Art of the Genre: The Pillaging of Kickstarter? 2: Stats & Video

Art of the Genre: The Pillaging of Kickstarter? 2: Stats & Video

Although about a post-apocalypse, Wasteland 2 wants to see Kickstarter prosper.
Although about a post-apocalypse, Wasteland 2 wants to see Kickstarter prosper.

It’s been a very interesting two weeks since I posted up a little article on Saturday in my Kickstarter spot here on Black Gate. Usually, all my Kickstarter posts are met with a HUGE lack of readership or interest, most posting no more than two hundred reads, so I decided it wouldn’t be horribly impactful to post an article I titled The Pillaging of Kickstarter?

When I posted it at 12:01 AM on a Saturday morning, I had no idea that when I’d wake up the next day it would already be at over seven hundred reads. The article created a perfect firestorm of venom and vitriol spat in my general direction from every single soul who decided to comment on it, and let me assure you there were more than a couple.

My premise was that companies shouldn’t be on a grass roots movement crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter because it hurt smaller projects. That argument was flatly burned at the stake by all comers, but I was intrigued by the fact that no matter how villainous I seemed for saying what I did, there was no one with actual numbers to back their theory any more than I could back mine.

By Thursday that week my article had over two-thousand views, and some of my initial arguments had been refuted by inXile’s participation in a couple of things, first they were actually backing project with pledges on the platform, and second inXile CEO Brian Fargo had initiated a call for a program called Kicking it Forward in which 5% of total sales income from products produced on Kickstarter would be returned to the platform in the form of pledging.

I was so impressed by this take by Fargo, something I’d called for specifically the Saturday before, that I wrote inXile, shared my article with them, and asked to talk with Brian.

What I got in return? Well, a not so nice note from inXile President Matt Finley telling me my conclusions were completely false. Still, I’m ever undaunted by harsh words [just ask Erol Otus]. I emailed Matt back and started a dialogue concerning my thoughts versus inXile’s actions.

Evil Hat, even as a tiny company, is doing incredible work on the platform while giving back.
Evil Hat, even as a tiny company, is doing incredible work on the platform while giving back.

Intriguingly, much of our discussion boiled down to my thoughts concerning the changing of the platforms accepted video medium to one of a much higher production value. Videos, you see, are the primary key to a project’s success right behind word of mouth viral marketing, and without a great video, viral marketing just won’t happen, so essentially it’s mostly about the video anyway.

Before the advent of Double Fine’s unreal success on Kickstarter, the platform and freelance gurus indicated that a video was still THE key, however, they suggested a ‘heart-to-heart’ and ‘one-on-one’ approach that related an honest plea for the project to perspective backers. You were to upload a video of yourself talking about the project, featuring your passion, and showing people who they were dealing with, all in less than five minutes.

Post DF [Double Fine], the platforms need for videos was changed, and gone were the days of webcam testimonials from project creators as they sat at their desk while dogs walked around in the background of their living room. I will still contend that what was once a zero dollar launch proposition has now switched over to a more expensive add campaign model that would/will push smaller [and poorer] projects off the platform entirely, but that might be so small a number as to be completely inconsequential.

Matt wasn’t so sure about my latest argument until he discovered this link for the Takedown Realistic Squad-Based Tactical Shooter. If you watch this video, you’ll see it’s a very late second attempt by the company to salvage their project by moving from the old norm [the one-on-one project plea] to a higher production value mini-movie pitch ala Post DF style.

I was both amazed and saddened by this video because I knew it confirmed a changing of the guard as much as Matt did, as well as the end of an era. Matt, however, offered up this bit of interesting info on Brian and inXile. They had produced their insanely awesome Kickstarter Video with a borrowed 5 year-old camcorder from an ex-employee, a freely downloadable set of video editing software, and $300 cash for their actors. [YES, it’s true, that’s what it cost them to do this, minus tech time from any volunteer employees at the company. It’s an amazing feat.]

Still, the more Matt and I spoke, the more we seemed to understand each other, and the more it became clear we were on the same team concerning what we wanted from Kickstarter as a platform. Then, this Thursday, Matt sent me another link, this one boasting him being ‘100% right’ where super-projects were concerned. When I clicked on it, I couldn’t believe my eyes…

You can always know that Art of the Genre will be paying if forward in any way we can.
You can always know that Art of the Genre will be paying if forward in any way we can.

Kickstarter itself was refuting everything I stated in my The Pillaging of Kickstarter? article and backing it up with the figures I’d demanded. Seriously, less than two weeks after I questioned the site’s viability and went viral, they actually responded, even if not to me personally, but still, could it be a coincidence? Here was their direct quote about questions and concerns brought up to them:

As we’ve grown, we’ve heard people worry that it will be harder and harder to fund projects as the total number of projects grows. They wonder: Do more projects mean greater competition for the same dollars?
And when there’s a blockbuster project, they ask: Are these projects stealing backers from other worthy projects?

Sound familiar?

They go into great detail with graphs to prove that my theories are not the case. On the whole, their rebuttal argument is that backers brought in exclusively [never before pledging on the site] for these ‘super projects’ have since pledged more than ‘$1,083,937 to 1,000 other projects’ after backing just the Double Fine and Order of the Stick projects initially.

If you want to read the research, and I suggest you do, you can find it here.

So, is there truly a pillaging of Kickstarter going on by companies? It certainly looks like that isn’t the case, but we are seeing a large bloom of super-projects, especially in the video game section of the platform.

As for me, I’ve also been forced to change my one-on-one video for my current Kickstarter into a more media driven model. I hope you all will take a look and tell me what you think of the new intro.

And since we’re talking about Kickstarters, and this IS Black Gate, I also wanted to give a shout out to Evil Hat Productions and their insanely cool Dinocalypse NOW trilogy that is tearing up the publishing section at Kickstarter this month. Like my Tales of the Emerald Serpent, the more books the Kickstarter projects can produce, EVERYONE, who backs these two will get an ebook copy of EVERY book in the series. Currently, they are doing so well that you get 4 novels for a $10 pledge!

If you like what you read in Art of the Genre, you can listen to me talk about publishing and my current venture with great artists of the fantasy field here or even come say hello on Facebook here.

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I actually think that your post “The Pillaging of Kickstarter” gets it right. If you ever read Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan”, he explains how systems tend to reward fewer and fewer players the larger they grow and the more unified they become.

Whether or not Kickstarter has already reached that point, I couldn’t say. Nassim Taleb is a mathematician, but I’m not 😉


Well, as with all Black Gate writers, I’m an agreeable person 😉


My friends and I just launched our project on Friday — in what appears to be a massive flood of interesting projects. Ugh!

BTW, we’d love to interview you and John as a part of our project if possible.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x