Last week, my colleague Nick Watanabe wrote a thinkpiece critical of crowdfunding (read: Kickstarter) in the gaming industry. Nick is a smart guy with a business background, and you should read his argument in his own words. In case you didn’t, I’ll offer a summary: Nick thinks crowdfunding is usually a crutch, and notes the litany of complaints from angry supporters whose funded projects never delivered. He questions whether crowdfunding is good for companies, good for gamers, or good for the industry. He also identifies specific adverse behaviors: serial crowdfunding (crowdfunding campaigns for each project or product), escalating funding goals (pledge level rewards and stretch goals), loss-leader pricing (“taking a loss” on the campaign), and a general lack of accountability (disclosure of how funds are allocated and actually used.)
Nick has some fair points. Lots of people (NPR’s All Things Considered, CNET, and even the Wall Street Journal) have noted the lack of accountability and transparency for Kickstarter, and while I suspect it’s far worse amongst video game developers, tabletop games certainly aren’t immune. The hypocrisy he cites—companies who criticize crowdfunding before they launch their own campaigns—is also worthy of criticism, though I suppose I’m not connected to the right circles to know of any specific examples. These behaviors are obviously unethical, but not unique to crowdfunding. I’m here to talk about Nick’s problems specific to crowdfunding.