There are many factors and types of crowd funded projects to account for. I have seen the entire concept lumped into one big group, but it really should be split up when having discussions.
I apologize beforehand for the huge post and for bring this up again, but it has already been brought up and my post seemed ridiculously large to be a response to a current post.
Also, I wanted to make sure people starting clearly talking about what types of crowd funding/kickstarter projects they were referring to when they discuss the topic. (The most recent post being http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/883792/crowd-funding made me finally decide to respond)
A) Projects by new/unknown designer/startup company
B) Projects by established company/designer for a game they believe lacks the support for a typical release
C) Projects by established company/designer for a game they are confident will do well
Instead of making a blanket statement about crowd funding, what type is being referred to should first be referenced first since many of the blanket statements I hear about it do not apply to all
Factors to account for (in no particular order):
1) Risk to buyer
2) Risk to FLGS
3) Support for new designers
4) Support for riskier projects for established companies/designers
5) Future buyers
Now, I think most people debating, typically are debate the most over type B and C projects. But, let's discuss the easier one first then.
Type A factor analysis:
1) Negatives: (see Ways to lessen risk below for ways to reduce or such risks)
Largest risk to buyer. If they have no other productions under their belt, you have the highest chance of a failed product. To add to this, less people tend to support these types so you will get less in rewards (less upgraded components, etc).
The game could easily have rushed through playtesting and manual writing. The pressure is there so that hopefully one day the same designer can use crowd funding for another game, but when running behind this is the easiest to miss....especially adequately testing overfunding rewards that were added later.
Lastly, who knows if the designer/new startup will continue to support the game after, depending on its success. The buyer may not have the option of getting replacement cards, etc (note that this can happen to discontinued products of major companies, but this is one situation that you may never have support even within half a year of getting it). A large success for the game will make this less likely to happen.
(Should be mentioned that any new designer would be trying as hard as possible to make sure none of these occur; this could be their only shot and it is something they will no doubt be passionate about....there are tons of ways to see if they are ready for it - see below)
Access to a game you would have never gotten. Possibility of direct input into the development of a game. Has the ability to let established companies know what types of games the industry lacks.
Ways to lessen risk:
A) Search online to see if the person/company involved has a good reputation or has been shady in the past. Quite rare for anything to come up....but it's not unheard of.
B) Read/ask if they have gotten solid estimates on production costs.
C) Read/ask the amount of playtesting that has been done.
D) Read/ask about support the game will receive once production is complete.
If these are all done, a buyer will not have much more risk than they would buying a new release. (Can never beat an already released game that you can try out in your FLGS of course....well unless it has a print-on-demand version of you to try, but that's uncommon)
A large amount of people would have already bought the game so an FLGS won't be able to ride as high of a new release rush as usual for that game. Depending on the type of game, it may even not sell at all (the more of a niche product it is, the worse it will sell typically). Additionally, unless the store buys the product during its crowd funding, the other copies won't have some of the features that the crowd funded one did. For a small store to have its money held up for a potentially long time during the initial crowd funding is not feasible, and even that estimated period could likely be exceeded (many projects are delivered late). Adding in that extra risk to an already risky business is a decision requiring a lot of thought. With so many games to read up on from major/minor producers, reading up on each crowd funded project to adequately determine the risk may not be feasible.
Especially these days, money is tight for many people so some people can only afford a couple or few major games per year. If some of those games are bought through crowd funding, they may skip that other game that was just as good at the FLGS. Getting that crowd funded game first could have been more important so as not to miss out of the exclusives, even though the other game at the store you wanted just as much if not more.
Also one could say that if the game was that good, it may have been able to eventually be picked up by a major company or investors so that the traditional method of distribution could be used. (Item 3 discusses the counter of this)
The FLGS has access to sell a game that would have never been made. If it does have broad appeal, it could sell well for years and years to come.
It forces the designer to be involved in the business/production/delivery issues, unless they have additional support. I am assuming that this is fine though since the designer either created the project or agreed to be part of it.
Designers have a chance to make games they never dreamed would get produced. New companies may even be formed if the project is successful enough. New designers, new companies, new idea makers = new games and innovation possible.
4) N/A for new designer
Future buyers of the game may get discouraged if they know about the crowd funded release they missed. If they just got a better price, that'd be one thing, but typically they also got exclusive items.
I will describe my own personal opinion on this one.
There are many games that had kickstarters that I will not buy even if they are the best game out there because they added significant amounts of promotional material (that either include unique characters, monsters/bad guys, features, or stories) that I will have no way of getting (other than paying 4 times the original cost via ebay).
When it comes to games with a cost above $40, it puts the game in another category for me. I am buying the game either because I already played and loved it or I have enough knowledge of it and the designer/producer to be confident that I will like it. That also means that I would like to get most expansions and promos for those games (when it's a board game).
Basically, it has become a sort of collection that I wish to keep as complete as possible.
Also, buying promos given at conventions (that I can't always attend) is easier than buying promos for kickstarters that have already completed. The only people who sell kickstarter promos did so because they bought extra copies, specifically so they could mark it up and sell it or because the game was not their type and they sell it. Mostly, people got the game because they want it and the promos; there is no reason to sell them. There are more promos handed out at conventions like gencon/spiel and to a large variety of people, including FLGS stores so it is easier to acquire them.
Anyway, I doubt I am alone in feeling this way, whether people view it as too extreme or not. With this in mind, if I buy a game that was a kickstarter in my FLGS, I am faced with a lose-lose situation:
a) I love the game, and regret that I hadn't heard about the kickstarter to be able to get as much as I can for the game (as I have really not been kept track of it until pretty recently)
b) I feel mediocre about the game (which means I really shouldn't have bought it in the first place)
If someone goes to a store and sees a new cool looking game, then goes online (BGG, etc) to read about the game/reviews and finds out that it had a crowd funded release with tons of exclusive features/characters/etc that they can never get, will they still feel great about buying it?
Honestly, I think it depends on how many are like me. And, I think the more of a niche game it is (more off of mainstream it is) the more you will find people like me that want to buy everything there is for that game they love.
(Note, that I also understand why they add in exclusive items; games with exclusive items have done better than ones that have not; I just wish that there was another way to get people to fund a project without scaring them into it with worries that they will never get those items without trying)
The future buyer has a chance to buy a game they would have never otherwise gotten a chance to buy.
Since my post is already so long, I am going to hold off on analyzing types B and C, but I wanted to have a post that was comprehensive about the topic since it has been debated at length in various forums.
Perhaps I will add to this post later to state the others, but for now I will just briefly summarize (note that comparisons are compared to Type A unless stated otherwise).
Types B/C have less risk for buyer in many ways, less risk for FLGS (but still much higher risk than a normal release), still have good support for designer, have good support for riskier projects, and still has the same positives/negatives for future buyers.
Note that even with less risk for FLGS than type A, type C is the most detrimental to an FLGS. Type C basically uses crowd funding as a pre-order system with extra perks for buyers. It completely cuts out distributors and FLGS. I am definitely not ok with type C, and hope that companies I love do not start using it to produce games that they know would be hits, such as expansions for games that have other expansions that are already best sellers and games they are quite positive will be hits.
I just don't want to see all the FLGS close shop, and I lose the best outlet I have to see and even try new games. I am not perfect; I do buy some of my games online, but I always try to balance that with game purchases at my FLGS to make sure they stick around. But, if I can't get all the features from my FLGS and I can on a crowd funded release, I wouldn't want the one at the FLGS.
Anyway, very few kickstarters have used type C and I just hope that more do not. I am not giving type B a pass, but it would need more debate.
I also want to close on a more positive note and state that I am very happy that there is this outlet for type A projects. There are far fewer negatives than positives, and the negatives can be lessened for an informed buyer. I am not a fan of exclusive/highly limited content, but I rather have to deal with that than not having the game made at all.
(please note that I personally have not weighed type B fully yet so do not think that anything here has implied a determination; that ones tougher to decide)