In the wake of numerous crowd funding campaigns being delayed due to a slew of overly ambitious (if not irresponsible) stretch goals, Kickstarter boss Yancey Strickler warns that carelessly promising too much can irreparably damage a project.
Stretch goals, in case you don't know, are extra features that developers promise to add to a game if they raise extra funds above their Kickstarter target (we're talking about videogames here, naturally, though all Kickstarter projects can offer stretch goals). They often manage to convince more people to back it and kick in extra capital, but can lead to all manner of problems.
“What if someone got in early and helped a project reach its funding goal, but now the creator is focused on stretch goals?" Strickler posits in a Kickstarter blog post. "What if someone backs a project for a stretch goal-related reward, and that goal isn’t met? Both are bad experiences for backers.
“For a typical stretch goal a creator will promise to release their game in additional formats or add extra functions if certain funding goals are hit. But expanding a project’s scope can change the creative vision and put the whole project at risk. We’ve seen stretch goals leave some projects overwhelmed, over-budget, and behind schedule.”
Strickler explains that what developers see as "extra money" won't go as far as they think. Much of it will have to be spent on fulfilling backer rewards such as clothing and merchandise, whereas practically all projects require more money than intitally intended. As much as anything, this extra capital can simply be spent on polishing the existing product or just invested back into the company as profit, after delivering on the initial pitch.
“Many Kickstarter projects end up significantly overfunded, and creators often use those funds to improve the project’s end product.", he continued. "More funding might mean higher-quality materials and other improvements that thank backers with a better-made thing. For other creators overfunding means the project turns a profit. Both are great outcomes.
“Stretch goals, on the other hand, trade long-term risk for a short-term gain. Tread carefully.”
This echoes comments made by Zeboyd Games' Robert Boyd earlier this year, who warned that "feature bloat" (sometimes known as 'scope creep') is capable of derailing and delaying games - annoying backers in the process.
Double Fine's Broken Age recently came under fire for its two-part split and delay, though to be fair, stretch goals were technically never part of the plan (it never even really had a plan for better and worse). However, the likes of Project Eternity have taken on an enormous number of extra promises, and will need to deliver. We reckon that Project Phoenix should bear this in mind over the coming month.
Regular reader DivideByZero recently penned a community corner article about the state of Kickstarter, exploring several of these issues. You should read it. It's brilliant.