"Kickstarter gives an alternate source of funding to develop and prototype a full game and then bring it to publishers," said Chris Early, vice president of digital publishing at Ubisoft. "It's beyond proof of concept at that point. ... That reduces our risk considerably. And what that means for the developer is they get a better deal. Instead of us making a speculative upfront investment, we've got a lot more visibility."
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However, there are risks that come with big investments in, or buyouts of, crowdfunded projects. While users of Kickstarter or Indiegogo are told up front they have no equity stake in the products they contribute to, many still feel a sense of ownership. And when the company is bought out, that can trigger an angry knee-jerk reaction.
Oculus discovered this firsthand, in a scary way, after the Facebook purchase. Some overly emotional backers made physical threats to the company's employees and their families after the transaction was announced.
"We expected a negative reaction from people in the short term; we did not expect to be getting so many death threats and harassing phone calls that extended to our families," said Oculus founder Palmer Luckey in a Reddit posting months after the deal. "We know we will prove ourselves with actions and not words, but that kind of [expletive] is unwarranted, especially since it is impacting people who have nothing to do with Oculus."
There's also the pressure inherited from the successful crowdfunding round itself. That established base of customers expects the product as soon as possible, so any production delay could cause problems. That's why it's important that crowdfunders make sure the product is on track before investing—or be ready to handle the fallout.
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"I think the more successful a project is, especially when it is a prelaunch physical product, it creates a 'debt' that the founders need to deliver on," said Hamoui. "As this can sometimes take years to do, it is a significant overhead on the progress of the company. What if the market changes and the promised product is no longer the best strategic choice for the company? It doesn't matter; they still have to deliver on what they promised."
The bottom line is that founders need to deliver on their promises, explained Hamoui. The advance financial support of consumers isn't a free pass. While users might put up with slight delays on a new product or service, their window of patience is limited. And testing that patience can affect a company's valuation when they're a crowdfunding superstar.
—By Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com