'Big indie' Kickstarters are killing actual indies

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Worth noting: http://www.polygon.com/2015/5/19/8624665/big-indie-kickstarters-are-killing-actual-indies

When you ask for half a million dollars when you really need $5 million, it becomes impossible for games with realistic budgets to survive. It’s not that people don’t understand what a game costs, it’s more that Kickstarter is actively distorting people’s understanding of a sane budget. The ecosystem is being poisoned for projects that need to raise their actual, workable budget for a game.

The post is interesting for its napkin math of development costs. Like the idea for a directory of crowd-funded FLO projects, have the financial break downs of various projects would be very useful to see if and how IP and closed systems inflate, mitigate or reduce production costs.


not-so-secretly planning to search for the bulk of their actual funding elsewhere or hoping to be massively overfunded

Makes complaint unconvincing. Though probably I’m just confirming my biases, which is to say: crowdfunding is being treated as just another revenue source for proprietary stuff, keeping all existing ones, in stark contrast with how crowdfunding was imagined to fund the commons.

Production costs probably are part of the disconnect. Crowdfunding the amount spent on making and marketing an AAA game or Hollywood movie or even the next level down probably isn’t going to happen for awhile. For anyone wedded to those cost structures, crowdfunding only will seem like a race to the bottom, while I see entertainment with those cost structures (top pro and college sports of course must be thrown in with games, movies, and TV) as our Arirang spectacle. Throw them out, choose freedom, equality, and security.

Of course there’s lots of room for better coordinated street patrons to demand and get more crowdfunded stuff into the commons, mostly produced with lower cost structures, in part due to taking a long time and not including marketing. I suspect the gaming industry hasn’t figured out how to extract huge tax and direct subsidies as the movie industry has, so ironically there might be one fewer potential public policy lever (funding mandate) to get medium to high cost games into the commons, relative to movies.

I happened to also see today another article complaining about game economics, though in this case blaming capitalism rather than crowdfunding: Capitalism killing games and the world - Lanning. But that doesn’t stop Lanning “who’s rekindling gamers’ love for his IP through high-definition digital remakes” from being all about IP and wanting to do new development with high cost structures requiring investment and marketing:

“The expensive part of making a new game is the new creative stuff. Now, if I try to do a new game with Oddworld, I don’t have the money - I’d have to bet it all - to do a new IP, meaning a new title in Oddworld, not just ‘we’re going to use the Unity engine and build another side scroller.’ That was 20 years ago. I want to do new stuff. But I think the audience expectation for what a new Oddworld product would be is one we can’t afford yet,” Lanning said.

“When I have the confidence to see a new Oddworld title come out, I think we’re in several million dollars to do that. And at that point, I think I need some type of promotional partner at another level because right now we don’t spend on advertising. We’re really running on brand awareness. So we’re doing more social marketing,” he added.

Found through a repost of commentary on Lanning’s article, Are Markets Ruining Video Games? Or is intellectual property the real culprit?.

Hooked on platforms from age two
Project Marilyn
How Movie Studios Exploit Politicians to Demand Subsidies

I added this as reference, but I think the point e was making is:

In the end, we decided to ask for $12,000. Considering Kickstarter and Stripe take 10 percent of a project’s total and taxes take at least another 5 percent, that would have left us with around $10,000 — a modest sum.

Immediately, people were skeptical. We got messages asking why our licenses were so expensive, why we needed more than $200 to pay a composer, and more. Posters complained that our $45,000 stretch goal seemed like “a lot” to port a game to mobile.

Our budget was turned inside out, scoured over. Worse yet, the information people seemed to have about what things ought to cost for us was completely wrong. Luckily, we’ve met and exceeded our goal, but others are not as lucky — forced to re-launch their campaigns for an even smaller amount and try to scrape by via other means.

This is the effect large Kickstarters have on indies.

The reason I know of that game (and backed it) is because it has a diverse team creating a story with diverse characters. That is something that mainstream entertainment does poorly, and if “big indie” games are not showing the math and funding behind their projects, it makes it harder for better representations of people done by actual independent folks.


Yeah I know you were posting for reference, was riffing on the reference not arguing with you. :slight_smile:

I took the main point to be the rest of the paragraph after the bit you quoted:

This is the effect large Kickstarters have on indies. This is where Kickstarter is headed. Because when a $7.2 million game masquerades as a $500,000 game (or even a $5 million game), it drags the line of what appears to be “a reasonable amount of funding” just a little bit lower for all the thousands of “little guy” projects out there.

I thought the line I quoted (“not-so-secret”) undercuts this core argument because it’s quite obvious what’s going on. In the end the author calls for more transparency, which is great, and even better I notice they provide a budget breakdown on https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/235466673/elsinore-a-time-looping-adventure-game … though I have to note it is sad that exactly half goes to (surely proprietary) software licenses.

Makes sense. I would back in an instant for this reason if it were not just indie but also libre.