Tech

The Death Of Nostalgia Drives Decline In Video Game Funding On Kickstarter

Public support for funding video games on Kickstarter is on the decline. It’s partially due to a decrease in consumer confidence over failed projects, many of which were driven by the gaming press that gave these titles undeserved hype. But the creator of the popular role-playing game, “Wasteland 2,” believes there’s a lot more to it.

A mid-year status report on Kickstarter by ICO Partners revealed that while crowdfunding for Kickstarter projects continues to grow, support for video game projects is on the decline. In comparison, tabletop and board games are enjoying tremendous growth. This is in direct contrast to 2012’s numbers, when board games pulled in $6m compared to video games’ $17m.

According to the report, which was first published on GamesIndustry.biz, funding for video games dropped from $19.98m in the first half of 2015 to $7.9m in the first half of 2016. The figure is at $9.4m for the first half of 2017—less than two million more than it was last year. It’s a tremendous decline from its peak $28m peak in the first half of 2013.

One of the most overhyped games to be fully funded on the platform was “Mighty No. 9.” Touted as a spiritual sequel to the classic a “Mega Man” franchise, fans were sold on the developer’s promises about the nostalgia-driven project, bringing it to life on Kickstarter for $3.8 million.

The developer’s decision to hire a vocal feminist to be its public face was met with apprehension from project backers. Many were appalled by her antagonistic attitude and insistence on injecting her feminism into the game. Fan reaction was reported in the press as “misogynist harassment.” When the game was released three years later, it flopped. High-profile incidents like this contributed to the public’s negative perception of crowdfunded games and distrust in the press.

The Daily Caller spoke with Brian Fargo, the CEO of InXile Entertainment and the creator of multiple successful Kickstarter-backed projects, including “Wasteland 2” and “Torment: Tides of Numenera.”

“I started to feel the winds of change for Kickstarter funded video games in 2016 and unfortunately it hasn’t subsided,” said Fargo. “I’ve read articles lay this on the fact that a few high-profile games didn’t deliver but I think there are more dynamics at stake. I personally think the bigger factors are that Kickstarter helped to revitalize some older genres that were being forsaken and now those categories are filled, the sense of being denied is over.”

“We’ve also got quite a few consumers that backed the games, were proud of their ability to support yet never found time to play those very same games,” he continued. “It’s pretty hard to motivate someone to crowdfund future games when they didn’t play the last two they backed. Unlike board games, video games have to compete with a plethora of new releases on a daily basis.”

Despite the increasing disinterest in Kickstarter projects, Fargo doesn’t believe that it’s all doom and gloom for game developers.

“I’ m not sure it will hit the excitement and frequency numbers of 2015 but I firmly believe that the big campaigns will be possible when profit sharing sites like Fig start to show results for people,” Fargo told the Daily Caller. “Once a company or franchise can show the ability to make money for investors I expect future campaigns will fund in a matter of minutes.”

“It’s hard to imagine we could hit the kind of volume we once did on games like those but never say never,” he said. “There is always some idea that catches fire and surprises everyone but again I’m placing my bets on the combination of rewards and profit share to hit the higher numbers.”

Fargo doesn’t think there’s much developers can do to improve crowdfunding’s tarnished reputation until the hype and hysteria settles.

“I’m not sure developers can do much about perception, it will work itself out over time and ground itself in reality with the facts,” he said. “Something I’ve noticed is that people and websites that are the most vocally opposed to crowdfunding are not typically the ones that support them in any way. Often I see the supporters being more understanding.”

“Crowdfunding has been an incredible thing for companies such as inXile, Obsidian, Larian and many more but of course there have been failures,” concluded Fargo. “My personal opinion is that the big failures tended to provoke the people who were not big fans of the crowdfunding concept to begin with whereas supporters tend to point towards the successes.”

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.