The Cautious Kickstarter

I received a status update from a Facebook friend a month ago that really jarred me.  It was a word cautioning against backing Kickstarter projects given the failure of Unsung Story.  This project was a video game based around an all-star cast of devs from around the world who revealed that the project was a failure and would not be sent to backers despite massive funding.

This sparked a visceral reaction within me because I have had mostly positive experiences in my time watching and participating in Kickstarter.  I looked at the failure of Unsung Story as an outlier rather than the normal course of a campaign.  I rallied against my friend, proclaiming that people shouldn’t lose faith in the system due to a noteworthy failure.

In the end, though, I realized he was right about being cautious.  I was just more willing to invest in the dreams of others.  I also noticed an inexorable truth about the nature of Kickstarter projects people brought to my attention: my friends only pointed out video game projects that went belly up.

Differences in Scale

Video game Kickstarters are an entirely different beast compared to their board game counterparts.  For one, they RARELY involve an individual.  This means that there are more people, more aspects and more tech that is needed to accomplish the team’s goal.  This means more funding is generally required.

Differences in Talent

The general consensus that I have found in my time watching game Kickstarters is that very few tabletop projects that dramatically overfund are from relative unknowns.  This may just be a factor of the trust we place in known entities, but I attribute it to people like Jamey Stegmaier, James Mathe and Richard Bliss who advocate for good best practices.  In addition to their efforts, reviewers like Tom Vassal and Geek Dad to help really drill the necessity for a quality product.

Video game Kickstarters, especially on these failed mega projects, seem to be industry veterans.  One look at the struggles of Keiji Inafune with Mighty No. 9 or Tim Shafer’s troubled road for Broken Age show just how little industry clout helps with the management of their games and campaign.

Differences in Management

I love the products they produce, but I can’t help but feel that the wave of auteur game developers breaking free from their publishing overlords only highlights how important proper publishing is to any project.  Ask any successful tabletop Kickstarter what the key to a good campaign is and I would be willing to bet that the answers fall somewhere near a keen understanding of the budget and the publishing process.

Differing Opinions

Kickstarter will always be a very divisive force within the gaming sphere. On one hand it offers newcomers a way to leapfrog the industry gatekeepers. On the other, those gatekeepers exist for a good reason. It behooves anyone considering creating or backing on the platform to research and understand the quality and scheduling controls that often fail the best-intentioned projects.

I look forward to hearing your opinion in the comments. Until next time.

Charles Weigand

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How to Playtest? #4: Roll20

Last week, we took a journey to the Friendly Local Game Store to explain why you want to keep your local board game scene involved in your designing. This week I want to explore the sprawling world of Roll20, a browser-based application primarily used for running tabletop RPG games.