Crowd Funding. Crowd Sourcing. Call it what you will, we’re going to lump a lot of it together and put it under the banner of Kickstarter for the purposes of this discussion. There’s a lot to discuss, and I know it’s been hashed out again and again in various forums but there’s always two sides to the coin and I just wanted to weigh in and see what everyone else thought about the direction board/war gaming world has gone in as result and what the future holds.
I love Kickstarter. I love the idea of Kickstarter. I love what Kickstarter has enabled hundreds of thousands of artists, artisans, designers, and creators to do. Bringing creativity to life and putting things into the hands of those that want to support such a project, from anywhere in the world. I’m all in favour of platforms that make the world a more creative place.
Kickstarter began as a place to put your idea out there in order to find those that are interested and provide them opportunity to invest and to visually see what their investment will provide them in returns: “Hey, here’s a good idea, and here’s how I’ll execute it and if you invest here’s what the final product might look like.” It meant that you could fund a project, however small or large, without going to get a loan from the bank. You could start something up with a cash injection with almost no collateral. Again, usually a good thing for honest folk just trying to share their arts and crafts.
I’ve had great success backing a few select projects on Kickstarter, and I would invariably back a few more, if I had the dispensable income to do so – but that’s a story for another day. Ding research is the most important part of backing anything on Kickstarter. If their page, or presentation isn’t up to par, then can a person be relied on to utilize my hard earned money to good effect? Have they done any other projects and how did those roll out? There’s a lot to consider.
But Kickstarter allows for games to be made that are more risky, or are made by individuals, almost as a start up company so to speak. I think about games like Kingdom Death Monster – No one’s dropping a thousand dollars at an FLGS for that, surely? But marketing through crowd funding meant the campaign could reach those that would be interested, and low and behold! Even Gloomhaven, one of the most popular games on BGG. A game that was wonderfully hand crafted by Isaac Childers, his Magnum Opus, you might call it. A roaring success. Kickstarter saves a person from gambling their home and livelihood, but you as a backer have to realize that Kickstarter isn’t a shop. Nor is it a pre-order system. It’s an investment. Sometimes they go tits up. Sometimes the product just isn’t good. Sometimes on rare occasion (The doom that came to Atlantic city) you get robbed. But that’s far the exception than the rule.
I love that you can get unique games through Kickstarter, and I feel like it has spurred greater creativity and has put pressure on gaming publishers to up their game from a creative stand point. A market saturated with Viking, Pirate, Medieval, and Tolkienesque fantasy games can no longer rest on their laurels. Thanks to Kiskstarter the consumers have the power with what gets made and what they want to see.
Kickstarting board/war games isn’t something new, although the phenomenon has grown at such an alarming rate that almost every aspect of Kickstarter is a two edged sword now.
Kickstarter is one of those polarizing topics, that I see regularly argued about almost daily on various groups, forums and websites. I think the majority of people’s gripes come from the fact that Kickstarting board games has become the norm, and those campaigns usually flesh out in very similar ways. To start with, I think Kickstarter has moved away from the spirit of what it once was. Small, independent companies or individuals still put out games through Kickstarter regularly. But there’s larger companies like Reaper Miniatures, CMON, and even Academy Games, that are using the system as nothing more than a pre-order system.
If CMON doesn’t have enough cash to make a new game, based on the wildly successful games they’re put out in recent years, then you have to wonder how they’re reinvesting their profits. But they know that they don’t need to front cash anymore, they just put up a new Kickstarter and the new game pays for itself, with no risk to the company or the owners. You can’t fault them for doing that. If you had an entirely risk free way to make money I’d call you a liar if you wouldn’t use it. But I can’t help but be left with a little bad taste in my mouth that these large companies are milking the system, and to me, going against the spirit of Kickstarter.
“B-But what about all the cool exclusive content you get?”
Yeah. I’m all for it. I should get an extra something-something for having invested upfront. Be it a much reduced cost, or exclusive missions, components etc. The lower price is fairly troublesome though, because predicting market value of a product is kind of a crap shoot. As far as Kickstarter Exclusives goes, it’s a way to draw people in and prey on their completionism, and collectionism. And don’t you start lying to me saying you don’t have completionism. We all do. There’s always something. And if you’re Kickstarting board games, then you definitely are a completionist with at least one of your games – I guarantee it.
Stretch goals. The thing I hate the most (but also love the most). I cannot abide most campaigns’ stretch goals. This is actually something that CMON does really well at times – especially with their Zombicide range. If you back it you get the base game. Most of the stretch goals are exclusive characters that will never make it to retail. Great. You just get more of the same game for variety and fun. Awesome. Perfect. What I hate more than anything is when you get a game that’s put up on Kickstarter and the stretch goals are components, or extra missions, or stuff that should be in the base game already. I cannot abide investing in what is essentially an unfinished project and then being rewarded with the rest of the game, that should have been there in the first place. That’s just taking advantage. To me this is is the bleed-over from Video game models, where ‘unfinished’ games are released, and they are appended with DLC to squeeze more money out of you, to finish the game. It’s a little unsavoury for my tastes.
I know Kickstarter can be a mixed bag. Flying Pig Games, and Worthington Publishing have had great success using that model recently, to reach niche audiences that would typically be very slow using a regular pre-order system. But I’ve spoken to a few people, even recently, that received backlash from trying to use Kickstarter as a means of funding – so it’s clearly a hot topic in people’s minds. And with the vast amounts of money that are raised to make games, I don’t see the model changing or going away any time soon – quite the opposite in fact.
So what’s your thoughts? Let’s open the flood gates and discuss the direction the industry is going in with regards to Crowd Funding? Keep it civil.