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Robert Lashley: Crowdfunding Roundup - An Unwelcome Trend

Columns By Robert Lashley on March 26, 2015

Crowdfunding Roundup - An Unwelcome Trend

I started off this week intending to write about Pillars of Eternity by Obsidian entertainment. The team over at Obsidian provided us access to early review copies last week and I spent a few hours over the weekend exploring through Act I. I also streamed it for a while Wednesday night and you can see the archive on our YouTube channel if you are interested in that kind of thing. Bill provided his first impressions of the game earlier this week and we have the official review from Chris here.

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First off congratulations to the team at Artcraft for successfully funding their project Crowfall on Kickstarter yesterday. The last I checked they were north of 1.6 million USD and unlocking stretch goals. I started off as an early backer of Crowfall against my better judgement. Pathfinder Online has pretty much taken the wind out of my MMO backing sails. There is still hope with titles like Shroud of the Avatar and Camelot Unchained, more on them later, but I have pretty much sworn off backing MMOs. I decided the team at ArtCraft deserved a chance to make their vision though and I pledged some money their way.

I backed the game early in development, the first day to be exact, and never really checked their website again. Once you back a project you get email updates on a frequent basis. Because of this I did not have a reason to go to the website. I did go to the site yesterday though because of last day hype and to check on the status of what stretch goals they had added since I had been gone and what I saw really surprised me. Most Kickstarters tier their pledges. The more you donate the more physical swag, or virtual goods you get. This is the norm. This makes sense. Other campaigns have add ons to their Kickstarters. Camelot Unchained, Shroud of the Avatar, Trials of Ascension, Pantheon, even Kickstarters selling physical goods like Dwarven Forge do this. Once you buy the minimal product you can ala carte buy what additional goodies you want.

The last item that is common to most campaigns is stretch goals. Each project I mentioned had stretch goals that provided bonuses to all of the backers that kicked in for more than a dollar. Until yesterday I had never seen tiered stretch goals. Crowfall has bucked that trend. All backers over that dollar threshold get most of the stretch goals but if you donate under $60 you will not get the added mount or the relics. If you donate under $100 you will not get a blacksmith NPC.

None of these items are game-breaking. I’m sure you will be able to buy a mount in game and obtain a blacksmith NPC in some other fashion. I am concerned because this establishes a disturbing precedent and divides the community. Over 8,700 of the current 16,168 backers have donated under the $60 level for a total of just under $290,000.  Stretch goals are a rallying point for the entire community. Backers can help get the word out about the projects they support and drive awareness of them. The more successful the campaign becomes the more everyone benefits. This tiered stretch goal system feels to me like ArtCraft is telling the earliest backers, “thanks for your donations and being one of the first to support us but your contribution isn’t quite good enough.”

Business is business and ArtCraft has every right to run their campaign however they want. Companies can choose to reward their high dollar backers through stretch goals going forward but should know they do so at the risk of alienating their earliest supporters. Companies also  have the right to charge what they want (in most cases, we won’t get into price gouging) for their product. It is up to the consumer to decide what is reasonable and fair. In this case I chose not to support Crowfall and cancelled my donation yesterday.

Now, some good news! In other crowdfunding news Shroud of the Avatar is set to deploy updated 16 today. You can read all about it and paying tech debt for converting over to Unity 5 in Red’s recent article. Camelot Unchained is also officially in alpha now. Hopefully soon they will have a new name and we will have something more substantial to show you along with tell you. We know now that CohhCarnage is premiering the alpha trailer on his stream this weekend.

On the non MMO crowdfunding side the team behind Seven Dragon Saga pulled their Kickstarter. While they were able to get over the $100,000 barrier it was apparent they were going to fall well short of their goal. They have decided to stop the campaign, reevaluate their situation, and come back to Kickstarter with more to show prospective backers in the future. I’m looking forward to what they can bring to the table with the pedigree of their developers. If you missed the project while it was live you can still read about what they had planned in an interview I did with them here.

One final note Team21 is past the halfway mark for their project Dungeons of Aledorn. I did an interview with them recently that you can see here. They too will probably fall short of their goal but they had a nice concept that is worth taking a look at.  So hopefully we see it come to light someday.

Robert Lashley / Rob is a Staff Writer and jack of all trades for MMORPG.com. When he isn’t blinding people with the glare from his head in front of a camera you can chase him down on Twitter, PSN, XBL, and Nintendo @rant_on_rob.