After approximately a decade, crowdfunding has become an established medium for raising finances. Particularly with regard to projects associated with the leisure industry or “geek culture”. Game developers seem to be especially fond of using this service as a means to raise capital for their projects. If you have a dream you wish to realise, the successful crowdfunding campaigns of Star Citizen or Star Trek: Axanar are a strong incentive to look to fans for financing. As a result, we regularly see articles on websites such as Massively OP for new games under development. At first it was novel, even exciting. Then it became ubiquitous. Now it’s just tedious. Consequently, I believe that “crowdfunding fatigue” is a genuine thing and that I certainly suffer from it.
Like so many online practices, successfully crowdfunding has been distilled down to a base formula, just like TED Talks, You Tube videos and podcasts. There is a now a broadly established process that can be applied to any crowdfunding campaign. Although I can see the merit in sticking with what works, it also results in a great degree of homogeny. Thus, we are exposed to a nonstop barrage of hype, spin and hyperbole when it comes to crowdfunding. Furthermore, campaigns often focus only on the positive, resulting in sizeable information gaps. In the absence of facts people tend to fill in the blanks themselves, ending in unrealistic expectations.
However, there is another element to this situation, beyond that of marketing, disclosure and semantics. I believe that fandom often causes a form of “myopia”. In the past market forces and commercial checks and balances meant that products would never get off the drawing board. If the bank said no that was the end of the matter. It can be argued that a lot of good ideas have been ignored due to a lack of vision or risk aversion. Yet I’m also sure a lot of dumb ideas have been legitimately dismissed. Crowdfunding bypasses to a degree, the filters of business acumen and common sense and instead often relies on emotional appeal. Fans and aficionados have love and affection in spades but not necessarily economic sense as well. Hence “internet outrage” over crowdfunded projects that have not cut the mustard is common place.
Another contributory factor towards “crowdfunding fatigue” is it’s increasing use by corporate entities that have sufficient financial resources already to develop their product. Again, this is something that seems to happen more with gaming related projects. Why do development studios affiliated to big publishers need to look to fans for money? I find reasons such as “we’re trying to gauge support for the product” to be spurious and consider crowdfunding by such institutions to be nothing more than profiteering. Sadly, such practices are allowed to continue, mainly due to the aforementioned shortsightedness of fans. The desire to have the finished product seems to outweigh all other considerations.
Although I and others may well be weary of crowdfunding per se, I cannot totally dismiss it out of hand. I have contributed to several projects and benefited from the end results. I have backed several documentaries and film related projects in recent years, mainly because the funding has been for very specific goals. Usually the money required is for licensing costs or other legal services. As a result, I have not personally been disappointed by any of the projects I have donated to. I also think that specific term is very important. Contributing does not make you an investor, backer or stakeholder. You are simply a donor who may or may not be granted a reward for your support. You have no creative input or leverage. Until this concept is fully embraced, I’m sure we’ll still see a continual tide of failed projects that have overreached themselves and consequently more “crowdfunding fatigue”.