After some weeks we’re back with our blog’s opinion column, with an article that criticizes gamers. What can I say, we are people pleasers!
Actually, of course, we talk about a small group, i.e. those who can’t wait to tear a game to pieces as soon as they play it for the first time, sometimes not even finishing a game.
Of course, sometimes it happens that bad “broken” games are released. It has always happened, because since the beginning of this profession there has always been a race against time, however, recently the problem has been getting increasingly worse. Sometimes, short turnaround times force publishers to rush and go to press (*) compromising the design, the ergonomics, the quality of the materials or the game design.
Or it can happen because not all publishers are that good, and they can make mistakes. It can happen repeatedly, as you have probably seen on a few occasions.
As I have already written several times, publishing is a complex job, made of thousands of stages. Without even considering administration or sales, which also take a considerable amount of time and huge efforts (but are common to all the businesses), we must say that the creation of a game requires so many different skills, that have to perfectly combine together. Usually, it puts together the work of many different people, who sometimes speak different languages, who need to be coordinated well, because even one single mistake could become a problem for the final product.
Of course, it is not an excuse: if the product is really broken, it has an unintelligible design, or it is made of awful materials, no doubt that the work of the publisher was poor. I can think of many of these instances.
But every so often this is not the case…
Well, sometimes the problem is not with the game but with the user. Often players are anxious to review a game because they are going to get another one soon, so they hasten to tell their opinion, after one game, at times not even finishing that one. It is true that this kind of gamers usually have a lot of experience with many played games, because they are eager to play one game after the other, but it is possible that this kind of experience translates into a need to criticize rather than actual competence to do it, especially when we talk about games that are critically acclaimed, especially if they judge on the basis of first or even unfinished games.
It might happen to the most passionate gamers who end up in the vicious cycle of “board games are my passion -> I want to try every single one of them -> I want them to be more and more perfect and cool -> I like one out of ten -> I’ll play the one that I like over and over again, for the rest of the games I’m going to complain on social media, because I’m a gamer and talking about it is my absolute favourite topic.” I know that these dynamics are also common in other fields, but I believe they are never particularly positive. To be clear: gamer’s feedback is extremely valuable, and I’ve often taken it into account when developing a product. Sometimes, though, it looks like criticisms emerge out of a desire to show off one’s (supposed) knowledge.
I’m going to make a couple of examples with some of our games to explain better what I am referring to:
“You got Wendake right, it was spot on, but Kepler absolutely not: random progress cards completely spoiled it. I couldn’t even finish the first game.”
By all means, all opinions are valid, and if someone can’t finish a game because they really can’t stand a rule who am I to judge their tastes. But coming to me at a game event with such a sense of entitlement, adding that we got Wendake right (wow! We were so lucky! Not as if we did 2 years of thorough playtesting.) really got under my skin. That specific rule has been extensively tested with a myriad of people, for a whole year, for countless games, and we included it in the game in the way we thought worked best. By all means, we are not perfect, but I can’t stand how arrogant that gamer was, complaining with the publisher about a game that received almost exclusively good reviews. More than the opinion, my problem was that the opinion was given as an undeniable hard truth, established after an unfinished game.
“Well, Wendake is nice, but I can notice that the Masks Score Track was added afterwards to make ends meet. It’s a shame, you could do better, but I see that you were in a hurry.”
No, the Masks Score Track has always existed as stated in this post, it is actually one of the few mechanics that made it to the end product without any change, because Danilo started from the setting and this is a fundamental aspect (basically, it is what distinguishes the Iroquois from other tribes).
This second example didn’t annoy me as much as the first one, maybe because it was said with a smile, but analysing it, it is not much different. By all means, we can accept the criticism about the fact that the Masks Track is disconnected to the rest. We know that and we decided to keep it like that because we liked to have a way of scoring points independent from what happens on the game board.
The annoying bit is the mention to the assumption that the mechanic was added at the end in a rush. I am sorry about that, because after years spent testing games infinite times, and creating products that are consistently acclaimed by critics, it hurts to think that people can believe something like that.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t express their opinion on games. They are important and often interesting. I’m just saying that, most of the times, editorial choices (including those related to game design) are driven by specific reasons, and brushing them off condescendingly, without an in-depth analysis, is wrong. Rushing online to badmouth a game before anybody else doesn’t sort any good effect neither on the sector, nor on the commenter’s reputation. We end up generating harmful flames, which can easily tire people and might give off the idea of a snobbish community. It is obvious that some criticisms are deserved and those are useful, but if they are buried under loads of unwarranted criticisms, they get lost in the sea of annoyance.
In conclusion: I believe that we (the publishers) should of course be careful to publish products that can satisfy our passionate audience, but the passionate audience should also be careful not to rush into hasty reviews.
This topic is connected to what we wrote in this post about demos at exhibitions, especially to who believes that “playing for half an hour they can evaluate any game”.
No! I mention my games because I know them, but I can assure you that neither Kepler nor Wendake (or any other Placentia game) can be evaluated after playing them for half an hour.
Play them properly, give them the chance to win you over. I can guarantee that they’re worth it!
Subscribe to our Telegram channel not to miss any of Post Scriptum’s articles!
(*) sometimes, even we have given in to time, but only for some minor aspects of the games, something that we considered of little importance. We have always been completely satisfied with all the products that we have actually published. We have pushed back the publishing date of a game more than once because we thought that the game wasn’t ready.
This is a BGG copy of the official blog of Post Scriptum Games. Twitter: @Mario_Sacchi_PS and @PScriptum_games
Archive for My 2 cardboard cents
- [+] Dice rolls
And we are back with your favourite blog after a well-deserved Winter break! During this time, we had been working hard to get ready for the long-awaited Game fair in Nuremberg, when they cancelled the event due to the pandemic situation. It is a choice that we perfectly understand, considering how fast and uncontrollably the virus is spreading (we were affected too, but luckily with no consequences). Obviously, we are extremely sorry about it, we had prepared a fantastic stand that we were really proud of, and we were looking forward to meeting friends and other board games insiders.
Let’s cut to the chase. Today I’d like to give my opinion on a topic that, every once in a while, have a comeback on social media, with lively debates involving people who see Monopoly and Risk as the absolute evil (often the most dedicated gamers), and who defends them for their historical value (often the professional insiders).I do not deny the definition of intelligent games, which is associated to our hobby: I believe that tabletop games are an intelligent way of spending time, and I do not see any problems in saying it. But if someone said that all the “old” games are stupid, then I would strongly disagree, and I am sure that some older publications can be appreciated and judged impartially. For example, I had the chance, a few times, of talking about Inkognito or Scotland Yard with game enthusiasts, and they all agreed saying that they are good publications that, despite showing a little the weight of the years, do not disfigure among the modern ones.
The fact is that there is a bunch of people who see Monopoly as the absolute evil, and pour scorn upon anybody who plays it, and this is not good. Snob players are no good to our movement. Being enthusiastic about our own passions is good, but if you meet a newbie who is willing to expand their views, diminishing their past experiences is not a good way of welcoming them. Placing yourself on a pedestal is presumptuous and it is likely to result in never seeing the newcomer again.
This does not necessarily mean that when someone arrives at the game club for the first time, we should always suggest a party game or a super easy game, with the risk that they get bored (and we know that it happens). We can just chat for a while with the person in front of you to decide what to suggest. If it is true that games such as Twilight Imperium or Through the ages are probably not the right choice for someone who has never played, this doesn’t mean that you should always put on the table Dixit or Dobble (or better, Brick Party, Fun Farm or Pazzaparola!) For example, I believe that Agricola, in the version without cards is an excellent entry level for a certain type of people, because the rules aren’t difficult to explain or to understand. In any case, I don’t mean to say that suggesting Dobble or Fun Farm is always bad: even if you don’t like the genre you can resist for 15 minutes to defeat the scepticism of people who come to the club for the first time.
To come back on topic, if you meet a person (live or online) who says that they have only played Monopoly, you can say “well, then we’ll introduce you to many games, all different and all super fun, in none of them you need to roll dice to move”, but it is absolutely uncalled for adding that you hate Monopoly, even though you think that (note: I do not like it, I played it recently, analysing it from the most objective point of view, and it didn’t pass the test, but this is not the point).
Most of all, if, despite all your suggestion their answer was “no thanks, I still prefer Monopoly, and I wanted to know if it was better to buy the Harry Potter or the Star Wars version” accept it without too many regrets and do not look at the interlocutor with disdain, and don’t think that they do not understand the real value of boardgames like you do. Not everybody likes the games that we like, but it is a positive thing that people play, regardless of what the game is. Maybe this person will never play anything but that roll-and-move game, but maybe another person will get into gaming while playing with them, and will then move on to more modern games.Remember that every new player is a priceless achievement for all the games enthusiasts!
Subscribe to Post Scriptum Telegram channel not to miss any articles of our blog!
- [+] Dice rolls
Let’s talk about the most obvious fact: for the first time since we acquired it, in 2021 we didn’t have any new Placentia Games publication. After Kepler-3042, Wendake, Wendake: New Allies, Florenza Dice Game and Florenza X Anniversary, this should have been the year of our greatest and most ambitious project ever, Shogun no Katana, but unfortunately things happened that were out of our control (we talked about all the issues here, if you haven’t read that post yet, I strongly recommend it), and the release of that game was pushed back until 2022.
So, how was 2021 for Post Scriptum? How did the horrible global situation affect us? How can a publisher as small as we are, get ready for the future? These are our answers!
HOW WAS 2021 FOR POST SCRIPTUM? HOW DID THE TERRIBLE GLOBAL SITUATION AFFECT US?
Overall, it wasn’t too bad considering the situation. It is true: Shogun no Katana hasn’t been published yet, and it took much more post-campaign hours than expected, especially to design the plastic tray details: it was really a complex process because they have to hold all the materials, they have to combine together perfectly, and they also have to comply with the minimum thickness required by the production machine and be the right size for the game box. Luckily Tambu likes these things (and you, readers, like to find out these behind-the-scenes facts, don’t you?).
Despite this radical change of our plans, last year was quite positive, thanks to some factors:
* For sure, the money collected on Kickstarter was important to dedicate all the necessary extra time to Katana without suffering. I know that many see crowdfunding only as a way to do pre-sales, but for companies at our level it is a fundamental support to create games that otherwise wouldn’t be released.
* The fact that we had physical mock-ups of the game ready, gave us the opportunity to create some important distribution partnerships, both with old and new clients. In the end, Shogun no Katana was sent for print later than expected, but we’re printing 10,000 copies, which is excellent for a game of this range.
* Game fairs starting again, especially Essen, was fundamental for this process, for Katana and for other games that we haven’t announced yet. The B2B meetings went really well, and we can’t wait to go to Nuremberg in 2022.
* Our production work for third parties, even though it is not as visible, it always helps us, and in these 2 years of pandemic it went really well, also thanks to the fact that casual players rediscovered boardgames because they spent much more time at home.
Then, finally, at the end of the year we published Pazzaparola, even though at the moment it is only available in Italy, it is doing great! It is a small portable game, but it required a lot of efforts, both to decide the categories and the illustrations connected to them (splendidly drawn by Sara). And most of all it is a game we are really proud of, because we think it is simple, fun, engaging, and suitable for everybody. We think it has everything a game needs to become a classic!
HOW ARE WE GETTING READY FOR THE FUTURE?
For sure the past two years changed the way we work in a lot of different ways.
* First of all, online playtests took on a pivotal role in the development of future games, Mario, Tambu and Matteo spend several hours every week, testing together with game designers, often until 11 pm. In particular, we’re focusing on two new Placentia Games publications: one of them is by Simone Cerruti Sola, Kepler-3042’s author, and the other one by a debuting author, which we think has all it takes to keep up with the rest of the games in the catalogue. At the same time, we are working on our first Amerigame, that we consider a real strike of genius, and we are enjoying it very much.
* On top of this, there’s all the product development work, in terms of materials, illustrations and design. Sara ilustrated Pazzaparola and 3 more family games, which had excellent feedback during game fairs, and we are looking forward to launching them. Moreover, we have already found an illustrator for one of the games that I mentioned above and we are looking for the others.
* From the production point of view, we strengthened our main partnerships with suppliers with whom we have been working for years, and we have started new ones. At this moment we can say that, even though production problems haven’t been solved yet, we are planning to print over 100,000 boxes in 2022, and it is quite a big amount for a company as small as ours, since we don’t localize other publishers’ games, but we develop everything internally.
* Last but not least, for the first time ever, we are going to host a stand in Nuremberg, because we need to show the results of all our efforts to as many people as possible!
Bye for now, we’ll talk again in 2022. We’re going to take a little break and the next article will be published in 4 weeks’ time, on the 21st of January. We can’t wait to tell you all about our projects that we are carrying out with our usual passion and dedication. We wish you all happy holidays and a wonderful 2022!
Subscribe to Post Scriptum Telegram channel not to miss any articles of our blog!
- [+] Dice rolls
Coming back from Essen and on the occasion of Lucca Comics & Games, I would like to dedicate another post to the game events world, with a couple of observations, starting from what I consider the main question: “who needs game fairs? Expert players? Casual players? Or rather publishers?”
Well, my answer is “all of the above”. I can hear you muttering that I’m just trying to keep everybody happy, but I actually believe that the best way is finding the most constructive balance. Expert gamers are an important part of the sector: they are demanding in terms of mechanics, graphics and production, they are often harsh at judging, but they are as often enthusiastic and can’t wait to spread the word about games that they consider the worthiest. For a certain type of products (in my case I obviously think about Placentia Games) they are fundamental! The role of ambassadors that they play is crucial, and often decisive for the future of a game, and sometimes of the entire publisher. Not to mention the fact that they are the only people who would read a blog like this
However, we cannot think only about gamers. For example, after all the exhibitions people generally complain that we should have let people try the games just for a couple of rounds, so that they could change different tables, and let more people play. These gamers want to try as many new games as possible, to evaluate which of them have a real substance, and if they meet the hype that had been built around them during their promotion. Considering that generally we talk about expert gamers, they believe that a brief trial of a game is enough to evaluate if the game is suitable for them or not.
This is a legitimate request, and, admittedly, during fairs we have often hosted demos with a limited amount of time or a limited amount of rounds.
SHORT DIGRESSION: the time limit has never been less than one hour, it was generally two hours, including the explanation, because we believe that games such as Wendake, and especially Kepler-3042 cannot be appreciated in half an hour, because it is impossible to understand the complexity of the strategic development in half an hour. END OF DIGRESSION
The fact is that a game event cannot be designed exclusively around super-experts: in Italy and around the world there are a lot more casual players and families, they are a huge number of people who might be interested in our hobby. I see it happening weekly in our gaming club, where new people keep coming in, and more than 50% of them become regulars, but the first time that they come in they don’t know anything about what we do. So, we can say that the work of the ambassadors is fundamental, but it is equally important having someone to direct the work to. These “victims” must be found and pampered during the events, which are attended also by families and casual players! These people must receive the right attention to react positively, to understand how good and interesting our world is.
For example, I think about our game Radetzky-Milano 1848 which is a cooperative game, really suitable for families and great for introducing them to our world, and every time I took it to an event I felt the enthusiasm of the battle and the satisfaction of completing it. For these types of people the demo with a limited time, especially if the limit is half-an-hour, would be useless or even harmful, because typically, they need the first few rounds to understand how the game works, face the first few challenges and understand how to solve them. For them all the fun and satisfaction come at the end (even when they lose, because usually the differential is very small).
Finally, of course, exhibitions must be for the publishers, because even though some people don’t like them, they criticise them or they consider them greedy, in practice, without publishers there wouldn’t be any games, and without games… well I don’t need to finish the sentence, do I?
This is the reason why I don’t see eye to eye with people who demand (I’m not talking about kind requests but actual demands!) huge discounts at the fairs: if a publisher decides against them, there must be a reason, which could be a non-competition commitment with the shops, who are their clients, or simply it could mean that the costs of the exhibitions are too high and they cannot afford asking for less.
I am aware that some of you might not be completely happy with this post, and as I stated above, I understand. I know that you are players who already go to clubs and shops that are up-to-date with everything, and I understand that for you an exhibition is mainly an occasion for you to buy (sell or exchange) games, and mostly where you can try new releases, but I think that living it only this way is a pity. A game event is much more: it gives you the opportunity to play live with people with whom you spent hours writing online, conferences to attend, meeting authors and artists, or even just watching another group playing, to start looking at materials, or learning rules, for when you will finally get the chance to touch it with your own hands.
Most of all, game events give you the chance to get together and socialise: even teaching a game to someone who doesn’t know is extremely rewarding, and most of all is important and makes it possible for us to make our hobby grow. I’ve seen it in person at game nights, and I think it is always worth it.
Long live the gaming sector and my favourite part of it: long live the game fairs!
Subscribe to our Telegram channel not to miss any of Post Scriptum’s articles!
- [+] Dice rolls
This blog wants to be a window opened on the game publishing world and to introduce you to the backstage of the life of a board games publisher. The best way to do it is by sharing our deepest and most intense feelings. In my case, these feelings are evoked by the Essen exhibition!
WHAT ESSEN MEANT TO ME: 2005-2019
For our company, Essen has always been the most important event of the year, because it was the event when we used to launch our new games. This always meant high levels of anxiety, as it was the moment in which the efforts of – at least – a whole year had to pay back. In particular:
* We know that games get old really fast, and people have little time to get to know them and fully appreciate them. The exhibition has always been our main showcase, fundamental to build hype around the products, with pictures, reports, and including them in the boardgamegeek list, etc.
* Equally important, of course, is the work carried out in the offices inside the stands, meaning the business to business meetings, where our suppliers can touch with their own hands our projects, to figure out together how to create them, and our customers get the chance to appreciate in person how beautiful they are. In fact, our most successful products have always gone through this fundamental channel.
* Finally, of course, direct sales are always important to generate some immediate liquidity, that goes to cover the exhibition investments, make ends meet… and eventually starting to earn something for ourselves.
Those four days have always been vital for me, on an objective level – for the reasons I just explained, and on a subjective level, because I live Essen fair as if it was a test to evaluate months of work. Fundamental detail: on this test depend the economic survival of the whole Post Scriptum team and mine, (I must admit that to get a stand we spend important amounts).
Going back to the feelings we talked about at the beginning, the days before the exhibition I am always very nervous, impossible to deal with, I can’t sleep, I only think about work, day and night. Which means that yes, game publishers are also human.
Here we are at the 2021 edition. When we decided to take part in the exhibition, things had already started taking an ugly turn, as we explained in a previous post, and we were all but sure that we could publish anything in time. Of course, the publication was supposed to be Shogun no Katana, for which we intended to set up a majestic stand, full of demo tables, with several demonstrators in different languages. But honestly the stakes were too high: the chances that the game wouldn’t arrive on time were too high (in fact, it did not arrive as we explained in this Kickstarter update) and on top of it, we didn’t know how we could do our demos: what interpersonal distance would be required? What other precautions and limitations? And what about the attendance? Would players come to the exhibition? We’ll be honest about it, we though it would be better not to invest between 10,000 and 20,000 euro for the stand. For such a small company like ours, those are big money, and we would rather spend them on the development of new games.
At the same time, we didn’t have any doubt about taking part in the exhibition for the following reasons:
* When we signed up, we had good chances to receive the vaccine in time, as a matter of fact, we have now all received the second shot.
* What we missed most during 2020 were the meetings, the business to business with suppliers, with reviewers, but most of all with possible clients. These meetings are the main distribution channel for our products all over the world. We missed them because, while on one hand we felt privileged that we could work from home, carrying out all our projects without any problems (the inventors of Tabletop Simulator deserve a monument!), on the other hand we couldn’t show in person our mock-ups to potential clients, and in a field in which the physical paper part is fundamental, this was a great problem.
* It is true that, as you all could see, we worked-stop to the Shogun no Katana Kickstarter campaign, but the reason of this blog is also to tell you what you can’t know, for example, that during the last year before the pandemic we had been working a lot on two new family games, for which we had foreseen a massive production, with the objective of replicating the excellent sales of Fun Farm and Brick Party. We had already taken them to Nuremberg fair and to Cannes 2020, receiving great feedback. Then we all know what happened and everything stopped, also because of the well-known production issues. However, we didn’t forget about our projects, so we are going to the exhibition hoping to show them to as many business clients as possible. At the same time, we have developed two more easy-going games, and we’ll also have them with us, they are easier to produce and more suitable to the current situation. We believe that the 4 games are all excellent, and we can’t wait to launch them!
* Finally, even though we won’t have demo tables, we really wanted to have a place where we could show our fans Shogun no Katana’s mock-up, because we really think it is a wonderful game!
We also have a small shopping area where we will have some offers that you can’t miss…
And for our social fans (including you, readers of our blog) there’s an additional discount! Simply show to the desk the image at the bottom of this article to get the discount! Yes, we love you!
So… yes, also this year I’m living the pre-exhibition days with the usual anxiety, because the deals that we will get in Essen 2021 will be fundamental for Post Scriptum’s future, but I’m sure that as soon as I’ll breath the exhibition air I’ll think “finally!” and anxiety will turn thrill and enthusiasm.
My team and I will wait for you at the stand!
- [+] Dice rolls
In this second instalment of our blog’s opinion segment, I would like to start to talk about a topic that in future will probably be a recurring one, which is the relationship between gamers and board games insiders, dealing with different point of views. In particular, on this occasion I would like to tackle the topic of how the perception of the game can be influenced more by a group of players than by its objective qualities, and about how important it is to keep this in mind when developing a new game and when we interact with the general public.
This makes me think about an old Facebook discussion among Italians who were talking about some party games with secret roles, deductions etc., I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
In the post a gamer was advising against game "X" because he thought it was broken and two experienced role-play and board games authors were explaining that that wasn’t the case, while it was actually true for games "Y" and "Z" which the player thought to be impeccable. This started a dialogue between two parties who were in complete and utter disagreement. The authors were giving technical reasons about what is a bug and what is not, and the player was answering talking about his group of gamers, that was made up of very expert tournament players, which included and Italian champion, and that the authors didn’t understand anything. It was one of those situations in which everybody loses their patience, feelings were running high, and they ended up blocking each other. In short: the internet.
As an insider, I perfectly understand the authors, because their arguments were objective and it is right for people like them or me, but also for game enthusiasts, to know them and to be able to distinguish between a well-made game and one that has technical problems or that “hasn’t aged well”.
It was also clear that the gamer wasn’t a troll, he was just bringing his first-hand experience to the table.
It is true that the authors were 100% right when talking about the first game: the gamer found it broken after playing it only once or twice and it was clear he didn't fully understand it (knowing what game they were talking about, I know that it does NOT HAVE the game design issues that the player was claiming). Things get a bit more complex in regard to the other two games that the player liked and that the authors found unacceptable. The gamer stated that “you just have to play them well, with expert gamers who make the right moves, and the games work perfectly fine”. Now, as publisher and developer I know that a good game CAN NOT work only if gamers play in a certain way, quite the opposite, it is an objective issue. But the fact is that if those gamers played that game dozens of times and they keep playing it, they clearly enjoy it, and this is a big deal (especially in an internet discussion).
In brief: the experts’ objective arguments are often very valid but when we’re taking into consideration gamers’ choices we mustn’t make the mistake of underestimating subjective reasons, because, at the end of the day, whoever plays a game generally wants to have fun and kill time. Therefore, games creators, while doing it because it’s their job and having fun doing it, should always take into consideration that they’re doing it for the gamers.
Of course, it’s our duty to try and publish games that are well tested, balanced and most of all not broken, but as I’ve often invited gamers not to be too elitist, I equally invite us creators not to lose our gamer spirit, especially when talking about party games, perhaps old ones, that are still having great success all over the world.
While I can see the objective limits that the authors mention, even I regularly play at least one of the games that were mentioned above, with great enthusiasm, and I enjoy it. It’s true that, like in the case of said gamer, my group of friends has always been fundamental for those dozens of games to succeed, and I’m aware that in different gaming room I can’t even suggest playing it.
Obviously, I’m not saying that the two authors were wrong in this case: in fact I agree with them on all of the three games, however, I’m not mentioning their names, nor the games titles, to highlight that I’m not referring to this specific episode but to the idea that as we say “to each their own”, every gamer has their own taste and the same is true for group of gamers. Personally, I see this with the game Citadels, that many consider a filler, but in our gaming club it never lasts less than one hour and a half, we rack our brains trying to unveil all the roles. What was the author’s intent? Did he take into consideration all the different interpretations? How does he play? I’m tagging him on Twitter right away, let’s see if he answers! https://twitter.com/PScriptum_games/status/14340740951262003...
Subscribe to our Telegram channel not to miss any of Post Scriptum’s articles!
- [+] Dice rolls
Here in Italy, self publishing is widespread: in many gaming fairs, it’s common to see a lot of self-publishers who present (and try to sell) their games. While speaking with them, I often heard that self-publishing is somehow virtuous, while Kickstarter is a sort of evil shortcut. Having experimented with both traditional self-publishing and Kickstarter in my career, I think I’m qualified to pitch in… and so I will
In my opinion, the idea that investing from your own pocket is brave and that turning to Kickstarter isn’t, is deeply flawed. From personal experience, I can assure you that Wendake campaign (only the campaign, not considering artwork and all the other aspects of the game edition) cost more than the entire production of our first game BauSquitMiao and took many, many more hours of work… And Shogun no Katana has so far greatly exceeded Wendake! Of course, between them are 15 years of experience, much more attention to detail and the individual products are VERY different. But if we had wanted to consider launching the most famous, pink-boxed game in Italy on Kickstarter, it certainly would have cost us much more than making it as we did. The fact is that nowadays Kickstarter has unwritten but ironclad rules that cannot be ignored. ‘Homemade’ self-published games are often targeted at a casual audience, sold at non-specialist fairs and markets where you’re more likely to meet a family than an expert gamer. These buyers’ needs are certainly much simpler, and it must not be underestimated that they can hold the product in their own hands; they’ve just played it and, if they enjoyed it, that’s all they need to make the purchase.
On Kickstarter on the other hand, it’s a whole different ballgame. You have to convince passionate people who live and breathe games to give you lots of money months in advance, to pick your project above the many others. Obviously, this is possible, but it requires months and months of work and a lot of money. Around twenty people ultimately reporting to me worked on the Wendake and Shogun no Katana campaigns, not including the play-testers. I worked on more than 70 games (only counting the actually completed ones) and without a doubt Shogun no Katana was the most complex and difficult to develop. The process of turning out an excellent game is already long and difficult, but one that gives me the utmost satisfaction. Convincing more than 2000 people to support the game without having even opened the box however was laborious and exhausting and cost me stress and sleepless nights as had only happened twice before… And yes, you are guessing right: it was for the Kickstarter campaigns of Kepler-3042 and Wendake.
So, I think I’m allowed to write that in my opinion, you need to be braver to launch on Kickstarter than to self-publish in the traditional way. In fact, you need to be more reckless. And it’s worth saying that I don’t mean this in a positive way. You should think ten, a hundred, a thousand times before you launch a campaign!
It’s by no means a shortcut, rather it’s an amplifier that boosts everything – visibility definitely, but also hassle. Even just the number of hours you’ll have to dedicate to replying to comments and messages is a lot more than you’d expect, I can assure you. And the replies have to be just right, or you won’t be forgiven.
It’s true that a success would have a wider reach, but so would a failure. You don’t really want to make a bad impression in front of everyone, right?
Moreover, and most importantly, Kickstarter exacerbates the main problem of self-publishing – the lack of a publisher to filter the products! The game that seems so fun to you and your friends may not be quite so entertaining in reality. And your cousin’s illustrations that you like so much might seem ugly to the majority of potential backers. Not to mention that without the right contacts with suppliers (especially when it comes to logistics), you could end up getting your figures wrong and so unable to produce the requested run without losing out.
So, it begs the question, has Kickstarter completely lost its spirit of support to those who want to realise their dreams and become but another tool in the hands of those already involved in games publishing?
Well … More or less yes: it has certainly lost it for people who want to present their project from 0, as a real dream, and hope to raise capital to start making it happen. It is still a valid springboard for those who are able to tackle the campaign exactly as a professional publisher would (and there are some striking examples about this), but this is not free, as written above. Kickstarter is certainly an essential tool for companies like ours, which need the visibility guaranteed by a successful campaign to make their projects known. From this point of view, Kickstarter actually maintains a part of its original purpose, because if one of our games failed on the platform, it really couldn’t be realeased… And this would be a disaster, for us, in spite of those who say that “Kickstarter is now just a presale and you don’t risk anything”.
At the risk of seeming repetitive, to conclude I’ll write it clearly once again: if you want to self-publish, don’t delude yourself that Kickstarter will make the task any easier and will flood you with money, because it won’t happen. In my opinion, self-publishing on Kickstarter without experience in game development (or business) is a terrible, terrible idea.
I certainly don’t say this to get you to hire us to back your campaign. We’ve turned down many people who have already asked us this, because it’s very lengthy, very expensive work that needs very long-term planning. However, feel free to ask for advice.
But I warn you not to expect encouraging replies!
- [+] Dice rolls