Brent: Kicking Kickstarter

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The last time I graced the BoLS Frontpage was April 1st, when I posted an interview with Brian Niro for Anvil Eight Games, a startup who launched a month-long Kickstarter for its premier offering, Aetherium.

I’m happy to say that solely because of me through grace and hard work, the company met its goal with 9-days to go.  Congratulations!  I’m not a huge board gamer, but I’m going to jump in on this one a bit closer to pay day.

But that’s not why I’m writing.  In the interview, I briefly touched on Kickstarter, particularly a comment he made in a conversation we had pre-article, where he mentioned some companies using Kickstarter ‘cynically.’

Brian from Anvil Eight Games:  That’s a tough one to answer without stirring a kettle of fish.  Let me say simply that, for us, the decision to launch a Kickstarter did not come easily.
*Kickstarter is a wonderful boon.  It has accelerated the prospects for small companies like ours and is, I believe, chiefly responsible for opening that “golden age in gaming” that people discuss here and there.  For companies like us, Kickstarter answers two questions in sequence: 1) Is there an audience for this game?  And 2) can we direct that enthusiasm to help with the practical impediments of building a new world? 
*Kickstarter helps the enthusiasts contribute in a meaningful way.  We genuinely need our supporters to help us get this to your FLGS and on to your table, and that is a very cool feeling to be part of.  I have contributed to a number of Kickstarters in which I really tremendously enjoyed watching the excitement build and participating in the realization of a game. 
*That’s what we hope to accomplish, and this is what makes Kickstarter a good fit for us. I suppose that I simply want to see Kickstarter used in the way it was intended.

See how diplomatic Brian was?  It’s why he’s going to be a successful businessman whereas I just can’t help poking the bear a bit.  He nicely summed up what’s right about crowd funding – and overall, I think it’s a positive.  Still, there is a big downside to Kickstarter…

the companies simply don’t have to deliver!  And Kickstarter has neither a mechanism to insure a prospective project will deliver nor the means to recover monies pledged and paid out due to a successful pledge drive.

Seriously, think about that.  I’m not suggesting you don’t support a Kickstarter you believe in, as I imagine most companies that can fight through to a successful crowd-sourced goal is a company that wants to be around to produce even more products to sale.  Where I’m sure it’s happened is a company that’s made commitments it can’t keep.

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Hard stats are hard to come by.  Kickstarter has a stats page – and I urge you to take a peek – but remember it is self-published; the mantra goes lies, damn lies, and statistics.  As an aside, here’s the figures our community will be interested in:

‘Games’ has a success rate of 35%, being a percentage of projects that will be funded.  It isn’t the highest percentage but actually that makes me all the happier.  It means we’re screening our own!  Also, it is the category that’s brought in the highest amount of money.

We’re a pretty fertile ground to continue farming.  Our community is a sucker for cool models and a good deal!

* * * 

Kickstarter is social networking, not venture capitalism.  You’re helping a company and you will receive a gift of appreciation, but don’t for a moment believe you’re getting back value for value!  If you were, than these games won’t ever see the inside of a store.  I think in most cases it is clear that you would receive the product at less of a markup than you would expect for the final product.

There is nothing at all wrong with that.  It’s business.  The real value for a gamer is the entertainment value, so count me in, Aetherium!

However… have you ever heard the term, “Friends and family first?”  It’s an idea in sales that means basically, a new salesperson might see some success – but what happens after they’ve sold to their friends and family?  Well, ladies and gentlemen, Unicorns and children of all ages, in a very real way our community represents the ‘friends and family.’  We’ve supported and will continue to support quality Kickstarters, be they small startups or large, established companies.

But, just like the friends and family of budding salespersons, will we one day grow disillusioned?

I mean, Mantic has a Kickstarter for just about everything!  Seriously, they do sell products, right?  How much is a Kickstarter just marketing to them?

This is anecdotal so take it how you will.  During the 2012/13 tournament season, I talked to several vendors that were displaying and selling products… but weren’t selling online just yet.  They still had unlocked rewards to finish producing and shipping.  I can’t help but wonder how one would predict costs on that.  If the Kickstarter goals were the least bit unrealistic, then you might have a company saddled with obligation right when it most needs momentum.

Just something to think about.


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I’ve been reading up on Kickstarter for a few weeks, and these are a fairly representative sample of the articles you’ll find.  Frankly, it’s hard to find really good information on the subject.  It’s still very new and the crowd-sourcing is pretty diverse.

https://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/magazine/why-would-you-ever-give-money-through-kickstarter.html?_r=0
http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2012/11/30/kickstarter-dream-maker-or-promise-breaker/
http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2010/11/the-pros-and-cons-of-using-kickstarter-to-fundraise316/
http://mashable.com/2013/04/29/has-kickstarter-lost-its-way/

Still, no doubt many of you are familiar with this topic; given the size of this audience, I expect someone will have had an experience or two to share.  So with that in mind, thoughts?  Comments?  Kickstarter hugs and gropings?

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