Does it really come as much of a surprise? Kickstarter’s meteoric rise as a virtual savior to all teams indie would not come without an inevitable backlash. Allowing any indie game developer with an idea and a semblance of a plan the opportunity to showcase their stuff to potential backers, the leniency that Kickstarter prides itself upon will invariably cease to exist – all thanks to what appears to be one scam. Amid the prospect of more thorough validity checks, higher security standards and backer trepidation it appears that the Golden Age kicked off by Double Fine’s rousing success may come to an untimely end, but with a little self-awareness and refinement it doesn’t have to.
The scam in question was perpetrated by newly forged Little Monster Productions. On April 28th, it was pointed out by one of the backers that the concept and character art were blatantly stolen from people unrelated to the project. Even photographs of their offices were ripped off from their supposed former employer’s site. Also noteworthy is that the team representative claims that they all left jobs at Blizzard to pursue their lofty goal of creating a game that in many ways is as ambitious as Skyrim.
Little Monster loosely defended the allegations brought forth by ensuring backers that the game is legit – a paltry defense at best. A public frenzy ensued and the project was promply shut down. Whether or not Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men was a scam is not in question – the evidence is too conclusive to ignore. However, Kickstarter’s future reputation and viability as a company capable of differentiating a legit developer from a fallacy most certainty is.
Already angry backers have called Kickstarter’s QA team into question, essentially citing that anyone with a personal computer, the slightest hint of Internet savvy and five minutes of spare time could have easily exposed Mythic as a scam. Additionally, are there really any repercussions for not delivering promised gifts on time – or not at all? As it stands, fraudulent teams could easily concoct a whole slew of lofty promises, make off with the money and never be heard from again. Inevitably, these teams will be sued by backers which in turn will lead prospective investors to become wary of all but the most legitimate causes. Promising no-name indie developers will be left in the dark. Victimized by constant scrutiny and scorn, these teams will begin exploring other avenues, and who can blame them?
The primary reason why Kickstarter’s credibility hasn’t yet been called into question is that the explosion set off by Double Fine only happened a very short time ago. Estimated delivery dates for most successfully funded games since aren’t until at least the end of this year, and often times next. Thus, the likelihood that one or more of these teams will fail to deliver increases exponentially with each passing month. Again, a backlash seems inevitable.
Kickstarter would do well to increase their security methods, and only allow teams to post a project if they are capable of producing a demo, or at least a proof of concept. This will minimize the problem, but there is still no way of predicting the quality of an average Kickstarter funded release. They could go all totalitarian and force devs to guarantee deliverables by a certain date, but that will almost definitely deter many from using the service.
If it continues adhering to its current model, Kickstarter will likely only be remembered as a passing fad. Keen backers will be able to spot the more egregious scams, but eventually someone or someones will succeed at pilfering money from honest people. It’s a shame really, since those who will suffer the most are honest, short-changed developers. For now, installing checks that prevent scammers from posting should be enough to subdue the masses, but Kickstarter’s future remains unclear.
You can check out the original breaking story at GameSpy.