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Millionaire Lotto Winner Takes to Kickstarter for Video Game Funds

It might be easier for Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett to win the lottery than raise a million dollars on Kickstarter, despite the odds.

The funding platform, designed specifically for creative projects, has been getting buzz lately after some wildly successful funding campaigns to develop new video games. Earlier this week, video game project Double Fine Adventure broke two Kickstarter record, pulling in $3.3 million in contributions from more than 87,000 backers.  It reached its goal of $400,000 in just eight hours.

Alternate Funding Realities

But not all ships are rising with the tide. Bartlett, who was working as an accountant and teaching Wicca in Maryland when he netted $27.1 million from MegaMillions in 2007, had better luck winning the lottery than he's had winning funding for his idea.

He launched a pitch to fund his video game idea "Your World" on Kickstarter twelve days ago. Bartlett said in an email that it "has really showed interest" in the concept. "I love the response so far," he says. But with 48 days to go, it's lured 39 backers and just over $10,400, well short of a $1.1 million goal.

Kickstarter requires that projects reach full funding — an amount the project owner sets prior to launching his or her call for funds -- or no money changes hands. Kickstarter says this is because it motivates, tests interest, and is less risky for those who fund projects.  In 2011, there were 27,086 projects launched on the platform, of which 11,836 were successful.

More Money, More Problems?

Bartlett says he is using Kickstarter, even though he has the money to develop the game, to gauge interest. And although he says his millionaire status has generated negative feedback, he's not complaining. "There is no such thing as bad publicity," he said in an email.  Need isn't a criteria for a Kickstarter project. The site makes it clear that it's not about charity, lending, or investing; it's designed to let users receive a product or experience in return for a contribution.

Robert Purchese, on eurogamer.net, takes more issue with the project itself; he says it's is little more than a concept.  The multiplayer online game "he wants to make has lofty goals but no apparent foundations," writes Purchese on eurogamer.net. "There's no development studio, no track record, no business plan." 

Bartlett says on his project page that he is "an idea man" and will pay other people to create the game.  He posted on Thursday  he is "in talks with a number of companies and individuals who have great talent."

He has defenders, too. "I think someone's just jealous that Ellwood Bartlett has the courage to use Kickstarter to attempt an impossible dream that combines the best features of some of the most ambitious and successful MMOs ever created," writes backer Oli Smith on Kickstarter. "Rather than a game about lawnmowers." 

If the goal is met, he says the money will fund the project to get a beta test up and running by June 2014.