5 Ways We're Totally Ruining Kickstarter
Recently, Kickstarter funded a Veronica Mars movie and a sequel to the beloved cult video game Planescape: Torment with record-breaking success. It's become clear that we can directly influence the things that get created for our entertainment -- if there's a cool movie or game or album that we'd like to see, we now have the power to give people money to make those things exist, rather than just wait for some big production company to foot the bill and bitch about the end result on the Internet.
Now the Internet will be forced to bitch at itself.
Unless, of course, we screw it all up. Which seems likely, because ...
We Still Think Kickstarter Is a Store
As much as 75 percent of successful Kickstarter campaigns miss their deadlines, in particular the ones that end up getting way overfunded. This isn't because of scamming or incompetence; it's because extra resources increase the size of a project and make it take more time, which is something that most people simply cannot understand. We feel like Kickstarter is a store (which, by its own admission, it is not), and when we give something money, by God, we had better see some immediate return. When you click the "Pledge" button for Summer School 2, you aren't ordering a copy of that movie from Amazon; you're calling that movie into existence, like a warlock flinging dollar bills into a dragon skull brazier. And it takes time for that particular spell to work.
"I didn't donate $60,000 for a late Good Burger sequel."
When we don't understand this ...
We Turn on Creators in an Instant ...
Funding a project on Kickstarter is a faith-based investment. There's risk involved. Unfortunately, nobody explained that to Neil Singh, who sued a Kickstarter creator into bankruptcy over a $70 pledge for an iPad stand that wound up falling through.
It was a dream too beautiful for this earth.
Singh insists that he "didn't know anything about Kickstarter" when he made the pledge, which means that he typed his credit card number into a random website just because it had a cool picture of an Apple accessory.
... Because the Creators Are Taking Advantage of Us
The Kickstarter Terms of Service are as follows:
"Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer's request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward."
"Or the Project Creator takes all the money and flees to Barbados."
With that in mind, check out game designer Peter Molyneux's Kickstarter for Project GODUS. Molyneux is the man behind the hugely popular Fable trilogy. The most likely reason a prominent developer like him would turn to Kickstarter (aside from the fact that GODUS sounds like something you need to have a doctor burn off of your genitals with liquid nitrogen) is because he's consistently had to apologize for lying about the content of his games -- not discussing features during the development process that were eventually not included for one reason or another, mind you, but flat out telling us that the completed game had things in it that it absolutely didn't have when it was finally released. He has done this with literally every game in the Fable series so far.
"The whole Fable world a complete life cycle, a full daylight cycle, people go off to work, kids go to school." -Peter Molyneux, reciting a list of things that do not occur in Fable.
But Molyneux's name is still enough to get Fable fans excited, and they will rally to fund his Kickstarter game in droves. And he is well aware of this.
PR Firms Are Trying to Monetize It
It's tough to make your Kickstarter stand out, but luckily there's a Kickstarter PR firm to help edit your pitch and get you in contact with "VIP Press worldwide" to make sure your project goes viral and gets noticed.
For a fee. Which, as you may have noticed, ruins the entire point.
Having a PR firm is indie as hell.
People go to Kickstarter because they don't have the money for things like a marketing campaign. If we allow PR firms to come in and dictate which projects are successful, pretty soon nobody will be able to start a Kickstarter campaign without one, and that's a several-hundred-dollar expense at minimum.
We Fund Stupid Things
Two years ago, some people in Detroit set up a Kickstarter to build a statue of RoboCop in Detroit, and it took less than 10 days for the project to reach its goal, because it's a statue of fucking RoboCop. One person even made a $25,000 pledge, presumably because he thought he was paying for the creation of an actual cybernetic police officer. All told, the Internet boldly gathered together to spend nearly $70,000 on a functionless statue of a 1980s cult film character during one of the worst recessions in American history. This isn't a piece of art, an awesome new technology, or even a cool new game -- it's a giant block of irony, and 90 percent of the people who paid for it will never even go to Detroit to see it.
And 100 percent of the people who paid for it were laughing when they donated.
Kickstarter has the potential to be a tool for funding some of the most original, fun, and exciting things we've seen in a long time by cutting out the corporate middlemen too obsessed with focus groups, advertisers, and bottom lines to try anything different. So let's not totally ruin it, OK?
J.F. Sargent is a Workshop moderator for Cracked and you can find him on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.