The bane of fanboys across the ‘verse, The Picky Geek is a column that takes the glaring faults of popular games, puts them under a magnifying glass, and leaves them there until they’ve been fried by the sun. With snark, cynicism, and maybe even a little hyperbole, Ryan Larrabee explores why he never gets invited to any games industry Christmas parties.
Okay, so Kickstarter isn’t technically a game. However, its recent prominence in the gaming scene means it can get its own article. Also, it’s my feature and I’ll write about anything I damn well want to. Anyway, let’s get down to it, shall we?
You’ve probably seen the Kickstarter craze sweeping the video game industry. After Double Fine’s adventure game hit it big, everyone’s been looking to get a piece of the crowd-funding pie. Sequels to popular games like Wasteland and Auditorium were wagered against fans’ wallets and benevolence. New games like Takedown were introduced to the world and funded merely on the developer’s description and proof of concept. Things like… whatever the hell this is reared their horrible, disfigured heads. Everyone hailed Kickstarter’s popularity as a sign the times that big publishers are coming to an end, but it’s not quite that cheery, and here’s why.
1. The Ol’ Bait and Switch
When you donate your $15 to a project, what are you paying for, exactly? It’s hard to say, because you don’t get to see all of the money at work. There’s nothing to stop a developer from taking in $10,000 on a game and only spending half of that. What’s to stop a company from charging a AAA price for a C+ game? As long as everything noted on the page is technically correct, there’s not really anything anyone can do about being misled. Think Activision releasing Call of Duty every year is exploitation? Just wait until you pay for what you think will be similar to Half-Life, and what you get is Daikatana.
2. An Unreliable Fanbase
Already, I’ve seen posts about how sick of this wave of Kickstarters people are. Of course, these are the same people that are expected to be funding these projects. See a problem? The gaming community is a fickle beast whose attention has to be all but paid in blood. Anything other than their unreasonable hatred towards competing products tends to fall by the wayside pretty quickly, and Kickstarter will be no exception.
You see, publishers exist solely to distribute games. Never before has a CEO of a big publisher thrown up his hands and yelled, “I’m bored! Fuck this noise, I’m out.” His company would fall through, people would lose their jobs and that CEO would be hit with some sort of legal action. On the other hand, with crowd-funding, it’s as easy as someone to not visit a single website. No one is obligated to pay a cent for anything.
3. Lack of a Filter
As I said above, it’s a publisher’s job to distribute games. This includes deciding which games are likely to make money and choosing those over the other ideas. Sure, that leads to a lot of safe ideas, but it also means we don’t have to ever lay eyes on any games that combine turtles and dating simulators.
Another example is the project I linked to above. Would “Yogventures” make it to market without crowd-funding? Hell no, and the world would be a better place for it. Sometimes, we need someone outside of our sphere of influence to tell us our ideas are stupid.
You can’t spend $10,000 on a game and be done with it. These days post-launch support, such as bug fixes and DLC, is a necessity. So what happens when most of your buyers spent their money to fund the game in the first place? Do you Kickstart DLC and patches, or wait until more people buy the game? Whatever it is, you’re definitely not going to have the funds to support your games, should you had you gone through traditional development means.
What it all comes down to is that Kickstarter isn’t here to replace EA and Activision. It’s a way for a small company to make (maybe) a few hundred thousand dollars in order to make a game that’s not guaranteed to be good or successful. Furthermore, instead of waiting for some new big thing to come along and kill publishers, you can make a stand against their unethical practices by not buying the titles they release.
That’s right. You. Actively participating in change. Imagine that.