Kickstarter in decline as crowdfunding makes way for Early Access


Over the course of three years Kickstarter has played a more important role in the games industry than anyone could have anticipated. It’s helped fund the development of tech which could change the world, revitalised the independent development scene and attracted the biggest crowdfunding campaign in history. But is the dream already coming to a grinding halt?

According to data gathered by games consultancy firm Ico Partners (via Eurogamer), the total amount pledged to video game Kickstarter campaigns in 2014 will be less than half compared to 2013. While $58m was pledged to video game campaigns in 2013, only $13.5m has been pledged in the first half of 2014. That means an estimated total of $27m in 2014 if the pattern continues in the second half of the year.

Meanwhile, 446 Kickstarter campaigns were successful in 2013, compared to 175 in the first half of 2014. If the pattern continues then about 350 campaigns should prove successful in 2014 - a comparatively small decline, but a decline nonetheless.

It’s an interesting pattern, but what's causing it? According to Ico Partners analyst Thomas Bidaux it’s a combination of fewer big ticket campaigns, scepticism due to failed projects and, interestingly, the rise of Steam Early Access.

Bidaux says developers are turning to Early Access because the outlet requires less work compared to Kickstarter campaigns, which are becoming increasingly high maintenance as the market is flooded. Early Access also offers an ongoing funding stream so long as a studio can deliver an alpha build, whereas Kickstarter funding campaigns are limited to set periods.

Another cause for the decline is the absence of big name campaigns in 2014. Bidaux cites Torment, Mighty Number 9, Elite, Camelot Unchained, Dreamfall and Richard Garriott’s Shroud of the Avatar as big 2013 campaigns, pointing out that there are few comparable projects in 2014.

And finally, consumers are starting to cotton on that a Kickstarter campaign is not a guarantee the game will actually ship. Following high-profile failures such as Clang and Yogscast, a Kickstarter pledge is no longer seen as a pre-order in disguise, but instead a gamble. Kickstarter updated its terms and conditions last month to address failed projects.

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.