I had no faith in Kickstarter. Now, perhaps I do.
The so-called "Kickstarter Revolution" that is just now being talked about in gaming circles was no revolution for me. I've been an avid boardgamer for nearly 5 years, and Kickstarter has long been a method for indie boardgame designers to put their design on the market.
Problem is, most of those games end up sucking. I've seen Kickstarter used for a wide variety of projects, games being one of them. Not many of them pan out, and of those that do, a fractional amount are worth your time. After not long, Kickstarter got clogged with dozens and dozens and dozens of "dream projects" from amateur boardgame designers. So, when Double Fine announced their Kickstarter project, I scoffed (no, not because I hate Double Fine or anything). "Kickstarter is the FUTURE of gaming!" many online publications began to chant. Like Cranky Kong sitting in his old rocking chair, I sat back thinking "eh, you whippersnappers. Kickstarter is a fad. Just you wait until the house of cards falls down".
Then, I saw Brian Fargo's Kickstarter video and his brilliant and to-the-point explanation of how restrictive game publishers can be. My eyes began to open. Here we had a 20+ year old franchise being revived by fans and interested gamers. Huh. Go figure. Maybe there really is something to this Kickstarter thing. Reading through the various "backer" options, I caught the $50 slot that read "included full boxed copy with map and game manual". WHAT? It reminded me of the good ol' days. I leapt at the chance and I'm now a Wasteland 2 backer.
Not long after, I saw the Kickstarter for The Banner Saga, a game made by a few ex-Black Isle (do I have that right?) developers. The art is beautiful. The concept is enticing. $10 to be a backer? Sign me up. I'm now a backer of The Banner Saga.
"Hmmm, let's see what else is on Kickstarter". I sifted through a lot of crap. I mean, a LOT of crap. It's no big surprise. Everyone these days wants to be a game developer, and when you have an open website like Kickstarter promising you fame and fortune and funding for your idea, a lot of wannabes are going to hop on the bandwagon. I found another game. FTL. It's a space sim/roguelike. Having played dozens of roguelikes such as ADOM, Nethack, DoomRL, Shiren, Izuna, and Angband, I was intrigued. After seeing the prototype footage, I backed it. Boom. I'm a backer of yet another Kickstarter project.
What possessed me? Why in the world would I throw money at a game that I wouldn't be able to play for months (or even years, in the case of Wasteland 2)? Well, in my mind, it's not all that different from pre-ordering the game, I suppose.
No, it must be something else.
Truthfully, I think my reasons are simple: there are devs on Kickstarter who are delivering the sort of games that I want, the games that big-name publishers like EA and Activision simply refuse to make. If EA was making Wasteland 2 and it ended up being legit, I'd just as happily buy it from EA. But they're not. Brian Fargo had to Kickstart it, and therefore I will back him, not EA. A game like XCOM Enemy Unknown (from Firaxis) could have easily been a Kickstarter project, but I'll be more than happy to buy it as a retail game, no doubt. Some Kickstarter devs are posers. Others have their heads up you-know-where and their games aren't worth a dime. Yet, there are still devs who are earnestly trying to deliver the sort of games that I want to play. Why shouldn't I show them my support?
My critiques still remain: how viable is it to develop a game through Kickstarter? You have several months of development and testing (hopefully), so it will be a while before you see the fruit of your support. I didn't think most gamers would be willing to delay their expectations for something like that, but after seeing the millions poured into both Double Fine and Wasteland 2, I admit that I was wrong. Maybe gamers DO like this idea.
Will Kickstarter be the future? Nope. Will it bring down the age of big-name publishers and developers? No way. However, I do see a glimmer of hope: perhaps Kickstarter will allow for some great games to be made, games that otherwise would never have seen the light of day. Maybe we'll see revivals of old, neglected franchises. Maybe we'll see the emergence of a new breed of indie game developers. I don't know, but I am willing to be hopefull.