Kickstarter campaigns are tricky things, because people who pledge money are not paying for a finished product. They’re paying for an idea.
Video game Kickstarters are particularly challenging endeavors. 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 fans.
For now, let’s accentuate the positive. All of these games had successful launches and were well received by fans and critics alike. Here are five Kickstarter success stories.
1. Pillars of Eternity
Developer Obsidian Entertainment is well known for its licensed role-playing games, particularly Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Knights 2, and Fallout: New Vegas. With the Pillars of Eternity Kickstarter, the people at Obsidian wanted to prove they could make a great original RPG, one not based on an existing property.
Obsidian had built up enough goodwill by making 10 years of excellent games that fans trusted the company with a new RPG. In fact, they trusted them so much that the Kickstarter was a resounding success, racking up nearly $4 million. The finished game came out to rave reviews, blowing away fans and newcomers alike. If ever a Kickstarter campaign could be considered a success, it’s Pillars of Eternity.
2. Shovel Knight
Yacht Club Games may have been founded by an experienced and talented developer (Sean Velasco of WayForward), but that was far from a guarantee that the new studio would be able to create an exceptional game. Yet when Yacht Club posted a Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of a game inspired by classic side-scrollers like Castlevania and Mega Man, hopeful fans pledged over $300,000 to the cause.
Shovel Knight turned out better than anyone had hoped, receiving an high scores on Metacritic for the initial version, and even higher scores for later ports. The colorful action game proved that Yacht Club knows what makes a timeless classic, and has the chops to improve on the formula in brilliant new ways.
3. FTL: Faster Than Light
One of the best strategy games in recent years, FTL: Faster Than Light began as a hopeful little Kickstarter campaign created by Subset Games. Strategy fans believed in it to the tune of $200,000, and the result was a game that scored a respectable 84 on Metacritic.
FTL isn’t a graphically intensive game, which helped Subset make it on the relatively shoestring budget. But it’s an endlessly playable game about keeping a space ship running by diverting limited resources to things like the weapons, shields, and oxygen as you encounter all manner of hardships. If you like resource management games, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
4. Broken Age
It may have taken longer than Kickstarter pledgers had hoped, but Broken Age is now complete. The game raised a then-record-breaking $3.3 million, but it took developer Double Fine a while to get even the first half of the game out. And once gamers fell in love with Act 1, they were left hanging by a major cliffhanger that wouldn’t be resolved for a full year in Act 2.
But now the full game is out, and it’s fantastic. As part of the Kickstarter campaign, Double Fine also made a documentary detailing the development of the game. It’s incredibly interesting and basically a must-watch for anyone who cares about how games are made. You can watch the whole thing here for free.
5. Divinity: Original Sin
Another Kickstarted game that came out to overwhelmingly favorable reviews is Divinity: Original Sin. This role-playing game received nearly $1 million on Kickstarter thanks in large part to fans of old-school RPGs like Ultima VII and Diablo.
What differentiates it from similar dungeon crawlers is the number of options the game gives you. You can create any type of character you want, and upgrade him or her in a “classless” way to suit your particular play style. The game’s fantasy world is huge, and exploration is almost always rewarded. Lastly, the combat system is turn-based and tactical, just like a pen-and-paper RPG. If that sounds like your kind of playground, Divinity is likely to please.