You don't have to look far for recent bad news about crowdfunded video games, one of the highest profile categories in Kickstarter. This past week, an artist on an ambitious dino-hunting game called The Stomping Land said all development had stopped and its creator is AWOL, vaporizing $114,000 in donations. Peter Molyneux has been excoriated for the failures of Godus, funded at $730,000, though at least that game still is alive. And on Friday, Kotaku rolled out this report, reminding users of more than $2 million in crowdfunding that has delivered no games.
What about other projects? This spreadsheet, curated by NeoGAF member Stumpokapow, charts the progress (or lack thereof) of Kickstarter games funded at $75,000 or higher since February 2012. (Projects funded at that level since July 2014 are considered too new to be judged for delivering on their promise.)
The analysis lists 10 of 185 games as outright or admitted failures, including the embarrassing Yogventures affair, and science-fiction author Neil Stephenson's sword-fighting sim, Clang. Both were funded at half a million dollars or more.
There are another 11 facing "significant risk of failure," in light of all of the backing being spent, apologies or a lack of communication from the developer, or unanswered concerns about the project raised by backers.
Some of the more than 50 "completed" or "released" projects have qualifiers as well. The majority of the rest are classified as "normal progress," but even those include notations about delays, long silences from the developing studio, or need for additional funding.
Stumpokapow explains that "Virtually no Kickstarter games from any dev at any budget level with any final release quality have released on time," so holding one to its declared release date is not a particularly fair requirement. "To me, the release date is really only relevant to ascertain what the dev thinks the scope of the game and if they are even in the realm of sanity for funding," he writes.
Better measures of a Kickstarter game, he says, include whether developers are communicating with backers, whether that communication includes frequent excuses, whether milestones are being met if the overall deadline is not, and whether the game is listed on Steam Early Access and if people are buying it there.
Moral of this story — er, spreadsheet? If you're backing a video game on Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding platform, you are buying a product that does not exist. Only donate an amount you are willing to lose.