Catching up with the state of Kickstarter

(From xkcd. Click for full-sized recursive fundraising.)

You know Kickstarter is catching on when Penny Arcade and xkcd are talking about it.

How big has it gotten in the time since I stopped keeping track? According to Wikipedia’s top-ten list, there are now five million-dollar Kickstarters, two of them finishing after I stopped, plus two more top-ten projects that finished earlier this month (which apparently had PA‘s help towards the end), plus another ongoing project that’s cracked the ten-million-dollar barrier. Wikipedia isn’t even keeping track of ongoing projects that would make the top ten like they did when the OOTS drive was ongoing, only the highest-grossing ongoing drive (though that may just be the only project slated to cross the threshold). The #10 project when I was tracking drives was a little over $350,000; now it’s more than twice that.

Before, the main categories that contributed the highest-grossing projects tended to be Design and Technology, and to a lesser extent Film and Video. Now Games seems to be fast becoming another big-money category, maybe more than any of the others. Much as I’d hate to say it, I’d say this is definitely the Double Fine effect, not the OOTS Effect, at work; even the benefits to the Comics category aren’t really webcomic-specific any longer. OOTS may have raised more money than anyone thought possible, but Double Fine is completely reorganizing the economics of independent video-game production, and I suspect you’ll see, if you haven’t already, a bunch of people with nothing but a dream and a vague concept start Kickstarters they have no business of doing, possibly with the sole aim of “getting rich quick”.

Which brings us to the concern both of these comics seem to have. Kickstarter does not enforce the completion of any project promised; several people have noted that it’s a mechanism based on trust. The beauty of it is that, so far, people have trusted each other and delivered on that trust, and paranoia about the worst of human nature hasn’t borne fruit. But it’s easy to wonder whether people might read stories about the Double Fine crew or Rich Burlew becoming millionaires on Kickstarter and getting the wrong idea, that they can just beg for money and rake in the dough, or even whether that’s already started. I’d like to remain cautiously optimistic, and I’ll check in in a few months to verify my suspicions, but it’s hard not to wonder whether Kickstarter might not be submarined by its own success.

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