What Happens When A Kickstarter Game Is Canceled?

by Matt Helgeson on Oct 19, 2012 at 10:15 AM


Kickstarter has become a boon to indie developers, who can appeal directly to gamers for the money needed to make risky or innovative projects. However, there's a problem with funding games on faith: What happens when they don't get made?

Today, Gamespot reported that Rick Dakan, who raised $28,793 on Kickstarter to make a game called Haunts: The Manse Macabre, posted an update informing his backers that game has been shelved indefinitely. Apparently, both of the programmers working on the game left the project to take new jobs (one at Google and one at an unspecified company), leaving Dakan and an artist holding the bag.

Dakan now says he has no timeframe for when the game might be completed, stating, "I am still determined to get the game out, but I no longer have any way of knowing when and how that will happen."

He says that a lot of the base game is in place, but it is extremely buggy and that there have been issues in implementing online play. At present, there are no programmers working on the project to fix it. However, he says he will see it through.

"We are not giving up!" writes Dakan. "I am currently in talks with another game company owned by some old friends and coworkers of mine, Blue Mammoth Games. They have expressed an interest in taking on Haunts. Austin and I would continue on in our roles, although we would both be doing so in our spare time. These new potential partners won't be able to make the decision for a few weeks at least, and then after that it would be months before anything came out. Still, I think it's our best shot at this point."

This brings up the question: What happens when a Kickstarter game fails? For Kickstarter's part, its says it requires its creators to follow through with a project, but will not be in any way involved with refunding customers. Here's are a couple notable entries from the Kickstarter FAQ:

  1. Can Kickstarter refund the money if a project is unable to fulfill?
    No. Kickstarter doesn't issue refunds as transactions are between backers and creators, and creators receive all funds (after fees) soon after their campaign ends. Creators have the ability to refund backers through Amazon Payments (for US projects) and Kickstarter (for UK projects).
  2. Why can't Kickstarter guarantee projects?
    We started Kickstarter as a new way for creators and audiences to work together to make things. The traditional funding systems are risk-averse and profit-focused, and tons of great ideas never get a chance. We thought Kickstarter could open the door to a much wider variety of ideas and allow everyone to decide what they wanted to see exist in the world. 
    Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative ideas. Many of the projects you see on Kickstarter are in earlier stages of development and are looking for a community to bring them to life. The fact that Kickstarter allows creators to take risks and attempt to create something new is a feature, not a bug.

While Dakan says the money he's raised has already been spent, he says he is willing to personally refund any donors who email him directly through Kickstarter.

We're likely to see more incidents like this in the coming years. Video games are a tremendously complicated and difficult undertaking. At major studios – staffed by people with years of experience in bringing games to market -– large projects are canceled on a frequent basis. While it's great that Kickstarter is giving independent studios a way forward, some developers' inexperience in managing and budgeting a game project will inevitably result in projects that either fail to come out or are published in buggy or unplayable form.

For the donors that are unsatisfied with what they received for their pledge, there is little recourse.

Related Story: The Game Informer Kickstarter Compendium