Kickstarter funding getting harder while alpha funding remains strong says Project Zomboid dev

Thursday, 18th July 2013 09:07 GMT By Dave Cook

Project Zomboid’s Chris Simpson has written a superb guide to alpha funding and sandbox creation, in which he warns that getting funded on Kickstarter is becoming harder over time.

Simpson’s article can be found on Indie Games and it gives first-hand insight into alpha funding and stressed that his game has proven successful without the need for crowd-funding or Steam. He said he’d perhaps like to appear on Steam at some point, but is taking things slow to avoid risks.

“We’re yet to appear on the Steam store or even Early Access, however this is our choice,” he explained. “Our own reluctance to ‘blow our load too early’.

“Despite the ecosystem of Steam seemingly being centred around the the summer / holiday sales, we still value our first appearance on there enough to not want to risk going on before we are ready (first impressions, and that). Which may be in part silly and unnecessary (more on that later) or may turn out to be one of our smarter moves. We’ll see.

“I may not know much about what life is like for an indie dev on Steam, but we’ve been through a fair bit on the outside. And to those starting their journey, this is where you will spend a fair amount of time.”

He then shared his own experience of being an indie and selling a game through alpha funding, then explained why he felt Kickstarter is perhaps a dead end for some studios.

“We’ve all seen it. You can smell it in the air,” he continued. “The Kickstarter bubble is strained to breaking point and looks set to burst, if it has not already.
Thankfully, alpha-funding seems to bypass a lot of the growing cynicism levelled at crowd-funding, since people who purchase actually get something for their money right there and then.

“There is also a proven history of the developer that prospective customers can look into, to make sure the game is in active development, and that the people they are paying are trust-worthy and capable.

“Furthermore it’s a lot more tempting to dive in if all your friends are already playing, regardless of how you may feel about it in principle. I can only imagine the popularity of alpha-funding growing as the popularity of Kickstarter game funding begins to wane.”

We’ve seen a rising number of alpha-funded games reaching prominence, most famously Notch’s Minecraft and recently Introversion’s Prison Architect to name a few.

What do you make of Kickstarter? Is the bubble ready to pop? Is alpha funding more viable? Let us know what you think below.



  1. GrimRita

    With so many high profile projects hitting and exceeding their funding goals, it’s hard to see how this chap is right. Of course, there will be a time and place but right now, I can’t see kickstarter going anywhere soon, especially when the big ticket items are published.

    I’m considering using KS for a project I have been working on and to take it to the next level would probably use KS.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. TheWulf

    That’s a little silly.

    Bubbles have burst in the past but that’s in part due to their model, the only kind of bubble that can/has burst in regards to Kickstarter is developers thinking they can make millions with a project, so they set unrealistically high goals and make their games more ambitious than they should be.

    That some projects don’t understand pacing isn’t indicative of a failure of Kickstarter on any level, it’s just that some projects don’t understand pacing. They don’t get that it’s better to get the core game finished, and then to run later Kickstarter campaigns for DLC, rather than trying to create a massive game from the outset.

    And if you’re making all sorts of promises that you can’t keep, then you’re also going to have a problem because people will have expectations of exactly what you’ve promised them. Thus, keeping your promises on a very small, very achievable scale is necessary. Then, once again, your project can be expanded at a later date.

    An example of a successful Kickstarter is Lifeless Planet, which is a small scale exploration/puzzle game with a good story. A lot of it has already been completed, and the developer has had much to show in the way of playable demos and trailers. He’s also taking feedback from the players with every demo he creates, which is brilliant.

    However, many games have absolutely nothing to show for their projects yet, and some have been around much longer than Lifeless Planet. They’re failing to deliver because their projects were too ambitious, and it’s taking them longer and more money to produce those games than they thought.

    So what we see happening is that people are naturally becoming wary of ambitious projects, choosing instead to put their money down on either reasonably achievable ones, or ones that have a certain amount completed already (such as a playable demo). Those tend to be successes no matter what, and they continue to be.

    It’s all about scale. Sometimes you need to cut back.

    The reason Project Zomboid wouldn’t do well on Kickstarter is, quite frankly, it’s a bit of a no-show game when it comes to actually being a finished product. It’s a game that was too ambitious and too giant for its own good. They made too many promises and they created something that was bigger than them and they’re having a hard time dealing with that. If people can “smell” anything, it’s a lack of success and poor project management. And I genuinely feel that Zomboid does suffer from that.

    So Kickstarter is just fine. Small, achievable projects will succeed, projects with good demos will succeed, and giant, ridiculously ambitious projects which make impossible promises will be seen right through by everyone.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. TheWulf


    Yeah, exactly. I don’t think it’s that Kickstarter is going to fail, I think it’s more that they know full well that their ow project would be doomed to failure on Kickstarter, but they can’t exactly say that.

    Kickstarter has just evolved to a point that people know what to look for, and Project Zomboid falls under the overly ambitious category where you’d be worried to put any money down on it. I think it’s more just wise consumerism and that’s pretty great. I just wish people outside of Kickstarter would exercise wise consumerism.

    That said, I wish you well with your project!

    #3 1 year ago
  4. benjymous

    @Dave Cook

    That’s Chris SIMPSON.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @4 Cheers, bloody sleep deprivation

    #5 1 year ago
  6. labrooks

    #6 1 year ago
  7. lemmy101

    Hey, I just thought I’d post a comment here since this small part of my post has square focus in this article, I’m worried it may sound a little ‘boo kickstarter’ in isolation. I should add that I don’t think it’ll be the case that projects will no longer get funded on kickstarter.

    More that prior to now, the potential for funding on kickstarter seemed somewhat of a ‘gold mine’ to many. By a bubble popping I mean more that the gold rush has ended, not kickstarter itself.

    Just there’s a certain amount of time in anything like this before cynicism sets in and the difficulty of getting funded, and it’s like we’ve recently come full circle with the company that brought all the attention on Kickstarter for game funding being on the receiving end of some substantial venom (not that I particularly agree with the venom in this particular case), rising expectations of what should be available to potential backers and so on.

    This is only going to get more difficult as time goes on, and at least from what I’ve noticed, Kickstarters are already starting to offer alpha access with their Kickstarters more and more and people are increasingly coming into them from a more negative point of view from the off.

    Just in short, I’m not down on Kickstarter, and any views expressed were ones out of disappointment, not ‘neh neh alpha-funding is better! :P’

    and we have never ever, once, even considered doing one ourselves (which would be distinctly money-grubby of us considering we’re doing ok without) Kickstarter should be solely for people who need Kickstarting, not topping up their moneys on a 2 year old alpha game.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. absolutezero

    Kickstarter outside of Video Games is a glorious melting pot of insane ideas and genius innovations. Unfortunately for us inside the Video Game section is a bunch of old ideas dressed up in new clothes.

    Not a developer with a history, even if the recent past is filled with rubbish I should add, then theres a good chance that your game is going to be a success. As long as its CRPG or Adventure game of course. Don’t get too excited.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Dave Cook

    @7 Hey thanks for that extra insight man :D I wasn’t trying to over-blow the Kickstarter angle in the piece, so apologies if it sounded too strong. I’ll soften it a bit just now. Many thanks for your input.


    #9 1 year ago
  10. lemmy101

    Oh it’s cool :) I just wanted to clarify my position a little more, thanks for posting it!

    #10 1 year ago
  11. Dave Cook

    @10 Any time man :)

    #11 1 year ago
  12. Beta

    The problem is, people coming on and expecting to make millions in pledges and be an instant success.

    Kickstarter is ideally suited towards small businesses with a good idea and a realistic goal. Not everyone is going to have Double Fine level success (although look how it’s working out for them.. They were too ambitious)

    The fact of the matter is Kickstarter is as strong as ever, you just have to work harder to get people’s money.

    I’m still an active Kickstarter backer and every project I’ve backed has exceeded it’s goal.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. GrimRita

    As the Shadowrun guys have said – Kickstarter allows developers to actually be creative again, without the worry of a publisher ‘dumbing down’ their original idea.

    Personally, I think its fantastic and I can’t wait to pitch my idea up there but getting the marketing etc right is going to be key. I expect a dollar from everyone ;)

    #13 1 year ago

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