Has Kickstarter Jumped the Shark?

Just this week, I was wondering about the reliability of Kickstarter as a fundraising platform. Questions of integrity came up, as well. Who is really creating these projects or pushing for their creation? Well, Kickstarter had a different issue on their mind that needs to be brought to everyone's attention. Did you know Kickstarter isn't a store? Kickstarter thinks you don't, so they wrote three new rules that radically change the landscape of the site.

Rule #1: Say Goodbye To Product Simulations

Product simulations are prohibited. Projects cannot simulate events to demonstrate what a product might do in the future. Products can only be shown performing actions that they’re able to perform in their current state of development.

Kickstarter, a site that's supposed to help people complete projects, has now decided that you cannot simulate what the finished product can do. If the product can't currently do it in your mock-up, you can't show it.

In other words, if you can't finance the full prototype, you can't show what the finished product will look like on Kickstarter anymore. So, Kickstarter your Kickstarter by Kickstarting a functioning prototype before Kickstarting a production run?

This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the second new rule.

Rule #2: No Product Rendering

Product renderings are prohibited. Product images must be photos of the prototype as it currently exists.

In other words, Kickstarter users cannot show you what the product could do or what it might look like anymore. If you only have sketches, you can only show the sketches. If you only have the internal components wired and can't afford to do the outer casing, tough luck; you're not allowed to render the design to show the supporters what they can get.

If the goal is to show that Kickstarter isn't a store, both of these rules fail. Unless you refuse to actually look at the website, it's quite clear that your giving someone money to make a project come to life. There is no guarantee anywhere it will happen or work. By hiding the full vision of the project, you're discouraging people from supporting hardware projects on Kickstarter.

You can't be the crowdfunding website that refuses to let creators sell their ideas to possible investors. There's no guarantee that a funded work of theater, dance, or art will ever be completed, either, but they're allowed to use demos and concept art to sell their ideas. Hardware alone is now prevented from doing that.

The third rule is perhaps the most damning new regulation on Kickstarter. It applies to everyone and actually hurts the ability of project creators to fund their projects.

Rule #3: No More Multiple Quantity Rewards

Offering multiple quantities of a reward is prohibited. Hardware and Product Design projects can only offer rewards in single quantities or a sensible set (some items only make sense as a pair or as a kit of several items, for instance). The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and offering multiple quantities feels premature, and can imply that products are shrink-wrapped and ready to ship.

Do you know how a lot of products meet their fundraising goal? Multiple quantity rewards. The ability to fund the product while ordering a new piece of hardware for you and your sibling is huge. Multiples are worth more than single items. And guess what? The limitation only really applies to Hardware.

In other words, I can help Kickstart an album by purchasing multiple copies, but I can't do the same for a new DVR box because it implies the "products are shrink-wrapped and ready to ship." It's absurd.

Kickstarter is supposed to help people get funding for big ideas. By preventing hardware designers from adequately pitching their concepts and offering multiples of rewards--the incentive you're required to use to get people to support you, Kickstarter is crippling their own fundraising efforts.

Some people in the comments point out, correctly, that you can just make multiple donations. If you're determined to get multiple rewards, you can go through the checkout process multiple times. Casual users won't do this. They might not even donate at all if they can't donate all at once. It's a hurdle designed to protect the supporters that actually hinders the flow of crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

All I can say at this point is that IndieGoGo and RocketHub are viable alternatives for this kind of project and don't restrict you from using simluations and renderings to adequately pitch an idea.

What do you think? Is Kickstarter making a huge mistake here? Or are they justified in assuming people don't actually read what their site is they have to protect people from funding projects they can't possibly understand? Sound off below.

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