Scent of a Gamer

From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.

10 years of crowdfunding

The creators of the crowdfunding website Kickstarter didn’t set out to revolutionise tabletop games production. Their ‘creative’ focus was more in other areas – theatre, film, music.

However the site which allows anyone to come up with whatever project they want soon attracted its share of tabletop games projects. A number of popular games today simply wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Kickstarter, including Gloomhaven, Zombicide and more.

Sub Terra, indie board game funded on Kickstarter

Traditional production methods force a company or individual to take all the financial risk up front, paying for production and distribution of a game that may or may not sell. There’s no way of knowing until it gets within reach of the end user. It’s not surprising so few games are produced this way, even now.

Crowdfunding flips this on its head. If you can find your customer base they will fund your production costs up front, allowing games that can find an audience early to exist.

Box contents of Kingdom Death

As I write this several tabletop projects are in Kickstarter’s top 10 all-time funded projects, including the dark and grim Kingdom Death and the light and silly Exploding Kittens. Plenty of other tabletop projects between these two extremes have flourished on Kickstarter.

When I look at my own history, I’m a light backer of products, being aware that while this model allows more games to be produced, it does so by throwing the financial risk on the end user (i.e. you and me). If the project fails to deliver we spent our money but we get nothing.

Secret Weapon’s tablescape tiles, funded on Kickstarter

I’ve been fortunate in that all 12 of the projects I’ve backed since Bones I in 2012 have been successfully delivered. According to Kickstarter around 9% of their projects fail to deliver, so I’m beating those odds as of now.

It’s not just board games, but miniatures, role-playing games, accessories and more which get funded. While some retailers grumble about this new competition, it’s a fact that games funded on Kickstarter have gone on to become top sellers at retail too. Crowdfunding is making the gaming pie bigger for everyone.

Kickstarter’s creators may not have thought of tabletop gaming when they started out, but the landscape has changed hugely in the past decade. The variety and choice of games on offer is huge, but still, caveat emptor backer.

12 comments on “10 years of crowdfunding

  1. Bookstooge
    May 5, 2019

    thankfully, all the book kickstarter projects I’ve backed have all come through. Of course, the one indie publishing site that was supposed to deliver some special edition Grimnoir editions by Correia hasn’t come through and I’m out some pretty big money because of them. I’m pretty bitter because Correia himself promoted them, bleeding Vault Books!

    Really glad you’ve beat the odds so far though. I’m also glad tabletop has found a way to make things happen with a much better success rate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      May 5, 2019

      Apparently tabletop is one of the more successful categories, both in funding and in delivery success.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. imperialrebelork
    May 5, 2019

    Interesting read. So, let me get this right, if the product/game fails to lunch you don’t get your money back at all? 9% is low risk though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      May 5, 2019

      That’s right. You’re basically giving a pre-production order, usually in exchange for a discount against the final price. But you don’t get your money back if they fail to deliver because it’s not technically an order.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Azazel
    May 5, 2019

    I’ve had enough fails (RTT, SDE, more), partial fails, one rip-off (Empress Miniatures never sent me my stuff and then refused to answer subsequent correspondence) and enough promise-the-world, deliver garbage projects that I rarely back anything anymore, unless it’s coming from someone with a proven track record and also offers excellent value.

    After all, saving a few bob off something that promises delivery in 8-12 months but probably won’t until 16-24-36 doesn’t stack up all that well towards the immediate use of my money.

    Quite a few people bitch about the bigger players like CMON taking all of the KS money that “should” go to smaller creators, but they don’t seem to take into account that it’s not the kind of zero-sum game that X number of dollars WILL go to KS projects. They’re competing with GW, WotC, FFG, Videogames, Marvel, dinner and a movie, etc for those same entertainment dollars. It’s not “KS money”.

    Smaller creators (as a whole) unfortunate habit of over-promising and under-delivering have (generally) been what’s hurt them as a collective more than CMON offering a bucket of PVC miniatures for cheap.

    There are still some gems, but they feel rarer these days. Or maybe that’s also because of the giant stack of boardgames I haven’t played yet…

    Do I sound embittered, cynical, jaded? Funny ’bout that. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      May 6, 2019

      I think another issue is that as Kickstarter matures as a platform, the bar gets higher for projects seeking funding, and a lot of the amateur attempts just don’t cut it any more.
      I’m always looking at track record too, and it seems there are plenty of projects where in the description you can tell they haven’t really thought things through.

      Like

      • Azazel
        May 9, 2019

        I guess it’s the different between “Amateur” and “Amateurish” for me. There are still quite a few projects on the lower end of the flashy scale that manage to do their work, and do it well, despite the low-end appearance of their pitch.
        You are certainly right on the read-throughs, and luckily many of us are becoming much more attuned to seeing through those…

        Like

  4. patrickwr
    May 7, 2019

    I backed a few Kickstarters in the early days of the craze, dodged a few more bullets, and the best I can say is that I haven’t “lost” money. The most typical experience for me is that I back a game that blows through it’s initial deadlines, then finally delivers so late that I genuinely have to pause and wonder where the heck this thing came from when I get it in the mail 18+ months after the campaign ends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      May 7, 2019

      Yes, a lot of delivery dates seem like more a product of hope and guesswork than experience. I was impressed when Reaper put an 18-month delivery date on their last Bones project, but it still slipped 3 months even from there and is only delivering now.

      Like

  5. backtothehammer
    May 10, 2019

    I don’t mind the delays too much and tend to factor in +6 months when I back anything. Sadly I’m used to dealing with projects that overrun in both time and money with work. It’s a malaise that isn’t unique to KS. The difference for me is I can deal with the delay on KS even if it is my own money.
    I’ve also been lucky with them. I’ve had one fail to fund but as it was a promotional campaign (something about reboxing) and the models existed, the company honoured the pledges and you could buy them from the website at the KS price.

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      May 12, 2019

      Backing Kickstarters has definitely raised my appreciation for good project management skills, since almost all delays I’ve experienced have been due to basic failures to look ahead and think things through from beginning to end.

      Liked by 1 person

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