Too Big to NOT Fail?

My favourite weekly news source is The Economist – a UK based magazine that basically covers most of the world’s significant events in a weekly format. What is amazing about it is that it is free from most of the obvious bias that major US news sources are mired in (Fox, CNN). That also makes it a much more dry read – the articles present facts, their opinion on it, and different paths that can be taken next. It’s clearly and concisely written for the most part and sectioned into World Geography and other typical sections such as Business, Finance and Economics, etc. It’s a thick weekly read (usually about 6 hours of content!) if you go cover to cover. What is also great about it is there is a digital subscription only option (which I use) and I get to download it every week. It has the text and pictures in tact from the magazine, but also tacks on a full audio version for when you are commuting and not listening to podcasts. Either way, I always feel just a bit smarter for understanding a lot more about what is going on in the world outside of our little bubbles here in North America.

Hot on the heels of all discussion of the Godus debacle which is dominating BlogNation these days comes this little ditty from The Economist:

AS STARSHIPS go, it’s cheap. For $180 you can buy a Constellation Taurus, a 59-metre, 80-tonne freighter that is perfect for anyone looking to break into interstellar trading. Or at least it will be. Would-be space truckers who pay up now will have to wait until 2016, when “Star Citizen”, a video game being developed by Cloud Imperium Games (CIG), is ready for lift-off.

It’s a pretty bland piece for the news magazine as it doesn’t look at troubles or pitfalls of crowdfunding and is a pretty soft article. Still, I don’t see them write often about  gaming so it was interesting to see it permeate to a more international news space. I usually expect more from their articles so don’t judge the magazine on that one piece alone.

The reason I am linking the two stories – Godus and Star Citizen – is that I am worried that Star Citizen could be the project that destroys consumer confidence in crowdfunding. If it is it could have disastrous implications to the entire Kickstarter ideology. Look at the expectations of Godus and the resulting fall out and then compare the ambition (and money raised) by Cloud Imperium Games – and those expectations are sure to not be met. With the fever pitch and following of the game – and lack of release schedule being kept up with – it is going to fail in the eyes of many regardless of the product that comes out. Hopefully not because of the product, but that is also a fear of mine. CIG has only proven they can raise money – they haven’t proven they can make a game yet.

I wrote about it before here and comments from Mehlan (who kickstarted and is following the game closely) shows how far behind they are already.

Mehlan October 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Guess ultimately time will tell… Things look pretty, and there seems to be a fair amount of write/re-write.. My hangar has changed, my two ships.. look nicer.. but it’s still trainers, variants still havent been added.
That makes 10 months since the original ‘delay’ announcement… 8 months beyond CR’s guesstimate of a 2 month delay.

Write/rewrite – sounds a lot like EQN, right? When you are crushing your funding goals, how are you already pushing a year late on the basics? My biggest fear is that they are using the money they are raising to raise more money instead of  building a game. And that by the time they really focus on building a game a lot of the funding will be gone into sunk costs. Technically they can walk away without delivering anything or even just deliver a game that is a shadow of the promise and hope the good reputation of the Rock Star Gaming CEO is enough to calm the crowd. Not only is it not – that much is clear – but they don’t really owe the gamer anything anyway as that is the nature of the contract of crowdfunding, right?

All of these fears maybe unfounded and just a bad gut feeling I have and perhaps the game will release in 2016 and meet everyone’s hopes and dreams. I hope it does and I would love for it to exceed expectations.

In my opinion CIG need to set a new funding mark at 80 M with a new and final stretch goal – ‘Release a game’.

9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I think we’re seeing more and more downsides to the KS model lately, it certainly scream legal overhaul to me the way it’s going. I do think your backers deserve transparency at the very least and not being lied to, even if you fail to deliver what you originally promised. You should include that audience in the process rather than deceiving them until they figure out the truth themselves.

    1. We need names. I had a Kickstarter that I put money into and patiently waited on. After several years, the final update ended up being yet another promise that it will be “just a little bit longer”. Of course, the trademark for the product is completely abandoned and that was many, many months ago (and they haven’t logged into Kickstarter sense).

      I take ownership of losing on this one, but it has been handled so poorly that I partially think it was a scam from the get go and not a gross mismanagement. Either way, I can’t even find the names of the actual humans behind it all.

      I think that sort of disclosure should be part of a stronger vetting process on Kickstarter’s part.

      1. Names and pictures is a good start. Give ownership of it. Internet is already easy enough to hide behind anonymity. Like that as a first start =)

    2. I agree with having a realistic development roadmap with milestones and targets being public and ON kickstarter. That way people can see where they are at and at what stage of development. It should be built right in. That would provide a decent level of transparency right off the hop.

  2. If it does fail, hopefully it marks the death of stretch goals as a thing. Because that’s what went wrong here.

    The original scope was entirely doable. Then they got more money, promised more stuff, and a horrible scope creep cycle started. What they’re actually promising now is so absurdly huge and complicated that I’m not sure any company in the industry could deliver it successfully.

    This happens over and over on Kickstarter, to the point that several projects failed because their stretch goals were so expensive that it killed the project. Even successful ones bemoan how much cost and effort was taken away from the original goal to deal with them.

    Hopefully Exploding Kittens’ run away success with a decided lack of stretch goals (only a couple of simple ones that won’t slow down delivery and were added after the project was already successful) starts a new trend.

    If you are fundraising for X, promise to do X. Also promising to do Y, Z, A, B, Q, and R is a great way to ensure that nothing gets done successfully by diverting resources and attention away from X.

    1. Great observation Lordtridus. Underpromise, overdeliver is a good place to start. Even worse is now KS is just a “launch” platform and many companies run their private fundraising outside of their kickstarter time. There is just no recourse when (if) things go bad, besides a lot of angry internet posters.

  3. Interesting, I was just reading Kevin Crawford (of Sine Nomine Publishing, creator of the Stars Without Number tabletop RPG)’s advice on Kickstarting for small scale RPG writer hopefuls. (It’s in his Sandbox #1 pdf, available for free on DrivethruRPG.)

    In it, besides a big exhortation to be aware of the insanity of shipping physical goods, are two relevant things.

    One, to beware of stretch goals that promise additional creation or spinning stuff out of nothing.

    And two, to have at least a basic text of what one is hoping to publish/Kickstart already written or prepped -before- Kickstarting, since it has to be created anyway, and doing it before is likely less stressful than doing it while tens and hundreds of thousands of people are breathing down your shoulder, asking, “Is it done yet?!”

    Basic common sense things for people concerned with being able to preserve their reputation and keep doing further successful Kickstarters.

    Of course, it’s not realistic to expect that of games that may need funding to even get started, but imo, it’s a case of buyer beware, and to evaluate each company’s ability to do what they’re promising, and what they’ve prepared beforehand.

    1. The challenge is that most of these companies are ‘startups’ so all we can evaluate on is the reputation of the people behind it, or the presentation / sell skills of the team. It really is a leap of faith. Personally, I think there should be a maximum limit of a million dollars. Kickstarter would be great for people who can’t get funding (and is often used that way) – guys like CIG can go raise money the old fashioned way – but who would want to do that when the market money will have expectations and standards? Take the free, easy money instead!

      There was a backlash when celebrities started using crowdfunding for projects since they are normally a) wealthy and/or b) connected. I think that same standard could apply to certain designers.

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