I (Robin Ek, TGG) have had some rather mixed feelings about crowdfunding as of lately, and rightfully so. As it’s come to my attention that there have been quite a few video game campaigns which have never been finished (as in “never released”), and yes, I’m fully aware of the fact that there exists more than one crowdfunding platform nowadays (indiegogo, Tim Schafer’s Fig, Kickstarter with others). Nevertheless, it appears as if Kickstarter is still the favorite platform for a lot of game developers (especially indie devs) . So naturally, that will lead to more fishy business practices on that particular platform (more project creators = A higher risk of scams, canceled projects or half-done releases). That’s also why I’ve decided to focus mainly on Kickstarter and the risks of backing games on that platform.

So, let’s get the show on the road shall we? Well, right off the bat, it’s worth pointing out that even though if a Kickstarter project gets fully funded and ends up being released as promised. There is still no guarantee whatsoever that the game (s) in question will live up to the promises which the game developer (s) has made during the game development process (not to mention all the hype). In other words, you might just have invested your money into the next “Daikatana” game project (just take a look at “Psychonauts 2“, “Mighty N0.9” and “Yooka-Laylee“…). So it’s always a good idea to look out for warning signs BEFORE you toss any of your money into the Kickstarter snakepit.

Warning signs such as:
1. Very little to no information about the people behind the project in question
2. Questionable Kickstarter goals (for example, when devs are asking for much more money than they actually need)
3. Shady and fishy Kickstarter videos and Kickstarter pages (use your gut feelings and common sense)
4. No (or very few) project updates via Kickstarter
5. Dead silence from the game developer in question (no new trailers, blog posts, tweets or video updates whatsoever)
6. No playable demos throughout the whole Kickstarter campaign
7. The game developer keeps on asking for more money even though the project in question has already been fully funded (Tim Schafer’s “Broken Age” *cough cough*)
8. Peter Molyneux-like game developers (talks a lot, promises a lot, keeps very little)

Other than that, I would recommend people to check out kickscammed.com. As most Kickstarter scams get reported via that page. It’s also a wise idea to always do background checks on the people behind the project that you intend to back with your money on Kickstarter (do they have a history of breaking promises and deadlines? What games have they worked on before? And so on). Well, I think you get the idea. So let’s take a look at some recent examples of some rather fishy Kickstarter campaigns in the world of games:

But I love you – A dating simulator game by Gorshatastic! (+43,000 USD)

but i love you kickstarter

Gorshatastic! cashed in almost 44,000 USD for their dating simulator game “But I love you” via Kickstarter by the end of 2014. However, the game should have been released back in February, 2015…

As seen in the pictures above, Gorshatastic’s dating simulator “But I love You” collected over 43,000 USD via Kickstarter, and the game should have been released back in 2015 (February). However, the game is nowhere to be seen…And the latest game updated was posted in May last year (2016). Furthermore, there are quite a few unhappy and angry backers of the game out there… And by the looks of the comments between the backers and the developers, I have to say that things don’t exactly look very promising for “But I love You”:

“For those of you who want to get in touch with her through other social platforms, there are a number of results here: https://www.google.com/#q=Mel+Gorsha
I don’t use social networks (apart from LinkedIn), so this is not an avenue for me. But it might be useful to let others who might back or hire her know what they are getting into. She has another game – http://www.novellagaming.com/geed/ – which she solicited funds for through GoFundMe. Also never completed or delivered.

It appears that “Mel Gorsha” is the stage name for Melissa Korkuc, who is the project creator here and elsewhere. So you may have luck with that name as well.
It’s one thing to promise and not deliver on your first effort. It’s quite another thing to do so in serial fashion.” Howard Kistler (Super backer)

Scale – A  FPS reality manipulation game by Steve Swink (+100,000 USD)

scale kickstarter

Steve Swink raised over 100,000 USD for his FPS reality manipulation game “Scale” (which he did back in November, 2013), and the game should have been released in December, 2014.

Then we got Steve Swink’s FPS reality manipulation game “Scale“, which cashed in over 100,000 USD on Kickstarter in 2013 (November). Well, the game should have been released in December 2014. In other words, the game is almost three years behind in its original release schedule…And there seems to be an conflict of interest case involved between Steve Swink (the game developer behind “Scale”) and Jessica Conditt (Engadget Senior Reporter) as well. Furthermore, Scale’s latest updated was published back in December last year (2016). So I fully understand the backers concern and anger, and speaking of which. The backers of “Scale” sure showed their anger in the comment section on Scale’s Kickstarter page:

“Lots of overly nasty comments here, but I have to say, this is probably the worst Kickstarter fulfillment I’ve ever seen. And the first project I ever backed was Exploding Rabbit’s Super Retro Squad, which raised $30,000 only for the developers to promptly lease a house with it (purportedly so the development team could both live and work together). The project tanked because they grossly underestimated the work it took to make a full game, their only pedigree being a few Flash games, the most famous of which relied entirely on assets from existing games. Eventually, it became a one-man project, the game’s concept completely changed, and tons of backers got refunds. But you know what? They COMMUNICATED WITH THEIR BACKERS. When they made mistakes, they ADMITTED them. They had to refund thousands of dollars, but they COMPLIED WITH KICKSTARTER POLICY.

And Jay occasionally still sends backers (the ones who stuck around) updates on the new game, which obviously isn’t going to be what we paid for, but at least it’s something. Steve, I have no doubt you care about this game, but you HAVE to communicate with us. I suspect it’s out of fear that we’ll be upset with your progress, but someone literally said down there that he wished you were dead in a ditch somewhere. Whatever response we have can’t be worse than that. This radio silence is making people think you decided to take the money and run, and while I have faith that you aren’t that awful, you’re not giving much solid evidence to the contrary.” – Luke Fowler, a Kickstarter backer

So only time will tell how this Kickstarter story will end.

“Grapple Knight” – A 2D platformer by Red Knight Games (+12,000 AUD)

Then last, but not least. We got Red Knight Games 2D platformer “Grapple Knight”, a game that collected 12,000 AUD via Kickstarter back in December, 2013. Well, the game should have been released for over three years ago (2013, December). So the game appears to be stuck in limbo, and the lack of new updates by the developer just makes the matter even worse. I also found this rather worrisome comment by  Red Knight Games themselves (it’s dated to the 15th of August, 2014):

Thanks for the comments guys! We haven’t been able to follow-up on an update as planned since development hasn’t been going as smooth as we’d like. Currently dealing with personal and financial issues that some of our team members are undergoing. However we do have an update cooking and hope to have it out by the next week :)”Red Knight Games – Dated August 15th, 2014

And as if that wasn’t enough, I also stumbled up on this comment by a rather upset “Grapple Knight” backer:

“Dear project creator, I would like to invoke my legal rights under Kickstarter’s Terms of Use: https://www.kickstarter.com/terms-of-use/oct2012
“Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill.”
Please provide a refund for my pledge amount.”
Steven Bodnar, a Kickstarter backer

So by the looks of it, some backers of “Grapple Knight” have already requested a full refund via Kickstarter. On a personal level, I totally understand that decision with no doubt. As I would have done the same exact thing myself. However, I’m not quite sure how Kickstarter’s refund policy work. Simply put, it’s hard to tell if any of the backers will get any of their backer money back (I sure hope so though). I’m also not quite certain how cases like this have turned out in the past (I will have to look into it some more). One thing is for sure though, Kickstarter won’t pay back a cent to those who have been scammed out of their money:

“Kickstarter doesn’t offer refunds. Responsibility for finishing a project lies entirely with the project creator. Kickstarter doesn’t hold funds on creators’ behalf, cannot guarantee creators’ work, and does not offer refunds.”Kickstarter

Nevertheless, I hope that I have given you guys and girls some good advice on how to spot Kickstarter scams, and how to avoid being ripped off. So be smart, stay sharp and pay close attention to what’s going down with the Kickstarter project (s) that your backing with your hard-earned money (the same advice goes for other crowdfunding platforms as well, of course).

And with that said, what’s your take on this matter? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section down below!

Just Lyle

Case: Journo friends promoting kickstarter (Steve Swink appears to be friends with Jessica Conditt)
Kickstarter for the game Scale, by CubeHeart/Steve Swink raised $108,020
But I love you
Grapple Knight
12 Successful Kickstarters That Never Delivered

This is a personal opinion of the writer, and it doesn’t necessarily represent the other writers (nor The Gaming Ground´s) opinions.

tgg author avatar robin ek
Robin “V-Act” Ek
Editor in chief
The Gaming Ground
Twitter: @TheGamingGround

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18 Comments ON " The risks of backing games on Kickstarter – ... "
  • Nanya

    I don’t do Kickstarter anymore. I refuse to.

    I’m still waiting on games that should have come out 4+ years ago.

    Even if they come out now, I’ve lost the hype I once had.

    • I haven’t spent a dollar on Kickstarter in +1 years now, and I’m most likely not going to spend anything this year either.

      • Nanya

        Interestingly enough, one of my kickstarter-backed games FINALLY came through today.

        • Really? Which game would that be? (if I may ask).

          • Nanya

            Cosmic Star Heroine

          • Ah, what do you think about the game so far? I mean, does it live up to your expectations?

          • Nanya

            Haven’t been able to play it much, been busy, but it does look nice. 16-bit sprites and combat that feels like Chrono Trigger.

          • I understand, but I like the sound of that =) Happy Easter btw!

          • Nanya

            Happy Chocolate Bunny Massacre Day to you too.

          • Thanks man =) Got any Easter babes for me? :3

  • G. H.

    This is only going to get with with the new unaccredited U.S. investor rules. Something which Fig.co is already taking advantage. It will be the dot.com bubble times who knows how much. People with no real idea of how to make money off of their ideas taking money from people who cannot afford to lose it.
    This is going to be bad, bad, bad.

    • When I pointed that out two years ago, no one wanted to listen to me…Nevertheless, the crowdfunding bubble will burst sooner or later.

  • Alex Barbu

    The reality is any project (not just game development) that pops up on places like Kickstarter should be viewed as untrustworthy from the start.

    Much too often the project pitch is made by people who are inexperience in creating whatever they chose to make, be it a game, a smart device, or just some random nerd toy. As such they are unable to correctly predict the time needed, the funds required or even the type of man power needed. Not to mention they’ll have no ability to predict the inevitable blocks around the road and won’t be able to plan accordingly.

    The sad truth is that you shouldn’t fund anything unless it’s already mostly done, and the creators just need a little more money for the final release. That’s the only way you’ll have a high chance to get something out of your money.
    And Kickstarter should stop giving a platform to everybody. It should heavily screen the projects and make sure to eliminate the anything that is obviously​ impossible to accomplish like that solar roadway or self filling water bottle (check Thunderf00t’s YouTube videos for reference)

    • Yes, that’s true, but I wanted to focus on games with this post 😉 Oh yes, they have no idea how to handle deadlines, production costs, budgets and so on. So it’s a real gamble for the backers. Well, at least if they spend cash on an inexperienced game developer.

  • John Smith.

    Never backed a game, never will.
    Call me crazy, but if someone I don’t know asks me for money to fund a project on their word alone with zero way of actually seeing what is being done, I’m just not interested.
    I’m still amazed that after so many years of so many broken promises and scams, people will still cream their pants in joy whenever someone shows up with a sweet nostalgia promise.

    • I’ve backed five games so far (one of them was “Shadowrun Returns”, which I love to bits). However, it’s been almost a year since I spent anything on a confounded game. As I’m rather critical to that kind of platform nowadays.

      • Bigfatdane

        Hey Robin, just a quick heads up.

        I had to shit can my John Smith Disqus account and make this one instead since I made the wrong comment to the wrong right winger who really didn’t like what I said about Trump or the regressive right.

        • Hi man =) Oh? Jesus Christ :S You used a mouse avatar right? (Wonder Boy III). Anyways, I’m sorry to hear it. Well, you can say what you want here (no worries!).

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