Friday, 25 March 2016

Thoughts on Thursday: 24th March 2016.

[So sorry guys! Thought I'd clicked Publish on this yesterday but instead had saved it as a draft, oops!]

For today's Thoughts on Thursday, I thought I'd discuss Kickstarters (and crowdfunding in general) a little, and our involvement/participation in them in the past, especially as I know that a lot of people are highly suspicious of pledging money to an unknown person over the internet, in the hopes that a project actually does get fulfilled, and a "reward" is gained through backing.

We were certainly skeptical before we ever pledged, and as it wasn't a huuuge amount we were going for, for the first time, we figured it was a risk we were willing to take. Especially as it was to support an artist whom we really enjoy, Evan Burse, who was bringing out a book; Cartoon Block Sketches Vol. 1. The link to his original Kickstarter can be found here. We went for the $100 tier (which was $130 once you factored in shipping costs), which was still a fairly substantial amount for us to take a risk on, but we had watched Evan's Youtube channel for a long time prior to this however, so we felt more "safe" pledging money to him, than had we been backing on a completely random person's project (as awful as that probably sounds).

But yeah, as stated on Kickstarter's FAQs:

Every project creator sets their project's funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers' credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.

So, if a Project Creator is aiming for £100,000, but only 50% of that gets pledged, then the project is unsuccessful, and your card doesn't get charged. If they get pledges amounting to 5x the amount they were aiming for, cards get charged at the end of the pledging period, and then they get the money to fund their project - and eventually you would receive the item(s) that you have pledged for, whenever the project reaches completion.

However, also stated in the FAQs is:

Kickstarter doesn't issue refunds. Transactions are between backers and creators directly. Creators receive all funds (less fees) soon after their campaign ends.

So, if a Project Creator gets that £100,000+, but then doesn't ever come up with the goods, then to be frank... you're shit outta luck. Creators are urged to keep people up to date with progress on the project, and delays seem to be somewhat common with a large number of Kickstarter projects, so if you pledged for something stating "Expected Delivery March 2016", but by the end of the month, you still hadn't received any shipping confirmation, etc. it's wouldn't necessarily be something to worry about. Delays happen. Shit happens. That's how life goes. Fingers crossed you would eventually get the stuff you backed for, and all would be well. With the Cartoon Block book, that ended up delayed by several months if I remember correctly, but we still received it! And so far, that is the only thing we've backed that has come to fruition. Everything else is still in that "limbo" period between the crowdfunding ending, and the project being complete, I think the closest thing we've got backed is Yooka-Laylee, set for "Expected Delivery: October 2016".

And remember, even established devs can run into issues. Just look at how many delays Mighty No. 9 has faced so far!

There are obviously other crowdfunding platforms, too. The only reason I'm mainly focusing on Kickstarter is that it's the main one we have experience with (with one previous pledge to Tim Schafer's, too). As well as BackerKit, which is a post-crowdfunding platform that allows people to keep track of their pledges, as well as fix any payment issues. For instance, Kickstarter seems to HAAATE my bank card at the best of times, so I've had to then fix payment through BackerKit for a few projects (however it is not guaranteed that a Project Creator will run a BackerKit page, so do not rely on that! Try everything you can to get your payment to go through before the 7 day "Payment Fix" date is up!)

To date, the pledges we have gone in on have varied in degrees of expensive-ness. With one as low as $65, but with others that have gone well over the $200 mark, with one (via, rather than Kickstarter), Psychonauts 2, reaching *ahem* $1008 (after shipping and add-ons).

So what influences us in terms of backing?

Well, for us to back something, it has to be something we like the look of, obviously. Coming from an established developer helps, or at least, a new company of previously established Devs, such as Yooka-Laylee's Playtonic Games; made up of a few ex-Rare Devs, who worked on Banjo-Kazooie (to what Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual successor).

Rewards are also a huge factor. Not so much in the "Should we pledge?" but in the "How much should we pledge?" sense. I mean, for every game that we've pledged for, we could've simply pledged £10 and left it at that. Usually an amount that low won't get you a copy of the game or anything, but it will get you your name in the credits.

However, we will look at the various tiers, deciding which items we'd really like to get, but then realistically looking at our budget. Also, with a crowdfunding project, we tend to spend more than we would on the equivalent CE. We had a few people saying "Oh, but I'd never spend X amount on that!?" and I think, yeah, I know the edition itself may not be worth the X amount as RRP, but you're not pledging money to get the CE made. You're pledging to get the game made! So, that also factors in, too.

So with Yooka-Laylee, that was with established devs, therefore feeling a little more safe than unknown people (but again, that doesn't mean we rule out companies we don't know). It is a game that we love the look of, as it just looks fantastic, even at its very early stage when the Kickstarter was running. And then it had a Collector's Edition type package available: The 64-Bit Package. Pricey, at £340 (£405 after shipping, and a couple of add-ons) but we had to have it. And we were happy to support Playtonic in their quest to make this game, even if it did leave us £405 poorer.

Other Kickstarter projects we've backed (both during the Kickstarters being open, and afterwards via Slacker-Backer programs such as BackerKit) are:

Chime Sharp £105
MuvLuv $320
ToeJam and Earl Back in the Groove $345
Friday the 13th: The Game $381.75
Pixel Noir $400
Deadwood the Forgotten Curse $408.50
Shenmue 3 $600
Music to Die Alone in Space To $19.00
Home Free $155
Alice in Tokyo Wonderland $65

So as you can see, we have certainly grown to trust the crowdfunding platforms, and whilst we do enjoy getting to be "part" of these games, and supporting these fantastic creators, we do worry that it is going to make the industry turn to crowdfunding more, any time they don't want to take a risk.

We won't stop pledging for things we deem worthy any time soon. As long as the projects fall at a time where we have some money to spare, we will be happy to help, although a longer funding period would sometimes be helpful (as sometimes it's just impossible to square up the funds within the 28, or however many, days the project runs for.

Have you pledged for any crowdfunding campaigns? 
What ones? Have you received them yet?
Let us know in the comments below!

- V x

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