Kickstarter and the Double Fine Adventure

Kickstarter has the power to change lives. The online fundraising platform allows anyone to put up a donation page for a creative venture. This could be anything from asking for a a new piece of equipment to funding a complete video game to covering the publishing costs for a book. So long as you are using the money for a creative pursuit, you can use Kickstarter. The catch is a big one. It's all or nothing. If you set a donation goal of $1000 and only raise $999, you don't get a penny. No one is charged for their donation until the fundraising period is over and the fundraising threshold is met. You can take in more money, but you can't take in less.

The way you get people to donate is to incentivize the process. Rewards are required. Typically, successful Kickstarter projects have a wide range of tiered gifts. For $5/$10/$20/$50/$100+, you get v/w/x/y/z. Ideally, these are rewards that are part of the finished project or connected to the development of the project.

Kickstarter was originally designed for crowdsourcing projects for smaller creative artists who couldn't find funding. If you couldn't earn the money through private donations, it might no have been an idea worth pursuing. Now, it's rapidly becoming a way for well-known content creators to fund their next big project. From bloggers to comic artists, musicians to game developers, Kickstarter is now being used by people with a built in audience to start a new project with minimum investment.

The Kickstarter story that blew up over the weekend is Double Fine Adventure. Double Fine Productions, the game developers behind Grim Fandango, Brutal Legend, and Stacking, want to make a new point and click adventure game. They also want to make a documentary about making a new point and click adventure game. They also want to incorporate user input into the design and development of a new point and click adventure game. They set the donation bar at $400,000 and waited.

Did I say waited? I meant they funded the whole project in under eight hours. Then they broke through the $1million mark in under one day. As of this writing, they're just shy of $1.75million in donations. Just imagine making $1.75million in under seven days.

Now imagine the immense pressure that comes with telling people you'll use their money to make an excellent or terrible point and click adventure game. You touted that the originator of the genre as one of your employees. You promised donor input. You sold the project by including all your most popular games in the background of every shot in your video. And now, in twenty-eight days, you have to start putting all of this together under the watchful eye of 50,561 backers and growing.

Projects that become as successful as Double Fine Adventure are a double-edged sword at Kickstarter. The backers naturally feel a sense of ownership in the project. If it turns out poorly, they probably won't be so understanding. What did they do with all that extra money if the project winds up failing?

It gets stranger with Double Fine Adventure. They've promised a video game. That's it. Beyond the game mechanics, we know nothing about the project. They even brag about it in their FAQs:

Q: What will the game be? A: Other than that it will be an old school adventure, we're not sure. That's the beauty of it! Everything will unfold in front of the cameras with help from you!

People have invested a large amount of money into a project with no real direction. They invested based on the company's reputation alone. There is no concept art, no story idea, nothing to go off of other than the promise of something new.

I wish the Double Fine team all the best in completing this game and documentary. I hope it turns out well so that people who donated to this project don't avoid Kickstarter in the future. It's a great tool that can help creative people get started on a project.

Thoughts? Love to hear them.

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