Jarrett Dunn
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So I see Lvl99 Games has done yet another Kickstarter for a new game. I have to ask though, at what point do we, as a community, start expecting companies to start paying for the development, initial run, and taking on the risk themselves instead of shoving it all off to the customers?

Don't get me wrong, I backed Battlecon and Pixel Tactics, and gladly did so as they were new games from a new company trying to get going. Now though it's been a few years, 12 successful kickstarters, and has been making money (and I would expect profit) I was kind of expecting them to start taking on, and being able to take on, those responsibilities that kickstarter should only, in my mind, helping out new start ups with.

It's just kind of disappointing, and of course with them being a company I love I simply can't support the decision to push all development and risk off to the consumers. We wouldn't let any other established companies do that (and we take them to the cleaners when they do, such as the fire pharmacutical companies have come under for trying that very thing recently), so why do board game publishers get a pass? Are we just, as a community, unwilling to hold them to the same standards the rest of the public holds other companies to?

Would we have found it acceptable for say Fantasy Flight to have put their next big game on Kickstarter instead of taking the risk and development costs on themselves? And I understand things like P500's to take pre-orders to determine desire for a product, but they don't charge until the game is done and ready to ship, it is simply a means to guage desire for a product rather than "hey I want to print this game idea we have, I know I already have a successful game company but I want you guys to pay for it's development and publication anyways with nothing to show for it until LONG after it's over" (and given their last Kickstarter something like 6-8 months after it should have been delivered).
 
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Dom Hiob
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mltdwn wrote:
So I see Lvl99 Games has done yet another Kickstarter for a new game. I have to ask though, at what point do we, as a community, start expecting companies to start paying for the development, initial run, and taking on the risk themselves instead of shoving it all off to the customers?

Don't get me wrong, I backed Battlecon and Pixel Tactics, and gladly did so as they were new games from a new company trying to get going. Now though it's been a few years, 12 successful kickstarters, and has been making money (and I would expect profit) I was kind of expecting them to start taking on, and being able to take on, those responsibilities that kickstarter should only, in my mind, helping out new start ups with.

It's just kind of disappointing, and of course with them being a company I love I simply can't support the decision to push all development and risk off to the consumers. We wouldn't let any other established companies do that (and we take them to the cleaners when they do, such as the fire pharmacutical companies have come under for trying that very thing recently), so why do board game publishers get a pass? Are we just, as a community, unwilling to hold them to the same standards the rest of the public holds other companies to?

Would we have found it acceptable for say Fantasy Flight to have put their next big game on Kickstarter instead of taking the risk and development costs on themselves? And I understand things like P500's to take pre-orders to determine desire for a product, but they don't charge until the game is done and ready to ship, it is simply a means to guage desire for a product rather than "hey I want to print this game idea we have, I know I already have a successful game company but I want you guys to pay for it's development and publication anyways with nothing to show for it until LONG after it's over" (and given their last Kickstarter something like 6-8 months after it should have been delivered).


hm, I do agree that established big companies shouldn't actually use Kickstarter as much. To me, it's less a question of risk management and more one of supporting FLGSs.

That said, I don't think Level 99 is anywhere near "big company". They're not even remotely the same size as Fantasy Flight. And I guess, after getting staff paid, there's not just 50K lying around waiting to finance their next game. Suppose the game fails. What would you rather have them do: fire staff? Close down the company?

And even my concern of FLGSs is addressed by Level 99. They have frequently said on the KS campaigns: Get it here if you want to, but we'll include a pledge level that just has the promos, so can always get that and buy the game at your FLGS. They haven't done any Kickstarter Exclusives that I'm aware of. So, to me, it's green light for KS campaigns as long as they feel they need them. They're growing (luckily), but they're far from big.
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Daniel DeMars
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I think one of your basic assumptions is flawed - "and have been making money (and I would expect profit)". From my understanding, Lvl99 has yet to make enough money on any of their games to support the development of a subsequent large project.

In addition, the current EXCEED KS project is, to my understanding, a proof of concept - in order to attract more famous IPs (they have some lined up, but haven't been officially given the rights), they need to demonstrate that there is a market for their product. And for Lvl99, a small company with limited FLGS presence, the quickest and most effective way to do this is to run a KS campaign.

This method is made more attractive because, despite what some purists maintain, I believe Kickstarter really does provide the best infrastructure for running a pre-order system that I have ever seen. Allow me to clarify - I understand that the original intention of KS was to provide a crowd-funding platform for one-off projects and young companies. However, it turns out that a platform that provides this service also provides a really innovative opportunity to build community through a pre-order system - I cannot think of any other pre-order system that provides space for a comprehensive product description, formal company-to-customer communication mechanisms (updates), and a social component (the comments section, where fans/customers can interact with each other and often with the product creator) all in one place (it's possible that some other company has something like this, but I haven't seen it). So even if and when Lvl99 does reach the point where crowdfunding is no longer financially necessary, I certainly hope they find a way to maintain the interactive, social component that Kickstarter currently facilitates. I would be quite disappointed if they ever moved to a system similar to Fantasy Flight's, since I find that company highly impersonal (though I do enjoy some of their products).

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. Those are my thoughts. Of course you're free to disagree with me on a value and proper use of Kickstarter, but I do think it is important that you not overestimate Lvl99's current profitability.
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I think there are other reasons than finance for using Kickstarter. A pledge on Kickstarter is not just a preorder, we get to be involved in the development of the game and provide feedback along the way. We also get to share this experience as a community with other backers. So I do not have any expectation that Lvl99Games should "start paying for the development".

I also want to highlight that Lvl99Games have been developing games without Kickstarter. Pixel Tactics 3, Sellswords, Resistor_ and Noir: Black Box Edition are all examples of games manufactured without the help of Kickstarter. It is also worth noting that when funding does not meet expectations such as for Power Play: Schemes & Skulduggery, Lvl99Games have still went ahead with production and carried the remaining cost.

Finally, I have to ask if you have done a similar thread on Queen Games, CMON Limited, Soda Pop Miniatures or Gamelyn Games forums? I ask because they are arguably big names in gaming that do nearly everything through Kickstarter. Otherwise it seems a bit targeted putting this thread in the Exceed game forum, when it sounds like it should be on the Level 99 Games forum instead. Maybe an Admin can help with this?

I hope my comments help.
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Queen Games is a particularly odd case, as they seem to have already done everything they need to do for the game, and are using Kickstarter as a purely pre-order system. There are no stretch goals to improve the game itself, or any promos on their campaigns, just a list of different games that you can get through it...
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Howdy, JR here from Level 99 Games. Daniel really hit it on the head - we love using Kickstarter for our big projects for a few reasons. First, and this can't be overstated, we believe part of our mission is to connect with our fans and give them the best games in their collection. That means a two-way communication, giving folks a say in what we create and really incorporating feedback and excitement into what we do.

Second, we try to save our "big" projects for Kickstarter, so we can raise enough money to make a bigger, more expansive game than we would make if we paid out of pocket.

EXCEED is a special case because we're doing a kind of "proof of concept" to bring in other exciting IPs for our next releases in the game.

I hope you enjoy our games and understand where we're coming from - I appreciate the topic, and I'm happy to answer questions through private chat also!

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Nick E
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Rook96 wrote:
I also want to highlight that Lvl99Games have been developing games without Kickstarter. Pixel Tactics 3, Sellswords, Resistor_ and Noir: Black Box Edition are all examples of games manufactured without the help of Kickstarter.

I just wanted to point out that Resistor_ did have a Kickstarter. I backed it and received it a week or so ago. The announcement that L99 would be publishing the game came after the campaign had ended and been funded. Not trying to make too much of a point or anything, just letting you know.
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Thiago Colas
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EYEL1NER wrote:
Rook96 wrote:
I also want to highlight that Lvl99Games have been developing games without Kickstarter. Pixel Tactics 3, Sellswords, Resistor_ and Noir: Black Box Edition are all examples of games manufactured without the help of Kickstarter.

I just wanted to point out that Resistor_ did have a Kickstarter. I backed it and received it a week or so ago. The announcement that L99 would be publishing the game came after the campaign had ended and been funded. Not trying to make too much of a point or anything, just letting you know.


Just to add to this post, Dragon Punch is in this very same situation.
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EYEL1NER wrote:
Rook96 wrote:
I also want to highlight that Lvl99Games have been developing games without Kickstarter. Pixel Tactics 3, Sellswords, Resistor_ and Noir: Black Box Edition are all examples of games manufactured without the help of Kickstarter.

I just wanted to point out that Resistor_ did have a Kickstarter. I backed it and received it a week or so ago. The announcement that L99 would be publishing the game came after the campaign had ended and been funded. Not trying to make too much of a point or anything, just letting you know.

I missed this entirely, thanks for pointing this out.
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Yeah, these games were designed and carried out by entirely different studios, and we are just using our resources and knowhow to get them out to press and to distribution. We made those agreements during the last week of the project, when Nicole, Anthony (and Koen, in the case of Dragon Punch) were trying to figure out how to handle a project that had gotten a bit bigger than they imagined from the start. (We're also doing a third studio series project, Witch Hunt, which was funded recently).

It's nice to not have to do everything on Kickstarter, and we try not to when we don't have to. We have about 3 games beyond just EXCEED that are sitting on our shelf, hopefully going straight to print before the end of this year. NOIR and Sellswords are both doing well, despite not having Kickstarters, and we want to reserve our KS projects for larger games that we really wouldn't be able to do otherwise, like Millennium Blades and EXCEED.

So, you will continue to see big headliner KS projects from us, because want the gaming community to get involved and invested with the stuff we're doing, but we're also expanding what we do without KS too.
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Jarrett Dunn
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Quote:
That said, I don't think Level 99 is anywhere near "big company". They're not even remotely the same size as Fantasy Flight. And I guess, after getting staff paid, there's not just 50K lying around waiting to finance their next game. Suppose the game fails. What would you rather have them do: fire staff? Close down the company?


Well that is part of enterpernurship (sp?), if you cannot make enough profit to keep going you generally have to close down. Any other business that is unable to take advantage of kickstarter have to play by those rules, so why should they be exempt? While I admit they are not the size of FFG, FFG was at one time the same size as they were and they had to at some point begin making their own profits and taking their own risks without depending on investors and working in banking I see it all the time where people keep saying "Ok we made product X, we gained Y profit from it but we need Z in funds from you in order to finance the next product" and we flatly have to tell them no because their business isn't in good enough shape obviously to make up enough of the initial investment. I also admit I am a kickstarter purist where I think kickstarter should be used for its original intent to get something started not keeping it going once it should be started. Otherwise it throws the capitilist system out of whack where companies that should have to be competitive and strive to be, but are not, are removed and the ones best able to function as a business remain. It enables weaker companies to limp along when frankly they shouldn't even be there and cause more economic issues when they fnially do fail (see all the over-valuation of Silicon Valley projects, imagine what is going to happen when that bubble finally bursts).

Quote:
Finally, I have to ask if you have done a similar thread on Queen Games, Cool Mini Or Not, Soda Pop Miniatures or Gamelyn Games forums? I ask because they are arguably big names in gaming that do nearly everything through Kickstarter. Otherwise it seems a bit targeted putting this thread in the Exceed game forum, when it sounds like it should be on the Level 99 Games forum instead. Maybe an Admin can help with this?


I posted in Exceed forum because that is the particular project which is causing the discussion. And yes I have posted on threads and been part of the discussion on Queen, Cool Mini or Not, etc. about how I think it is wrong in how they are gaming a system that wasn't intended to be used the way it is. Unfortunately I doubt Kickstarter will go away from the new process as it brings them too much money. As for Soda Pop Mini's I was at one time going to criticize them as well except they moved away from the kickstarter process and started funding the development, and taking the risk, on their own with their more recent projects.

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we love using Kickstarter for our big projects for a few reasons. First, and this can't be overstated, we believe part of our mission is to connect with our fans and give them the best games in their collection. That means a two-way communication, giving folks a say in what we create and really incorporating feedback and excitement into what we do.


I would counter that kickstarter is not necessary for this. With Boardgamegeek (of which no doubt the majority of your pledges come from), twitter, facebook, your own webpage and forums there are innumerbale ways available to conect with and work with your customers and fans to involve them without the necessity of having them take on the risk of the production. One company which does this that I believe is about the same size is Plaid Hat Games and they have never used kickstarter. Jim Krohn is another designer who works with the commnuity as well and even has whole sections of expansions that are either made directly by community members or based on their designs (with credit to them) and has never had a game on Kickstarter.

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Second, we try to save our "big" projects for Kickstarter, so we can raise enough money to make a bigger, more expansive game than we would make if we paid out of pocket.


Then again I would have to say, perhaps you shouldn't be producing the product then. If you lack the capability, and business acuman to be able to finance the production then perhaps it should be not produced, or produced/published by another company more capable of handeling those issues, and better able to handle the finacial end of the business. If you are not making enough from a project to pay your employees, and cover your previous expenses, plus sink more money back into the company for future development and publication then perhaps something needs to change whether that be pricing, pay, whatever.

Again, my perspective may and probably is a bit skewed. I work in banking (not one of the ones that caused the crash thank god, though we have to deal with all the fallout), so I see every day where we put expectations on other companies of "Hey if you want us to continue bankrolling you, or even just providing you services, you need to show through your financials and investment in future development/the company that you can handle it on your own". So I guess it is a pet peeve of mine when I see companies never have to meet that requirement of actually being successful and able to take on risks themselves which can eventually cause more destabilization of an industry if they do eventually fail all at once. Basically a lack of demonstration of self reliance.

Again though my view is a bit skewed and jaded.
 
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I'm not sure the risk in Kickstarter funding failure is equal to the "real world" problems when there is economic collaps, regardless of anyone's opinion of what KS should or shouldn't be used for. Crowdfunding is a new beast, and one that I think fits fine in a Capitalist society. Basically the crowd funds it...period. It's similar to offering a service. I'll clean your home for $50. The crowd pays knowing the risks, even failure of services. Again, this comment isn't about the "should," but rather just a statement that it isn't the same as lending and such.
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Daniel DeMars
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but when a bank invests in a company, that company doesn't then provide the bank with a consumer product of approximately equal market value to the amount of investment. However, that is general procedure for Kickstarter. I feel like you're couching this critique in a very tenuous analogy.
 
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Quote:
Again, my perspective may and probably is a bit skewed. I work in banking (not one of the ones that caused the crash thank god, though we have to deal with all the fallout), so I see every day where we put expectations on other companies of "Hey if you want us to continue bankrolling you, or even just providing you services, you need to show through your financials and investment in future development/the company that you can handle it on your own". So I guess it is a pet peeve of mine when I see companies never have to meet that requirement of actually being successful and able to take on risks themselves which can eventually cause more destabilization of an industry if they do eventually fail all at once. Basically a lack of demonstration of self reliance.

I can see what you're saying. But I do think a part that is missed is the cost involved before a Kickstarter even begins. Play testing, development, art assets, marketing, manufacturing quotes, shipping quotes, prototypes, website hosting, e-mail alerts, there is heaps that goes into a Kickstarter before it even starts. So Kickstarter creators are investing money before their project begins.

This is even worse if a project does not fund. Now the creator is left with the decision to either abandon the idea, or have another try with a second campaign with lower goals and hope they hit it second time round. I do think that companies have to "meet the requirement of actually being successful and able to take on risks themselves" to use Kickstarter, because even crowd funding is not guaranteed.
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Brad Talton
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I would also mention that I've sought loans and lines of credit from banks about six times since I started Level 99 Games, and my current line of credit extends to $10k (about enough for 2/3rds of a small card game project).

"Traditional Publishing" isn't a medium that banks seem willing to take a risk on right now. Hopefully we will be able to show some more viability with our successes this year and get our LOC extended up to 100k, which will let us print about 5 more minor releases next year.

I don't disagree with the premise of this post, but we haven't actually made massive profits on any of our projects yet (most of our leftover money has gone into printing promos, shipping, and paying the team) so I couldn't bankroll EXCEED without the success of this KS project.
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Dom Hiob
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mltdwn wrote:
Quote:
That said, I don't think Level 99 is anywhere near "big company". They're not even remotely the same size as Fantasy Flight. And I guess, after getting staff paid, there's not just 50K lying around waiting to finance their next game. Suppose the game fails. What would you rather have them do: fire staff? Close down the company?


Well that is part of enterpernurship (sp?), if you cannot make enough profit to keep going you generally have to close down. Any other business that is unable to take advantage of kickstarter have to play by those rules, so why should they be exempt?


Hm, but it seems in this case there is a way of financing the game's development and production, namely through KS. So why should an entrepreneur choose not to use an option of financing if it's the only viable road? Or, put in a different way: Only because other businesses are unable to make use of KS, why should a company that is able to use it choose not to do so but rather close down?

Also, I really don't see how KS is anything that even remotely scratches the system. First, it's still way too small to have any impact on the system. Second, because it's just joint micro-credits at no interest. Third, if you look at the number of competitors on KS, you have to be pretty good to get your project funded.

Again, to me, the only real objection to KS is that with big companies, it will hurt FLGSs.
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DomHiob wrote:

Again, to me, the only real objection to KS is that with big companies, it will hurt FLGSs.


A lot of KS game projects actually support FLGSs. They offer deals on bulk purchases as a pledge goal and give out KS exclusives as part of the deal, which lets them sell the games at MSRP with bonuses that wouldn't normally be available at retail.
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Dom Hiob
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kurisenshi wrote:
DomHiob wrote:

Again, to me, the only real objection to KS is that with big companies, it will hurt FLGSs.


A lot of KS game projects actually support FLGSs. They offer deals on bulk purchases as a pledge goal and give out KS exclusives as part of the deal, which lets them sell the games at MSRP with bonuses that wouldn't normally be available at retail.


Yes, I can see that. But: if a couple of thousand copies are "bought" through KS, that's a couple of thousand copies less that FLGS can sell (I'm assuming that KS doesn't really target too different a group of people than regular FLGSs do. I may be wrong about that. Or KS could just add to the total number of copies of a game purchased. So I may be wrong. I definitely heard the owner of one of my FLGSs express his concern about KS, and I guess he should know whether and where it hurts).
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DomHiob wrote:
kurisenshi wrote:
DomHiob wrote:

Again, to me, the only real objection to KS is that with big companies, it will hurt FLGSs.


A lot of KS game projects actually support FLGSs. They offer deals on bulk purchases as a pledge goal and give out KS exclusives as part of the deal, which lets them sell the games at MSRP with bonuses that wouldn't normally be available at retail.


Yes, I can see that. But: if a couple of thousand copies are "bought" through KS, that's a couple of thousand copies less that FLGS can sell (I'm assuming that KS doesn't really target too different a group of people than regular FLGSs do. I may be wrong about that. Or KS could just add to the total number of copies of a game purchased. So I may be wrong. I definitely heard the owner of one of my FLGSs express his concern about KS, and I guess he should know whether and where it hurts).


I actually end up talking a lot about this with game companies. The truth is that KS games sell even better for these stores than direct releases, because of the buzz and the saturation. Consider a game like Munchkin or Ticket to Ride--the fact that these games have sold millions of copies already makes them better for an FLGS, not worse.

The only games that I've heard don't tend to do well in an FLGS are collectors' editions and giant miniatures games.
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