Should We Trust Crowdfunding For Games On The Vita?

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Getting a game into production for the PS Vita isn’t easy. Back in the 8-bit and 16-bit era, games could be developed by a one-man team. Nowadays it’s often a case that a team of programmers, artists, musicians, designers and many more are involved to bring games to us. Not every developer has access to large budgets or publishers to back them. And that’s where crowdfunding for games comes in. We’ve seen more and more developers turning to crowdfunding platforms to bring their games to life but is it really safe for Vita owners?

Why Use Crowdfunding For Games?

From a developers perspective, it’s easy to see why many are choosing this route to bring their games to market. It removes the worry of trying to find the resources to make their games happen and it generates publicity. Once titles are budgeted properly it means developers can concentrate on creating their games once successfully funded. Each time backers are updated,  much of this is filtered to the gaming press continually promoting the game in the run-up to its eventual release.

While rewards need to be offered in addition to the games themselves, the level of interaction and feedback more than makes up for this. Pressure can be put on some developers to deliver within a set timeframe, but this is often no different to major retail releases. However, backers do seem more lenient when it comes to developers who have used crowdfunding for games. As long as updates are sent out regarding progress, delays are acceptable as long as the end product is worthwhile.

The Risks

While crowdfunding works for developers, it’s a huge risk for backers. While many crowdfunding campaigns – and this is not just videogames – are run by established companies and organisations, many are from new startups. In essence, what this means is that when you are backing these you are really gambling with your investment. Regardless of the individual skills and expertise of those behind any campaign, there is still no guarantee that it will deliver what is promised.

It does make it difficult to know what projects that are crowdfunding for games are worth backing or not. Sadly, even someone with a successful Kickstarter of Indiegogo campaign under their belt is no reassurance these days either…

The Horror Stories

We’ve all heard the horror stories about crowdfunding campaigns that have gone wrong. Projects that have reached their targets but failed to deliver anything. In most cases these are simply down to the people running them being own ambitious and trying to do more than they are capable of. Unfortunately, there are others who have less honourable intentions.

If you have even the slightest interest in retro gaming, you can’t have failed to hear about the ZX Spectrum Vega+. The original ZX Spectrum Vega was a crowdfunding success. with almost 2,500 people supporting the project. The machine was an officially licensed plug and play version of the ZX Spectrum home computer with 1,000 pre-loaded games. It proved to be a smash hit and a commercial success. The Vega+ not so much. It was planned to be a handheld version of its predecessor but was plagued with problems. Two of the company directors departed the project and then the console began to experience a series of delays and broken promises. Countless false statements were made to backers by the remaining directors as the funds gradually started to disappear.

At the time of writing this, only a handful of sub-standard, unfinished consoles have been shipped to backers. As for the directors… they appear to have vanished without a trace. Maybe those backers would have had more success on a few games of slots than giving the creators of the Vega+ the £500,000 that went missing.

Don’t Crowdfunding Sites Care?

You would think that there is protection for backers, but sadly not. With project delays, stolen funds and failed campaigns you’d expect sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to take action. Sadly, there is very little that either does. Instead, crowdfunding sites protect themselves and more often than not support the campaign owners. Both generally refer backers to those running campaigns in the event of problems. When it comes to refunds, again there is little hope for those who request them.

Kickstarter especially stress in their terms that campaign owners don’t have to issue refunds apart from at their own discretion. The only time they have to is if they are unwilling or unable to finish a project. So if you are backing a project that has been delayed for several years and they insist that they are “working on it”, that’s good enough to satisfy Kickstarter. Indiegogo works in very much the same way. They recently revised their systems so backers and not placing “orders” with campaigns. Legally, if you placed an order and didn’t receive it, you would have legal grounds to challenge for non-delivery of an item. By changing pledge description it weakens the position of their backers.

Cancelled Games

Even when projects are successful and games are developed it’s still not all plain sailing. Vita owners have had our fair share of unsuccessful campaigns that have been crowdfunding for games. While many have reached their goals initially, we’ve seen several fall by the wayside as development has progressed. One of the biggest games in recent years to suffer has been Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night. While the 8-bit styled prequel was released, the main game was cancelled. As with so many before it, backers were offered the option of switching to another platform with a refund as a secondary choice. While refunds were given, these took two months after the announcement. Looking at the videos of the game in action there seems to be no reason why the Vita couldn’t run it so perhaps it was simply a cost cutting exercise or had development even started on our version?

Regalia - Of Men And Monarchs

JRPG Regalia: Of Men And Monarchs was another recent casualty. The developers cited difficulties with porting the game to the Vita and not being able to find anyone to handle it as reasons for its cancellation. Technically demanding games such as Resogun all managed to make their way to the handheld courtesy of developers such as Climax Studios. So we can’t see any reason why this couldn’t have happened for Regalia either.

Is Crowdfunding For Games Worth It?

It seems that Vita owners are cursed no matter what happens when it comes to crowdfunding. We’ve had cancelled games, there are known scams out there and it feels as if some developers are just using our money to fund development on other platforms. With the questionable actions of crowdfunding sites themselves who only seem interested in their 5% fee they’re obviously not there to help people like you and me.

There is also the issue of stretch goals. How many times have we seen PS Vita ports promised as stretch goals. I’ve backed games on this basis only to have them cancelled after the campaign has been a success. Is this a way to raise extra funds on an empty promise? Are there genuine but over-ambitious intentions?

It does make me wary as a would-be backer. We’ve seen some great titles that have come as a result of crowdfunding for games in the past. But equally a lot of broken promises as well. As a Vita owner, I’d tread with caution.

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