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A guide to crowdfunding games and the risks involved, the Linux edition

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I was asked by a Patreon supporter to note down some thoughts on what to look for when you’re thinking about pledging to a crowdfunding campaign.

Note: These are my personal thoughts on the matter, so yours may differ. It’s okay not to agree with me on this.

First of all, to make it clear: I am not against crowdfunding at all. I think it’s a brilliant idea that has allowed some truly fantastic games to be made. The problem is that a few bad apples (hello Stainless Games) have spoiled things for a lot of Linux gamers.

The first thing to check: Have they backed anything else on that crowdfunding platform? If not it means they are a brand new user with not a single check done by the platform to check that they are who they say they are. It’s not foolproof, of course, but it’s the only starting point.

The next thing you need to think about: Do they mention Linux and/or SteamOS on the campaign page at all? If the answer is no, then the answer should be obvious. You can contact the creator through the crowdfunding platform directly or their social media channels to make sure. If they don’t answer then take the hint. Obviously give them a little bit of time to respond (2 days at least), since they may be getting lots of questions.

Now, you should look at how far along the project is. The most risky projects are those that only provide mockups (some form of art, not actual screenshots); I would personally steer clear of them, no matter who the developer is. If they cannot provide a video of something, then nothing actually exists, so the risk here is massive. You could argue they don’t want to show a video of something terribly early on, but you also can’t assume they even have anything. The first step towards losing your money is making assumptions like that. Keep in mind that projects have completely failed even when they have had plenty to show you, so if they have nothing — don’t be foolish.

If they have provided something other than mockups, you should next look to see what their actual experience is. I’m not talking about Linux directly here, but have they shipped anything before? If no then, again, the risk is quite high here. If they have shipped something, you then need to see if they have any experience with building something for Linux. It does not matter if they are using a cross-platform engine, as pushing a button to export is never as simple as it sounds. There’s plenty that can go wrong and plenty of platform-specific issues in all game engines. A demo, no matter how basic it may be, is a good indication that they’ve at least tried to make things work on their target platforms.

Leading into the above about their experience, do they mention on their campaign page where the funds will be going? You will be surprised at how many developers don’t realize the costs involved. Things like taxes which can be very complicated!

Is the project big, and if so, do you honestly think the date they say they will deliver it actually reasonable? Think on how long some massive games take to make, if their delivery date seems too soon, then it probably is.

If all of that checks out, then sit on it for a good week or so. See how communicative the developer is to the community. There is no harm in waiting to see if the developer will actually keep up communication.

If you have any more thoughts on the matter, be sure to share them in the comments. Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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About the author -
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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Aryvandaar 28 Jan, 2017
Nice article. Your approach to crowded funded games mirrors my own. I'm not against crowdfunding either (or early access), it's just that we see so many bad cases that I become vary of it.

I do want to clarify some things that people should keep in mind if Linux is a stretch goal, if so you should take the stance that it won't come to Linux. The only times I consider supporting it for Linux is when Linux is one of the supported platforms.

Another thing you should keep in mind is what engine they are using. Cryengine games have a history of not coming to Linux. Am I right when I say that most games that are ported to Linux are either in house engines, Unity or UE4?
Expalphalog 28 Jan, 2017
I'm with rcgamer. Until there are legal protections in place for the consumer, crowdfunding is essentially e-panhandling, imo.
GustyGhost 28 Jan, 2017
Quoting: GuestNever have and never will do crowdfunding. Don't do pre-ordering either. Crowdfunding to me just makes no sense from the consumer's standpoint.

Crowd funding is no place for consumers. Consumers will have to wait until after the product comes to market.
Kimyrielle 28 Jan, 2017
Quoting: AnxiousInfusion
Quoting: GuestNever have and never will do crowdfunding. Don't do pre-ordering either. Crowdfunding to me just makes no sense from the consumer's standpoint.

Crowd funding is no place for consumers. Consumers will have to wait until after the product comes to market.

Sorry, but that's complete rubbish. Crowd-funding was invented -specifically- as an alternative to venture capital or similar means of funding. Its very point is to allow regular customers to band together and fund projects that otherwise might not get funded by traditional means. People don't seem to get the idea that crowdfunding is nothing but small-scale venture capital funding. It involves risk. There is no guarantee that you will get anything back. And if you can't afford and/or stand the thought to lose your pledge then you need to stay away from it, indeed.
But for many of us, it has worked nicely and will continue to do so. As Liam's article pointed out, the art of crowdfunding from the customer's perspective is proper vetting. Telling projects with good chances of success apart from the doomed ones. That's really the gist of it.
GustyGhost 28 Jan, 2017
All I'm saying is that if anyone pays into a crowd funded project and expects a 100% guaranteed chance of return, that person is kind of an idiot.
Luke_Nukem 28 Jan, 2017
Quoting: KimyrielleSorry, but that's complete rubbish. Crowd-funding was invented -specifically- as an alternative to venture capital or similar means of funding. Its very point is to allow regular customers to band together and fund projects that otherwise might not get funded by traditional means. People don't seem to get the idea that crowdfunding is nothing but small-scale venture capital funding. It involves risk. There is no guarantee that you will get anything back. And if you can't afford and/or stand the thought to lose your pledge then you need to stay away from it, indeed.

This. I wish more people realised it.
Mountain Man 28 Jan, 2017
Quoting: GuestCrowdfunding to me just makes no sense from the consumer's standpoint.
I agree. Crowd-funding places all the risk on the consumer with no guarantee that they will get a return on their "investment" and little if any practical recourse if they don't.
SuperTux 28 Jan, 2017
Good article! I do wish to add one more thing to an early project, even if it does succeed and get released it may not be in the exact form described during funding and it may not actually be down to any wrong doing on part of the developer, rather what looks and sounds good on paper may not make it in either for financial reasons, or for purely gameplay reasons, maybe it looked and sounded good on paper, but when it came to actual testing it sucked. The earlier the stage of development the more likely I think it will be for it to evolve.
SuperTux 28 Jan, 2017
Quoting: Kimyrielle
Quoting: AnxiousInfusion
Quoting: GuestNever have and never will do crowdfunding. Don't do pre-ordering either. Crowdfunding to me just makes no sense from the consumer's standpoint.

Crowd funding is no place for consumers. Consumers will have to wait until after the product comes to market.

Sorry, but that's complete rubbish. Crowd-funding was invented -specifically- as an alternative to venture capital or similar means of funding. Its very point is to allow regular customers to band together and fund projects that otherwise might not get funded by traditional means. People don't seem to get the idea that crowdfunding is nothing but small-scale venture capital funding. It involves risk. There is no guarantee that you will get anything back. And if you can't afford and/or stand the thought to lose your pledge then you need to stay away from it, indeed.
But for many of us, it has worked nicely and will continue to do so. As Liam's article pointed out, the art of crowdfunding from the customer's perspective is proper vetting. Telling projects with good chances of success apart from the doomed ones. That's really the gist of it.

Certainly an art and common sense to vetting, I have seen people leave comments during funding for a game, not believing it will succeed and stating they're backing another game as they believed it will be better and will succeed, yet ironically that failed to be true as the reverse happened, or at worst the game they backed ended up being severely delayed.
Solitary 28 Jan, 2017
I would also add a point when a game has Linux port as a stretch goal. They are basically making people risk pledging to reach the stretch goal. That means if you pledge too soon and the project won't reach the stretch goal you just pledged on a non-linux game. For example System Shock Remake did that, even though they eventually shown Linux demo, making ports as stretch goals does feel shady, because it's afterthought and bonus and those get cut first if problems happen.
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