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Subject: Kickstarter Aversion rss

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Jeroen
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As with most, if not all things that people either love or hate, there is little rational foundation to base an opinion on. Nevertheless, I feel there is something fundamentally wrong with established boardgame publishers using Kickstarter to fund their games.

I understand that it's a risky business, boardgame publishing, in that you have to put forward capital without knowing if you will recoup or not, let alone make a profit. However, ALL boardgame publishers that made this hobby what it is today, started and flourished without the benefits of a Kickstarter-like option. They met with success and failure, in some cases in equal measure, before establishing themselves as staples of the industry.

Kickstarter boardgame projects feel to me like pushers providing drugs to the masses. The thing is, in general, boardgame players and purchasers come from the more fortunate classes of society, with discretionary income to spend. And, I think we want to have that ultimate boardgame "hit", something that comes close or even emulates the initial wonder and infatuation when introduced to the hobby. Also, it may feel like being part of an exclusive club, members of which have the privilege to be part of a community that made a boardgame happen.

For a lone game designer without publisher backing, this is all fine. But established boardgame publishers, feeding off the addictions of their backers, can risklessly propose a project, and then garner much more backing than they actually need.

No entrepeneurs among those publishers, but lovers of the hobby (all boardgame publishers have some irrational infatuation for this pastime; they have been mere players in the past) that can grow and harvest their brainchilds, or those of affiliated designers, without having to bear any consequences. And it works, because a lot of the hardcore boardgaming crowd want nothing less than that ultimate hit, which will never come, but those publishers feed on to finance their projects without putting anything, not even reputation, on the line.

It goes without saying: IMHO
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Marshall LaFleur
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I have to agree with your statements about Kickstarter. I also have a few more things to add. The concept of Kickstarter makes sense, but the deeper effect in the gaming industry I think does more harm than good. For one thing this is a complete lack of quality control. Any ole person can put any ole junk on there and get funding for a game that is horrible. There are no standards for playtesting or component quality. I fear that many kickstarter supporters are going to be, and have been, taken advantage of. Another thing is the board game industry is already over saturated with games. We don't need thousands of more poor or ok games, was already have how many tens of thousands of games to pick from? I'd rather see just 10 new good games released in a year than 1000 new games of which only 10 of them are any good. I'm of the opinion that The Dice Tower shouldn't have a segment on Kickstarter, but that is just my opinion. I choose to just skip that part myself. I would never have said anything about not liking Kickstarter if not for your post though. It ultimately isn't a big deal to me and if people want to expose themselves to the possibility of a disappointment then they have that right. One thing I'm not saying is that it shouldn't exist. They have the right to do it and I have the right not to support it.
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Chris Berger
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jvdv wrote:
but those publishers feed on to finance their projects without putting anything, not even reputation, on the line.


While I disagree with just about everything you've said, this statement above is just ridiculous. You don't think it takes any work, financial commitment, or risk to put a game project up on kickstarter?
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Jeroen
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arkayn wrote:
jvdv wrote:
but those publishers feed on to finance their projects without putting anything, not even reputation, on the line.


While I disagree with just about everything you've said, this statement above is just ridiculous. You don't think it takes any work, financial commitment, or risk to put a game project up on kickstarter?


Yes I must agree that, in the case of established boardgame publishers, a project will not be listed on Kickstarter without game development and artwork being created.

However, how much do you think is actually being paid, other than the hours put in by the publishers themselves, upfront to contributors to the final product?

I submit that, compared to putting a finalized product on the market, 1000s of copies, makes the commitment for putting up a project on Kickstarter pale in comparison.
 
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Chris Berger
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jvdv wrote:
I submit that, compared to putting a finalized product on the market, 1000s of copies, makes the commitment for putting up a project on Kickstarter pale in comparison.


Sure, we're probably talking on the order of a few hundred to a few thousand, rather than tens of thousands to produce a game and send it straight to distributors. Which is a great thing, because we have the opportunity to see (and if we like them, buy) many games that might never have had the initial investment to get to market without kickstarter.


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Jeroen
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And maybe this is more concise, the point I'm trying to make:
Shouldn't we wonder why they would never make it to market otherwise?
 
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Small pulishers like Clever Mojo Games use Kickstarter for the initial production run of a new game project because small publishers, as a rule, are under capitalized. CMG does not have $60,000 in the bank to pay the up front costs of a print run of 5000 copies of a new game. Yup, printing Sunrise City will run nearly $60K plus freight from China. Then there's the fees paid to artists, graphic designers, and advance royalties to the game designer to consider as well.

Most people have no idea what it costs to actually bring a new game to market in the quality and quantity that gamers expect. It might seem odd to see Fantasy Flight or Rio Grande launch a game through Kickstarter, but for small companies like CMG (and probably DiceHateMe, and Tastey Minstrel, and Indie Boards & Cards), Kickstarter is the only way it's going to work out financially.

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Chris Berger
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CleverMojo wrote:
Most people have no idea what it costs to actually bring a new game to market in the quality and quantity that gamers expect. It might seem odd to see Fantasy Flight or Rio Grande launch a game through Kickstarter, but for small companies like CMG (and probably DiceHateMe, and Tastey Minstrel, and Indie Boards & Cards), Kickstarter is the only way it's going to work out financially.


And to reiterate - I don't see how this could possibly be a bad thing. We get great games like Eminent Domain and Alien Frontiers (and I'm guessing on quality because I haven't played, bought, or researched the following heavily: Carnival, Sunrise City, Kings of Air & Steam, and many others) that might not have otherwise been produced.

And even if you think that those are terrible games that shouldn't have succeeded, for whatever reason, there's no downside to their existence. No one is forcing anyone to buy them. Plenty of game projects fail, whether it's because they're bad games, don't hit the right niche, or have insufficient marketing to raise awareness - Dragonmage Warfare looks pretty cool, but fell way short; Kings of Combat (I think it was called) raised almost no funding even though I might have backed it if it had been close; Islandis looks really pretty but probably won't make it; and a bunch of other games that just look completely awful and/or had unrealistic funding goals or backing levels ($85 for a roll and move game with cheap components and little uniqueness?) also fail.

For every game that does succeed, I think people find it easy to ignore the mountain of work and fair pile of money that went into it - nobody is getting something for nothing here...
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craig vivian
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I think Kickstarter has provided a viable alternative for small publishers, as stated in the last post. I wonder if there are stories out there that support the claim that gamers are throwing money at Kickstart projects and not receiving quality products? I supported Alien Frontiers expansion and was able to get a copy of the original game as well. This was a reasonable venture for me. I think Kickstart is a nice way to get ideas out to the public that might not make it otherwise. I imagine that the current system of game development and production is conservative--meaning that there is risk aversion due to an incomplete understanding of the potential market. That lack of information would lead to producing games that already have a successful precedent--resulting in a market full of expansions or duplication of genre. The success of Dominion means a slew of similar games the following year. This current move by Kickstarter empowers the gamer by letting him/her directly influence the industry and should promote an increase in design creativity in the field.

Interested to see what develops.
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Brian Cherry
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Isnt this like saying that allowing "normal people" to own video cameras and burn DVDs allows anyone to make, and sell, a movie with no consideration for production or quality.

You wouldnt buy a movie without hearing good things about it, so why would you buy a game without looking into it first? I think games like D-Day dice are showing high quality productions.

Even if the bigger companies choose to use Kickstarter, it helps a game gain momentum, with free advertising, and acts as a great preorder-type system with all of the extras that can be thrown in.

I just saw people increasing their contribution to D-Day Dice on the promise that more stuff would be added if a certain level was reached. People are effectively offering to pay more money for the same thing, with the hopes that they will like whatever throw-in they get. Talk about marketing genius.

Almost as good as that scam site that charges you $0.60 to place a $0.01 bid. GENIUS I tell ya!


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Fred MacKenzie
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jvdv wrote:
I understand that it's a risky business, boardgame publishing, in that you have to put forward capital without knowing if you will recoup or not, let alone make a profit. However, ALL boardgame publishers that made this hobby what it is today, started and flourished without the benefits of a Kickstarter-like option. They met with success and failure, in some cases in equal measure, before establishing themselves as staples of the industry.

Okay, say that’s how boardgame publishers of the past made this hobby what it is today. Who’s to say boardgame publishers of the present and future have to experience antiquated practices in a modern evolved marketplace? Why must things be done now as they were in the past? And why hold it against present day companies because times have evolved? Who’s to say companies of the past wouldn’t have welcomed and utilized an option like Kickstarter?


jvdv wrote:
Kickstarter boardgame projects feel to me like pushers providing drugs to the masses.

This could be said of many companies who have products to sell. McDonalds and Starbucks come to mind, but those are my vices. Do you know movie theaters artificially pump the smell of popcorn through their vents? If that’s not a correlation of drug dealers pushing their product on the masses nothing is.

But it’s been my experience that all of the up and coming game designers and publishers that I know are using Kickstarter, not in an attempt to satisfy the needs of addicted consumers, but in an attempt to satisfy their own need to create something they love so much that they want to share it with the world.

That’s been my experience anyway. I am sure there are some who have other experiences.


jvdv wrote:
For a lone game designer without publisher backing, this is all fine. But established boardgame publishers, feeding off the addictions of their backers, can risklessly propose a project, and then garner much more backing than they actually need.

There seems to be this misguided thought with many people that any backing over what is requested is all surplus, pure profit. Here is the deal. Each pledge level is designed to make a small profit after covering all expenses to provide what is offered at that pledge level. Typically that is less than $10. It’s not as if people are backing the project and expecting nothing in return. Backers are receiving a product that costs money to provide. Some pledge levels provide several products. Backers that take the overall funding over the requested amount are still receiving product that has to be paid for by the publisher. Overfunding isn’t just funny money; the same profit margins still exist at each pledge level. Plus, overfunding usually results in the publisher offering stretch goals. That will entice more backers, but unless backers actually raise their pledge levels all the stretch goal does is reduce the already small profit margin.


jvdv wrote:
No entrepeneurs among those publishers, but lovers of the hobby (all boardgame publishers have some irrational infatuation for this pastime; they have been mere players in the past) that can grow and harvest their brainchilds, or those of affiliated designers, without having to bear any consequences. And it works, because a lot of the hardcore boardgaming crowd want nothing less than that ultimate hit, which will never come, but those publishers feed on to finance their projects without putting anything, not even reputation, on the line.

I have seen some Kickstarter projects that look like there are no consequences if it fails. That certainly is not the case for anything Clever Mojo Games has, or will, put on Kickstarter. By the time a project has made it to Kickstarter, thousands of dollars have already been spent paying game designers, artists, graphic designers, and others. A Kickstarter failure would certainly bear consequences.
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Kurt Weihs
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I disagree.

First - there are a lot of game companies that don't practice much quality control either. It isn't solely the realm of Kickstarter. I've picked up some dogs in my time that initially seemed like good ideas, but in practice the game was horrible. There are many times where I am left wondering if any playtesting was done. The big name companies like FFG, DoW, GMT, etc. don't seem to suffer from this as badly, but any game company can produce a horrible game.

Second - I've seen a lot of competent designs that never get picked up by a company or take a long time because those designs don't match more tried and true formulas or trends. Look at Viktory II for example. Great game, but no one would pick it up. I am glad there is an outlet where designers or small companies are able to get their games to see the light of day in a polished, professional production without relying on the biases and prejudices of a small group of producers.

Of course, Kickstarter is what it is. If you get burned because you are buying dogs then that is your own fault. When I have bought from Kickstarter I have read the designer blogs that typically go with the game and really looked into whether this is a game I truly want to have or not. So far, I've picked up Alien Frontiers and Flash Point and have been immensely impressed with both games production values and quality of gameplay.

I agree that Kickstarter will probably die down a bit as people become more careful about their purchases, but I don't see it going away.
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Bart Brunscheen
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Many KS games even show higher quality. Once they hit their sales mark they know they have sold X number of games and start to add on extras. Look at the neat bag D-Day Dice is putting out as a free extra. His sales have gone wild so he returns the favor. When the money is in the bank you can afford to splurge on some chrome.

It's like GMT's Deluxe edition of Twilight Struggle. Once they knew they had a hit the mounted board came out.

Most of you already know my opinion of KS so I wont over state it.

I will say with BGG just posting that there are now 55,000 total games in the data base you can't make the argument that KS is at fault for allowing a virtual flood of games to hit the market. They were already there. I think it's all about more choice and a direct link to the end user. Heck I know some people who pay $5 for coffee. You could say they are just pissing their money away. That's like buying a new game ever two weeks.
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Drew Beckmann
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Like anything else, there's good and bad in the whole notion of Kickstarter. For every quality Kickstarter campaign, there's probably a dozen or more that make me cringe when I review the material or see what appears to me to be an insane funding level for the perceived product quality.

I'll single out Clever Mojo Games as my only named example because they have set the standard for how to effectively use Kickstarter. I missed the KS campaign for Alien Frontiers, but have been impressed with the game since I picked it up at the my local FLGS. Because of the quality of Alien Frontiers, I looked at their KS campaign for Sunrise City and was very impressed with what they pulled together - a comprehensive and explicit number of funding levels, clear funding goals, and well crafted material about the game (including game play information, not just a components overview). Overall, this was a great presentation to potential investors in their next game and I'm pleased to see a small publisher leverage a tool like KS to bring their product to market. I'm not in the industry, but I have a very good grasp on the economics of business. Clever Mojo Games is very professional about what they do.

That being said, there's a lot of questionable stuff on Kickstarter. While people can and should haver their opinions, I get an overwhelming feeling there are a number of KS campaigns that are at best naive in their haphazard approach and at worst predatory in nature, leveraging the excitement of the KS concept to intice people to throw their money away (there are a lot of parallels to the home shopping network experience).

Taking into consideration that not all small game publishers (or individuals) can deliver a polished multi-media experience for their campaign (in other words, less than polished doesn't mean unprofessional), here's some things about Kickstarter that are not appealing to me and potential solutions:

1. Bait & Switch Funding Goals - Even with a vague idea of production costs, I see a number of projects that have listed funding levels that are too low, allowing the campaign owner to easily hit their target and take the money. Then they add new tiers of funding to keep driving for a additional money. What I find really interesting is that there are sometime references to the additional funds "allowing for better quality components" like better paper/card stock for card games. There's actually a podcast interview where the KS campaign ower admits the initial funding level isn't enough to produce a good quality product and that, once the initial funding level is achieved, they'll add new funding goals to be able to produce better (expected) quality. It isn't hard to read between the lines and realize the initial funding level wasn't adequate to produce a good initial run (or hit a break even point) and that the real funding goal is even higher than advertised.
* A KS campaign should be planned for success and the fund raising system shouldn't be gamed in an ongoing process. State your goals, create tiers, and don't put backers (I prefer "investors") at risk with low amounts so you can take their money. Don't "reboot" your campaign with new goals or information once it has started.
* If you are only looking for $500, $1000 or even $5000 to get your game funded, go borrow from someone and bypass KS. Those amounts aren't adequate to publish anything other than (maybe) a good prototype and backers should look at low thresholds as a red flag. This makes me feel that the KS campaign owner a) hasn't invested in themselves, b) doesn't know what it will cost to produce a quality product, or c) intends to switch funding goals once people have their pledges locked in (yes, I do believe some people are in this for a one-off money grab).
* If funding levels exceed goals, there's more people who will get the game and adding some bonuses for success are great. It shouldn't be acceptable to seek funding for "game A" and then campaign for extra funds for a "future development" or "game B." Sart another KS campaign for the next game. Yes, take a little profit for your efforts, intellexctual property contribution, and for running a successful campaign.

2. Have a Business Plan - There's a number of good ideas on KS, but a good idea isn't enough. There needs to be some confidence that the campaign owner has some semblance of a business plan to produce a playable game with acceptable build quality. Sample artwork is fine, but there really needs to be some evidence of a complete game that has been fully prototyped and reasonably close to production ready (at least a plan to take it into production). An understanding of production costs, how/where something will be produced, and timelines need to be part of setting funding levels. Full disclosure of these elements doesn't need to provided to investors, but there must be some plan in place. I don't believe Kickstarter is about funding game research and development or a tool to guage market interest (testing the waters to see if something will be a success). Don't be naive about the status of your product because you will ultimately have customers to satisfy. KS is about attracting investors who are also customers in the end.

3. Kickstarter is Not an E-tailer - Sometimes the KS campaigns look and feel like the next generation of info-mercials, but without product that immediately ships because it needs to be manufactured. If you want to deliver your market pitch, take orders (or, in this case, pre-orders), and want a convenient way to process a financial transaction, there are other venues for to use. For example, there are so many zombie-themed card game varients out there, that many of them just feel like oportunistic cash grabs - especially when combined with other points on this list.

And talking about card games, why isn't there a good print-on-demand service for these types of games? That would make sense and be a better option for an entire type of game centered around card playing mechanisms. Heck, it would make a "living card game" model and card game expansions very accessible while setting up a sustaining business model for desirable product. Arguably, there shouldn't be a need to kick-start card games (feel free to disagree, I said "arguably" and am a big advocate of having a business plan which makes POD a great option - go focus on marketing for success).

By the way, why isn't there a mechanism to pull funding commitment if the KS campaign changes mid-stream? I am not aware of that option and that's a flaw in the process.
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Jeroen
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CleverMojo wrote:
[...]but for small companies like CMG (and probably DiceHateMe, and Tastey Minstrel, and Indie Boards & Cards), Kickstarter is the only way it's going to work out financially.


Nonsense. Many, many game companies, if not all, started out small and without the "benefits" of an almost riskfree moneygrab like Kickstarter provides, including some you mentioned.

It works because boardgame buyers are relatively well-off and always on the lookout for the next best thing. Which, to me, still smells like pushing drugs to addicts, who have to pay upfront, without ANY guarantee of what the final product will actually be.
 
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Chris Berger
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abeckmann wrote:
By the way, why isn't there a mechanism to pull funding commitment if the KS campaign changes mid-stream? I am not aware of that option and that's a flaw in the process.


There is. You can manage your pledge at anytime until the campaign is successful. Do you have an example of a campaign that "changed mid-stream"? I mean, other than to add additional benefits?
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Trent Hamm
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jvdv wrote:
Nonsense. Many, many game companies, if not all, started out small and without the "benefits" of an almost riskfree moneygrab like Kickstarter provides, including some you mentioned.


Those other companies started off with capital. Kickstarter makes it possible to get a game made and sold without that initial capital.

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Samuel Muscat
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jvdv wrote:

I understand that it's a risky business, boardgame publishing, in that you have to put forward capital without knowing if you will recoup or not, let alone make a profit. However, ALL boardgame publishers that made this hobby what it is today, started and flourished without the benefits of a Kickstarter-like option. They met with success and failure, in some cases in equal measure, before establishing themselves as staples of the industry.


Appeal to tradition. Just because publishers got by without it before doesn't mean it's a bad or unwelcome thing.

Quote:
Kickstarter boardgame projects feel to me like pushers providing drugs to the masses. The thing is, in general, boardgame players and purchasers come from the more fortunate classes of society, with discretionary income to spend. And, I think we want to have that ultimate boardgame "hit", something that comes close or even emulates the initial wonder and infatuation when introduced to the hobby. Also, it may feel like being part of an exclusive club, members of which have the privilege to be part of a community that made a boardgame happen.


I'm afraid that's just the nature of capitalism. People try to sell stuff to people who can afford it.


Cyborgsgaming wrote:
I'd rather see just 10 new good games released in a year than 1000 new games of which only 10 of them are any good.


Competition is good for any industry. Look at the film industry - the market share is owned entirely by a few big Hollywood corporations. The 'little guys' of the film industry find it very difficult to get their films out there, which means that Hollywood can keep putting out sequels, crap exploitation films and all sorts of garbage (mixed in with good films, of course) and people will still buy it.

The fact that anyone can get a game out there with Kickstarter means that bigger game publishers will have to make sure they stay right on top of their game (so to speak), or lose their reputation and customers. That's a good thing! The big companies must stay ahead of the crowd and deliver us the best products they can.
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