Kickstarter has been and is quite the platform for crowdfunding. It’s practically the hope that some entrepreneurial-spirited individuals need to take a leap into the wonderful world of risk-taking. However, Kickstarter is also a risk for one other very important party: the backers. We’ll get to why that is, but first we need to start with the differences between a commercial product and an independently crowdfunded product.
Commercial products follow a very rigid process. While this isn’t the place to learn about everything it takes to bring a product or service to market, you need to know one very important thing about commercial products: the investment is the full responsibility of the company or entity that owns the product, not the consumers that wish to buy it. This means that the development process is much, MUCH higher pressure. The money has already and is continuing to be spent on making this product, and it’s not even available to sell to the consumer yet. Can you imagine the pressure of knowing that you need to make sure whatever this is makes a profit or you’re potentially putting your company at financial risk? A commercial product puts absolutely all the pressure on the company creating the product, not the consumers. It’s all on the company to ensure that not only is the product a good one that meets quality standards, but that it will sell. In the words of many an old business man, “it takes money to make money”. Commercial products are an investment and a risk, and therefore it’s nerve-wracking being on the team or teams either making or marketing this product: either profit or potentially be out of a job! Or more simply put: you’d better be doing your best!
“Okay, I get it, companies feel like they need to earn my money with their final product” is what your mind should be saying at this point. This is where we move into the independently crowdfunded products potentially made by everyday individuals like you and me.
Independence is great because the pressure is all on you to impress the people you want to sell to. If you want to be a success, you’d better be doing your best! It all sounds pretty much the same, right? Unfortunately, to put your best foot forward, you need a little help. You need money, a.k.a. “capital”. But you’re a starving artist, full of creativity, ideas, and just about everything it takes to be successful except that one elusive thing known as “cash”. What’s worse: your circle of friends are all like you, all visionaries, all lovers of the value menu at your favorite local junk food provider. Where will you get the money to do something amazing?! Then, in the cheesiest of ways, there IS an actual illusionary lightbulb that turns on in your head, and it’s called “Kickstarter”.
You’re creative, you’re clever, and you put together quite a well-worded campaign to get yourself started on Kickstarter. You even skipped junk food for a month so you could create an awesome trailer for all that awesome you’re going to make. It’s like combo-on-combo action! The magic is happening, and you have your first backer… or hundreds… or thousands! Your campaign is filling these backers with hope for your project, and now you have all the money you need! “Kickstarter IS amazing!” you tell yourself. Well now that you have the money, it’s time to get started on delivering on your promises.
This brings us to the biggest and most risky part of being a backer. Do you personally know this person? Are they a man or woman of their word? Do they have a known track record of performing well and committing to a final and finished product? I mean, it was only $10 you coughed up for something that looked interesting, and even if it doesn’t turn out, you only missed out on one-and-a-half mocha Frappucinos. But this random person you gave money to is already spending your money and the Kickstarter project met its goal so it must be “go” time for this person. He/she seems so amazing, so you sit tight, having that thing any good human being has: faith.
The funny thing about humans is that they’re not all the same. All your faith means nothing if this person doesn’t have any commitment to their project. This is where we come to the primary difference between a commercial product and an independently crowdfunded one: there’s no pressure to make good on these promises. The product doesn’t need to sell well because it already made its money off of you before it ever even hit the market.
“I… but I have faith, and he/she seemed so sincere and made it sound so amazing!” you tell yourself as your faith starts to crumble because you might just have invested in a project that will become a lot less than you expected. It may not even become a failed project statistic, but now you’re worried that what you’ll actually get isn’t what you imagined, something I touched upon in my video about the success of Yooka-Laylee’s Kickstarter. Now you understand the differences, and consequently risks, between the usual commercial products you see in your everyday life, and the crowdfunded ones. In case you don’t, though: commercial products serve zero risk to the consumer, requiring the company/entity to do their best to earn your hard-earned money; and crowdfunded products put all the risk on the consumer backer, requiring faith that the people or person running the Kickstarter MAY do their best to SPEND your hard-earned money they already have.
Finally, before I close out on how this ties into Mighty No. 9 (you DID read the title of this article, right?), I give you this:
Mighty No. 9’s latest trailer has failed to impress, and you know who it’s hurting the most? The backers. It not only got delayed several times, but now it’s just feeling like they have no sense of ambition or passion to put their best foot forward. The latest trailer makes many obvious mistakes, and while some of it gives the occasional chuckle, the message it’s delivering is one that feels like an afterthought. “Hey, check out our game, are you cool enough to get our jokes?” is the best way to sum it up.
To sum up this entire article as well: Mighty No. 9 is demonstrating that once a Kickstarter project successfully has your money, there’s absolutely nothing that guarantees the product you were expecting. While I have not decided if I will be reviewing the final product myself as a non-backer, know that I’m NOT saying whether the game itself will deliver or not on its promises and premises: I’m saying that this latest trailer demonstrates the very real possibility that they no longer care to “wow” you and deliver the best product possible because they already got their money.
Regardless of how the game actually turns out (because it may actually be a decent game), let this be a cautionary tale the next time you’re looking into backing a Kickstarter project.
Oh, and for your viewing pleasure, here is the latest Mighty No. 9 trailer featuring awesome, animated expanding pepperoni pizza explosions: