News Article

Kickstarter Research Highlights Low Delivery Rates of Game Projects

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Delays are also common

A number of Wii U — and to a lesser extent 3DS — projects have emerged through crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Some have arrived with publisher support, such as Cloudberry Kingdom, other examples like Shovel Knight are legitimately well on the way, and a series of others are well into development or a little way off. Even in the most notable examples — like these projects from Yacht Club Games and Pwnee Studios — there can be important considerations; the former has been delayed from its initial September 2013 target, while the latter was actually published by Ubisoft when it finally came to market.

Of greater concern, perhaps, are those projects that are never actually delivered. Blog Evil As A Hobby has posted a detailed analysis — including a full disclosure of the data used — to explore projects launched between 2009 and 2012 and break down their success in delivering to backers. The headline table, below, shows the percentages of delivery rates for each year from 2009 to 2012, with the remaining percentage not shown indicating those ongoing in each respective year. The following table and excerpt breaks down key results (with slightly different categorisations) year by year.

For a side-by-side comparison of the results from then versus now, you’ve got to add the fully delivery and partly delivered projects together, so that you see:

2009: 40% in October 2012 delivery versus 60% delivery by the end of December 2013 (which means only one extra project has delivered from this time period in 2013)
2010: 33% delivery then versus 38% delivery now (which is, again, only one extra project delivering something to its backers)
2011: 30% delivery then versus 42% delivery now (about 8 extra projects fully or partly delivering since the original examination)
2012: Can’t really compare the two results since the previous recording was just a part measure

The analysis goes on to point out that the majority of successful Kickstarter campaigns are for less than $20,000, highlighting the platform's role in supporting smaller projects. In perhaps the most worrying table, however, it's shown that projects from 2009 to 2012 have more money owed to backers than have been fully delivered, as of 2013. In numbers, this means that "US$16.9m in backer contributions have delivered partly or fully on their pitch, while there is US$21.6m left outstanding in undelivered projects", which is excluding formally cancelled projects.

Kickstarter is an inescapable part of modern game development, and has proven a valuable funding source for a number of exciting projects; we'll continue to share examples that seem full of promise. Despite this, these appear to be damaging numbers. We'll do some digging of our own but, in the meantime, share your thoughts on this in the comments below.


From the web

User Comments (59)




I do not fund too many projects on Kickstarter. One experience I had was for an iOS game that was developed by a guy in my hometown. He was only requesting $2,500 to finish the project, but stated he put in over $100,000 of his own money so far in development. After finding that out I withdrew my support. I couldn't understand why someone that just spent $100K to develope a game they are selling for $0.99 couldn't come up with the extra $2,500 to finish it. Or why you would even spend $100,000 to develop an iOS game. Seemed crazy!



Bass_X0 said:

It could have been the best darn iOS game ever. But we'll never know now.



XCWarrior said:

And this is why I don't back Kickstarter. They are the scam artists of video games - well besides EA, Activision and Ubisoft.



Warruz said:

This is the problem with Kickstarter slowly coming to light and actually if you ask me makes room for a new service. The way Kickstarter should function is that you are an "advanced customer" , your project is already on the tracks and you need money to polish it up or what have you or maybe just the mulah for the actual creation of the product.

What we need is a "Investarter" for projects early on. This is a bit more of a complicated idea then kickstarter and involves more to it but its something that should be explored. Rather then being an advanced customer with no rights you would rather be an investor and be have certain rights that you dont have with kickstarter.

Basically my suggestion would be break Kickstarter down into 3 parts based off of the ideas development life cycle or what you are truely searching for.



ultraraichu said:

You guys and gals at nintendolife need to pat yourselves on the back as well since you advertise a good amount of them on the site to reach their goal.

If it wasn't written on this site, then I would never know about it in the first place.



SilentHunter382 said:

I have only backed 2 games on kickstarter:

  • Project Eternity (now Pillars of Eternity) which is still in development so I still have hopes
  • Shovel Knight which is going to be released in 2 months which I can't wait for.

Any other games I saw on kickstarter have not interest me or they have but not enough to help support the project.

@ultraraichu I agree, I wouldn't have known about Shovel Knight if it wasn't for NL.



hiptanaka said:

Just Project Eternity, Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera make up half of those "total outstanding Kickstarer $". Those games are definitely coming, so the numbers are a bit misleading.

The thing with Kickstarter is, you shouldn't just throw your money at something that sounds cool. Do some research on the team first. Do they seem trustworthy to finish a project, and have they made good things in the past?



Morph said:

I think you have to use your common sense really, games from well known people like keiji inafune or well known indie studios, or even studios that have gotten their name out through sites like this one are more likely to deliver games than those you have never heard of and who maybe only offer some concept art to advertise their idea.



ACK said:

I've remained a skeptic. I appreciate and support the principles, but the weasels will find a way in to steal the eggs and even eat the heads off the hens, if determined. No matter how necessary or brutal, they will find a way. It's sad, because this effort supports a degree of self-sustainability for those who need and possibly deserve it.

Either way, I spend enough on finished game products and am always happy to purchase a worthwhile game after release. It's just not practical to squeeze those funds to support prospective projects. I've said it before, the developers who are completing and releasing quality projects to market (Two Tribes, anyone?) deserve those funds more. It needs to be asked, with the industry in turmoil, what impact are these Kickstarter trends having?



Peach64 said:

Kickstarter for games didn't really kick off until DoubleFine adventure. That's less than 2 years ago, and most games take longer to develop than 2 years.

Kickstarter is perfect for me. For so many years people made comments like 'I'd pay so much for a sequel to Shenmue', or some other cult game that no publisher was ever going to fund. Now fans have a chance to do that.

Making a game is 2-3 years of spending and then when it's done you see a return. No devs can afford this, they need a publisher to effectively loan them money, but as we know, publishers then interfere. Kickstarter allows fans to pay for the game in advance, so the devs can do it their own way, without a publisher changing things to make it as mainstream as possible.

I'd never back a project that didn't have some kind of pedigree. If some devs with a proven track record want to make a game, I'll back them, but if some people that have never made a game, are trying to make sonething inspired by Zelda or whatever, how do I know it won't turn out to be utter crap?

That's why the system works as it is. Those with pedigree will have legions of fans eager to pay them for a new game.

Nintendo will never announce a new Earthbound, Sega will never publish another Shenmue, but Kickstarter gives those projects a chance if there's genuinely enough interest.



Artwark said:

I don't get this kickstarter thing. You give money to a project that you're interested in and then you pay for the game again even though, you given money earlier.......

I'm starting to think indie development is slowly relying on making instant money..... isn't limited resources and all suppose to be how indies work?



ThomasBW84 said:

@ultraraichu I'm unsure whether you're being positive of passively criticising, here? In any case, we report ones that we feel are worth the coverage, we also pass a good number over. It's just a judgement call on each one.

There are hundreds of projects, just for games, so it's an unfortunate reality that with those sorts of numbers there are duds and bad projects. I like the idea of Kickstarter helping the cream rise to the top and obtain funding not possible elsewhere, like some of the good examples we've seen, yet I always encourage caution.



Knux said:

...And this is why I don't support Kickstarter. if your game looks interesting enough, I'll buy it AFTER it's released.



hiptanaka said:


In addition to what you said, Kickstarter also allows people to donate more than the game would ever sell for, which allows a smaller crowd to finance the game than would otherwise be possible.

As long as people do proper sanity checks on projects, Kickstarter is an amazing thing. It makes games happen that would never happen otherwise, and it's well on its way to revive an entire genre this year, with all the old-school CRPGs coming.



ejamer said:

I'm not anti-Kickstarter... but the (usually) long development times required for video games usually turn me off from backing projects. Especially when the game is already getting created without my backing and will be available - probably on sale eventually - later. Why take on any risk if you don't need to?

You only give money once. It's like an "advance purchase" so that the developer has better cash flow, instead of leaving the developers to front all costs before the game is released. It also serves as a sort of measuring stick for public interest: if the project can't hit it's goal then maybe the developer would be better off trying to create something different.



hiptanaka said:

@ejamer "Especially when the game is already getting created without my backing and will be available..."

There are many instances where the game will not be made at all unless it's Kickstarted.



ikki5 said:

I have never backed a kickstarter game and I never will. I have often wondered if what happens when a game gets funded and them goes kaput... where does that money go... or the money left over. i simply do not trust them so if they want my money, they can take the risk, fund the game or product themselves just like any other new product being made and if it is actually worth something in my eyes, I'll buy it.



Fiskern said:

As someone stated above, Project Eternity, Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera takes up a mjority of those "lost $", and those look like they will be made. But when a game exceeds the goal with an amount such as Wasteland 2, can you blame them for making it bigger? And Broken Age just released, I didn't get if it was counted in this.



XCWarrior said:

@Peach64 Big games from developers take 2-3 years to develop. Indy games, which are usually really small and take 3-5 hours to complete as a player, do NOT take 2-3 years unless they are spending like a hour a day on them as a side job. Some really good games that have come out have taken devs of teams of 5-10 people 6 months to make. I can't cite references, but read some of the interviews sites like Nintendo LIfe does.



unrandomsam said:

The stuff that seems to be funded easily is clones.

Most of the indie stuff I like the best wasn't anything to do with Kickstarter.

Lots of indie stuff is basically not worth releasing but yet it get released anyway. (Type of stuff that used to be free on Newsgrounds).

Stuff like the Occulus Rift obviously wouldn't have happened without kickstarter.

I would be more likely to back stuff for some proportion of the profit. (£50 or more) something like that.

I would back something by Yuji Naka. (Like getting Rodeo the Sky Soldier released).



Kaze_Memaryu said:

@ikki5 Well, investments always bear a risk.

Kickstarter is a good way to fund projects, but ever since its rise in fame, more and more overambitious teams joined it without being aware of the hard work they'll need to put in nonetheless - and when things go over their heads, they tend to give up to escape the pressure.
That's why nobody should start their first project on fundraising, and Kickstarter shouldn't allow inexperienced people to fund their very first project using their service, but show previously developed products as proof of their ability and trustworthiness.



ejamer said:

True. But many of the "big name" video games go wildly over their initial goals without providing any meaningful reward for backers. My point was that the bigger success a Kickstarter campaign is for a video game, the less incentive there (usually) is for me to throw money at them before the project is complete.

In cases where the game really might not get made without Kickstarter support, I'm more lenient about backing - but I'm also careful to do my homework and balance out how much trust I have in the development team versus how much risk I'm willing to accept to see the project move forward.



Kolzig said:

I've backed about 20 projects of which I have already received 6 fully and 2 partially.

Only five projects are late and all of those because the scope of the projects were made larger since they received a lot more money than was budgeted so they wanted to make bigger better games. Of course it kind of went overboard with Tim Schafer since they actually seemed to run out of money even though got like 10 more money than they were asking for. It's still awesome that they are about to finish the project and the first part is already out. Second will come by summer.

Kickstarter is good, but of course there are scams, that's why I've mostly stayed to reliable projects from trustworthy people.



Yorumi said:

The problem isn't with kickstarter it's with the backers, well and the people putting up crazy projects. A lot of times people put up a project with a few pieces of hand drawn concept art, and an impossible scope and money flows in because the concept looks really cool. That's really the equivalent to backing a snake oil salesmen.

Kickstarter warns that the backer assumes essentially all risk. That just means backers need to be intelligent with where they put their money.



Gioku said:

As a future indie developer myself, I must say that Kickstarter is quite alluring... It is extremely likely that I'll be using it in the future!



hiptanaka said:

@ejamer Well, the reward to the backers for wildly surpassing the goal is that the game gets more content. I think that's the best reward the backers can get.

For example, Project Eternity at the original goal had something like 5 classes to pick from. Now they're at 11 classes (I think), and lots of additional features and a much bigger world to explore. They were also able to bring on board CRPG legends like Tim Cain and George Ziets with the extra money. Some games with a limited scope or a more specific idea won't benefit from a larger budget, but in those cases that should be made clear.

Finally, yes, everyone should do their homework and weigh in the risk of the project not happening. I mostly back projects made by people with a good track record and a history with the genre.



ultraraichu said:

@ThomasBW84 it's more positive since you write about games like Mighty No. 9 and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero which raise awareness and support funds to those numbers and weed out (I hope) the questionable ones.

Of course at the end of the day it's up to us to back the game, so our personal judgement kick in once we're on their page to fund or not.



Jayvir said:

This is why I only back projects that have proof of concept or are by bigger names like Mighty No. 9. To be fair though, I have 8 projects on Kickstarter and as of yet, none of them have launched, although Shovel Knight is close.



DerpSandwich said:

People who refuse to back Kickstarters or think the whole thing is a scam are paranoid and misinformed. Basically what you're saying is, "I don't trust anybody ever, and I refuse to abandon the old model of publishers controlling every aspect of every game and hoarding all the money." This is a golden opportunity for a dev to make the game THEY want, but no, it's all just a scam, I'll just buy it AFTER it comes out! (Which it won't if you don't do your part to support it, though you fail to grasp that concept.)

These stats aren't damaging at all. They mean nothing. Games take a lot of time to make, and often the delays are because the projects raised a lot more than they expected, so they want to take the extra time to use the money to its fullest. Double Fine Adventure is a perfect example of this. It's taking way longer than they originally said, and we only just got part one of Broken Age, but it looks about ten times cooler than what it was going to be like originally.



Mrclaycoat said:

I've backed 6 or 7 games thus far and so far they all look to be coming out soon and all look great. For the Wii U I'm especially excited for Shovel Knight, Mighty #9, Shantae half genie hero, Super Ubie Land and Liege.



ricklongo said:

Kickstarter is a great tool. I've only backed one project so far (Lobodestroyo), for $15. Now two things could happen: either they release the game (and I get my copy without extra charge), or they somehow cancel it and are required to give the money back to their backers. If the people making it simply vanish into thin air, then I lose $15, which is a slim probability and either way wouldn't be the end of the world.

Of course, like any investment, there is risk. But I'm more than happy to help people make games that look promising and suit my tastes. I see myself backing more projects in the future.

@unrandomsam You get "perks" as a backer, like a copy of the game itself in many cases. So let's just say it's a mixture between investment and donation.



Azikira said:

I've only backed a couple projects, and I knew it would be a few years before they were finished. On the plus side, one thing I backed is already done, and another will be out in few months time. :3



citizenerased said:

Not showing the percentage of games that are still in development is a significant flaw to these statistics. The percentages shown don't even add up to 50%. The delivery rates could very well be around 70-80% for all years, which would be perfectly acceptable. Time will just have to tell.

Literally the only thing these statistics prove is "it takes a while to make a game" and "basement studios asking for a $5000 budget might not be entirely trustworthy".



WiiLovePeace said:

This is why I've never backed a single project on kickstarter, too many unknown factors. Feels like I'd be throwing money down the sink. I'll buy a game if it comes to a platform I own & if I like it. I've got enough games on my "to buy list" that I don't need to buy games that may never even happen.



AugustusOxy said:

I haven't seen a single game on kickstarter I'd want to support, mainly because of ambiguity. A sweet talking developer pops onto a screen and makes promises hes never going to fulfill. Its like paying Molynuex to screw us again with fable before the game even comes out.

Yes, I understand the industry needs Kickstarters to get unique and interesting games funded. Too bad every game I've seen on kickstarter that got funded has been knockoff games or sequels that should just happen anyway.

Now if Kojima popped up on there and said "I need money for ZOE3" well then I'd start throwing money at him.

Until then, I'll stay conservative with my cash thank you.


Even with the games that are still in development, its proving a point. Most of these games had a projected date, a lot of them required -further funding- and still have no clear release date...This displeases the funders... quite a bit.



64supermario said:

@Artwark You only pay once, like for instance I backed Mighty No. 9. I gave them $20 and now I'm guaranteed (if it goes without a hitch) to get a copy of the game on any console that I choose. Depends on the reward status. Its like pre-ordering in a sense. That game won't be out til 2015, but I knew that full in advance before I even backed the project. Kickstarters are a good way for a lot of people to get teams focusing on the game since a lot of indies like the developers on a Hat in Time had second jobs. This way they are paid to do one job, work on the game. I think its a good thing and as long as they keep updating on their Kickstarter page like Mighty No. 9 there really isn't a need to worry.



MikeLove said:

I'm surprised you guys would point this out, since 40% of the articles you post are schilling for Kickstarter games on the Wii-U



Technosphile said:

The big one for me is The 90's Arcade Racer, a game I was really excited for on Wii U, and now the guy hasn't updated about it since November.

Makes you wonder if some people are biting off more than they can chew. To make a quality console video game is not easy.



MikeLove said:

The only crowdfunding donation I ever made was $30 towards getting Jake the Snake Roberts shoulder surgery. Money well spent!



Dogpigfish said:

I've actually really seen the benefit of kick starter. It prevents the big wigs from oligopolies and allows you to develop your own games. (Let me first say I have never used kick starter for my projects) But it helps those little guys in their basements or studio apartments and gives them a real opportunity to shine and bring creativity to the markets rather than being part of the rigorous hiring process. It allows programmers to become more like owners than rely on manafers who don't share the passion. Like it or not, this is allowing talent to approach the table.



Emblem said:

I don't back any projects myself but i believe Kickstarter and crowdfunding is good for the games industry as a whole despite its pitfalls.



Peach64 said:

@XCWarrior Kickstarter is not just for indie games. To be honest, if a game is only taking one or two people, why do they need any funding? The money is to pay for these large development teams to work for a few years. Broken Age, Star Citizen, Project CARS, Bugbear's Next Car Game, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Project Eternity, Elite: Dangerous, Planetary Annihilation, none of these are small games that can be made it a matter of months by one or two people.

If you don't want to back anything, then don't. I just don't understand why people get upset that others are willing to back. One thing I will say is, I see a lot of people on this site get excited by Kickstarters that are created by people that have never worked in the industry before, just because they mention they were inspired by classic games. Any guy tells NLife his game is inspired by old school Zelda and half the posters seem to add it to their big games coming out for Wii U list. 90's Arcade Racer is a perfect example. People gave that guy money because they loved some racing games, but he had nothing to do with those. Now if Toshihiro Nagoshi came out and said he's making a racing games inspired by 90's arcade racers, THEN I'd back it.



cheetahman91 said:

That's why you only donate to developers that you trust will finish and release the game. As for me, I've never donated to Kickstarter before, although that mostly has to do with the fact that I have limited funds.



Mattiator said:

Out of ~25 game projects I've backed I've gotten the full return on about 6 or 7 of them. A lot of them are understandable (like Star Citizen and DISTANCE), and my trust remains high for those titles, since they have been very good about constant updates and game play footage, as well as managing and growing their community. On the other hand I've had projects like Dysis, where we've gone almost a YEAR without any official word from the team aside from a few brief replies mentioning a family illness. Finally they're claiming they are ready for release on Steam. Or 'nstaCharge, where the dev crew needed to pay for tools and extra artists to bring their game to life part-time... and then promptly had their six-movie deal studio flop over and die leaving them with no income, leaving the game two years and counting behind schedule with no release in sight. Delays happen, it's a part of making games (and Kickstarter-wise, the bigger a project the more delays I expect). It's how the developers handle the delays that matters.

In all my projects, I've only ever had one arrive without delays, Jason Rohr's "Diamond Trust Of London", a retail release for the DS. This was since the game was completely done and ready to ship, but no company wanted to do a physical release for the dying system. We paid our money, he said they'd be out by a certain time, they arrived. And that was it. Still haven't opened mine, since no one else has any interest in playing it with me.



YorkshireNed said:

I like the idea of Kickstarter. Only backed one project so far. Still waiting for it to come to my platform but its only a couple of months late which I gather is no biggie in this kind of thing.



hosokawasamurai said:

I put Kickstarter and Season Passes on the same category: DIRT.

Definitely not into paying for something of unknown quality. In case the final product doesn't deliver what it promises there's no refund.

I'd rather go to Vegas and put some money on Blackjack. At least there's a chance of winning something there.



SkywardLink98 said:

Idea for Kickstarter: Great!
Execution of Kickstarter: Needs a lot of work.
The only game I've ever really "backed" was Starbound (though that wasn't through Kickstarter). The problem is there is always a huge risk with backing something. Typically, if they have created games before (and were good) they'll have the money to make the game themselves. It's the unknown studios that need the money, and it's of course a huge risk to back them.



sketchturner said:

Investors take risks. Throwing money at a Kickstarter game is not the same as buying a game. You are an investor hoping that your money will be used to your liking. But once the money leaves your hands, you can't expect to have control over the project.



ted-k said:

Right now I'm backing a kickstarter project for the first time, La Mulana 2. I played the wiiware version of La Mulana and loved it so much that I couldn't resist backing the sequel. I have total confidence in the developers since they have a proven track record, and I'm glad to support them in making a sequel which they might not otherwise be able to make, or just help them make it bigger and better than it otherwise would have been. For projects like this kickstarter is great.



Kitsune_Rei said:

Kickstarter is, like many things, about being smart about where you throw your money, and not just being blinded by a great idea. Does the person have a track record? How far is it along? How much have they really searched into what their actual costs, needs, and time will be? You can kinda tell the ones that are more of a wing and a prayer versus those that the game it already half done and they have an established team and workload.
Its just like ordering something from a shady internet site versus an established one.
I have no regrets for any projects I backed, and I think they have all reached fruition or are making regular progress (granted I usually also back comics or board games or other things more than video games). You just have to go into it expecting delays. I don't hold it against them when a game dev has delays on final approvals of their games. It happens even to the regular companies.
But since video games are a much more costly and less tangible thing, I think they're more susceptible to catastrophic delays or falling apart altogether. Its just in the past you just never hear about those games.



SetupDisk said:

Every investment is a risk. It's nice somebody did a study but it's kind of funny how some people are damning the whole thing in posts. There will always be legitimate people looking for investment and lazy bums as well. Be an adult and do the research yourself.

Swear word!



sleepinglion said:

I've only backed one title before but it was from WayForward who have already proven to be dependable game people. Shantae! It's coming... sometime this year =P



Windy said:

I'm shocked by this news. Absolutely shocked. Who would think people would take other peoples donations and not deliver on what's promised? Rolls eyes What happens on Kickstarter if a project gets canned? Do they just keep the money? I have no clue how it works really. I certainly would have never imagined that video game companies and others would be asking for donation to publish games and or items. There is just something not right with how kickstarter works.



XCWarrior said:

@Peach64 I feel bad for people that are investing in games that aren't being finished.

And as the graphs clearly show, for every 1 game that you mention that is actually getting made, 2 are not being made. It's seriously a little better than 1 in 3 games is finished. Terrible ratio.

Better than playing the lottery I guess.



MamaLuigi said:

Hmmm that's odd cause the few projects I've funded, and at $5 tops for each of them, seem to be moving along quite nicely and even have videos playing (Shadow of the Eternals is the only exception since it was canceled)



Sean_Aaron said:

I've backed a few kickstarter projects, but nothing like making a game from scratch. In all cases it was an established outfit I was already familiar with trying to get some scratch for licensing fees.

Giving Farsight fifty quid so I can play a digital recreation of Star Trek the Next Generation pinball from Williams in the already established Pinball Arcade was a zero risk bet. I can't say I'd ever fund a project from a bunch of people I don't know to make a game that has little more than concept art or a short video to sell it.

In all honesty what happened to people working regular jobs and saving money towards their dream project or going to a bank if you have a real proposal you think will be successful? I think kickstarter has its place, but it seems to me that it's an easy way for people to get fleeced - I mean banks tend to be conservative about lending practices for a reason: there's a lot of people out there with bad ideas that shouldn't get backing!



aaronsullivan said:

The stats are sobering, but remember that the software industry (especially including games) in infamous for an inability to predict how long a project will take. On top of this, as a project comes to a close the people who are making it AND those who want it sometimes prefer to improve a game or polish it now that the larger part of the project is finished so it takes longer again.

Not saying it's desirable to wait longer or for those working on it to take longer but it does effect these numbers. Many of those projects not yet delivered may very well deliver. Just later than expected. Kind of like just about every other worthwhile game ever made.

Let's say two people work on an iPhone game for a year and pay for software subscriptions, office, etc. Why wouldn't it take $100,000? For a 0.99 game and possible a simple game it may be ill advised but it's not a long stretch.

As for wondering why they'd need to have another $2500. My guess is they ran out of money while working on the project they aren't seeing a return on yet? Not sure why that would be confusing or weird.

That said, those factors in combination with others (like the kind of game and the scope of the game) are important and everyone should approach a kickstarter with skepticism.

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