The Alice creator waxes lyrical on Kickstarter's benefits and shortcomings.
By Tim Colwill on August 6, 2013 at 2:01 pm
Shortly before the end of the Alice: Otherlands Kickstarter, we had the chance to sit down with American McGee to get his thoughts on how the whole process. With both Akaneiro, OZombie and now Alice: Otherlands under his crowdfunded belt, McGee has experienced both success and failure on the platform. So is it the alternative to traditional publisher funding it is often touted as?
“I hate to make statements like, this is the future, or this is going to change everything,” he replies. “I don’t really think that that’s the case. I think it’s a part of the evolution of funding that’s a natural result of people’s trust of putting money into the Internet and coming together as a community to support something.”
“And so, I think it’s great, I love it, but at the same time I think there are things that traditional investment or traditional publisher funding can do that Kickstarter and other crowdsource platforms cannot do, and in fact may never be able to do.
What sorts of things? Well, as McGee points out, “are you going to crowdfund the construction of an entire hotel? Or are you going to crowdfund a $100 million Hollywood movie? There’s things that have to do with scale and there’s also things that have to do with expertise that I think are going to be challenges when it comes to crowdfunding.”
McGee explains that the lack of investor oversight, and the lack of any legal right to demand that actual changes be made, means that crowdfunding runs into some severe hurdles at higher levels.
“With crowdfunding once you’ve given your money to that individual or that company you’ve sort of given away your ability to control what happens, and you don’t have as much legal oversight or insight into what they’re doing. I think that’s why crowdfunding could be good up to a certain point and for a certain complexity of projects but then at some points, you’re probably going to run into a limitation. ”
Kickstarter is rife with high-profile successes and also high-profile failures, such as the recent collapse of the Doom That Came to Atlantic City boardgame (although, happily, that particular situation has now been resolved). I asked McGee if he was ever afraid that he’d be unable to deliver on his promises.
“Let me put it to you this way,” he says. “With OZombie we set that goal at $900,000 but I know that we actually needed $1.5 million to do that game.”
“I cancelled it when I did, not because I thought that we weren’t going to get to $900,000, but because I knew that we weren’t going to get to $1.5 million. So I would have cancelled that even if we were at $900,000. Everybody would have scratched their head and said, ‘But you made your goal!’ Even if we were at one million I would have cancelled that campaign.”
According to McGee, a successful Kickstarter needs to “set it low and aim high” — but there’s also a psychological element involved.
“If I’d come out and said, ‘I need $1.5 million’ from the beginning, we would have been told that we were being crazy — we were already told we were crazy! – and yet, with the success that inXile and Double Fine have had, where they’re asked for half a million and they get three, there is something at work there.”
But, in this hypothetical scenario where McGee pulls the plug on a million-dollar Kickstarter because it’s still not enough, isn’t he at all tempted to take the money? To just try and make it work? Doesn’t the thought of throwing away one million keep him awake at night?
“No,” he says, after a short pause. “No, that would not have kept me awake. What would have kept me awake at night would have been taking money towards a project that I knew we could not deliver on. That would have kept me awake at night.”
“Taking money to deliver a project we know we can deliver is great,” he says. “But, you know, one million is as useless as nothing if ultimately you cannot deliver on the promise that you’ve made to that audience.”
“It’s much easier to sleep at night when you’re not digging that sort of hole for yourself. “