What’s worst is this is once again a donation. I don’t remember any legal action being required if someone decides to donate his or her money on a promise that never materializes. The mere fact that it’s a promise means you’re taking a risk that the promise may not be made or even executed to expectations. Sure, you can say that it’s morally wrong to take crowdfunders money and run with it, but the crowdfunders knew the risk, especially when it’s not a legal contract that’s being made.
Let’s put it this way, investors who decide to purchase stock in a company know that there’s a risk that the company can go broke and may never receive their money. But unlike crowdfunders, investors after purchasing a stock, are considered part owners of the company and may reap the benefits or failures of the company’s performance. But if a company goes under the FTC will simply say “oh well” given that there isn’t any foul play such as fraud or embezzlement.
But for crowdfunding projects? Well, once again it’s a donation, a donation that you’re not forced to participate and a donation that may never materialize. So donate at your own risk. Getting the government involved in projects that never materialize can really backfire because there are some companies (or individuals) that actually try to produce a product but unfortunately run into some hard times and are not able to fulfill their promise to donators. But if the FTC steps in to protect the consumers who donated their money willingly and knowingly, this could cause small developers to not opt in for crowdfunding because they know there could be a chance that they’re hit with a legal fine.
In fact, even though they may not like it, it will be safer to work with a bigger studio such as Electronic Arts or Activision/Blizzard because the larger studios are much more capable of absorbing fees and risk that are associated with government controls such as the FTC. If the government decides to crack down on crowdfunding, I can see small developers becoming less interested in asking for donations because the risks involved will simply not be worth it.
Besides, real consumer protection comes from the consumers themselves, not the government. Chances are after the market (a.k.a consumers) get burned one too many times on the false premise of being promised a product, they'll simply stop throwing their money on non-trustworthy developers and will instead donate to those they're familiar with or perhaps after they see initial progress already developed. At least with this method the government stays out of it, and by sitting on the sidelines there's no way the government can grow to abuse its power all in the name of consumer protection rights.