Kickstander: Wildman Is An Example Why Accountability on Kickstarter Is A Joke

Here’s the “Risks and Challenges” section of Gas Powered Games’ Wildman Kickstarter, launched January 14 2013:

The key points are: making video games is risky, if we see delays we might need more capital but we're going to deliver a quality title probably on time and on budget.

The entire Risks and Challenges section for the Wildman Kickstarter project.

Four days later, Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor announcedsubstantial” layoffs on the grounds that the company needs had to “slim WAY down to conserve cash reserves“.

How in the world isn’t “we’re low on cash” a risk worth mentioning in the name of transparency to the people you want to give you US$1.1m? That the experienced team you are trumpeting as a benefit is going to be cut way back in less than a week?

Kickstarter added the Risks and Challenges section as a way of making project creators more “open and honest” to the public about the challenges they face. The big problems with this system is:

  1. The risks and challenges are self-assessed by the project creators, which often leaves them nothing more than humblebrags about how great the end product is going to be (which the above isn’t the worst example of, but there are elements of that in there). It is also clear that – in video games at least – project creators at best don’t correctly identify their project risks, or at worst will conceal them.
  2. Kickstarter’s accountability is limited to reviewing and accepting the pitch and then collecting the money if the pitch is successful. Other than that, it’s a case of pledger beware. Outside of outright fraud, Kickstarter appears to have very little interest in ensuring that the information that appears on their Kickstarter pages is a full and correct account.

It looks likely that the Wildman Kickstarter will be fully funded, as players shift from “we want the Wildman concept turned into a game” to “save Gas Powered Games”. But it again points out to me that crowdfunding occurs with potential pledgers basing their decisions completely on what project creators wish to tell them. That’s a system that is ripe for exploitation, particularly if Kickstarter isn’t particularly interested in checking if a project’s risks and challenges have correctly been identified.

This isn’t about wanting Gas Powered Games to close, but here’s a studio seeking crowdfunding for a new project while running low on capital and elects to not mention that as a problem in its pitch, despite it being a clear project risk.  You may think it’s okay that Taylor announced the layoffs and cash issues at all, but it only took four days to reach that point, so it was a known issue before the Kickstarter began. That’s a concern when Wildman has over a year’s worth of development left – what other risks and challenges does this project face that aren’t being made known to the crowd?

UPDATE 23 January 2013: In an interview between Penny Arcade’s Ben Kuchera and Chris Taylor the following exchange is mentioned:

I asked about the “Risks and Challenges” section of the Kickstarter. There was nothing there that mentioned the possibilities of large-scale layoffs with the company, and they took place so quickly after the campaign was launched.

“We were totally aware of the possibility of the layoffs, and it came up when I was doing the press before the launch, but I think the Risks and Challenges are not referring to that[.] I think they mean that the company will be operational,” Taylor said.

The risk of Gas Powered Games remaining operational isn’t mentioned in the Wildman Risks and Challenges section either.

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3 thoughts on “Kickstander: Wildman Is An Example Why Accountability on Kickstarter Is A Joke

  1. “Outside of outright fraud, Kickstarter appears to have very little interest in ensuring that the information that appears on their Kickstarter pages is a full and correct account.”

    Why would Kickstarter have any interest in providing information that would deter people from pledging? They get 5% if the drive is successful and $0 if it is unsuccessful. If a successfully funded endeavor goes under for whatever reason, Kickstarter keeps their 5% and tells the backers they are free to sue the guy who no longer has any money with which to reimburse them. As you say, their only motivation to keep things in any way above board is if the fraud is so bad that it undermines people’s confidence in the platform and thereby causes Kickstarter to stop getting their cut of future projects.

    • It certainly looks like that. Unfortunately it might be too late to salvage their reputation if they implement anti-fraud measures after a major fraud hits.

      I was thinking the other day that Kickstarter reminds me of Groupon in that for a while everyone was very excited about it and thought it was “the next big thing”, but then a large group of competitors appeared (the site’s tech isn’t hard to match; the secret is attracting the right supporters) and the site was mugged by reality to some extent.

      The question people will start asking in 2013 isn’t, “was their Kickstarter successful?” but “did that Kickstarted game deliver anything it promised?”.

  2. Pingback: [Links] Gaming news: Sony due to reveal next gen playstation in Feb, Hartsmann leaves Trion, gPotato gets sold to company with less daft name | Welcome to Spinksville!

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