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Ask Slashdot: At What Point Has a Kickstarter Project Failed? 247

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-people-get-angry-on-the-internet dept.
skywiseguy writes "I have only used Kickstarter to back a single project so far, but one of the backers of that project pointed us to a project promising video capable glasses which was once one of the top 10 highest funded projects in Kickstarter history. After reading through the comments, it is obvious that the project has not met its expected deadline of 'Winter 2011,' but the project team rarely gives any updates with concrete information. All emails sent to them by backers get a form letter in reply, they routinely delete negative comments from their Facebook page, and apparently very soon after the project was funded, they posted pictures of themselves on a tropical beach with the tagline, 'We are not on a beach in Thailand.' Their early promotions were featured on Engadget and other tech sites but since the project was funded they've rarely, if ever, communicated in more than a form letter. So at what point can a project like this be considered to have failed? And if you had backed a project with this kind of lack of communication from the project team, what would you consider to be the best course of action? Disclaimer: I have not backed this project, but I am very interested in funding Kickstarter projects and I do not want to get caught sending money to a less than reputable project. According to the above project's backers, Kickstarter claims to have no mechanism for refunding money to backers of failed projects and no way to hold the project team accountable to their backers. This does not seem like a healthy environment for someone who is averse to giving their money to scam artists."
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Ask Slashdot: At What Point Has a Kickstarter Project Failed?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:22AM (#39641799)

    Other than requiring a sign agreement with project meetings, milestones and checkpoints you'll have to go on faith.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:23AM (#39641803)

    You don't give your money to strangers without some kind of collateral. All this "microfunding" or "crowdfunding" nonsense will not work, for the same reason that we don't have a gift economy: there are incompetent fools (who will fail to use the money well), or just greedy bastards who will take the money for themselves. Try investing in individual stocks after researching them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:32AM (#39641819)

    It will work, it just won't always work. Hell, I'm willing to bet the majority of people couldn't manage it. But remove the people who are uninterested in the buisness model, or with poor to no reputations, and you're left with people with a history of develiering who have the freedom to deliver their image, as opposed to that which is likely "dumbed down" for the masses. You're still going to get some failures, but I'm willing to bet at least some of them will deliver a quality product, and a few of them will be complete gems which would be unfeasible or comprimised with a standard publisher.

  • Trust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:34AM (#39641827)

    Pretty much what you said - there's no way to guarantee people will use the funds for the purpose you've donated them for.

    I was talking about a Kickstarter-type model ages ago on my blog, and I pretty much got it all right with Kickstarter except for one thing: I said that a crowdfunding system would have to essentially operate a trust, that released funds as certain project milestones were released, or on receipt of invoices, etc.

    Obviously, Kickstarter managed to operate without such a mechanism, but I think it's definitely needed if the crowdfunding concept is going to grow. Maybe not for all projects, but ones that reach a certain amount of capitalisation, certainly.

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:39AM (#39641845) Homepage

    "Someone who is averse to giving their money to scam artists" shouldn't be giving their money to random people on Kickstarter without some sort of contract or reputation. Full stop.

    Which is why I don't touch Kickstarter. Sure, it'd be nice to get a few "crowdsourced" ideas up and running but, you know what? Those that *CAN* make sense, end up getting made anyway, and often making money anyway.

    As soon as someone says "We need X amount of money to do Y", you have to look into exactly who they are and why they need it and what they'll do with it. Those Kickstarter projects that are basically "We'd like to make an indie game that does X" really annoy me. You do? Bugger off and do it then! One of the "big" ones a while ago had signed up a famous voice artist before the project had even been funded - sorry, but that's the LAST thing to worry about and probably the LAST thing I'd ever want added to a game I was funding (no matter how small) - the bloody janitor probably has a good enough voice that you'd never notice the difference.

    Save your cash. Give it to established developers, those who have written games you've enjoyed, and those with proven results. Like indie developers in the Humble bundles, or things like Altitude, or whatever. Don't give it on the basis of promises of what they *think* they *could* do until they've actually done it.

    Now, if we were talking about things like hardware manufacturing costs, etc. of something that someone has designed in order to get into mass production, then that's a different matter but the same principles apply. Too many "crowdfunded" projects (OpenPandora, etc.) fail miserably even when they have the best will in the world, purely because they've never done certain parts of it, or only handled smaller projects, etc. Where's my "Open Graphics Card" that was being designed / manufactured what? Ten years ago? Hell, it had AGP as an "option" last I looked, so it's already dead in the water for any commercial backer.

    Making a video card work is far from easy - but you have to consider your investment like any other. If you don't trust the people involved to follow through, or you just think that throwing money at these sorts of problems is what's lacking, then you're going to be doomed to failure.

  • by maroberts (15852) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:49AM (#39641875) Homepage Journal

    Money put into Kickstarter is probably best regarded as venture capital, where there is a significant failure rate of projects.

    The question perhaps ought to be how can failing projects be detected and prevented from being a complete waste of "investors" money?

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:41AM (#39642077) Homepage

    Yup that is why Linux is an utter failure and not used anywhere.

    Oh wait, Linux is used in more places than Windows and OSX combined.... Wait, a slashdot AC has no clue as to how these things really work? OMG!

    If you go to google, you can find tens of thousands of things like this that are a wild success.

    Oh and most businesses are built this way, if you think you have collateral when you buy stocks you are completely delusional.

  • Re:Trust (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:45AM (#39642087) Homepage

    You can mitigate and manage risk though. by funding projects that are backed by people that actually have a proven track record of completing a job or task. for example the Double Fine kickstarter or the Shadowrun kickstarter. Both are from people that actually make a finished product and have examples of finished products.

    The glasses example was a bunch of kids that never had anything to show that they ever finished, and the transition from concept to product is a hard one. It also had a lot of other red flags that made me back away.

    It's why I funded the two games from people with a reputation of success and ignored completely the full of red flags it will fail video glasses project ran by unknowns that did not even have a business plan.

  • by sirlark (1676276) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:27AM (#39642233)
    You mean like a financial institution perhaps, yeah they definitely won't try to screw you over. Trust is an issue regardless of the funding channel and the same guidelines apply, rule #1 being: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JamesP (688957) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:37AM (#39642285)

    Those Kickstarter projects that are basically "We'd like to make an indie game that does X" really annoy me. You do? Bugger off and do it then!

    THIS. SO MUCH THIS

    A lot of people think kickstarter is a "poor me, I have his idea but no one will finance me to do it." Or even " Look, I've already drawn the iPhone icon for this app "

    Well, guess what, you're making yourself look like an 'e-homeless' person.

    There are a lot of worthy projects on kickstarter, but they usually are:

    1 - more specific
    2 - the project leaders have already shown what they are capable of doing
    3 - the money is really an issue (materials, manufacturing, etc) and not like "you are paying me to do something I could do in my free time for free"

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:39AM (#39642287)

    Have you ever watched Dragon's Den? (Shark Tank, I believe the US version is called). In essence, small business owners approach venture capitalists asking them to fund the business in exchange for a percentage. The VCs generally don't mince their words - if an idea or a business owner is totally uninvestable, they'll certainly be told.

    It's been going some years yet probably 40% of the people who go on there still have their priorities completely backwards. "Indie game studio hires a famous voiceover artist before first ensuring they have a vaguely playable game" (as the GP alluded) is an absolutely classic example of this.

    Another 40% haven't got their priorities backwards - but they've got an idea that for whatever reason is unlikely to make any VC a fortune. It's simply too niche.

    I don't see Kickstarter as being terribly different, except the VCs are the general public and so you have to make your own judgement call as to whether it's a worthwhile investment. The niche business in particular could do quite well with the Kickstarter model.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:42AM (#39642317) Homepage

    It couldn't have been made before 2003 - Konami still had the rights and no interest in making a sequel.

    These same people owned the rights from then on and even as far as 2007, work and progress was being reported on it. Nothing happened. That's four years of actual work seemingly wasted. They could have been coding, or looking for funding, or just sitting on their bottoms. We don't know.

    And, let's not forget, there's NOTHING yet. Nothing at all. Not a dickie-bird.

    And what's the Kickstarter done? Maybe found them a more ordinary publisher / investor who will work on it and take a cut. You could have done that just by proving interest in the game in the first place - not by ACTUALLY removing money from people's accounts. If the interest was there, the same developers and publishers and investors would have been interested.

    And this is a sequel to a 1988 game, we're talking about. You're telling me that in 24 years nobody's thought "I'll make a game, like this really cool RPG I saw when I was younger"? Anybody could have written that game in-between, and if it were good enough and sold enough, they could have vied with Konami to sell it as a Wasteland sequel. They didn't. That's not because of lack of funding, that's because of lack of interest. Nobody could even be bothered to make a semi-rip-off of it at home.

    And how much resemblance is a sequel going to have to what made the original special? Basically nothing, from what I can see.

    Kickstarter isn't doing anything "special" here. Those developers could have sourced expressions of interest from gamers, started coding, got to a publisher, etc. in the meantime. They didn't get that far. They couldn't even be bothered to knock up some code and get something working until someone paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars, with all the established and open game engines that are out there today. And still all you have now are a few pieces of concept art (read: Someone knocked up something in Photoshop that will probably never be actually achievable).

    Your example doesn't convince me in the slightest. You're a month in and nothing significant has happened on a two-million-dollar project, that could have been made at any time in the last 5 years and CERTAINLY in the last 24 years.

    Call me when it's released, when you have PRODUCT, when you have a $2.4m game sitting on your hands. All you've done is provide a developer that had no interest in a 24-year-old "franchise", and did nothing for 4 years when they got it, with a few million dollars on the basis of a promise.

    It seems to me that a lot of people looking on Kickstarter weren't around in the 80's, when software companies went under left, right and centre after making fabulous promises, and then the coders would miraculously pop up from nowhere with another company working on something completely different, while the company went bankrupt with no product and the directors were in comfortable retirement in the Bahamas.

  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by C60 (546704) * <saladNO@SPAMcarbon60.net> on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:51AM (#39642375) Homepage

    As soon as someone says "We need X amount of money to do Y", you have to look into exactly who they are and why they need it and what they'll do with it. Those Kickstarter projects that are basically "We'd like to make an indie game that does X" really annoy me. You do? Bugger off and do it then!

    I'm one of those developers who is saying "I need X to do Y". Who also just happens to be working on an indie game. Who also just happens to be using Kickstarter to fund our second stage of development. You know why I know what resources I need? I've been working in the startup industry for the last 25 years.

      Kickstarter is fairly picky about projects they let in. These days you have to either talk a good game, or really show a working proof of concept. Yeah, a few stinkers get through, but I've backed 21 projects so far, and not a single one has failed (admitedly only 3 are software). YMMV, but don't assume a group of developers are full of it because they're using Kickstarter as a funding option. It's an excellent way to guage interest and spur innovation, even if you've never heard of them before.

      Look at the project, determine if it *is* possible based on it's merits and the current technology available, investigate the people involved as much as possible and treat it like a high risk investment that might just get you a t-shirt and a nifty piece of software.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @08:13AM (#39642499)

    This is one of the major problems with the recent legislation allowing scam artists to target everyone for startup financing. There's a reason that was very regulated, and why this round of deregulation was poorly thought out and poorly implemented. While it's good to have a larger pool of money to draw from, and it's good to have more options for investing, there's a reason ultra-high risk investments have been limited to accredited investors.

  • by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @08:34AM (#39642641) Journal

    It seems pretty idiotic to whine about a product having gone past the release date. Even a simple view of the kickstarter page shows they're working on things. Acting like they're scamming or nonresponsive seems a bit of bullshit since they've been posting every couple weeks or so.

    However, yes, it's a buy in to hope it happens - they are not shareholders and this is not stock.

  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @09:36AM (#39643225) Homepage

    The issue here is that windows is blatantly in your face on 99% of laptop and desktop computers...
    Linux may be running on thousands of other devices, but people don't even know it's there.

    From a technology standpoint that's a good thing, you want the equipment to work not be in your face... But from a marketing standpoint it's terrible, there are literally millions of linux users out there who have never heard of linux.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @10:18AM (#39643739) Homepage

    It will work, it just won't always work.

    I agree, and nothing *always* works. There is no sure-fire route to success. Direct investments with iron-clad contracts does not guarantee that you'll get your money's worth.

    If you're willing to take the risk of donating some money to a project that you'd really like to see get off the ground, then Kickstarter seems to be a way to do that. It's not a good idea to donate to Kickstarter funds of total strangers without any track-record of completing projects, but there are real professionals who have used Kickstarter to get funding for sensible projects with feasible goals.

    If you want to be extremely cautious, only put your money into extremely safe investments. Still, don't assume that it's impossible to get ripped off that way too. There have been plenty of people who have been scammed by reputable investment firms. Hell, the whole world has been scammed by Goldman Sachs.

  • Re:Trust (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Americano (920576) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @11:17AM (#39644451)

    If there are no physical goods, then what start-up costs do they have, other than the time spent on the creative part.

    It's the patronage model. And it's been practical and workable for centuries. A rich patron gives the artist money for living expenses, supplies, etc., and in return, the artist focuses on producing new art, without the distractions of having to work a 9-5 to pay the rent. Except now, rather than one wealthy patron, an artist can search for 500 middle class patrons who can each kick in $30 towards the recording of their new album.

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