Steve Ellis says the fact that a game needs funding on Kickstarter should be a red flag to potential backers.

Kickstarter is awesome. Kickstarter gives us the games we really want. Kickstarter lets game makers speak to their audience directly, without having to put up with suit-wearing jerks in boardrooms. Kickstarter will revolutionze the videogame industry!

This is what we’ve been told, and in some ways it’s true. Crowdfunding opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for everyone in the chain, from the indie guys struggling to get their first game out the door to gamers struggling not to gag at the mere mention of monetized sequelization. But the excitement over new, vaguely-formed ideas often leaves important questions unasked, including why these wonderful projects needed to go to Kickstarter in the first place.

“While I’m happy to see some interesting projects raise funding that they wouldn’t have been able to raise through other methods, the fact that they couldn’t raise funding through other methods ought to be a red flag to anyone who contributes,” Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis told NotEnoughShaders. “Essentially, Kickstarter is asking people who don’t understand the risks and challenges of the industry to fund it. I’m sure that there will be some high-profile successes as a result but I expect a fair amount of disappointment too.”

Disappointment over things like, say, what if it sucks? Or what happens if the money runs out and the game isn’t done? There’s a natural tendency to assume that guys like Tim Schafer and Brian Fargo won’t put the screws to their fans, but there’s also no guarantee that things won’t go completely wrong. Yet the idea of “buyer beware” seems lost on a lot of people who back Kickstarter projects.

He also dismissed the idea of resurrecting Free Radical’s most famous IP, TimeSplitters, through a Kickstarter venture. “FPSes are much more expensive to develop than point-and-click adventure games,” he said. “To put this in context, Double Fine Adventure raised about as much money (before fees) as it cost to develop GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64 in 1997. A modern FPS would require several times as much funding, and I don’t think that that is currently achievable using Kickstarter.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Don’t put any more money into a Kickstarter project than you can afford to throw out the window of a moving vehicle. Excitement is fun, but perspective will do you a lot more good in the long run.


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