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Crowd Funding or Bad Investments?

It seems these days that Kickstarter may have become something to be wary of. Investing in a potential game may have become the prime example of exercising caution, as Elite Dangerous has just demonstrated most recently. Fans of the popular series were excited to see the game reach its Kickstarter goal and finally get the game that many of them and David Braben wanted, but with a few weeks to go before release, the joy was lost for many. Braben announced that the offline DRM free mode was not possible and instead would require an online connection to play single player, breaking one of the promises on the Kickstarter page and angering the fans. Many of the fans have demanded refunds as they are no longer interested in the game, Braben has stated that refunds will be given but on a case by case basis after initially stating no refunds would be given to those who had played the alpha or beta forms. This has been the topic of many angry online debates as backers feel they have been lied to because the offline mode was one of the promises of the project, those observing were reminded of previous occasions were backers of a project were left feeling unimpressed.

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Star Command was one game for the iOS that was funded through Kickstarter and came with great promises of what the game had to offer, but signs of trouble were seen during production. After the company had apparently run into financial difficulties, a second Kickstarter was launched asking for the funds to finish the game and caused anger for the fans and backers alike, all wondering why they were asking for more money. When Star Command eventually came out it scored mixed to high reviews but many noticed promised features such as exploration and diplomacy were missing from the final product. YouTube reviewer Angry Joe was one who summed it up best, stating that whilst the game was good it felt incomplete and rushed out the door in the end to keep its backers happy.

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One of the worst examples of backing a Kickstarter game for many besides Elite Dangerous was Mighty Number 9, but for quite different reasons. Keiji Inafune is regarded as a legend for many gamers as the Mega Man games are quite simply classics, but after Mega Man Legends 3 was cancelled it left many wanting but not getting. When Mighty Number 9 was announced fans were more than excited and the project was funded very quickly and all its stretch goals achieved as a result, but it did not take long for trouble to appear. In the backer’s section of the site, a post was seen by a lady called Dina Abou Karem along with a link to a drawing, expressing her wish to make the secondary character a playable one, but to also have the main character be female. Nothing appeared to be thought of it at first until some people realized she was part Inafune’s staff, serving the dual titles of artist/designer and community manager, and those people began to worry. Some of the backers who had these worries began looking through her twitter account and found leanings towards the radical politics of Anita Sarkeesian, complaints about Bayonetta, the longing for a non-exploitative female protagonist and cheering at the story of a Swedish school dropping personal pronouns, these backers began to get worried. Digging even further into her Twitter revealed a post from October the first of that year saying that her friends and “bf” were working on the game and declaring that she had never played a Mega Man game, which she later contradicted in her introductory post on the game forums by saying she thought Mega Man x was the best, so more people became suspicious and began to posts their thoughts in the forums. Responses came from other moderators but did not offer answers the backers were looking for and Dina herself had yet to show up and offer an explanation, so tensions appeared to be running until she responded… by locking her Twitter account. She eventually showed up in the forums and told backers to ask her anything and she would also unlock her Twitter shortly, but in the time it was locked she had deleted all of the tweets people had raised questions over and this caused more questions to flow in as to how she had gotten the job. She then posted a long explanation explaining that she had indeed known people at the company when going for the position, and that Inafune himself had joked about it. She also stated that she had finally gotten the position after the Comcept team had looked through what she had to offer and decided that she would be the one to be the community manager and contribute her ideas and sketches to the artists.

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Now, it wouldn’t be silly to think it had ended there and all had been resolved and the production continued trouble free, but soon enough more appeared. GamerGate was in full swing and gamers were fighting back against a games media that had tried to burn them with hateful articles, a fight that showed no signs of slowing down. Dina had posted inflammatory tweets about the movement and had not impressed many, causing a call to boycott the game completely in response to this. Later on backers of Mighty Number 9 who also supported GamerGate came to realize that they had been blocked from the site forums and the twitter account, the most famous Twitter post seen was from the user @FortesSnC asking why they had been blocked from following the project even though they had pledged $300 to it. Various backers became angry and demanded refunds of their investments only to be told they could not and a campaign was launched by TheRalphRetort.com for backers to get their money back via charge backs on their credit cards, it was confirmed by many on the website that it had worked and they had gotten their money back.

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Now, the morale of the story for many now has become that financially supporting a Kickstarter game is a very risky investment, but it is not all doom and gloom. Broken Age, a game funded through Kickstarter and made by Double Fine studios was announced and successfully funded. A game of two parts and boasting amongst many things the fine voice acting skills of Elijah Wood, Jack Black and the awesome Jennifer Hale, part 1 was released to both critical and commercial success, the money made from sales enough to cover the production of part 2, which it has been announced Tim Schafer has finished writing. Other Kickstarter games have been announced and funded since then such as a sequel to Wasteland, but the experiences of Elite Dangerous, Star Command and Mighty Number 9 (which Inafune has been crowd funding for dlc even though the main game is not finished development) have left a bitter taste in many mouths of those who have pledged money to them, causing many observers to wonder if in the end, it is just better to support from a distance and then wait for the end result to avoid disappointment.

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Husband, Father, Life Long Gamer.