Publisher Perspective

Design & Publishing Discussion from Designer / Publisher Byron Collins, owner of Collins Epic Wargames, LLC.
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Five Kickstarter Myths

Byron Collins
United States
Suffolk
Virginia
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This post originally stems from discussion in this thread about Kickstarter in the General Gaming forum. I thought it'd also make a good blog post...

As a wargame publisher (read: my market is smaller) trying Kickstarter for the first time for our third title, I can say that I've run into quite a few misconceptions about it- both about the value of kickstarter and about the work involved to manage a project hosted there. I wrote a quick blog about how project owners should define their success with kickstarter beyond just meeting the funding goal. There is some real work and real risk involved. Here are a few myths I've run into that I think are commonly associated with kickstarter as it relates to boardgame production... and my replies to each based on my experience.

Myth 1. If I don't support Game X on Kickstarter, the game will be published anyway. Not necessarily. If a designer who is using kickstarter to try and produce his own design fails to raise enough funds, what then will he do with that design? Modify it? Run another KS project? Abandon it and move on? Submit it to a publisher at that point? Unfortunately I think failure can be a huge morale bust to a designer, esp. if he/she has gone through the effort to manage a campaign on KS and it wasn't fully backed for whatever reason. A true gem may rise up anyway, eventually, but why not support it now? For a publisher that has a project fail on KS, they will most likely shelve the project or delay it indefinitely (i.e. drop it) unless they re-organize and try again, maybe with a lesser goal and smaller print run.

Myth 2. Running a project on Kickstarter doesn't require any work or cost anything. Personally, I've spent more time managing our current project on Kickstarter than I've spent managing other design and publishing efforts. It's a fun thing to do, but it requires constant effort and attention to (in my opinion) do it right. Updates, a good video, tweaks along the way, communication with backers, all the while planning for production is time-consuming. As a publisher, when that takes time away from other projects, it's risky and costly, perhaps worth it, but still, the old saying time is money rings true here. Additional costs include $$ for advertising (which I think is well-spent). As an example, we're currently running banner ads on BGG, Tabletopgamingnews.com, theminiaturespage.com, and thegaminggang.com. That's semi-serious dollars spent to let site visitors at those sites know we have a project up and we'd like you to see it. Other costs include, if funded, KS will take 5%, Amazon Payments will take 3-5%. Those costs are something you should plan for.

Myth 3. We don't need publishers. I fear that designers self-publishing thru Kickstarter are in for a rude awakening once their project is funded. Some may have already experienced this, I don't know... but I do know that your reputation is at stake... proceed carefully. Based on my experience in the industry, I know that personally, it would scare me to death if I was on the hook for printing my first game and satisfying hundreds/thousands of people who have very high expectations for Game X that I suddenly have the money to print. If you've never gone through production of a game before... fair warning that it's not all smooth sailing. If you're trying kickstarter as a designer, and are not yet a company of some sort, you're essentially jumping into publishing. That's not to say you can't do it, but there are a TON of considerations to think about that publishers handle every day... Tax implications, accounting, a business license, distribution of games beyond KS sales, marketing, support after the sale, the production process, sources for production, customs and international shipping of orders, running a website for the game, handling questions, missing pieces, misprints, demos, attending conventions to promote it, etc. etc. Once you start accepting the money of backers on KS or anywhere else, there are a lot things you have hopefully thought through... For more on this, check out this old (2008) post of mine, written over in the Game Design forum that was pinned for its tips and considerations regarding self-publishing.

Myth 4. Kickstarter projects are relatively un-tested. I feel this is a myth based on personal experience with my own project and observation of other projects. Many KS game projects including my own have been demonstrated for a year or more at various game conventions (Origins, Gen Con, WBC, etc.) to generate interest and fine-tune them. Some even have pre-release reviews or session reports covering the game in-depth. If there is absolutely no external information about the game out there, then I suppose this one could be true, but at the same time, it will be (in my opinion) obvious to the potential backer. It doesn't hurt to ask the question, "how many people have played this game?" to a project owner.

Myth 5. I can just wait and buy it later, online, at a cheaper price, once it's out. Perhaps... that is, if the project is funded already and looks like a sure-shot success, and if the project owner has some sort of distribution plan in place. Online retailers typically buy from distributors... that means that in order to find the indie project you're interested in on the website of your favorite online source for games, that website has to know about it, stock it, and have purchased copies from the distributor... and the distributor has to have already picked up the game from its source (perhaps the new self-publisher who printed Game X). Getting distribution networks in place is a very challenging (and not automatic) task. Don't assume that as a designer, you can do so quickly or easily, because it does take time. Maybe you can find it cheaper one day eventually, but you're making a huge assumption by buying into Myth 1.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
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