kickstarter-logo4Kickstarter has become synonymous with crowdfunding, even though they aren't the only game in town. If you've been following the site at all, you'll know that Kickstarter is home not just to people trying to fund films, but a rapidly growing segment of the site that deals in physical products and designs. New guidelines for the Hardware and Product Design section, however, may derail plenty of these massively successful crowdfunding campaigns before they even get started.

Here are the new guidelines in full:

  • Product simulations are prohibited. Projects cannot simulate events to demonstrate what a product might do in the future. Products can only be shown performing actions that they’re able to perform in their current state of development.
  • Product renderings are prohibited. Product images must be photos of the prototype as it currently exists.
  • Offering multiple quantities of a reward is prohibited. Hardware and Product Design projects can only offer rewards in single quantities or a sensible set (some items only make sense as a pair or as a kit of several items, for instance). The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and offering multiple quantities feels premature, and can imply that products are shrink-wrapped and ready to ship.

This is a big deal for anyone trying their hand at making products, even if they are strictly mechanical in nature. Kickstarter will disallow any projects containing photorealistic renderings of an object, but technical drawings, CAD designs, sketches, and other parts of the design process will continue to be allowed. There have been numerous products that have been funded based on photorealistic renderings, and it's a little strange that Kickstarter is making this move now after so many millions of dollars have already been put into projects that never would have been allowed under these new guidelines.

Quite a few projects use 3D photorealistic models to help make their campaign look more professional, and also give people a better sense of what the final product will look like. The last new guideline will affect a number of projects, especially if the price is reasonable, and people want more than one of a specific product so they can get a deal. I can understand the photorealistic renderings, but I don't know that multiple quantities is really that troublesome in the grand scheme of the site -- there are likely larger problems that need to be addressed. For example, what happens if the subject of a crowdfunding campaign never materializes, do the creators have a responsibility to the supportes? According to this article from  at Filmmaker Magazine, the creators of a Kickstarter project are legally required to fulfill the rewards, but not necessarily anything else. Here is that guideline:

Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?

Yes. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill. (This is what creators see before they launch.) We crafted these terms to create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don’t. We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfill.

I haven't heard of legal action against any large projects that haven't delivered on their promises but were successfully funded, though it may not stay that way forever. Since so many projects are completed in one or two year timespans, we may not start getting the fallout from failed (but successfully funded) projects until a few years from now.

Only time will tell if these new guidelines (if properly enforced) will reduce risk on the part of the supporters. What do you guys think? Have you been fooled by product renderings before? If not, why do you think Kickstarter is enforcing this new rule?