What is a kickstarter that is not a kickstarter? Successful, apparently.

There are a couple big name game titles, from big players in the industry, who are using the Kickstarter idea.  But without using the Kickstarter website itself.  This is an interesting concept and although successful in a couple big cases is a terribly risky proposition.  The internet is all about removing the middleman.  But where does this trend lead?  Will this be the end of Kickstarter and Indiegogo as everyone does their own thing?

Notch recently tweeted about Star Citizen, which was announced at GDC.  The game looks very promising.    There are some extremely impressive tech demos, and the game graphically looks very good.  The videos are short on game play information, but it definitely looks like a great game in its early stages.  That’s all well and good, I’m sure there will be tons of discussion on all that, but the game is not really what I want to discuss yet.  They have a page set up which looks very much like a kickstarter campaign, but yet not through kickstarter.

What Cloud Imperium Games is doing for backing is far more interesting.  They are attempting to copy crowd funding sites without going through the gatekeepers.  The website layout looks exactly like a kickstarter.  There are goals exactly like a kickstarter.  There is a pledge button exactly like a kickstarter.  But behind the pledge button is a shopping cart…

They are trying to run a project that is too big, and requires too much money to be posted on Kickstarter.  They are attempting to sell you a game which has not been made yet.  Once the dollar amounts start to get up there it begins to make a lot of sense for a company to keep the percentage of money that would have otherwise gone to the middleman.  This seems like a bad idea because it obfuscates the process, or at least opens the possibility of obfuscation.

On Oct 18th, bowing to pressure from the community (as rumored by Reddit) they also put up a Kickstarter Campaign.  So how does this work now?  They have divided the community between two projects, one of which is fund or die.  This seems like a bad diversification.  As a former investments salesmen, I never thought I’d say that.

A quick note: the day this post is being published both the Kickstarter and the independent fund raising have passed their goals.  Roberts Space Industries is at 130%, and the Kickstarter has raised over 800,000 or the requested $500,000 dollars.  So maybe it’s a brilliant idea, that I just couldn’t say.  Either way I’m leaving my own opinion in there.  I’ve said before maybe I don’t know everything.  But in this case we don’t have to worry about a failure state.

Going independent for your crowd funding does away with a lot of the established values inherently understood by the community on Crowdfunding sites.  With an independent project like this the backers have  no way of knowing if they they are being charged now, later, or at all.  What if they don’t make their goal?  Do they still keep the money?  This throws out the established vocabulary of kickstarter.  And now with this new twist…  What happens if the kickstarter is successful?  What happens if both fail?  The ultimate answer is ‘Buyer Beware’.

Mechwarrior Online is another title using an alternative funding strategy.  They are crowd funding a free to play game.  Free to play, of course, does not mean ‘free to build’.  It shifted the crowd funding rewards a bit.  Instead of copies of the game, the rewards tended to be in game currency.

If these games are successful we’ll increasingly see AAA titles leaving Indiegogo and Kickstarter to run their own crowd-funding campaign.  However unless they nail the ‘prizes’ offered by the social experience of backing projects, they probably won’t succeed.  ‘Prizes’ in this case is more then just different tiers of participation pre launch   It would also include the increase in self worth, feeling of comradeship, and general social participation.

Crowd-funding websites are in no way threatened by AAA companies moving away.  In fact it may even drive more backers and projects to the site.  Any small studio looking to make a first title, or first project looking to prove themselves are going to want to go with a big name crowd funding website.  Any company big enough to need millions of dollars is going to want to retain the percentage that kickstarter and indiegogo take.  If crowd funding is the first revolution, then we’re going to see a second revolution that moves big projects away from ‘middleman’ sites, but that drives small projects and small companies to those same sites.

[Update]  On Nov 19th the independent fundraising efforts have raised $3,691,332 and the kickstarter has raised $1,858,741.  Both campaigns have successfully funded, and have raised $5,550,073 total.  That’s a pretty amazing level of success by anyone’s standards.  It will be interesting to see how the project goes.  This total is not final as there are still 7 hours left…

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