Caveat: I love Kickstarter. Over the past year, my little publishing house, Popcorn Press, has had five successful campaigns with them. We plan more in the future. And we’ve backed over a hundred. That said, they still have some growing pains.
Last year, in response to bad press about some high-income projects not delivering (or delivering way late), Kickstarter issued the famous “Kickstarter Is Not a Store” message. The point was that creators are responsible for delivering on their own promises. That message was the public-facing response. The creator-facing response added a checkbox to the project launch process, saying creators are responsible for repaying backers on undelivered product.
Problem solved, right?
Enter a new problem: This year, many creators are finishing projects and delivering the goods, only to have a backer dispute the charge with Amazon and get a full refund after the fact. Kickstarter recently barred the Encik Farhan account, for example, after scores of project creators were abused—often for thousands of dollars.
My own Clashing Blades! project was hit by a $1,100 pledge. Fortunately, I hadn’t already committed all that cash. Still, it cost in that (1) Kickstarter already took its $55, (2) the Amazon chargeback was for $1,102.19, and (3) the pledge had pushed the project to a stretch goal that I’m now paying for out of pocket. Total cost: about $225 lost of $2,236 income. A 10 percent cut.
And I got off lucky at that. Another project team alerted me to the problem before I actually spent the pledge on extra art and shipped the backer’s 20 games to Malaysia. That team—and many like them—had already been robbed before Kickstarter became aware of the problem and canceled this account.
Stopping one thief doesn’t fix things, though. In a system where Kickstarter keeps its cut no matter what, where Amazon charges back slightly more than the actual debit, and where supposedly funded stretch goals are left hanging in the wind, a Kickstarter creator has to build in some extra leeway. And that hurts everyone—except the thief, of course, who is sitting somewhere in Malaysia with a roomful of stolen property and nothing much to prevent creating a new, bogus account with which to rob again.