The Value Of Kickstarter: Connecting With Fans On-The-Fly

from the free-market-research dept

As we've discussed before, one benefit of crowd-funded programs like Kickstarter is the massive amount of market research you can gather from potential customers. Whether the project is unsuccessful, or whether you're the ridiculously successful Double Fine, the feedback you get can assist with everything from wooing other investors to building new ideas into your product. Making the latter even more useful, Kickstarter-style projects can actually let you do this kind of thing on the fly, building in features based on backer feedback, resulting in an ultimately more appealing end-product for the largest number of customers.

Speaking of Double Fine, that's exactly what happened recently with their newest Kickstarter Project, Massive Chalice, a tactical strategy game set in a fantasy realm in which players first fight the ever-present demons, then grow older and start families within the world, so those families can continue fighting the ever-present demons. It's an interesting concept on its own, but feedback from potential Kickstarter backers raised an interesting question: y u no allow gay marriage? Double Fine's response?
“One of the cool things is we have the opportunity to think about it and address it because we brought it to the community,” says [Double Fine's Brad] Muir, suddenly grinning. “We brought it to a broader group of people, and then there were some people who brought it up and wanted to talk about it. There’s a raging thread on our forums.”

So hurrah, hugs and well-muscled sexytimes for all. This, Muir figures, is the optimal outcome. Everybody wins, and then they all get married.
The coupling of Kickstarter's platform and Double Fine's actions is the very blueprint of CwF+RtB. If you can manage to check any ideological feelings about gay marriage at the door, from either side of the debate, this is pure market feedback resulting in a product more potential customers desire. Muir notes that they didn't preclude gay marriage in their game consciously. It simply never came up. Comments on their project alerted them to this, as well as providing a clear desire from many gamers that this kind of option be included, so they went back and put it in. More notable, Muir seems to think this all would have gone much differently under a more traditional, game-publisher route.
“If we had gone with a publisher on this, I really think [it wouldn't have ended well]. Because you sign the deal, you go underground, you start working on the game, you don’t talk to the community or anybody, and you get so focused on all these other aspects of the game. Just making it work – and all the tactical combat and mechanical things. We might just overlook something like same-sex coupling all the way until we announce the game. And then people say, ‘Hey, what about gay marriage?’ And we’re like, ‘Fuck,’ because we’ve already worked on it for more than a year.”
In other words, this is a direct result of connecting with their fans. And, by being proactive about it, they avoid the kind of mess that other games have had when their stance on the subject is vague. So, regardless of your politics, we should all be applauding Double Fine's ability to listen, engage, and react to the feedback they get from their customers. Is it any wonder they have been so massively successful?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 11:41pm

    What no inter-species marriage?

     

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      Alana (profile), Jun 30th, 2013 @ 11:30pm

      Re:

      Oh my.

      A "GAY MARRIAGE WHAT NEXT BESTIALTIY ITS THE NEXT STEP LET ME TELL YOU" post.

      Yeah, I got two words for you.

      Fuck you. And fuck your ignorance.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 3:43am

    This is not so much the value of Kickstarter, but rather the advantage of the Internet, that of open communications. An open discussion, where fans talk to other fans as much as to the company is what allows a community to develop and guide the company in its development.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 4:46am

      Re:

      It's possible that the Kickstarter audience can be more reliable as a self-selecting group of people committing to fund the development of the product, rather than a random group who may or may not have a serious conversation. It's also possible that Kickstarter frees the developers from restrictions that a standard publisher might place on them regards to what/how much they're allowed to discuss publicly during the development process.

      But, yes, all things being equal this is not necessarily a new thing.

       

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      jsf (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 9:52am

      Re:

      I think part of the difference with Kickstarter, and many "indie games", is that customers get a look at some of the details long before they would in a regular development cycle.

      So yes you need the quick response time of the internet to make this happen, but it is not the cause.

      Even with the internet around we don't know much about any game from a big publisher until shortly before release. We never get to give input before the overall design or requirements are finalized, like you can with a Kickstarter or something like a Minecraft during alpha/beta.

       

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    Malor (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:50am

    Maybe I'm missing something, but I thought the point of families in this game was to make kids of your own bloodline to carry the fight forward? (Maybe I'm mixing that up with Rogue Legacy?)

    If the major game mechanic is indeed having offspring, wouldn't same-sex couples mean the game would automatically end? Yeah, you could adopt, but then you're losing out on the whole genetic bloodline mechanic.

    I dunno, it seems to me that, given the constraints involved, putting same-sex couples into the game is trying to force a specific worldview into a place where it doesn't really fit.

     

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      dennis deems (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:47am

      Re:

      Have you been talking to Rick Santorum? You seem to think that the mere existence of gay marriage will mean that no one will any longer desire a hetero marriage. Because when DOMA was struck down the other day, untold millions of formerly straight people smacked their foreheads, exclaimed "I could've had a V8!", and ran out to find a same-sex partner -- and now, no more American babies, right?

       

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 7:28am

      Re:

      It depends on how the mechanic actually works. If the only way offspring are obtained is by intercourse between the married couple, you have a point. Otherwise, there's no reason why homosexual couples should be deliberately excluded - although it's understandable why they might not have considered that side of it before it was pointed out.

      "Yeah, you could adopt, but then you're losing out on the whole genetic bloodline mechanic."

      Is that the actual mechanic? I mean, as the game already stood, would you still be able to adopt kids from fallen fellow heroes, keep a concubine, kidnap children from conquered lands or obtain future generations in other ways? If so, there's no reason why the gender of the spouse should make a difference, and it actually makes sense historically (the genetic lineage of the current British royal family, for example, has nothing to do with the "original" bloodline when it was first established).

      "putting same-sex couples into the game is trying to force a specific worldview into a place where it doesn't really fit"

      If it offends you, I'm sure it's optional. As in real life, you wouldn't be forced to participate in a homosexual relationship if you don't want to.

       

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        The Groove Tiger (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re:

        Or just, you know, have a wizard make a baby from the gay couple's genes.

        Or maybe Malor is referring to the Crab People agenda, trying to get rid of the human race by turning everyone into metrosexuals.

         

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    David Muir (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:48am

    Way to go Brad Muir (no relation)!

    Massive Chalice looks like a unique game. We need new ideas in the FPS dominated video game world.

    Also, we're finally getting Kickstarter for Canadian projects: http://www.kickstarter.com/canada

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 8:37am

    Gizmodo is "Done With Kickstarter"

    http://gizmodo.com/5897449/were-done-with-kickstarter

    "We look at hundreds of products every week. Sometimes thousands. At first all of us were pretty stoked about Kickstarter, because it seemed like a genuine font of unfettered innovation—the hive mind coming up with products that we truly needed but had never even thought of before. And maybe it was. But it's not anymore. It's a sea of bad videos, bad renderings, and poorly made prototypes. Some might be good. Many are poorly made. And some are downright fraudulent, taking peoples' money without delivering the promised rewards. This has happened to me."


    Everything Geeks Think They Know About Kickstarter Is Wrong
    http://mashable.com/2013/06/05/what-you-know-kickstarter-is-wrong/


    Kickstarter Doesn't Really Care If You Get Scammed Out Of $25
    http://kotaku.com/5921739/kickstarter-doesnt-really-care-if-you-get-scammed-out-of-25

    "Worri ed about Kickstarter not caring if one of its projects steals your money? Well... you probably should be.

    According to Sunny Bates, advisor-slash-board member for the crowdfunding website, if you give your money to a project, that project gets funded, and you then get ripped off, you'll be left to fend for yourself.

    "Here's the deal," she said to Polygon. "It's one thing to be scammed like Bernie Madoff, where you've gone and you've been seduced by something and put in all your life savings. It's another thing for something not to come through for $25."

    Right. Because if you're not losing ten grand, who cares?"


    And better read Kickstarter's FAQ before you buy in: in typical grifter fashion, they take the cash and disclaim all responsibility. -- TEN PERCENT! I still can't believe it! Should be ONE percent, with an upper limit.

    Small sample. Use the evil Google for "Kickstarter scam".

    SO, what is it with promoting Kickstarter here at Techdirt? Must be some of Mike's pals. Now that PaulT (I think) has informed me that minions here actually are paid, it's likely that they write to Mike's biases if not specifications.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 10:50am

      Re: Gizmodo is "Done With Kickstarter"

      Arer you really trying to claim kickstarter doesn't have the right to charge whate4ver amount they see fit?

      Okay bro, in that case I'll buy a movie and then tell hollywood they can only recieve ten percent of their asking price

       

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        PaulT (profile), Jun 29th, 2013 @ 12:19am

        Re: Re: Gizmodo is "Done With Kickstarter"

        "Arer you really trying to claim kickstarter doesn't have the right to charge whate4ver amount they see fit?"

        Look at any other thread involving Kickstarter. ootb seems to have a very real opposition to Kickstarter actually making a profit for the service they provide.

         

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      John Fenderson (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 1:46pm

      Re: Gizmodo is "Done With Kickstarter"

      It's a sea of bad videos, bad renderings, and poorly made prototypes. Some might be good. Many are poorly made. And some are downright fraudulent, taking peoples' money without delivering the promised rewards.


      So it's just like the real-world marketplace, then.

       

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      Coyote (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 7:56pm

      Re: Gizmodo is "Done With Kickstarter"

      Let's see; if we go by your math, one percent of every funded product would have KS go bankrupt within approx. three to four years, even before DoubleFine's KS got put up. 10 percent is how they make money -- and how they keep in business, or rather, it is a KEY part of it.

      So no, it shouldn't be 'one percent' otherwise they wouldn't even still be around. But that's what you truly want, isn't it? For innovative, publisher-disruptive businesses to go out of business before they ever make any sort of difference.

      But hey, I'm a paid minion apparently. Where's my ten bucks for this horrendous post, Masnick? I mean, I am defending KS, after all, and this guy is saying I'm being paid to write to your specifications and biases! Surely that must mean I earn some form of payment!

      Seriously, though, whoever informed you of that is more misinformed than you are of bringing up GIZMODO and Kotaku of all places. They are WELL KNOWN dredges of the internet -- though at least Kotaku sometimes [rarely] helps a little bit, maybe, sometimes.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 29th, 2013 @ 12:10am

      Re: Gizmodo is "Done With Kickstarter"

      Gizmodo is "Done With Kickstarter"

      The funny thing about that post (done over a year ago) was that THE VERY NEXT DAY Gizmodo had a post with the title "Check out this Kickstarter." I mentioned it on Twitter, and then the deleted it.

      https://twitter.com/mmasnick/status/185790531039801344

      So, uh, yeah. Whatever.

      And better read Kickstarter's FAQ before you buy in: in typical grifter fashion, they take the cash and disclaim all responsibility. -- TEN PERCENT! I still can't believe it! Should be ONE percent, with an upper limit.

      Don't like the deal, go somewhere else. I really don't get this line of reasoning. But, honestly 10% seems kinda low when you consider the platform and audience they bring.

      SO, what is it with promoting Kickstarter here at Techdirt? Must be some of Mike's pals.

      Yeah, go with that conspiracy theory. One time I VERY briefly spoke to one of the co-founders there when I trashed them for their DMCA policy and he called to see if I had any suggestions to improve it. But that's it. Don't know them at all.

      I don't care about "Kickstarter." I care about business models that seem to be working for artists, and, for many, that appears to be Kickstarter.

      it's likely that they write to Mike's biases if not specifications.

      Um. No.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 29th, 2013 @ 12:16am

      Re: Gizmodo is "Done With Kickstarter"

      "Now that PaulT (I think) has informed me that minions here actually are paid, it's likely that they write to Mike's biases if not specifications."

      I was referring you to the following thread:

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130613/01121423439/hollywood-studios-keep-saying-its-e mployees-must-get-paid-now-may-be-forced-to-pay-its-interns.shtml

      One of the threads you mysteriously disappeared from when everybody was telling you how wrong you were. Luckily, an AC moron continued the conversation with totally illogical arguments leading to a definitive statement that TD writers get paid reasonably for their efforts, despite the stupid assumptions that ACs and other base their arguments upon.

       

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    identicon
    A. X. Slue, Jul 18th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

    Great article!

    Thanks for the great article. It definitely aligns with my beliefs about communication with potential project donors.

    I've always been fascinated with alternative funding methods. The birth of crowdfunding gives a little guy like me hope. I will definitely be using kickstarter to kickstart funding on some of my project ideas. I think crowdfunding for entrepreneurs is going to put traditional lenders out of business one day.

     

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