Backer envy and the increased power of your money

Now that Kickstarter has shown it is a very viable wallet-vote platform for delivering excellent games we would not have otherwise gotten, I’m wondering if a general sense of ‘backer-envy’ isn’t something that has happened already, and will continue to grow.

Take for instance Pillars of Eternity. The game is selling very well, which means most of the people playing it aren’t part of the original 77k backers who made the idea a reality. In a very real way, that enjoyment everyone is getting is BECAUSE of those 77k, and while a delayed wallet-vote helps fund future RPGs, or the expansion+sequel for Pillars itself, the money that talked loudest came from the original 77k.

The general concept of the wallet-vote is very familiar to MMO players, since unlike every other genre pre-DLC, the MMO genre best captures the continued support (or lack of) for a game. If the devs do things right, subs go up. If they don’t, subs drop. In a normal game once you buy the box, that’s it. Whether you loved or hated what you bought, your wallet-vote said you wanted that game, and because of that wallet-voting strength was greatly diminished.

It should be no surprise that we will soon see more games like Divinity or Pillars. Studios copy what works, and currently the ‘old school’ RPG is working. Yet without Kickstarter, and the amplified voice backers got, that wouldn’t be the case today. After all, how many years did we go between Baldur’s Gate 2 and Divinity/Pillars without anyone seriously trying?

To get back to the envy aspect, I think in some ways its a good thing. While plenty of Kickstarter games will fail, either because they just aren’t that great or they never get released, I feel the money donated via Kickstarter towards something non-mainstream is still better spent than only buying top 10 titles, so that in the following year we can see the exact same top 10 get rehashed over and over.

Big AAA studios losing power isn’t a bad thing, and creating top quality games is clearly not the exclusive territory of anyone who can spend tens of millions to make it happen. Between Kickstarter helping solve the funding issue, and Steam solving the retail exposure problem, today more than ever an individuals wallet-vote has great power. Use it wisely.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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6 Responses to Backer envy and the increased power of your money

  1. Rohan says:

    I’m not certain I understand your “backer-envy” concept. Who is envying the backers? The other players who didn’t back the game? Other game companies who didn’t go through Kickstarter?

    • SynCaine says:

      The other players, since you are benefiting off something you could have also helped make happen, but didn’t.

      Its the reverse of buying a shitty game and then seeing more such games come out; you know you are part of the blame for that.

      • bhagpuss says:

        If you all end up with the same game, what’s to envy?

        Now if backers get perks that people who wait until the game comes out don’t, and those perks are something the latecomers wish they could have had, THEN you’d see some envy alright.

        Tesh mentioned a Kickstarter the other day that launched with closed access. Only backers got to play. Every so often they open applications and let a few more in and then the doors close again. That’s an interesting model. If a really good game came out of that then you’d see more than just envy – you’d see anger.

        • tithian says:


          It is not uncommon for a good majority of the physical rewards are backer exclusive. I may be mistaken, but for Pillars they stopped selling boxes when the game was released.


          For normal games, wallet voting happens with the sequels/expansions. The reason Diablo 3 sold so well was the expectation that we’d be getting a HD version of D2. In that same regard, Pillars 2 and Original Sin 2 will sell mostly due to our expectations of the games.

      • Dobablo says:

        No envy here. I get an end product that has been tested, tuned and perfected by others. It might not be exactly how I would have liked it but the supporters take huge risks with their up-front money and very limited control over how the product actually turns out. I think I’m getting the better deal.

  2. ciaphascain says:

    I have a rule wich is “nothing for nothing, something for something”, meaning I dont pre order, and I most certainly do not buy anything without trying that same thing or similar, be it a washing machine or a vídeo game.
    I will always try the demo of a vídeo game or if not available, I will pirate it and if it managed to hold my attention for more then 3 hours i will pay for it, if not, I will remove it and never think of it again. The best exemple of it is problably Diablo, tried Diablo I at a friends house, had to go and buy it right away, bought afterwards hellfire expansion, Diablo II, pirated it and removed it after 15 mins, to me it sucked ass.
    So if anything I feel is apreciation that backers are paying for the development of games for the rest to enjoy, we pay more ( not that much) but the amount of jewels among the dirt has not been that great.
    And the argument that these financing models are the only way some games will see the light of day, have those developers borrow that money, after all if they have confidence that their product is good, then it will sell, not trying to get someone else into what can be some kind of scam, kickstarter does not guarantee that any thing will be done with the Money, for all we know it will be spent on blow and hookers.

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