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When Kickstarter Projects Go Missing 86

On Friday, we posted about Kickstarter's new rules of engagement, including some new rules under which some of the most popular Kickstarter projects to date might never have surfaced. But what about ones that make it to the site, then disappear? Wired takes a look at what happens to those Kickstarter projects that for one reason or another get yanked from the site. (DMCA complaints apparently are often that one reason.)
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When Kickstarter Projects Go Missing

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  • Nobody likes competition.
  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:06PM (#41429589) Homepage
    But it'll cost, ooh, I dunno, let's say $100,000 to do it.
    • Then when you Vanish with the Cash we can all sing "Project 54 Where Are You???"

      But seriously i would hope that KS puts a page up that says " This Project has been removed due to %Authority% contact %admin% for Possible Refund"

      • Wouldn't a project be removed before it reaches funding and thus no money is taken?
      • If a project is removed before it's completed, then there's no refund to issue; no money was sent.

        After the project's funded, delisting it from Kickstarter would be kind of pointless.

  • by GeneralTurgidson ( 2464452 ) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:13PM (#41429631)
    Call me a scrooge, but the idea of donating money to projects that will eventually charge you to purchase the product they produce seems ridiculous to me. On top of that, there is no guarantee that the project you donate to will see the light of day. Honestly, can someone tell me why this is such an appealing option?
    • by hey ( 83763 )

      Mass hypnosis and being the trendy thing of the moment.

    • by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:19PM (#41429691)
      Most Kickstarters for digital or physical goods include pledge tiers that offer the item under development at a below-release cost. It's a risk either way: there's the possibility that the project won't come to fruition (and you're out twenty bucks), or it will and it'll cost you fifty post-launch.

      In a lot of cases, the Kickstarter project will be their only big sale as well-- a lot of the stuff being touted is seriously boutique, to say the least.

      • The most successful KSs I've seen are from established companies/people with a track record using it largely as a preorder tool, that's where it works best really. And as you say, you generally get the product with your pledge. Yes, its harder to get people to give you money when you have no track record and no product, that will never change no matter what platform is used, that hard grind has to get done first.

        • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          Agreed. When I go to invest in a kickstarter project the only thing I have to go on is reputation and the promise of a return. That return is usually VERY limited. So, reputation is almost everything.

          Kickstarter is basically useless for somebody with a good idea but a week resume. A venture capitalist can discuss plans in detail and put somebody on the inside to see how money is being spent and give you the money in drabs as you make progress, and they stand to reap a ton of rewards if all goes well. N

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            Kickstarter is basically useless for somebody with a good idea but a week resume.

            So I take it one should build a resume first. But in a poor job market, how should one build a resume?

            • Kickstarter is not the job market. It's a way for creative types to avoid the job market. You want a resume full of creative projects? Create things, and show them off. If they're good enough, people might just pay you for copies.

              • You want a resume full of creative projects? Create things

                I agree in principle. But in practice, someone just creating things may find it hard to get permission to show them off on the most suitable platform. See Bob's Game for example.

    • by supersloshy ( 1273442 ) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:20PM (#41429697)

      Nearly every project I've seen gives you a copy of said product for pledging a certain amount. Also, have you heard of the term "investing" before?

      • Also, have you heard of the term "investing" before?

        I do not think that word means what you think it means...

      • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:05AM (#41433651)

        Rather than financial return. There may be some financial aspect to it as well, you figure "I can get the game for $20 now rather than $50 when it comes out," but it is largely creative.

        The projects I've backed on Kickstarter (all video games) have been because I want to see the game made. They are games that are otherwise not likely to be made. They are games I want to see though. So my money help allow them to exist, I get creative return on my investment.

        Now is there risk? Of course, as with all investments. There is a risk people won't deliver. Most of the games I've back I'm pretty confident will deliver, they have small game studios behind them. However there's a couple of smaller ones. There is a risk they won't be able to deliver.

        Also there's a risk that if they do deliver, you won't like what they do. I'm quite sure I'm going to dislike at least one of the games I've backed. Bound to happen, I've bought plenty of commercial games I didn't like. Again, it is a risk I have to be willing to take.

        That's what people need to understand. Yes there's a risk with KS. You just have to decide if you are ok with that risk. Why do it? Well to get something you otherwise might not be able to.

        In terms of games Wasteland 2 would be a pretty famous example. I really want that, I love that kind of game. The creator, Brian Fargo, already tried to get a publisher to back it. Guy is a game industry veteran, he knows the deal. However nobody was interested. Well, I (and others) backed it on KS because we want to see it. If we didn't back it, it wasn't going to happen.

        It allows for more niche things to get funded. A publisher may say "Well this looks like something very few people would buy, so we won't fund it, even with a low budget." People on Kickstarter say "I don't give a shit, I'm not getting financial returns, I want it that's all that matters." So more niche products can get some funding.

        Also when a project is backed 100% by people with no financial stake, it allows things to be done differently. For example all the games I've backed have pledged a no-DRM version (and the one that has launched has delivered a no-DRM version). They don't have to worry about it since there isn't a publisher to make happy, or a bank loan to pay. The backers got their game, they have nothing more they owe anyone.

        So it isn't The One True Way(tm), or how everything will be done in the future or something like that. But it is cool for some things. You just have to be ok with risk. You have to accept that yes, there's a risk when you back a project. As with ANY investment, don't go in for more than you are willing to lose, and understand your potential gains are creative, not financial.

    • It's a way for entrepreneurs to get funding for their creative ideas and projects. Usually you'd have to find an investor. To answer your question as to why it's appealing to invest in a project that may or may not succeed, just ask a professional investor. It's the thrill of being a part of a great idea and helping it get off the ground.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because it creates a good that will not exist without the help. If you have an interest in owning such a good/service but do not have the interest of building the company that will create it from scratch, most times the kickstarter project will give you one of the finished items if you pledge enough buy the product.

      In other words, if you'd like a completely free and open console and you're tired of seeing vaporware companies fail to produce one, you can get in an early lineup for an Ouya. If you don't get

      • if you'd like a completely free and open console and you're tired of seeing vaporware companies fail to produce one, you can get in an early lineup for an Ouya.

        Or just buy a PC and an Xbox 360 gamepad today.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Of course it is a lot simpler if you wait for a finished product to show up for purchase, you'd know exactly what you get and when you get it. But the reason these projects are on Kickstarter is that they need/want funding. If they don't get it, well there's a good chance the project won't happen and the finished product never shows up. If you want it badly enough you're willing to pay risk money to make it happen. To take a simple math example, assume the Kickstarter project will make a thing that'll cost

    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @03:14PM (#41430065) Homepage Journal

      Kickstarter actually started out as a way to fund arts projects. Like somebody wanting to create a sculpture, do a fancy mural, put on a play, even make a low-budget movie. These are all things that will probably never make back their costs and have traditionally depended on the generosity of donors. These have traditionally been people with deep pockets — businesses looking to generate goodwill, rich people who've gone philanthropist — but with the whole online crowd-whatever phenomenon, there's no reason ordinary people can't do this too.

      Like you, I'm bothered by the fact that Kickstarter is now dominated by startups who use it to get seed capital. There's something just plain messed up about a for-profit business that might well make its founders rich starting out by passing the hat. Still, I'm forced to admit that some intriguing projects (Pebble, Ouya, and even the much-maligned Orbit [kickstarter.com]) might never have gone anywhere without the generosity of "backers". I guess there's nothing really wrong with it, as long as people understand that the money they're offering is a gift, not a purchase or investment.

      But to answer your question: this is one of those weird online enthusiasms, like that Korean guy with the weird dance moves. My favorite example is this Halaal restaurant I used to live near [yelp.com] which for no obvious reason has hundreds of 5-star reviews on Yelp. Now this is a decent restaurant, the food is OK, and the staff is very hospitable to everybody who comes in. But they seem very confused by all the non-Muslims trooping through the door. Why pay extra to eat Halaal [wikipedia.org] if your religious beliefs don't require it?

      Yelp is full of stuff like this, and let's not forget the bus monitor whose bullying incident earned her almost $700K [gawker.com]. Very silly, but not that big a deal, except maybe for the potential fraud.

      • I know around here, that Halaal is generally better quality than the regular stuff, same price as well
        • by fm6 ( 162816 )

          If you live in a place where there are lot of Muslims, I suppose that might be the case. Not the case in San Jose.

      • Why pay extra to eat Halaal if your religious beliefs don't require it?

        For the same reason that people not under Mosaic law buy Hebrew National beef franks: the perception that following these laws results in better quality meat.

        • by fm6 ( 162816 )

          Ok, I admit that a lot of people think Kosher food is "better". But a similar thing for Halaal is not why this restaurant got trendy. I've seen Yelpers go all crazy over tiny ethnic eateries where the food was mediocre or even toxically bad. I think it starts when somebody spots some English-challenged immigrant behind the counter that pushes their cuteness button. And indeed, the guy running the Halaal place was extremely likable..

      • by Seumas ( 6865 )

        Kickstarter has a lot of established businesses taking advantage of it. Sometimes that's reasonable. Just because it's a "company" doesn't mean that they could do the project without support. There are a lot of interesting new game projects that probably would never have a shot without the crowd-funding solution. Of course, there's some shady shit, too. Like the Eternity project whose lead recently discussed how an unnamed AAA publisher came to them awhile ago and proposed that they be the "front-men" for t

        • by fm6 ( 162816 )

          I guess I mostly agree with you. Still, that guy who asked for $20K and got a million is a potential problem. First, there's the potential for fraud. That can happen even if the guy himself is completely honest — you know the con artists all have him targeted right now.

          Then there's what I call the toxic cash problem, a term I heard when I was contracting at SGI in 1999. Some people there blamed their troubles on the way star-struck venture capitalists threw money at the company early on, so that the c

          • You can specify a limited number of pledge rewards available. Granted, not everyone does this... clearly it's a problem if some guy gets more orders than he's capable of filling.

            • by fm6 ( 162816 )

              I'm not talking about pledge rewards. Those only matter if you're dumb enough to think that Kickstarter is a store. I'm talking about limits on total funds raised.

    • by anss123 ( 985305 ) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @03:19PM (#41430109)
      And for that I get the game, soundtrack and art book in a jewel case. Shipping is free, and had I pledged more I could have gotten more stuff. Had the kickstarter failed to be founded, I would have paid nothing.

      This particular project has a good chance of delivering, having already made a working demo of the game, so the $60 was not much different that preordering some limited edition of the next CoD game. Without kickstarter this game would never have been made, so in my eyes kickstarter have served a purpose that no other service I know of could have managed.

      Naturally there's always a chance they will take their money and run, but the last $60 CoD game I bought was absolute garbage (despite stellar reviews), so there's always a bit of risk involved no matter how you spend your hard earned coin. It may not be a risk you are willing to take, but fortunately plenty of folks are, and thus project like Giana can see the light of day.
    • It depends on the project. I "donated" money to a friend that was publishing a book (book already written). The kickstarter gave him enough capital to self publish enough books so they could be produced at a reasonable price. In return for the "donation" I got a personalized signed copy and some luggage tags (since the book is about packing [howtopackl...ckstar.com]). I was guaranteed to get something out of it if the project went ahead (i.e. enough people funded it) and if I didn't have enough for a book I could have thrown a few b
    • by ErikZ ( 55491 ) *

      Because only some of the projects are like that. All the Kickstarter projects I contribute to are two categories:

      1. Pure charity. I receive nothing beyond helping someone implement a cool project. (Which has value to me.
      2. I get one of the items. All game Kickstarters seem to fall into this category.

    • I'm sure you also find giving to charity and paying your taxes ridiculous too. In other news, no one cares that kickstarter's not for you.

    • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @07:42PM (#41431905)

      "Call me a scrooge, but the idea of donating money to projects that will eventually charge you to purchase the product they produce seems ridiculous to me. On top of that, there is no guarantee that the project you donate to will see the light of day. Honestly, can someone tell me why this is such an appealing option?"

      I don't think you're Scrooge but how about not quite clear on the concept.

      You aren't donating. You are buying into.

      We have a Kickstarter project which successfully funded to help our farm build an on-farm USDA inspected meat processing facility for our pastured pigs. See:

      http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm [kickstarter.com]

      Our project was successfully funded.
      We're building our butcher shop. (We're about to make the next pour of concrete.)
      People who were 'backers' got to choose 'rewards' which which in almost all cases are meat from our farm.
      They are paying a price for product created by the project.
      It's a pre-buy.
      Think CSA.

      It's isn't a donation.
      It isn't tax deductible.
      It isn't charity.

      It is people backing a project that they want the product from because they feel confident in the creator's ability to produce the product.

      It is important to understand that a Kickstarter project is not a store in the sense that you are not buying an existing product off the shelf but helping a creator bring a product to market. Generally you get some special aspect such as being first in line, special colors or features, added goodies like T-shirts, etc as well as satisfaction in being part of something. Most people who pledge to a project already know the creator.

      So, if you're feeling Scroogish, be sure to back projects you feel confident in getting your 'reward' from. Check out the creator to see if you think they can produce.

      • by dzfoo ( 772245 )

        Actually, that's orthogonal to the intent of Kickstarter, and the reason for these new policies. Watch in the future as they continue to implement policies that promote the idea of donations rather than "pre-order."

        You're right, it's not an investment: you don't get a stake on the outcome of the project. However, it is closer to charity than you may want to think.

        That you may get a "reward" for your pledge should be seen in the same light as contributing to your local Public Radio station and receiving a

        • by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

          Actually, they state quite clearly that the 'rewards' should ideally be products produced from the project. That is a pre-buy.

    • by Seumas ( 6865 )

      It's not that you don't get the point of kickstarter so much as you clearly can't be bothered to find out what kickstarter is or how it works. It would really only take you like two minutes to do it.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Call me a scrooge, but the idea of donating money to projects that will eventually charge you to purchase the product they produce seems ridiculous to me. On top of that, there is no guarantee that the project you donate to will see the light of day. Honestly, can someone tell me why this is such an appealing option?

      It's a way of getting money required to do something.

      Developing a game often requires some capital input in order to produce said game. Likewise, going from prototype to productoin requires a la

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:13PM (#41429645)

    I'm actually more concerned about projects that never get _delivered._ Kickstarter puts some distance between themselves and "investors" based on just being a facilitator, but I'd be curious about the ratio of projects that never see light of day or--as I suspect is even more frequent--see it so late that the original Kickstarter pledge should be considered broken.

    This specific example is interesting to me:
    because I know the *author*, and believe that its persistent delays are symptomatic of his personality. I doubt it will ever see light of day, and the 90,000 dollars handed over has already been largely spent.

    There's not much difference between this and showing a "simulation of a product" and yet one is banned while the other remains acceptable.

    An obvious step would be to hold funds in escrow but that would seriously impact Kickstarter's minimalist business model and increase costs of funding...which might be a good thing.

    • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 )

      I'm actually more concerned about projects that never get _delivered.

      Unfortunately most of the major press kickstarter projects are a ways out from being due to be delivered.

      In the case of the one you linked, the 90k handed over is considered revenue for the calendar year it's received and is taxable and stuff afaik, which is one of the big downsides to kickstarter.

      The difference between the 'simulation of a product' and the link you have is that the 'simulation of a product' could be for something that won't ever work. The author could write a book, it might be terrible, b

      • Business expenses get subtracted from revenue. If it takes $89,000 dollars to produce the $90,000 project, he may only have to pay taxes on $1,000. If it costs $91,000 to produce the $90,000 project, he might end up having to pay lower taxes than he would if the project didn't exist.
        • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 )

          Right, but it's still for a 'this calendar year' basis, US accounting is kind of wonky to those of us on the outside, but the way I understand it from people I know who have done kickstarters is that a 2 year project you have to count it all as revenue for the one year you get it (it's not an investment, it's income), on a 3 month project this is a non issue, on a multi year project this can be really problematic.

    • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:52PM (#41429879)

      Escrow is an interesting idea, but not really relevant to what Kickstarter is doing - i.e. making the projects possible in the first place. Having money in escrow doesn't help you fund tooling and production of physical goods, nor keep your bills paid and/or hire outside resources while pursuing artistic endeavors. All it does is provide incentive to finish the project, which in the absence of ability is utterly useless.

      And there is a major difference between art/design projects and physical products - for physical products there is an immense amount of time, labor, and expense involved in going from working prototype to mass-produced product. Art projects on the other hand incur almost all of their costs during creating - the "prototype" basically *is* the final product in the case of pure digital goods, and even things like physical books have a large and streamlined industry already in place to convert your digital version into a run of physical products with minimal difficulties - one book is basically identical to another except for minor details like dimensions, material types, and what's printed on the pages.

      That said, for something like a book or other product where investment costs are minimal I think contributing to a Kickstarter project is rather ridiculous - practically every author on the planet manages to write on their own dime and gets paid if/when they sell copies. Proven authors may have the option of getting an advance from a publisher, but the bulk of their payment still only comes after the project has been completed. If that model is good enough for Shakespear, Dr. Seus, and everyone in between you've got to ask why project X is so special.

    • by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @03:35PM (#41430249)

      'Deliver of offer refund' is one of KickStarter's tems of service for Creators. If you, as a Backer..

      1. feel that the product has not been delivered and there's no hope of it being delivered.
      2. want a refund (as opposed to just writing it off as a donation / loss)
      3. are unable to get a refund from the Creator

      A. Talk to your credit card issuer. Explain the situation - have them void the charge. It's then Amazon's problem to square out with KickStarter. This may not be an option available to you.
      B. Talk to a lawyer. Basic contract law is likely to apply - but, again, talk to a lawyer. If you or your lawyer would need assistance, go google Hanfree and Neil Singh.

      I do very much implore you to consider whether you want to go down that road. There's quite a few projects I backed who have not (yet) delivered, some going for a year now. But most of the Creators tend to be communicative and explain what the speed bumps are and what the timeline looks like. Others I pledged such a small amount that it's simply not worth it for me to bother with it. ( In the Hanfree case, the Backer is a lawyer and sued out of principle because it wasn't just his $$, but a combined total of $$,$$$ apparently being lost that rubbed him the wrong way. )

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymice ( 1400397 )
      I was under the understanding the money was only withdrawn once the product had reached its funding target? An all or nothing kinda' thing?
    • by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

      I think your confusion stems from your terminology. Kickstarter is not about "investing". You won't get any cash return. Several people seem confused about this. Additionally, not all projects succeed once funded. Welcome to the real world. That is how things are. If you never try anything you'll never fail. Congratulations.

  • The same way a project offers perks, KS should give the option (not an obligation) for a project to show how they are commited to your donation and offer to get the money in several instalments, according to their financial plan. If people feel the project isn't delivering at specific points they can stop the financing and get something as a refund.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire