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Subject: The real truth about Kickstarter rss

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Ethan Nicholas
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There has been a lot of noise on the 'Net lately (http://fortressat.com/blogs-by-members/3386, The Truth About Kickstarter Finally Comes Out, Analysis Of Some Negative Ratings Of KS Games - do we have a bubble waiting to pop?, lots more) about how Kickstarter is a bad, bad website and will sneak into your house at night and ruin all of your games. The basic thrust of the argument is that by removing the traditional publishers from the loop and putting the funding decision directly in the hands of consumers, we are bypassing the playtest phase and funding games based only on how flashy their Kickstarter page is. With no rules or reviews to read, and no guarantee that quality design or playtesting has occurred, consumers are inevitably going to make terrible decisions, and companies are going to take advantage of that by designing flashy games which are good at getting funded but bad at being games.

There's just one problem with this argument: it willfully and completely ignores reality. The people ranting about this haven't actually done any research; they haven't looked at the output of traditional publishers

The core argument is that publishers function as a filter, keeping bad games from reaching the marketplace, so let's analyze that. Honestly, I find it surprising that anyone has big enough balls to make a case like this, because it's so obviously untrue. Big-name publishers can and do release games that are just frankly terrible. I'm sure you can all think of examples, but let's be a bit more objective about it and quantify it.

I arbitrarily selected 2008 to study, as it is pre-Kickstarter but recent. I then selected 6 as the boundary rating -- games above 6 are "good" games, and games below 6 are "bad" games. Certainly I think everyone would agree that if Kickstarter games were averaging ratings of, say, 5.5, that would be a clear sign that Kickstarter games were pretty terrible on average, so I think 6 is a reasonable boundary. I'm also restricting this to games with at least 20 ratings. So let's look at 2008 on the 'Geek.

Good Traditional Publisher Games
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/search/boardgame/page/1?advsear...

544 "good games", not bad at all! Of course, we're counting things like Munchkin Chibithulhu Plush and Scrabble Me as "good" games from traditional publishers, so keep in mind that our standards are pretty low here. If Munchkin Chibithulhu Plush counts as a good game, surely there couldn't have been anything worse than that, right? Let's see.

Bad Traditional Publisher Games
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/search/boardgame/page/1?advsear...

144 games ranked 6 or lower, or 21% of the whole. That means that 21% of the games released in 2008 garnered lower ratings than Ruby Gloom: The Game. Hmm. For the supposed Gatekeepers of Quality, the guys ensuring that their output is better than the crap you'd find on Kickstarter, you'd expect better than 1 terrible game out of every 5, wouldn't you? That's not a very good ratio.

Now, I know someone is going to take issue with this, saying that most of these terrible games are by small publishers, and you really shouldn't be counting them. Instead we should just look at the major publishers, as they are going to be more effective quality filters. And you know what? That may well be right -- big publishers certainly aren't immune to releasing crap, but I'm willing to accept that their averages are better. But if we are only looking at games by big publishers, we wouldn't be looking at Kickstarter at all. If you're going to lament the quality of the small publishers on the Kickstarter side of things, it would be grossly unfair to give the small publishers on the non-Kickstarter side of things a pass.

With that out of the way, it's Kickstarter's turn. I'll be using the Boardgame Kickstarter Projects list as my source, with the same criteria as above (20 ratings, 6 and above counts as "good"). Note that I do not view unsuccessful projects as a strike against Kickstarter, any more than I view projects which traditional publishers chose not to publish as a strike against them -- the fact that publishers choose not to publish some things is, after all, the whole thrust of the argument that traditional publishers should be better. Also note that some of these are reprints of games which were already successful prior to Kickstarter, but of course some of the traditional publishers' games are reprints of previously-successful games, so I believe it balances out.

Here are the KickStarter games which have gotten 20 ratings so far:

Good Kickstarter Games
Triumvirate - 6.91
Alien Frontiers - 7.55
Eminent Domain - 7.29
Mob Ties: The Board Game - 7.32
Vampire Werewolf Fairies - 6.50
1955: The War of Espionage - 6.90
VOR: The Maelstrom - 6.69
Cards Against Humanity - 7.58
Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 - 7.47
Rolling Freight - 7.22
Montage - 7.5
The Road to Canterbury - 7.09
Dream Factory - 7.18
Venture Forth - 6.60
Dark Horse - 6.97
Uncle Chestnut's Table Gype - 6.86
Kingdom of Solomon - 7.10
Mirror, Mirror - 6.37
BattleCON: War of Indines - 8.21
Dragon Valley - 7.25
The Manhattan Project - 7.58
Flash Point: Fire Rescue - 7.54
Fealty - 7.29
Glory to Rome - 7.56
Oh My God! There's an Axe in my Head! - 8.10
Flapjacks and Sasquatches - 6.43
Carnival - 6.08
Eaten by Zombies - 6.38
Get Bit! - 6.32
Start Player - 6.64
Sunrise City - 7.02
Toc Toc Woodman - 6.50
Super Showdown - 6.71
Empires of the Void - 7.32
Castle Dash - 6.17
World Conquerors - 6.92
Forceball - 7.03
Zong Shi - 7.03
Sentinels of the Multiverse: Rook City - 8.06
D-Day Dice - 7.34
Pizza Theory - 6.75
The Crow and the Pitcher - 6.31
Sanitarium - 6.40
Lemonade Stand - 6.72
Island Fortress - 7.76
Caveman Curling - 6.80
Omen: A Reign of War - 7.76
Passing Shot - 7.51
For the Win - 6.83
Skittykitts - 6.62
WeyKick - 6.91
Farmageddon - 7.22
Fleet - 7.66


Bad Kickstarter Games
Kamakura - 4.74 (Bad)
Creatures: The Card Game - 5.86
Miskatonic School for Girls - 5.71
Startup Fever - 5.68
White Elephant - 5.91

...only five of them?

There we go: 53 good games, 5 bad ones, or only 9% bad games. Or, in other words, fewer than half as many bad games as the traditional publishers put out.

So, I think the answer is fairly self-evident. The sky is not falling. Kickstarter is not (yet, at least) causing designers to dump piles of untested crap on unsuspecting consumers -- most of the funded games are actually pretty good. I'm sure that at some point in the future a hugely hyped Kickstarter game will end up being a turd, and people will point to that and claim that the sky is falling and that Kickstarter is ruining everything... and I will fire right back by pointing to various stinkers released by the traditional publishers, because every prolific publisher puts out really terrible games from time to time. I for one am happy to have the additional control over the process that Kickstarter brings to the table.
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GeekInsight
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This is a really interesting analysis of Kickstarter vs. traditional publishers. Thanks for doing it!
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J C Lawrence
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Seth Godin on why some kickstart campaigns fail.
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J.L. Robert
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Do you want to know the REAL truth about Kickstarter?

I didn't think of it first! cry

Actually, those numbers point out to me that Kickstarter, for the most part, churns out fair to middling quality games that I would normally hem and haw about buying if I ever saw them on a store's shelves. Nothing that blows me away, or that would create a "must buy" mentality in me.

It's great for those with deep pockets and indiscriminate buying habits. But discerning shoppers simply have more choices for their buying dollars, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on one's factors for purchasing.
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Sky Zero
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Define "GOOD"...


It's all arbitrary. If people want to throw away money on games with little play testing and attractive art, then so be it. I'm quite enjoying the 10's of thousands of widely available games that I can and do play. My take is that there is a devout "cult of the new" that HAVE TO HAVE TEH NEWEST, SHINIEST GAMES RELEASED everyday and these are the ones funding alot of this stuff. If a truly great game gets released through kickstarter, it will find its way to the masses. Until then, I'll go back to playing all the wonderful games I already have in my collection that I've yet to really explore (stuff like Caylus, which I quite enjoyed beating up on my wife at yesterday rocking the VP royal favor track).


Life's too short, play games you enjoy and ignore the rest.....now back to Dominant Species
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J D
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As much as I hate the anti-kickstarters beating a dead horse in every single Kickstarter thread, there are loads more factors to consider.

#1 I bet the emotional attachment from "being involved" in the release causes people to give higher ratings to those games.

#2 The sample is very small.

#3 You get my thumbs up anyways for making the haters froth at the mouth and getting them to pour over ratings all weekend.
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Tarjei Aasen
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Ratings only show how much people would like to play the game and the Kickstarter games that get funded are the ones people would like to play.

So that doesn't really tell us much.
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Rishi A.
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skyzero wrote:
It's all arbitrary. If people want to throw away money on games with little play testing and attractive art, then so be it.


I agree that a measure of quality is arbitrary, but I disagree that games on Kickstarter necessarily have little play testing. Yes, there are games that fall in this category, but there are a lot of well-developed games that come through Kickstarter as well. The frustration of the original poster is that a lot of people take the worst examples from Kickstarter and use those as evidence of why the entire system is a failure.

I think the real truth about Kickstarter is that it's too new to evaluate. We just don't have enough data points to realize whether or not the concept can sustain itself in the long run. People sure enjoy arguing about it though.

Quote:
If a truly great game gets released through kickstarter, it will find its way to the masses.


Probably true.

Quote:
Life's too short. Play good games and ignore the rest.


Agreed. Life is short. I think I'll focus more on the "ignoring" part, though and not criticize things that other people like.
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Brad Talton
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BattleCON - 8.21

I was overjoyed to learn that my game was the top ranked kickstarted game in the list. Is this list exhaustive for all kickstarted games, or just a small sample?

Thanks for putting this together. I think it really does bring out the fact that new ideas and new designers are capable of keeping up with big publishers, AND that consumers are capable of deciding for themselves what they want to play.
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Patrick Korner
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Interesting analysis, thanks for crunching the numbers so I don't have to.

I can't help but try and poke some holes in your argument, though, sorry.

1) Several of the 'good' games you list as KS games are in fact traditionally published games that are now being rereleased via KS. I submit those should be set aside from the discussion.

2) A 6 rating is a pretty low threshold for 'goodness'. For me, anything less than a 6.5 is automatically ignored, and a 7+ is required for me to consider purchasing the game. There is actually more to it than that (I tend to prefer games that are truly special, since the vast majority of new releases are unlikely to dislodge a similarly-weighted and themed incumbent), but I suspect you'll be hard-pressed to find a majority of geeks willing to say a 6-rated game doesn't count as mediocre. 7 (or even 7.5 if you're looking for true quality) is a better measure of worth. Yes, that means there's that much more crap being churned out by the traditional publishers too. I don't disagree and cheerfully ignore about 95% of new releases nowadays.

3) KS games have a built-in hype effect driven by a heady combination of Early Adopter Syndrome and Buyer's Adoration (hey, maybe those terms will catch on as BGG neologisms!) which tends to skew the ratings higher. However, since the Fanboy Effect has similar results on traditionally-published games, I'll ignore it for now.

4) I think it's important to distinguish between KS games published by 'traditional' publishers who happen to be using KS (such as D-Day Dice) and those published by companies I'll call One-Game-Publishers. Much higher risk of crap among the latter group. I'll concede that once in a while you find a diamond in the rough, but most of the time those games got self-published for a reason...

Anyhow, my 0.02. I'm still leery of KS but admit to having been seduced a few times. For the record, I backed Rolling Freight, D-Day Dice and Ogre.

pk
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GeekInsight
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PatK wrote:

1) Several of the 'good' games you list as KS games are in fact traditionally published games that are now being rereleased via KS. I submit those should be set aside from the discussion.


I disagree. Otherwise we'd have to discount traditionally published games released via traditional channels. If anything, the fact that both Indies and Big Publishers use Kickstarter makes the comparison more apt. Indies and Big Publishers operate outside of Kickstarter, so if they both operate inside of Kickstarter, we are more likely to compare apples to apples.

PatK wrote:

2) A 6 rating is a pretty low threshold for 'goodness'. For me, anything less than a 6.5 is automatically ignored, and a 7+ is required for me to consider purchasing the game. There is actually more to it than that (I tend to prefer games that are truly special, since the vast majority of new releases are unlikely to dislodge a similarly-weighted and themed incumbent), but I suspect you'll be hard-pressed to find a majority of geeks willing to say a 6-rated game doesn't count as mediocre. 7 (or even 7.5 if you're looking for true quality) is a better measure of worth. Yes, that means there's that much more crap being churned out by the traditional publishers too. I don't disagree and cheerfully ignore about 95% of new releases nowadays.


While I might quibble with the exact numbers, I completely agree with your main point. If something is a 6 to 6.5 I tend to avoid it. Unless it hits a niche area that I really love, it's generally not worth my time.

Of course, if 21% of non-Kickstarter games don't hit 6.0, then I have to think the percentage will be that much higher when we increase the bar to 6.5 and 7.0. So I'm not sure this will make much of a difference.

PatK wrote:

3) KS games have a built-in hype effect driven by a heady combination of Early Adopter Syndrome and Buyer's Adoration (hey, maybe those terms will catch on as BGG neologisms!) which tends to skew the ratings higher. However, since the Fanboy Effect has similar results on traditionally-published games, I'll ignore it for now.


I think there is just as much of this (and Anti-Buyer's Adoration) with traditional games. You can look at the hype that followed 7 Wonders or, more recently, Eclipse. Certainly the Cult of the New has it's idols among both Kickstarter and non-Kickstarter games. I think that this is a wash.

PatK wrote:

4) I think it's important to distinguish between KS games published by 'traditional' publishers who happen to be using KS (such as D-Day Dice) and those published by companies I'll call One-Game-Publishers. Much higher risk of crap among the latter group. I'll concede that once in a while you find a diamond in the rough, but most of the time those games got self-published for a reason...


You're right, but that's the same outside of Kickstarter. There is a much higher risk of "crap" if you go with some no-name publisher than if you go with a more established company with a track record. So, again, that's a wash.

I think the biggest criticism of the above data is sample size. Comparing a sample of 58 games to the 688 games from 2008 can easily skew the data one way or the other.

And, if anything, I think Kickstarter tends to squelch the worst of the bunch. A guy who wants to publish his terrible game can now look for support on Kickstarter. When his game doesn't fund, maybe he realizes it won't be the next Eclipse and it never gets published at all. Whereas with the traditional method, he publishes first, then learns his lesson. Looked at that way, Kickstarter may actually help discourage the worst games from being published.
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Larry Kruger
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I would venture a guess that many KS games have more playtesting than traditional publishers, and frankly I would trust my fellow gamers to evaluate a game more than the majority of publishers.

I am a fan of self-publishing, be it books, games, comics, music, etc..., and the internet makes this so much easier to do and do quickly if you kept an eye on D-Day Dice.
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Sky Zero
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LarryKruger wrote:
I would venture a guess that many KS games have more playtesting than traditional publishers, and frankly I would trust my fellow gamers to evaluate a game more than the majority of publishers.

I am a fan of self-publishing, be it books, games, comics, music, etc..., and the internet makes this so much easier to do and do quickly if you kept an eye on D-Day Dice.


Although I can already hear the tomatoes being thrown at FFG with this comment...."most publishers play-test and publish games for a living, not as a part-time hobby they're tinkering with on evenings and weekends with friends." Companies like FFG, Queen, Days of Wonder, etc... KNOW how to play-test, know how to break games and know what it takes to vet out loopholes in mechanics. Joe weekend warrior game designer just doesn't have that level of experience or history to analyze and ensure a mechanic is solid (unless they're just copying someone else's and re-theming it as seems to be the case more and more these days).
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Ted Dickinson
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A far more statistically sound way to go about making this same argument would ignore the entire "what rating = good" issue and simply do an independent-samples t-test comparing the mean rating for the 2008 games with the mean rating for the kickstarted games.

Unfortunately, I'm waiting on my university to get me a license renewal code for SPSS or I'd do this myself.

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Patrick Korner
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TheFlatline wrote:
PatK wrote:

2) A 6 rating is a pretty low threshold for 'goodness'. For me, anything less than a 6.5 is automatically ignored, and a 7+ is required for me to consider purchasing the game. There is actually more to it than that (I tend to prefer games that are truly special, since the vast majority of new releases are unlikely to dislodge a similarly-weighted and themed incumbent), but I suspect you'll be hard-pressed to find a majority of geeks willing to say a 6-rated game doesn't count as mediocre. 7 (or even 7.5 if you're looking for true quality) is a better measure of worth. Yes, that means there's that much more crap being churned out by the traditional publishers too. I don't disagree and cheerfully ignore about 95% of new releases nowadays.


Which means you're probably ignoring perfectly good games that have a lower rating because they're niche.

5 usually tells me "there's something wrong with the game, but it *might* be fun still" while 6 usually means "limited appeal" to me and requires research before purchasing.

Then again, the scale rating on BGG is kind of nebulous and vague and meaningless.

PS: You do realize you broke your own rules with Ogre right?


Oh, I have quite a few games in my collection (feel free to browse) that rate lower than 7, so it's not a hard and fast rule. But probably 90% of the time I've tried one, the lower-rated games haven't wowed me enough to warrant purchase (or retention when it comes to games I bought on a whim, usually at Essen where it's easy to fall prey to the shiny baubles...)

In my effort at avoiding a massive post, I glossed over quite a bit, including the facts that ratings for 'niche' titles don't often mean as much as mainstream titles because they don't garner as many ratings, that ratings distribution is almost more important to me than absolute value, that geekbuddy ratings are generally the only ones I really pay close attention to, etc. etc. This is a KS thread and I was trying to avoid a derail.

I freely admit to breaking the rule on occasion. Ogre is a good example. Why did I buy Ogre? Honestly, not sure. It's not the kind of game my group plays a ton, it's not likely to have aged all that well, and it's hella expensive. I can only chalk it up to whimsy, I guess!

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William Boykin
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Measuring the 'quality' of a game based solely upon reviews on BGG is silly.

What matters is how the game sells. Do games financed by Kickstarter get reprinted, due to a demand for those games?

These kickstarter threads, pro and con, seem to feel as if Kickstarter patrons are ONLY people who also post a lot on BGG. That is a dubious assertion at best. BGG is a very TINY part of the overall culture of boardgames- many people who play and buy boardgames don't either know about BGG, or care what 'big' BGG'ers have to say about a game. They buy what they like, play what they like, and don't talk about it here.

As a result, using BGG's database on the 'quality' of games vs. what works or doesn't work on Kickstarter is less than useless- it introduces a significant bias.

Darilian
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I just don't understand the culture of having to justify if you do or don't spend your money, and on what, when, and where. If I want to blow my money, then who really gives a fuck? What is anyone's point when piping up about someone else's buying habits?

Don't roll out that weak-sauce argument about being subjugated by some future Lord that is fostered by current Kickstarter supporters, as that slippery slope argument is for suckers.





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Aaron Morgan
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darthhugo wrote:
What is anyone's point when piping up about someone else's buying habits?


They don't approve of your wrongbadfun.
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J J
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wrote:
The core argument is that publishers function as a filter, keeping bad games from reaching the marketplace


I'd like to address this concept, digressing from the whole kickstarter / quality issue.

I've seen it tossed about quite a bit, and the repeated and notably vehement statement of it puzzles me. So I've given it a bit of thought, and come to this conclusion:

This thing about established gatekeepers is simply a form of mental conservatism. It is the way things are and have been, and so must be how things should be. When a new way of doing things is introduced by the internet, it clashes, and is almost automatically attacked simply because it isn't the established way, no matter how good or bad that established way may be. No thought, just reaction.

Now, the thing is that I've come to this conclusion because I have yet to see any reasoned argument given by defenders of established gatekeepers that extends beyond a) tradition, and b) new/different/change is bad, burn the witch. No, really. I've yet to see any fact-based justification for opposing newer and different development channels (plenty of emotive, fear-laced thin-end-of-the-wedge stuff), and more importantly no fact-based defence of the status-quo, just appeals to authority and declarations that non-gatekeepers will let endless rubbish through.

And this last part flies in the face of our experience with other cultural forms, such as music, movies, and books. Sure, you'll get rubbish (it just is not possible not to), but as the OP pointed out (and which this gatekeeper argument implicitly denies - in fact this denial is integral to the whole concept), you get rubbish with established gatekeepers anyway; there just isn't any way to prevent it because a) my rubbish is your marvel, and b) established gatekeeper or not, sometimes commercial concerns over-ride quality control (looking at you, FFG, and the Mansions of Madness fiascos).

And my point to all this? Any time I see someone trot out this gatekeeper idea, I consider them to have Godwinned themselves. It is a baseless appeal to authority via an argument that isn't so much flawed as never properly thought through (and certainly not supported by fact) in the first place. Invoke it and you have feet of clay. Established gatekeeper = you lose the debate in my eyes.
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When I hear the gatekeeper argument, I just laugh as I ponder the many past purchases from major publishers that sucked monkey kong... numerous shitty games from major publishers.

To be fair, many of these were before the 2nd Golden Age of gaming, but there are still plenty of dreck that gets spewed on the masses by major players.

My guess is that some people just don't like change, but many of the other vehement haters may be current-regime hacks that are trying to keep the status quo. Nothing worse than a new distribution chain sprouting up to nibble away at the already thin margins.

May the best designs live the longest.
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Whenever I hear the gatekeeper argument I get my Proton Pack and keep an eye out for giant marshmallows.
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Brian Schroth
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skyzero wrote:
Define "GOOD"...


It's all arbitrary. If people want to throw away money on games with little play testing and attractive art, then so be it.


Little playtesting and attractive art? Yeah! Like Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game, the game where you can tell the economic victory condition is overpowered in 2 plays. Was that piece of shit playtested at all? If only it wasn't Kickstarted, maybe it could have got some playtesting.

Oh, it was published by the biggest BGG-friendly publisher out there. My bad.

You must be talking about A Few Acres of Snow. The game with the broken "Halifax Hammer" strategy that only one of the players can even do! I really wish that piece of Kickstarter garbage had been playtested to work out that broken strategy.

Whoops, that one was traditionally published, too.
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Brian Schroth
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Here's the real reason why people don't like Kickstarter, boiled down past the excuses.

Kickstarter games tend to be expensive compared to buying from discounted online vendors like CSI. However, in return for the expense, Kickstarter backers get some shiny exclusive promos and tend to get an exclusive window of first dibs on the game when it is finally released. On the whole of it, some of us decide these things are not worth the premium (and the risk of project failure) and so we don't back Kickstarter projects.

However, some people do back Kickstarter projects, and they succeed without us! Now there are other people out there, getting a shiny new game with cool promos and exclusive access! And I can't get it! GRRRRRR! So I've got to find a reason, however flimsy, to not like Kickstarter- because I am jealous of the people getting exclusive rewards that I did not feel were worth the premium/risk, but still want.



The OP thinks that people are opposed to Kickstarter because it has bad games. But that's not a legitimate reason- we can all see the simple solution is to not fund any games you think are bad. Then it's not your problem anymore. It really just comes down to jealousy over the rewards.
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tcarter wrote:


Yeah, but I consider that a form of Godwinning as well...
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Derry Salewski
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'All kickstarter games' vs. 'a year where kickstarter wasn't around' doesn't mean a whole lot to me.

Nor does a list of kickstarter games that includes ones that were probably getting published anyway. (or reprints of proven games.)

Kickstarter hate has SEVERAL angles. People complaining about crap getting to the market aren't really arguing against TMG publishing stuff they're going to publish anyway, for example.

And sometimes the argument isn't that bad games will exist, but that bad games will be marketed and pre-sold to people who might not quite be clever enough to not buy them (and presumably they know not to buy things on CSI after reviews . . . So not all the not quite clevers.)

So . . . you're defeating a tiny segment of the criticism with an argument that doesn't quite make complete sense and data that's not complete and kind of not relevant.

(But still probably right . . . )
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