy ice cream with it.

This reminds me of the piracy discussion.

That's a good comparison.

Piracy discussions have same problem as this one, that people are getting so obsessed with little microeconomics models, and analogies, and anecdotal evidence, and making up hypothetical universes where piracy doesn't exist, that we forget to look at actual real life: Did the entertainment industry significantly decrease since the invention of the Internet? No? It grew spectacularly? Then piracy doesn't "harm" the industry in any meaningful sense.

Just because you can imagine a counterfactual universe where artists have all the positive resources of internet freedoms but not piracy (which was always interconnected with them), or Kickstarters that are as big as this one but didn't ever have big games (that made it that big, in our world), doesn't mean that these universes are in any way relevant to reality.

I agree with Entitled's assessment.

Sure an individual's money is finite, who could argue? That being the case what's the best way to get more money? Find more people.

Maybe big projects do force a few choices to be made, but they also pull in crowds. How many people came to Kickstarter because a big project pulled them in? I've thrown cash at all kinds of mini-projects since I joined recently (to fund Elite), I don't imagine I'm unusual.

Come for the big stuff, stay for the esoteric!

On a tangent, I'm kind of reassured that some projects I assumed would be small get lots of cash. Jeremy Soule's symphony* for example and "Sir, You Are Being Hunted" or "Limit theory" etc.

*Gamers like art, who knew right? ;)

That's good to know. I'd wait a touch before assuming the title is true though - wait to see what happens when more big studios try a Kickstarter, like they did with Veronica Mars or whatever.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

RIP Vault 101
She was a great gal.

Entitled:

I wouldn't be so sure about that. I feel significantly more cynical about random artist with a handycam asking for $10.000 and promising the sky, than about proven developer team asking for $2.000.000 with the chance of fraud being practically nill, the chance of bankrupcy unlikely, and the chance of bad quality end result no worse than with prorders.

And if you were in any way the average Kickstarter investor, I'd imagine that significant.

Entitled:

But that's not what this article is about!

There is a finite amount of money in the world, and some things get more of it than others. That's not even a question.

The problem is when people claim that big Kickstarter projects get disproportionally more than the small ones, that they are "drying up" the market for the others.

If this would be the case, we wouldn't need individual use-cases to understand how this happens, we would already see that every time there is a big project, small projects get poorer. And growth has nothing to do with this, since growth could also be concentrated around a few big projects, but evidently it isn't.

How exactly is that different from what I wrote?

The basic idea is that big-name projects draw partially upon people who are not yet part of the "pool". That's the growth factor. Due to this, small projects don't "get poorer" - the shift within Kickstarter is cancelled out by the increased awareness of the medium itself.

However, there is a point of saturation, and some methodical questions in the entire thesis. Some people will fund one project they like and then leave. They are unaffected by the popularity of projects within Kickstarter, only by mainstream appeal. Are they part of "the pool"? As for saturation, what happens when big-name projects are unable to popularize Kickstarter any further? That won't be any time soon, sure, but that is the point where small projects WILL 'get poorer' because they cannot compete with powerful brands and highly financed Kickstarter marketing campaigns (a good Kickstarter campaign does not come cheap).

Kinda wish you'd stop calling Shroud of the Avatar an MMO as it has been firmly stated that the game has a full offline 1 player mode. That's like calling Diablo 3 an MMO just because it has a multi player option.

Monsterfurby:

How exactly is that different from what I wrote?

The basic idea is that big-name projects draw partially upon people who are not yet part of the "pool". That's the growth factor. Due to this, small projects don't "get poorer" - the shift within Kickstarter is cancelled out by the increased awareness of the medium itself.

Because you are getting it completely backwards. There is no sign of any "shift within Kickstarter" that is cancelled out by growth, to begin with. If there would be a shift, there is no reason why the growth would cancel it out, as opposed to encouraging it.

Monsterfurby:

However, there is a point of saturation, and some methodical questions in the entire thesis. Some people will fund one project they like and then leave. They are unaffected by the popularity of projects within Kickstarter, only by mainstream appeal. Are they part of "the pool"? As for saturation, what happens when big-name projects are unable to popularize Kickstarter any further? That won't be any time soon, sure, but that is the point where small projects WILL 'get poorer' because they cannot compete with powerful brands and highly financed Kickstarter marketing campaigns (a good Kickstarter campaign does not come cheap).

If big projects would have any ability to drive people away from small projects towards powerful brands, we wouldn't have to wait for that until the growth stops, because even now, both newcomers and smaller project followers alike would flock towards the biggest projects. Just because a market is growing, doesn't mean that it's number of competitors must be increasing.

There are a few types of markets in the economy, where only a handful of the strongest brands can support themselves, so they inevitably form oligopolies. E.g.: airlines, game console manufacturers, wireless providers, etc. In those cases, [/i]you don't actually have to wait for the market to stop growing[/i], because even in earlier stages, you can see that the biggest competitors quickly kill all smaller competitors, and upcoming newer ones can't get anywhere either, as all market growth goes directly to the biggest corporations.

There is nothing to indicate that entertainment software is one of these markets. Sure, big projects get more money than small ones. But there is no spiraling trend that leads more and more people away from small projects, so there is no reason why after the growth stops, small projects would start getting a smaller portion of all fundings than they do now.

Entitled:

Because you are getting it completely backwards. There is no sign of any "shift within Kickstarter" that is cancelled out by growth, to begin with. If there would be a shift, there is no reason why the growth would cancel it out, as opposed to encouraging it.

There is no sign of it because there is no data, which is what I stated in my first post.

All we have are numbers presented by Kickstarter themselves. We really lack the data to argue that things "are" one way or another.

tautologico:
It would be good to see data about this, especially being someone from Kickstarter itself. But it's totally believable, and it's possible that big-name KS projects have the inverse effect: people who would never look at KS goes there because their favorite dev is launching a campaign, and then decide to look for other interesting and worthy projects to back.

This is what I have done.

I had never heard of kickstarter before, and just shrugged off the double fine stuff, but when Wasteland launched I started poking around the site, and now...I have spent a couple of thousand throwing money at games and projects there ~,~

DVS BSTrD:
Big names aren't drying up Kickstarter
Inundation is drying up Kickstarter

**looks at the four projects I'm currently supporting**

**notes that the new Torment is currently approaching 3 million and not slowing down**

**notes that another favorite project is about to hit double its original funding goal**

....

Um? Why do people think Kickstarter is drying up? Looks pretty... wet? ...to me. fluid?

I think my metaphor just broke.

Bara_no_Hime:

DVS BSTrD:
Big names aren't drying up Kickstarter
Inundation is drying up Kickstarter

**looks at the four projects I'm currently supporting**

**notes that the new Torment is currently approaching 3 million and not slowing down**

**notes that another favorite project is about to hit double its original funding goal**

....

I should have said: Kickstarter Pool. As in the people who pay to support them will be tapped out. It's not so prevalent now, but I remember during the spring of '12 it seemed like there was a new Kickstarter campaign every other day 0_o. And now that's been demonstrated that Kickstarter can be used as a risk free alternative to investing their own capital (see Veronica Mars) I'm a little worried we could also be looking at projects with higher and higher goals that can't be reached.

But it's still mostly hypothetical at this point. Glad your projects are doing well :)

Um? Why do people think Kickstarter is drying up? Looks pretty... wet? ...to me. fluid?

I think my metaphor just broke.

Your water broke?
How can you be pregnant again so soon? :P

Monsterfurby:

There is no sign of it because there is no data, which is what I stated in my first post.

All we have are numbers presented by Kickstarter themselves. We really lack the data to argue that things "are" one way or another.

If you make up a theory about how in the future, people's behavior will change, the burden of proof is you, you can't just say "well, you can't really argue that I'm wrong".

Let's look at a specific game example:

Just two weeks ago, "Dreamfall Chapters" closed with $1.5m from 22k people.
Meanwhile, "Enemy" closed with $18k from 1k people.

If you want to make a claim, that in the future, a game with Dreamfall's financial support and brand image would suck away more money from a game similar to "Enemy's" financial support and brand image than it does now, then you need to explain how that would happen.

So far, your only explanation for these, was that it is only "because of the growth" that games like Enemy could get funded until now.

You say, that eventually small projects will lose, because "a good Kickstarter campaign does not come cheap". But a good Kickstarter campaign didn't not come cheap until now either! You provide no explanation for why right now backers are willing to spend money small projects along with big ones, but as soon as their numbers stop increasing, they will suddenly stop that, and only focus on big projects.

Even if Kickstarter's growth would stop right now, there would still be 23k people there willing to support "Dreamfall", and "Enemy" combined. So why would they get divided differently than they were now?

Just because until now, the website's size was increasing, those two games were also competing for attention anyways.

If you want to claim that this will change, and the competition will get more fierce, you need to give a justification for that.

DVS BSTrD:
I should have said: Kickstarter Pool. As in the people who pay to support them will be tapped out. It's not so prevalent now, but I remember during the spring of '12 it seemed like there was a new Kickstarter campaign every other day 0_o. And now that's been demonstrated that Kickstarter can be used as a risk free alternative to investing their own capital (see Veronica Mars) I'm a little worried we could also be looking at projects with higher and higher goals that can't be reached.

Actually, one of the projects (currently approaching the double funding mark) is a retry of a KS that failed twice before. They were holding the most wanted item back as a stretch goal and had a overly optimistic base funding about, so they kept coming up short.

So, learning from previous mistakes, they reduced their starting goal from 45k to 10k, pushed everything they were offering up front into stretch goals, and put that most wanted item (a Kracken miniature) up front as the first (and originally only) item available.

And it worked. So, while you might be correct about companies asking for larger and larger KS, I think KS campaigns that don't deliver what the people want will fail - and those companies will have to adjust and retry based on what their customers want if they mean to get off the ground. And isn't that exactly how these things are supposed to work?

That said, I do share your fear about companies that don't actually need the money using it as a loyalty test.

Entitled:

If you want to claim that this will change, and the competition will get more fierce, you need to give a justification for that.

I did not claim that at any point. I have repeatedly stated that "this would be interesting to look at". Everything I have written is based on possibility. There's no need for me to substantiate anything because my POINT is that we don't know enough to argue either side. Figures produced by Kickstarter themselves are NOT sufficient.

Monsterfurby:

Entitled:

If you want to claim that this will change, and the competition will get more fierce, you need to give a justification for that.

I did not claim that at any point.

Yes, you did.

Monsterfurby:
The field is growing still. Eventually it will however hit a ceiling, and that's when the competition will get fierce. At that point, big names and people who have resources to pour into a successful Kickstarter marketing campaign will take the cake and leave everyone else in the dust.

Monsterfurby:
As for saturation, what happens when big-name projects are unable to popularize Kickstarter any further? That won't be any time soon, sure, but that is the point where small projects WILL 'get poorer' because they cannot compete with powerful brands and highly financed Kickstarter marketing campaigns.

Even if you would have consistently noted that this is just one possibility, that wouldn't have helped much. Sure, it's "possible" that this will happen, but it's entirely counterfactual based on the behaviors that we have observed so far.

It's also "possible" that as soon as the growth stops, all backers will suddenly abandon Kickstarter. Or that as it stops, they will sell all their possessions to fund more projects than before. Or that they will all start uniformly backing projects that cost $12.936.

These are all "possible" theories, they are just not worthy of any more recognition than yours, since neither of them provides a logical justification.

This is not a matter of "data". We have enough data to know that right now, small projects are growing and multiplying proportionally to big ones. There is no data that could justify your theory, because already know what numbers are happening right now, you are basically making an arbitary speculation about how people will suddenly change their behavior in the future.

Entitled:

These are all "possible" theories, they are just not worthy of any more recognition than yours, since neither of them provides a logical justification.

Yup, exactly. Hence it's speculation.

Look, this is not getting us anywhere, so let's just leave it at that.

 

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