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Kickstarter's new rules keep developers honest
Kickstarter's new rules keep developers honest
September 20, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi




If you're getting ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund your next game (and if our inbox is any indication, that's most of you), prepare yourself to be a little more open with your project's risks than before.

Kickstarter made two surprise updates to its policies on Thursday aimed at making creators more accountable for a project's success, and at reinforcing that Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform, and not a store.

The first is a required "Risks and Challenges" section to each project, where creators have to explain the challenges their project might face, and why they are qualified to overcome them. This, says Kickstarter, will enable potential backers to judge a creator's ability to actually complete their project.

The second -- which is a bit less relevant for game developers -- is that hardware and physical products can no longer show a simulation of what they will eventually be able to do but, rather, must show how they are functioning in their current state of development.

Additionally, a product can not represent itself with a render: instead, a photograph of a prototype as it currently exists will have to do.

Note that this second set of rules does not apply to games, though any game-related hardware is obviously affected.

"It's hard to know how many people feel like they're shopping at a store when they're backing projects on Kickstarter, but we want to make sure that it's no one," reads an official explanation from Kickstarter.

"We hope these updates reinforce that Kickstarter isn't a traditional retail experience and underline the uniqueness of Kickstarter."

Gamasutra's take

Holding developers accountable for being transparent with the risks involved in their product is nothing but a blessing for video game development funded through Kickstarter.

No project is risk-free, and your backers -- even the ones only throwing you a buck or two -- need to be made aware of that. If crowdfunding is going to mature into a viable method for getting even larger projects funded -- or indeed, is going to survive after a few high profile games disappear into the vapor -- then we need to have the same relationship with our "small" backers that we would with a private investor or, gasp, a publisher.

We've called out projects before that left us with more questions than answers, and we'll continue to do so. That Kickstarter is now making its creators spell out their risks, and reminding its backers that they're not guaranteed a delivered product as shown, is a move that I applaud.


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Comments


Steven Christian
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I wonder then how you would 'kickstart' a new hardware device, as opposed to funding something that was already finished, if you can't show peopel what it will be able to do..?

E Zachary Knight
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This basically means that you have to have a working prototype. No more concepts with 3D renders.

Nooh Ha
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Can't really see how adding risk warnings add accountability or keeps devs more honest. In fact I can see scenarios where they are more inclined to screw the funders as now they will be able to say "we told you this might happen so dont blame us". LOL.
Kickstarter remains free money with zero legal or financial accountability for those with sufficient sales/marketing skills. Long may it continue!

Michael K
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I think it's important to make people aware that this is not a shop, but only an investment with free goodies at the end.
the article here already told it:
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/176458/Chris_Crawford_reflects
_on_a_Kickstarter_gone_wrong.php
"That is, Kickstarter used to be a semi-charitable operation in which people could assist worthy creative projects that might not make it commercially, but still ought to be done. But in the area of games and comics, this is no longer the case."

it's like a shop now, you would expect most people donate $1 to keep their risk low, but they rather order their $30 games and some hundret $ 3d glasses.

maybe 'telling your risk' is not the best way to go, but I wouldn't know a better way of the top of my head.

Joe Wreschnig
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I don't think warnings are going to keep developers more honest, and I think Kickstarter knows it won't - their description of it is "people can judge both the creator's ability to complete their project as promised and whether they feel the creator is being open and honest about the risks and challenges they face."

It's about giving potential backers more information to judge *if* the developer is honest. It's not possible to know if the risk analysis is accurate or not (without a lot of independent research), but you can tell if it's a deep or shallow analysis. If I can tell the developers aren't thinking about risks, it's a good bet the project is risky. If the developers are thinking hard about risks and mitigations, then that's a good sign that even if they do run into tons of problems they will be able to navigate them.

Michael K
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just saying, it's not to be able to say 'we told you this might happen...', it's to make people aware "you're _not_ buying, you're just investing and you might get goodies at the end"

someone who wants to sell something, has no problem to talk about risk, you can make it always sound the way you want, you can even try to sell those 'risks' that you've already solved as the most dangerous ones, for marketing.

Bob Satori
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"...this is not a shop, but only an investment with free goodies at the end."

Investment? What investment? The only return is that NOT FREE goodie, whatever it is, and hope that the actual product reaches fruition.

So, what I don't see here, and it seems to be needed, is a rule against using things that don't and may never exist as 'incentives.' You want donors to recognize that they aren't buying the end product, don't let it be an option.

Jane Castle
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I predict a future article on Gamasutra titled: "OUYA what went wrong......"

Michael K
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makes me think, gamasutra could actually create a section, like the job area, solely dedicated to those games spamming their 'inbox'. telling about new games that need founding (not just kickstarter) and also some outcomes: failed to found, founded but failed, released with rating of the investors

Mark Nelson
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I actually want to see what the finished products will look like - so I'm ok with concept renders. But these should have some standardized Kickstarter-mandated watermark and border. Also renders should NOT be allowed at the top of the page. You should have to click through a link to get to them. That should help differentiate them from actual existing materials...

sukru tikves
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I agree. They should limit the exposure of concept drawings. however if a project doesn't even have a concept ready, that is actually more alarming than having only pretty pictures.

Maria Jayne
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Seems a good idea, I have donated to three projects on kickstarter, but I was fully aware the money I'm giving could simply evaporate. With so many projects on kickstarter, and so much money being asked for/donated, it's only a matter of time until somebody fails to deliver.

Michael O'Hair
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So Kickstarter should no longer be a pre-order space to fund game projects that haven't been completed. Conceptually.

This is good news. Conceptually.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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The Risks and Challenges aspect is utterly meaningless-it basically just weeds out teams with terrible PR guys.

The physical prototype is interesting-the Ouya would probably have done nowhere near as well with the actual working prototype pictured, same with the Oculus Rift.

Maxime Binette
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I think the second change should also apply to video games. If we look closely at some projects like Crystal Catacombs, for example, we can see it actually looks a lot like a fake game footage.

However, this is not something the creator make sure we are aware of, and I am pretty sure that all those people who pledged have any idea that it's not a gameplay trailer.


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