Kickstarter and Timelines


One of my former bosses loved that saying Dick Cheney was so fond of, about known unknowns and unknown unknowns. It’s an interesting way to divide the large and murky subject of things we don’t know. One of them we can prepare for to a degree, but the other – those are the ones that will stop us in our tracks. Though we can never be sure what made the white rabbit late for his appointment with the Duchess  I think (as he seems to be a very careful fellow) that we can safely put the mystery cause into the unknown unknowns.

This is a thought process that could and should be thought about by any would be project creators out there as well.

I was doing some research for a Christmas Kickstarter article, and I came across a rather interesting fact: of the 70 or so projects I have backed, 10% of them are now delinquent. This is to say that they should have delivered their rewards by this point, but have yet to. Of the remainder, a roughly equal number of projects failed to fund, and another tenth already fulfilled.

The bad news is that that this statistic is going to get worse, before it gets better. By some estimates it is going to get much worse.


By some estimates, almost 75% of all projects are late. Some of the factors that tend to correlate with lateness are  fairly straightforward, but not at all of them are what you would think. They include:

  • Size – Of course the bigger the project, the harder it is going to be to pull off.  This would have been my first guess, ambition and hubris being so close and all.
  • Complexity – First time entrepreneurs trying to wrangle supply lines from China? Nope, I don’t see anything that could go wrong there.
  • Experience  – The previous point applies to some extent here as well, but that’s not what I’m talking about specifically  Consider talent professionals trying to break out of their field into a larger world. Talented illustrators trying to become film directors, or gifted writers becoming game designers. There are a lot of unknown unknowns when you leave your comfort zone like that.
  • Success – This is the one that surprised me. The more a project exceeds its goals, the more likely that it is to be late. I think this is do to two factors: Volume and mission creep. Trying to supply a thousand fans with their rewards is obviously more difficult for starters, but when you aren’t just giving them the book, and the CD, and comic book adaptation, but you’ve also thrown the miniatures and the video game into the mix as stretch goals… well suddenly there is a lot more work to be done.

With the odds of lateness so high, whats a backer to do? I advise patience and communication. Entrust your money with credible people and their realistic goals and then accept that some set backs will take place. Crowd funding is full of dreamers to a greater extent than it is filled with planners, so delays really are pretty inevitable. Anyone else back a project that is late and growing later? Tell us your story.

This entry was posted by David Winchester.

One thought on “Kickstarter and Timelines

  1. With the exception of video games, I barely look at the projected delivery date. I just assume that something is going to happen to slow things down. Hell, due dates are fluid enough in my job, I’d be hypocritical to expect more from anyone else. I probably should. It’s not GOOD that a timeline is more of a suggestion than a rule. It just seems like a waste of time to stress out over someone else’s deadlines. And people DO stress out about them, and freak out, and it can turn ugly. But I’ve found that KS backers are generally pretty forgiving.

    Still, there are limits. There’s a game I’m backing right now, “Pirates Vs. Dinosaurs”, that’s had quite a history. It was designed by the guy who designed “Arkham Horror”, is mostly done, and it looks really good, so I’m taking a chance on it (though I reserve the right to change my mind abruptly.) The problem is that the game was originally solicited TWO YEARS AGO, and they got a lot of preorders at that time. On their site, not on Kickstarter. Those people are still waiting for their game, and the KS has a couple of exclusive cards. According to the creator, there were issues getting the art done. It’s certainly nice art, but TWO YEARS nice? So, yeah, I’m a little on the fence about this one. Timelines are fluid, but if you’re off by YEARS, that’s a little much. Man, I’m talking myself out of backing this thing.

    I said that my exception for timeline scrutiny is with video games. I’ve mentioned this before, but I just can’t deal with the vast timelines necessary to bring a good game to fruition. Damn it, my sense of entitlement makes me want your stuff NOW, not in 2016! Ahem…so I tend not to back video games, no matter how good they look. If they turn out to actually BE good, well, I’ll consider the extra $10-15 as a lack of patience tax.

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