Crowdsourcing is awesome – it’s probably not going too far to call it the new frontier of entrepreneurship. It gives people who might not otherwise see their ideas take off a chance to get things running. It helps independent organizations produce awesome, creative work without having to find a publisher to distribute it. It helps people realize their dreams, and allows everybody who participates to be part of something bigger.
Unfortunately, due to the open nature of crowd-funding, there’s always a chance that a particular product or service might not get off the ground: or worse; that it might end up being a scam.
Earlier this year, there was a pretty awesome looking project on Kickstarter. It was called Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men. It billed itself as an incredible, revolutionary game developed by a team of twelve industry veterans; designed by gamers with gamers in mind. Everything about the title sounded absolutely perfect; almost too good to be true.
As it turned out, it was.
It had raised nearly $5,000 before a few enterprising folks on Reddit and Rock,Paper,Shotgun (among others) discovered that the whole thing was bogus and managed to get it shut down by Kickstarter. As it turned out, the whole thing was a massive, elaborate scam which made use of the creative drain in many AAA titles to separate people from their hard-earned money. The guy wasn’t even a game developer. The worst part about all of this isn’t the fact that Mythic managed to raise $5,000: it’s the fact that the whole snafu could have been avoided, if only more people had known what to look for: many of the same signs that you’d look for to determine an employment scam can also be found in crowdfunding scams.
Listen to What They’re Promising
The easiest way to figure out if a Kickstarter campaign is bogus is by listening – I mean really listening – to what the campaign founder is promising. Are they making a bunch of grandiose claims, with little evidence to back them up? Are they overusing buzzwords? Does it seem like they’re making a bunch of empty promises?
Right from the get-go, Mythic seemed like it was too good to be true. Not only that, the fellow behind the project didn’t actually go into intimate detail about what he was planning; nor did he describe exactly what he wanted to do: it was all vague generalities. Even when he was asked direct questions, he returned with non-answers: why, for example, did he fail to name specific developers or staff members? Why did he give such a short, tight release schedule?
That should always raise a few red flags: even if it’s not a scam, it’s probably poorly organized or realized. There’s a good chance that things might not get off the ground due to poor planning.
Look Carefully At The Assets
What sort of creative assets have they offered up as an example of their work? One of the first red flags that alerted people to the fact that Mythic was a scam was the fact that most of the screenshots and images were lifted from other games and websites – none of it was actually original work. If you’ve got Tineye or another, similar tool, it couldn’t hurt to do a search on some of the images provided by the project founder. If they’ve included any videos – particularly interviews/testimonials – watch them carefully, and trust your gut. Chances are good that if someone appears as though they cannot be trusted, they shouldn’t be.
Use Your Better Judgement
To wield the old adage once again: if something seems too good to be true, it more than likely is. Ask yourself if the project you’re looking at is realistic, feasible, or even a good idea in the first place. Ask yourself if it’s something you – or anyone – actually needs. Also ask: Do you know who’s behind the project? Who do they claim is involved? Figuring out their history can go a long way toward preventing yourself from getting burned. A brief Google search is usually all it takes to turn up a bit of dirty laundry on whoever’s looking to receive funding.
Any other tips for avoiding bogus or poorly planned crowdfunding projects? Let us know in the comments below!