I’ve always found it a dubious endeavor.
The first Little Witch Academia movie was backed by a Kickstarter campaign, note that there was already a short, but for an extra dime there would be a 50-minute special. Trigger, the company behind successes such as the Gurren Lagann franchise and Kill la Kill, wanted to turbo boost their new project Little Witch Academia. They did it through a Kickstarter campaign to raise an initial 200k to get it off the ground. This is where the border between creating a healthy business starts to fade into an arrogant charity.
There are many ways to interpret this phenomenon and the first one is solely using Kickstarter as a polling platform. Established companies use the platform to see if demand is high enough for the product they want to release. The set-up costs for the small campaign are being calculated into the project’s budget. The money is just a nice to have. There is no real loss when the target is not met, since there was no release planned for the entertainment product to begin with.
Sony did a similar stunt at the E3 about two years ago. They wanted to reboot an old franchise and asked those interested to use kickstarter to back the project. The crowd went wild, but we haven’t heard from it ever since, probably because there weren’t enough backers. For Sony there was no risk at all, since there was never an initial investment. They just used it to poll interest.
Another tactic established companies use Kickstarter for is as a marketing medium. There are numerous articles about promoting projects to reach the target amount to get a project starting. This is less attractive for big companies such as Sony that can easily back the projects themselves. They use it to promote their product among their target audience. Don’t forget that creating a new Kickstarter campaign for highly anticipated projects generates a lot of press coverage. The company doesn’t have to do anything. The project becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. There is no need for hiring expensive PR-firms to promote the product among the press.
An established company should be able to generate money on its own for projects. It’s their task to make sure it’s good enough for it to be worthy of creating a lot of sales and hence generate enough revenue so it can be profitable for the company. With projects such as Little Witch Academia they are abusing a platform that was meant for small startups to create funding to launch their product. They are not charities that are trying to help those in need when nobody else can. They are businesses seeking to make a profit. Making a profit without the risk of losing money. That’s not entrepreneurial spirit, that is purest form of arrogance. The anime industry isn’t dying, but Kickstarter campaigns initiated by established companies sure try to make it feel that way.