Kickstarter as Entertainment

The latest Kickstarter darling is OUYA: “a new kind of video game console” that connects to your HDTV like a PlayStation but allows anyone to publish games for it. The company behind the device raised their $1 million target in eight hours, and at the moment, more than 40,000 users have contributed more than $5 million to the campaign. Ian Bogost, a video game designer and professor at Georgia Tech, has an interesting theory about Kickstarter and its backers:

Kickstarters are dreams, and that’s their strength rather than their weakness. People back projects on Kickstarter to fund the development of a new creative work or a consumer product that might never see the light of day via traditional financing. But what if Kickstarter is more about the experience of kickstarting than it is about the finished products? When you fund something like OUYA, you’re not pre-ordering a new console that will be made and marketed, you’re buying a ticket on the ride, reserving a front-row seat to the process and endorsing an idea. It’s a Like button attached to your wallet.

The fact that OUYA raised so much money so fast speaks more to our fantasies than the market reality. Whether or not OUYA will disrupt the console business is beside the point–no one could predict such a thing anyhow–the pleasure we get from imagining that possibility is highly valuable.

Citing a pen for which he paid $100, Bogost concludes:

When faced with the reality of these products, disappointment is inevitable–not just because they’re too little too late (if at all) but for even weirder reasons. We don’t really want the stuff. We’re paying for the sensation of a hypothetical idea, not the experience of a realized product. For the pleasure of desiring it. For the experience of watching it succeed beyond expectations or to fail dramatically. Kickstarter is just another form of entertainment. It’s QVC for the Net set. And just like QVC, the products are usually less appealing than the excitement of learning about them for the first time and getting in early on the sale.

Myself? I’ve only funded one Kickstarter project. And I was sorely disappointed with the final product. So Ian Bogost’s post resonated with me.

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