Crowdfunding 'should be a red flag' to backers

Crowdfunding 'should be a red flag' to backers
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

October 3rd 2012 at 3:10PM

Kickstarter essentially asks people without knowledge of the risks involved to fund a project, says Free Radical founder

Some crowdfunding campaigns that haven’t been able to raise money through other avenues should be a red flag to anyone who contributes, the founder of Free Radical has said.

Speaking to NotEnoughShaders, Stephen Ellis, who recently formed a new UK studio Crash Lab, said that whilst he was happy to see some developers raise funding through websites such as Kickstarter, potential contributors should be wary of a company's need to take to crowdfunding in the first place.

He explained that Kickstarter was essentially asking people without knowledge of the development process and the risks involved to fund a project, which could have dangerous consequences for games that run over-budget, and questioned how developers would then go on to obtain extra money.

“Essentially, Kickstarter is asking people who don’t understand the risks and challenges of the industry to fund it,” said Ellis.

“I’m sure that there will be some high-profile successes as a result but I expect a fair amount of disappointment too. Game development is fundamentally a creative endeavour, which doesn’t sit well with budgets and schedules. Things often don’t go according to plan, and games frequently require more time and more money than the developers initially thought.

“Publishers deal with this all of the time, but what happens when a Kickstarter project spends all of its money without completing development? Does it get abandoned? Do they ask for more money? Do they release an unfinished game? None of these are going to be acceptable to the people who have contributed.”

Ellis went on to say that he had been asked many times to set up a crowdfunding campaign to develop a new TimeSplitters game. But whilst the IP is currently owned by Crytek, he said it would not be possible at the moment anyway as such an FPS title would cost several times the money than the top games have garnered so far on Kickstarter.

“I think that the novelty of Kickstarter and the surrounding press coverable were a large part of the reason that Double Fine were able to raise as much as they did,” he said.

“I don’t expect games to be routinely funded that way, and I don’t expect that figure to be significantly exceeded any time soon. However, FPS’s are much more expensive to develop than point & click adventure games. To put this in context, Double Fine Adventure raised about as much money (before fees) as it cost to develop GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64 in 1997.

“A modern FPS would require several times as much funding, and I don’t think that that is currently achievable using Kickstarter.”