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Project Zomboid Developer: The Kickstarter Bubble 'Looks Set To Burst'

Jonathan Lester
Alpha Funding, Crowd Funding, Kickstarter, Project Zomboid

Project Zomboid developer Chris Wilson reckons that Kickstarter is a fad that's about to implode, if it hasn't done so already. To this end, he recommends Alpha Funding as a more reliable source of income for indies.

“We’ve all seen it. You can smell it in the air,” Simpson wrote in an article penned on IndieGames.“The Kickstarter bubble is strained to breaking point and looks set to burst, if it has not already.

"Thankfully, alpha-funding seems to bypass a lot of the growing cynicism levelled at crowd-funding, since people who purchase actually get something for their money right there and then."

Alpha funding involves granting alpha and beta access to customers who pre-order a game, who can get involved and even inform development as it progresses. Prison Architect has successfully employed this model, which brings some interesting benefits.

“There is also a proven history of the developer that prospective customers can look into, to make sure the game is in active development, and that the people they are paying are trust-worthy and capable.

“Furthermore it’s a lot more tempting to dive in if all your friends are already playing, regardless of how you may feel about it in principle. I can only imagine the popularity of alpha-funding growing as the popularity of Kickstarter game funding begins to wane.”

Kickstarter may have lead to some great games already, but there's a growing feeling of wariness surrounding the crowd-funding portal. One of our regulars, DivideByZero, has actually prepared a Community Corner column on the subject that will go live this afternoon.

Add a comment4 comments
DivideByZero  Jul. 18, 2013 at 10:26

Alpha funding is a good idea, but for it to work you already need to have a product designed and started. This requires money, so will be a greater risk to the developers.

For every project that gets to see the light of day, there would be at least that many canned before release. Be it at the ideas stage or part way through development. The only real reason a project would get dumped would be there is not enough money to be made from it.

With Kickstarter, you know what your idea / design / game is worth right from the get go. You can make your game at a very minimum outlay from yourselves (the Kickstarter campaign cost) and then any sales after the event would be pure profit.

With Alpha funding, if you spend money making something that then gets ditched because it seems unpopular, then that loss is all on you.

Alpha funding works... wasn't Minecraft Alpha funded? But just like Kickstarter or even traditional publishing, it is not a foolproof plan.

Tsung  Jul. 18, 2013 at 10:55

Prison Architect Alpha funding works because of the highly entertaining update video's showing the new features. I bought in quite early and have enjoyed the random zany bugs. Keep the updates flowing, keep people in the loop and it will work.

Another game I alpha funded was Towns but for me this one didn't work. The game was initially fun, but with every update a layer of unexplained complication was added. When building up was added that was it for me, I couldn't work it out, it was frustrating.

I personally have gone off Kickstarter, funded a few projects and still waiting for some sort of deliverance. Generally the risk vs reward doesn't make it worthwhile and more recently a lot of developers want us to buy the game fully before we see any benefit at all (Elite Dangerous, Planetary Annihilation to name a couple). Even worse, we have to pay for the game + a premium to get access to the Alpha / Beta.

JonLester  Jul. 18, 2013 at 11:11

They're very different models, really. Kickstarter is basically just donations - almost charity. You may get a bonus if you donate a certain amount, but it's still just a good faith punt based on a promise that you want to see happen (whether a game, comic, book, play, whatever) and not necessarily own for yourself. This can be both brilliant and horrendous depending on the project.

Alpha Funding, however, is much more akin to a pre-order, in that the product exists in some form and you can get on board with it from the get-go. However, it comes with its own set of challenges, and developers can often find the amount of feedback overwhelming. Word of mouth can also work to a game's detriment.

Horses for courses, I guess.

DivideByZero  Jul. 18, 2013 at 11:18

I'm also waiting on all my Kickstarters, but if you look at things like Ouya and Rift, they did really well. Pretty much on time and delivered pretty much what they promised.

Kickstarter is doing OK though.

Take a look at inXile entertainment,
April 2012 - Wasteland 2 = $2.9m
April 2013 - Torment: Tides of Numenera = $4.1m

The key for Kickstart's success with games will come if and when these games start showing up, depending on how they get on... but as Jon mentioned above, I have done a braindump on Kickstarter.

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