Kickstander: Do Kickstarted Video Games Actually Deliver? – A Prologue

I was recently challenged about my views on Kickstarter – where was my evidence that problems could exist? Wasn’t I just being a jerk in my cynical theorycrafting about the potential success of Kickstarted video games?

It's very reminiscient of straw art, where you get a small amount of paint in a drinking straw then blow it across a canvas.

Artwork like this helped one project reach its $10k Kickstarter target. For a game that doesn’t look like this. It had great t-shirts though.

Perhaps, but I wanted to see more evidence too. When it comes to Kickstarter, I feel that often the criteria for success is wrong. Too many people see a successful Kickstarter project as one that achieved or exceeded its funding target; I see a successful Kickstarter project as one that achieves or exceeds its funding target AND delivers the funded project as (or close to) indicated on the project page.

I had a look around but couldn’t see any stats about how many Kickstarted video game projects actually go on to deliver the title / accessory promised to their pledgers…

If It Doesn’t Exist…

… so ended up creating something to fill that gap – a spreadsheet listing all the successfully funded Kickstarter video game projects to October 1 2012, excluding those projects that were funding events or gaming-based websites.

I’m excluding event funding or game-based website funding on the grounds that I want to know if the video games developed through crowdfunding are better than those developed through publisher-funding approaches. Getting enough money to hold a gaming event or releasing a gaming book or something similar is outside of my area of interest.


Any mistakes in the data are likely mine, caused by transcription error or by missing something on a webpage. It may be that a title has actually been released, but they didn’t update the right pages or I’m looking at outdated info.

The only frequent source of errors I’m aware of is the Estimated Requested $ column, which is the pledge target (and I’ll probably rename it to better suit now that I think about it). I calculated that by dividing the Pledged Amount column by the Funded % column and due to the rounding used in the Funded % it comes out a little higher than the actual target pledge amount. Now, I could go back and fix every figure in that column by hand entering the correct amount, but I’m not that interested in what the target amount was if I’m only off by a few percent.

Early Days

Scraping that list off Kickstarter’s site going back to 2009 took time, but that’s only part of the journey. For each of the 283 projects on that list, I plan to go through and find out additional info such as if the Kickstarter page listed an anticipated launch date, if the project has launched / been cancelled and when it was actually released. For projects that have seen their fruits released, I’m trying to find out how those titles were reviewed, starting with (which is useful as an aggregator of review scores, plus includes both professional and user reviews for comparative purposes).

This process takes time. I’ve completed the task for 2009 (5 video game projects) and 2010 (21 video game projects) and that took a few hours because it involves a lot of skimming Kickstarter pages (the project home, comments and updates) and ‘official’ project pages. Given that 2011 has 74 video game projects and 2012 has 183 video game projects and growing, this will take a while.

Early Findings

Some points of trivia I’ve seen thus far:

  • Video game projects (including accessories and console projects) aimed for around US$13m in pledges since 2009; they’ve been given over US$34m.
  • The very first Kickstarted video game was High Strangeness; it still hasn’t been released.
  • The first released Kickstarted video game looks to be Turba in 2010; it acheived a Metacritic score of 76.
  • Among the 26 projects that were successfully Kickstarted in 2009 / 10, 9 have had something released that meets the nature of the original project page (35% delivery rate) while 3 projects have been formally cancelled / put on indefinite hiatus (11%). The remaining projects exist in the ether of being funded but not having delivered. I’m not going to judge the chances of actual delivery based on lack of website updates.
  • Once people / studios have received their Kickstarter money, they often appear to be terrible at continuing to update the project information on Kickstarter. Having your own site is fine, but it can’t be that hard to cross post to a place where all the people who gave you money can easily see it, can it?
  • Lessons about how quickly the money can flow out of a Kickstarted project were listed early on for the now discontinued Addicube project – not much is left out of a few thousand dollars once Kickstarter / Amazon fees, reward offerings, legal arrangements and staff costs are taken out. I don’t think any of the costs spoken about in the following video are excessive, but it is where all the money went.

3 thoughts on “Kickstander: Do Kickstarted Video Games Actually Deliver? – A Prologue

  1. Kickstarter for video games has a lot of fans, but precious few critics. Keep it up! I too am skeptical of Kickstarter video games. Very interested in see the results over time.

  2. Pingback: Kickstander: When the Numbers Don’t Add Up « Vicarious Existence

  3. Pingback: Kickstander: Quantifying Hope and Measuring Dreams « Vicarious Existence

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