News about Kickstarter support
So you may have read about a recent announcement that we made regarding plans for the rest of 2017. It’s exciting stuff, and we’re really looking forward to releasing a cool range of games – but the casualty in there is that we’re going to suspend Kickstarter campaign support for the foreseeable future.
I know this may come as a disappointment to some, who may have been factoring that support in as part of their funding plans, so I wanted to take a bit of time to explain the decision in a bit more detail.
Fundamentally, it boils down to two things.
Primarily, it’s a question of time. Collective is a pretty small team; there are four of us that run the initiative (Phil, Des, Chris and Amy), and some of us have responsibilities with other parts of Square Enix as well.
We’re privileged to work with some excellent external partners (mainly for PR and marketing), and we can call on some great expertise from around Square Enix as well (legal, finance, QA, etc). But our core is pretty small, and all the planning and day-to-day running of Collective is down to us.
In the past year, that’s been enough to enable us to work on the Collective website campaigns, support crowdfunding campaigns and release our first two games as well. But in the year to come, we’re looking at 6 or 7 game launches, and while it’s possible that in the future we may expand the team, we don’t currently have plans to do so – and from that perspective we need to be careful about our choices.
The second thing that’s become clear, is that crowdfunding is getting harder – not easier. When we first started supporting campaigns back in 2014, we knew we had a lot to learn, and we were determined to keep getting better. I wouldn’t say that we had a clear expectation that, with practice, crowdfunding campaigns would somehow become *easy* but I think it’s fair to say we didn’t really anticipate them becoming harder.
Why is this the case? There are some great teams out there with fantastic concepts and wonderful raw talent. And there are some absolute superheroes that put their money behind game ideas that are still early in development, in order to help give those teams a chance to realise their dreams.
When we support a Kickstarter campaign, we do two main things. The first is a form of due diligence, where we’re looking at the project (and the team behind it) in detail, to make sure we have the belief that the game being described has a great chance of being delivered. We can never guarantee a game, since we don’t own the campaign, nor do we ever see the game’s source code; but we wanted to try to help the trust relationship between creators and the community. We feel we did this fairly well, although the “Collective Approved” badge never perhaps became the mark of quality we hoped that it would. Did people back campaigns just because they had more trust? Maybe, but probably not a decisive number.
The other thing we provided was help with raising awareness. As well as social and community support, our ability to send out email alerts to the Square Enix community – in the millions – ensured a level of basic visibility that would be well beyond most small teams. Combine this with the fact that games media rarely write about projects launching campaigns, and this ‘direct’ communications often made the difference between success and failure.
However, over time, as we track the open rates and click-through rates, it’s become clear that there’s less and less interest in supporting Kickstarter campaigns in the wider community. To be clear, this isn’t about those people who regularly back projects; but that much larger layer of gamers who might be drawn in by an interesting idea. Whether crowdfunding has just become less interesting, or they have less money to spare – or maybe they’re just tired of waiting a comparatively long period of time to get their hands on a game they see in this process… it’s harder to see that we’re adding the degree of value that we’d like to.
This isn’t us saying that we think crowdfunding is in decline, by the way. We can still see plenty of projects succeeding, and while 2016 saw a big drop in videogames-specific funding, this is more down to a drop in the really big ($1m+) campaigns, rather than the $50k-250k bracket we’ve been working at.
But, if you combine those two factors mentioned above, we’re looking at less available time at a point where we’re having to work harder to maintain a consistent level of success. And when we think about the commitment we’ve made to teams with respect to launching games this year, we want to make sure we’re not taking on too much.
This isn’t necessarily the end, however. At the time of writing, I’d expect to support campaigns again at some time in the future. I don’t know when that will be, but possibly later in 2017. It’s still a source of funding that we believe can be the difference between a talented team getting to finish their game, and not; and when we look at the sorts of games that have become reality thanks to generous backers over the past few years, it’s clear the games industry would be worse off without them.
Incidentally, this is also part of the reasoning behind one of the other main changes to the site – the question we ask people to vote on has gone from:
“Would you support this project through
“Would you support this game in the future?”
This isn’t just down to us suspending Kickstarter campaign support, but also we saw a significant proportion of pitches we publish don’t ever go on to crowdfunding. This is totally fine – if developers want to use Collective as a means of building community, that’s no problem. But to reflect that, and be more inclusive of things like mailing list sign-ups, beta testing and even purchasing on release, we thought it would be better to make it a little more general.
As we progress through this year we’ll see how it goes, and if things change we’ll of course make sure to communicate them. But until then, I’d like to extend my sincerest gratitude to all of the teams we’ve supported in the past few years; but more so to those backers who came back to Collective projects time and again. We saw them in the comments section of campaigns, and every time it humbled us.
You are all heroes.