Backed Or Whacked: May The Funds Be With You

Editor’s note: Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research and blogs at Techspressive. Each column will look at crowdfunded products that have either met or missed their funding goals. Follow him on Twitter @rossrubin.

A short time ago on a crowdfunding site not very far away…

BW-deathstarWhacked: Open Source Death Star. There are a number of schools regarding the existence of alien intelligent races. Among those who refute that we’ve been able to detect extraterrestrials among us, there are a broad range of theories. Perhaps such beings don’t exist. Perhaps they haven’t advanced far enough to reach us. Or to the contrary, perhaps they are so advanced that we can’t detect them. Maybe Earth just can’t compete as a tourist destination. But if angry aliens arrive and neither the Avengers nor Will Smith are anywhere to be found, we should probably have something available that can take them out — at least according to the Intergalactic Rifle Association.

Always a popular weapon to rebuild, the Death Star has appeared as a Kickstarter project requiring a modest £20 million for plans and enough chicken wire to protect the exhaust ports. But not thinking bigger would cause one to find the project owners’ lack of faith disturbing. The group has also set a stretch goal of £543 trillion (or US$850,000,000,000,000,000) for construction of the actual planet destroyer. It may seem like a tidy sum, but the group assures that it is doing everything it can to keep costs down by using open source hardware and software. Indeed, few know that the first Death Star was prototyped on a Makerbot printer that was R2-D2’s second cousin once remade. The world-wiping weapon ran on nothing more than an Arduino board programmed by mass-murdering Sith Lord and popular Maker Faire speaker Darth Solderous.

Thoughtful backers have weighed in on the campaign. One, for example, bemoans the lack of a premium reward tier with the opportunity to press the button that generates the next Alderaanian fate. Alas, while funds have been pouring in and the campaign passed the £200,000 mark some time ago, there’s scant chance of the campaign attracting a sum more than 10 times the global GDP by April 1, an ending date that seems significant for some reason.

BW-xwingWhacked: Rebel Alliance X-Wing Squadron. The slim chance of the open source Death Star making it past the planning stages has not been enough to deter a countermeasure campaign. Whereas the originators of the Death Star campaign hail from a .uk domain, this effort from the Rebel Alliance (apparently a tight-knit group of Rebel Wilson fans) originates from Shanghai. Lacking the largesse of the Galactic Empire, the group seeks only $11 million to create its prototype of an X-Wing fighter.

An initial rush of funds has swept in, but their only hope will have to be a lot richer than Obi-Wan Kenobi. That means that no one will be able to claim the $10,000 reward tier of extensive Jedi training. Despite the certainty that project owner Simon Kwah will miss his target like a stormtrooper, he has created an array of imaginative Star Wars-themed stretch goals. These include approximately $4.5 billion — the total gross of all the Star Wars movies —  for a fleet of X-Wing fighters. And 13 million Galactic Standard Credits will net a Millenium Falcon plus crew. Despite aligning with the other side of the Force, the X-Wing Squadron campaign will wrap up along with the Death Star campaign on April 1.