Chris Crawford says his Balance of the Planet initiative is on the cusp of dismal failure because Kickstarter has changed.
Do you know who Chris Crawford is? He was a pretty big dog back in the 80s and early 90s, designing strategy and war games like Patton vs. Rommel, Balance of Power and Balance of the Planet. He effectively retired from the industry in 1992, although he's written several design-related books since then, and in July of this year he decided to hop aboard the Kickstarter train with an updated version of Balance of the Planet, "an educational simulation of environmental-economic issues."
It has not gone well. With four days remaining, a little over $11,000 has been pledged, less than ten percent of the project's $150,000 goal. Crawford is no Tim Schafer, but neither is he an unproven unknown, especially with regards to strategy games like this one. So what went wrong?
"As it turns out, my model was only right for what Kickstarter used to be," Crawford told Gamasutra. "That is, Kickstarter used to be a semi-charitable operation in which people could assist worthy creative projects that might not make it commercially, but still ought to be done. But in the area of games and comics, this is no longer the case."
"What's going on now, which I did not comprehend at the time, is that Kickstarter is a marketing channel [for games], so instead of buying a game after it's made, people just pay for a game before it's made," he continued. "It works in that context, but I had entirely the wrong context in mind, so Balance of the Planet's Kickstarter became a dismal failure."
That may be a valid point, but the truth is that I'd never even heard of Kickstarter prior to Schafer's gambit, which is probably the case for most of you, too. And if we take the Double Fine Adventure as the turning point in Kickstarter hipsterism, then odds are that Crawford's project wouldn't have had a chance even when it was still cool, because it was so underground.
The game itself is also a factor. Crawford takes pains to note that Balance of the Planet is a serious game, and while it will be very educational, won't necessarily be a lot of fun. He also intends to give it away if and when it's complete, meaning that supporters are throwing their money behind it for purely altruistic motives, which is asking a lot from the internet.
Crawford said that if he ever takes another shot at Kickstarter it will only be to raise money to make updated versions of existing games. Funding for new, experimental projects like this one, he added, would be better found elsewhere.