Why Kickstarter Isn't Good for MMOs
Editorial

Why Kickstarter Isn't Good for MMOs

By David Piner -

I do not believe that Kickstarter is relevant to online gaming any longer and that it, as a platform, is not sufficient for the needs of game development. I do see it as a niche, a way for the idea men of the world to get enough starting cash to get something off of the ground, but I don't specifically see it as a working model for video games, much less MMO gaming.

The biggest issue with Kickstarter is that you have to reach a milestone in order for the funds to be released. This is the point in which production of something is possible and it will be possible to complete whatever thing you need done.

The way this is supposed to work is that you have a prototype and after finding out all of the manufacturing costs, you figure out that to create the molds, start assembly, etc. will have a specific cost. At that price point production can begin. So, you ask everyone to pitch in to get you to that point, you create it, and voila. Everyone has a new smart watch or whatever and your company is now off the ground.

The issue with Kickstarter though is that game development is a bit strange. A game can start with three dudes in a garage for six months and get to a point where it's fun and awesome. It can work with a small or big budget and all of that money isn't needed up front. In addition, investors love games and getting investment is easy if you have a game to show and enough feedback.

Kickstarter though, what it does is, it says that a developer has to get so much money and has to produce this specific product, because it works off of the idea that people are either going to make something or produce something. For instance, let's say your band wants to rent a venue. You know the cost, you know how many seats there are. You set it up so that if you can get enough of an attendance to make it worthwhile to rent the venue then you'll have enough to cover the seats plus the rental fees.

MMOs aren't bands and they're not watch makers. They're organic products that are developed with love and care, over time. Sometimes that time is years, which makes it sort of a disappointment for a lot of backers who buy in and then have to wait forever to get their pledges. Take Star Citizen for instance, who I believe has been way past the year mark and only still has the hanger module.

No, I don't believe Kickstarter works anymore. What does work though is early access. It's when you have a product, it's working, and you can let people in the doors. If done properly, it helps fund ongoing development, provide play testers, and makes everyone happy.

MMOs are unique in the sense that early access works because they are an ongoing product and development usually doesn't end until the game does. For some games, like Towns, where early access is essentially the launch of an unfinished product and development stagnates for years, it can be a huge issue.

I'm not a fan of early access for gaming in general. I think it lets a lot of developers discontinue development once the game is at a "good enough" point. However, for MMOs, I would seriously hope that a lot of developers consider moving directly to an early access model and skip Kickstarter all together.

Oh, how do they get the funds to get to that point? I don't know and honestly, I don't see why anyone should put their money behind a product that there isn't a solid example of. For instance, the Ouya. There wasn't a working model of it, unlike the Pebble. It has been a total sort of flop, where the idea was solid, but the price point wasn't and neither was the service - yet people bought into the idea.

Which is great, people should buy into ideas. We as society should reward great ideas with investment - it's how we engineer new things, but at the same time MMOs are their own unique snowflake and I feel like developers should give use a system that's appropriate to that specific industry.

Which is why I think Trion has a good thing going with how they've been approaching games lately. They've been doing early access and being super transparent for it, which in turn has made (from what I can tell) the community very happy. I'm very supportive of doing it that way.

Of course, anyone can make their game however they choose and fund it anyway at all, but for MMOs I'd rather have a product in hand to know if this is the type of game I want before I start putting hard earned money into it. There are a ton of great MMO ideas out there but very few good developer teams to produce the quality of product that's worth your hard earned money.

That's about all I have to say on the subject, feel free to let me know your opinions in the comments below.

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About The Author

David "Xerin" Piner
Get in the bush with Xerin every Monday for his weekly column, Respawn, as he analyzes the hottest trends, buzz topics, and absurdities in MMO gaming.