So last week I got the sad news that 5th Street Games has had to file for Bankruptcy. As a big user of Kickstarter for funding their game production, this has led to several projects entering the zone of no fulfilment. This includes one I myself backed, the cute and intriguing Ghosts Love Candy.
The former owner of 5thSG, Phil Kilcrease, has come clean about the whole affair via an update on each of his open projects. It appears a chicken and egg situation has occurred; the manufacturer has the goods but won’t release without payment, whilst Phil needs the goods to make the money now needed to pay the manufacturer. However, the update hints at the use of money from some projects being used to shore up issues with others.
Now I’m very conflicted by what has happened, both to the project I backed and the company responsible. On the one hand, a man has lost an important part of his life, a company he has built over the past few years and put a significant dent in his credibility as a publisher. The stigma of having to declare bankruptcy is not easily shifted and the stress this has caused to Phil and his family isn’t something I’d wish on anyone.
On the flipside, the only person who can claim responsibility for these events is Phil. Money was given to him in good faith, a great looking set of projects were green lighted and several designers were given the hope of seeing their games coming to the public. To have this go south on not one but several projects, and then to find out money was being funnelled from one project to another to support it when it overreached it’s own funds just leaves me wondering how Phil could have thought this was a clever idea.
There are some positives that can be pulled from this however. We ourselves are hoping to become published designers, and our eye is firmly on Kickstarter to help us achieve this. Whilst this may seem a tad morbid, the bankruptcy of 5thSG Can still be a learning opportunity for us.
Firstly, focus. Phil had many projects running at the same time, a tactic which appears to be in an effort to quickly establish a catalogue of games to create the platform from which to make 5thSG a permanent venture. Unfortunately, with so much going on it must have been incredibly tricky to keep on top of all the finances and progression of each project. The outcome is the aforementioned shoring up of one project wth cash from another. For Tinkerbot Games, we will need to show strong focus and make sure we get a project right before moving on to the next one.
Secondly, the fallible nature of Kickstarter. Too often I hear that KS is regarded as a ‘pre-order’ system rather than it’s original goal; a way for Joe Bloggs with little or no capital to get their idea funded and made into reality. 5thSG has reminded me that not everything on KS is a dead cert, that there are risks involved with backing a project and that as a KS patron you need to remember that a human is behind these KS projects, a person who may not have all the answers or the savvy to make as success of their project even after the money comes in.
Lastly, honesty. Whilst Phil has waited until the last minute to let everyone know the dire straits 5thSG was in, he did eventually come clean without just disappearing from the face of the earth as several creators have done. If nothing else, I can feel a little respect for the company that holds up it’s hands and says “Sorry folks, we messed up”. KS is just as much about the backers as it is about the creator, so keeping them in the loop about where their money is going is just, well, it’s just good manners!
Were you affected by the shutdown of 5thStreetGames?
How much risk should backers accept?
Do you think honesty is the best policy for Kickstarter creators?
As always, we’d love to hear from you! Contact me on twitter: @bluecatgames and send me your thoughts, or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org