Kickstarter campaigns are tricky, because people who pledge money are not paying for a finished product. They’re paying for an idea.
Video game Kickstarters are particularly challenging for a number of reasons, but mainly because making games is hard even for industry veterans. Sometimes the developers manage to realize their ambitions and the resulting games are excellent. Other times they succumb to the struggle and fail to come through for their backers.
It’s time to dive into the murky waters of failure. All of these games failed to deliver on the promises of the developers in one way or another. Here are five majorly disappointing Kickstarter game projects.
This “open world sandbox adventure game” was envisioned by the people behind the popular YouTube channel Yogscast. The Kickstarter earned over half a million dollars in 2012, only to be canceled altogether in 2014.
As a consolation prize, the Yogscasters gave all of the backers free copies of Landmark, a massively multiplayer online RPG that’s currently in closed beta. The final Kickstarter update, dated July 2014, details where the money went and includes this as an explanation:
I understand the frustration of that, but we put in I would say much more than a “Good Faith Effort” we literally gave it everything we had and then some to make this game happen. So, like I said all of those numbers are not completely vetted, once I get all the data formatted I’ll come back and post again. I do hope that sheds some light on where everything went though, nothing was scammed, no one and I mean NO ONE has gotten rich from this effort or is even better off then when we started, except for all the memories and the great feeling it was to see your support and try and make a great product from it.
The post with the “vetted” numbers has yet to materialize.
2. The Stomping Land
The pitch for The Stomping Land sounds great: It’s a multiplayer game set in a (historically inaccurate) era in which early humans live with dinosaurs. The idea was that players would try to survive by building traps, crafting items, and forming tribes.
An alpha version of the game actually did come out under Steam’s Early Access program but, as GameSpot’s review noted, it was an “unsatisfying experience” that “should be avoided.”
Granted, many Early Access games feel unfinished, but the idea is that they’ll receive updates and be finalized later. That doesn’t seem to be the case with The Stomping Land. The game has been removed from the Steam store and backers haven’t heard a word from the game’s creator since May 2014. That’s a bummer, because the game looks promising.
If you’re a fan of mind-bending fiction, you might be familiar with the novels of Neal Stephenson, an author who set out to “revolutionize sword fighting video games” with a Kickstarter for a game called Clang. Fans jumped on board to the tune of over half a million dollars by the time the campaign ended in February 2013.
Flash ahead to September 2014, and supporters received the game’s final update from Mr. Stephenson himself:
Last year, Subutai Corporation delivered the CLANG prototype and the other donor rewards as promised. The prototype was technically innovative, but it wasn’t very fun to play. This is for various reasons. Some of these were beyond our control. Others are my responsibility in that I probably focused too much on historical accuracy and not enough on making it sufficiently fun to attract additional investment.
4. Code Hero
Unfortunately, the developers ran out of money in 10 months, and the updates they sent to backers started becoming less regular. The last update, from April 2014, is an announcement from the project coordinator, saying he was leaving the project. So much for learning how to make games.
The Ouya is different from most of the other examples in a number of ways. For one, it’s a console instead of a game. For another, it actually came out. The only problem? People didn’t seem to care. The idea was catchy enough on the surface: It’s a $100 game console that could play mobile-like games on your TV. But in the end it turns out that the average gamer doesn’t want to play mobile games on a big screen.
The Ouya inched along for several years, until the company could no longer pay its debts in 2015. Razer reportedly bought the company in June, but we haven’t heard anything about it since. What Razer will do with the Ouya remains to be seen, but the initial promise of the system seems to have lost its appeal.