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Why I'm not a fan of crowd funding.

Kickstarter seems to be an amazing way of getting the funds necessary to fuel that passion project. It's a quick litmus test to see if your idea is even viable; if people like it, it's worth the funding, right?

But I'm just not a fan.

Don't get me wrong, if I see a project I think is amazing, I'll fund it. It's not the support of the idea that I'm opposed to, it's that I don't see myself doing this to promote any of my ideas.

Why?

Well there's a lot of reasons. I believe that successful ideas through IndieGoGo and Kickstarter have several things going for it. These are:

1) An amazing idea or sympathetic cause - A great idea can push funding. We've seen it. I think I've seen many new ideas sprout from these sites than any other. The sympathetic cause is also a great pull; I mean, who doesn't want to see someone in pain? It's not bad, that's just the way it is.

2) A well-put-together video - The video sells the idea. It's the mouthpiece. Having a great video shows you care about every aspect of the project. It doesn't have to be done by the best video editor and the best video equipment, it just has to show your passion.

3) A well-known reputation or a solid social network - Let's face it, the more people know about it, the more likely people will contribute. If no one knows who you are, you're climbing up that hill of popularity, but if you can command social media like a boss, you can still get that audience; people will just not know who you are.

But I don't think people realize the ways this can fail. Here are my theories:

1) It's a "me too" idea - I don't know how many zombie games I've seen floating around Kickstarter. As of this writing I saw 3 zombie-like games trying to get funding and proposing to be "different" than every other zombie game out there.

2) Bad reputation or low social network spread - If people don't like you, good luck on getting funded. If you don't reach people, you don't get funded...unless you have really rich friends. Robotech (my favorite anime) by Harmony Gold had an RPG Tactics game that everyone wanted and happily funded...but because of the reputation of Harmony Gold, the massive delay of the release, and the release to consumers BEFORE giving it to the contributors, their second Kickstarter to try and fund a new Robotech series tanked; their reputation was tarnished by their own doing.

3) Reputation of Kickstarter - Who's to say that someone couldn't just...take the money and run? It's happened (The Doom That Came To Atlantic City) and it doesn't put Kickstarter in the best of light.

4) Delays - I've funded several projects on Kickstarter. Some of them actually got funding; I've only received one of these things (when I should have received them ALL according to their timetable). I don't know when I'll get my copy of Two Rooms and a Boom, and I'll have to wait another 6 months to get my ALEX Bottle. I may have funded more projects, but now I'm just hoping they'll come to my door as a Christmas gift from God.

5) Horribly produced video - I've seen videos that show the people in just a weird, catatonic state. They didn't seem too enthusiastic about their project and if that's the case, why should we care (see "Strike" the Board Game)?

So why did I NOT put my ideas on Kickstarter? Here's why:

1) I'm horrible at business - When you do a Kickstarter for a product, you're pretty much making a business that has one product. If you're doing it for sympathetic reasons, you still have to manage all the money...taxes, distribution, etc. My wife is better at business and I don't want her to manage a risk.

2) I have no reputation - While I'd like to think I'm popular amongst my crowd, I don't think my reputation is worth there risk of a Kickstarter. I mean, I literally have hundreds of students pass through my classes every year and I STILL don't think I have the reputation. In the game community, I've worked on AAA video games, I have a game news website, I've worked in the board game industry, but as a designer, no one knows me. And that's ok, I certainly didn't choose the game industry for fame.

3) I want to work from the ground up - Let's be blunt. Kickstarter is the quick solution. It certainly gives a way for projects to be funded, but if you're going to Kickstarter, you're looking to get money QUICK. To me, quick means a lot of mistakes. Yes, not doing this lends itself more to laziness, but if the idea is good and you'e passionate, you won't be lazy. With my game, I don't want to "blow my load" on this project, only to see it fail. Then I get a bad reputation and there goes any chance at repeat funding.

4) Disappointing Fans - I've learned risks need to be made in life. Maybe I'm not a BIG risk taker, but I know I'm not the best project planner. To me, if I have a great idea, I'd rather look for people that know what they're doing help me than try and do everything myself. I learned if I do everything myself, I make a lot of mistakes. I'm a nobody in the board game industry, I'd rather show people through my hard work because people helped me.

I'm not trying to discourage people from doing crowd funding, I'm just saying these are the reasons why I'M not doing it. Maybe you'll have better luck, and I hope you do.

Comments

IDK if you know Grey Gnome Games

I for one would like to applaud people like Jason Glover (http://www.greygnome.com) who has several games that he created himself and has had them published via Kickstarter.

He has done so well that he now is interested in Publisher other game from other game designers.

Kudos to him - I really am impressed with his ventures... He seems to have the baby-steps approach and has done well with the various games that he has Kickstarted!

questccg wrote:I for one

questccg wrote:
I for one would like to applaud people like Jason Glover (http://www.greygnome.com) who has several games that he created himself and has had them published via Kickstarter.

He has done so well that he now is interested in Publisher other game from other game designers.

Kudos to him - I really am impressed with his ventures... He seems to have the baby-steps approach and has done well with the various games that he has Kickstarted!

Oh, I'm not saying ALL Kickstarter adventures end in futility, I'm actually impressed someone did that. Maybe one day I'll take the risk, but for now I don't think I'm ready. Great example!

You don't have to do it ALONE?!

You know that some Publishers will take your game and design/manage a Kickstarter for your game?! You don't have to be the one taking all the risk like Jason did. Some publishers will promise to Kickstart a game and get the game to their loyal crowd of followers.

What I am saying is that there are circles of gamers that support the game of certain/specific Publishers. Before they release a new game on Kickstarter, they notify their gamers (probably via a Newsletter) that such and such game will be available on Kickstarter as of Day X.

This creates that BUZZ about your game. And if your campaign is well designed with stretch goals and such, well you and your Publisher can do very well... I'm not saying you are going to sell 5,000 copies of your game - but perhaps you can do better than the average of 200-300 copies.

The problem with all of this is that the volume of sales is MARGINAL. A first print run of a game is about 2,000 copies. Publishers like to get a good price for a volume discount from their Chinese Manufacturer. So they will buy a little more... And of course sell the game to Distributors all around the USA. Thing 200 copies to 10 Distributors and that's 2,000 copies... How fast those Distributors re-order is the key. I guess that aspect has to do with how well the Brick & Mortar Stores do with your game!

Personally I have devised *incentives* for Store owners to help promote and sell my next game. Aside from creating a FUN game, I also wanted to create something that could have WIDER Distribution and make more profit for the retail market. Unfortunately the Publishers that I have been dealing with don't seemed very phased with the Marketing/Sales approach of my game. Maybe in the New Year, we find somebody who has an interest?!

I agree with you that KS is

I agree with you that KS is not, and should not be, for everyone, but I think that there are some holes in your reasoning. The biggest stems from there being a general misunderstanding about what KS is supposed to be. It originated as an alternative to venture capitalism, where you show up, hat in hand, to ask money from wealthy investors, or the other popular crowd sourcing avenue of asking friends and family (but mostly grandma) for "investments" to fund an idea. In all cases, the goal is not a fast cash grab to fund production of a single product but banking the capital needed to found and grow a healthy business. KS is not a "quick solution." There are plenty of vanity press options for that. It's for people who are in it for the long haul, which is what has made it such a success for established companies.

The problem arises when people with no business sense, no plan, and no long-term goals start a project. That's bad enough outside of the gaming population, but gamers are historically awful at business. If you are bad at business then absolutely don't run a KS. It is hands-down not the venue for you, because when it comes to running a business, love of the game comes dead last. Don't get me wrong. I had a chat once with the Jack Hesselbrock, then President of Ral Partha, and he expressed contempt for his products and customers. He was a businessman, not a gamer, and I expect that his dispassion for the hobby contributed to Ral Partha's problems. Love of the game is important, but it doesn't pay the bills. I direct every start-up entrepreneur I meet to SCORE for free mentoring from experienced professionals and an opportunity to have their business plan vetted.

As you said, people see KS as a way of getting a lot of quick cash and learning as they go while making a lot of mistakes. Where you are wrong is that there is nothing quick about a good KS because 90% of the infrastructure should be in place before the project is funded. The game is written, art is ready or contracts are negotiated, arrangements have been made with vendors with contingencies made for up to a 20% hike in their quotes, etc. Most of your mistakes should already be out of the way well before you get funded, so all you are left with is resolving vendor issues like any other business. All too many of the delays that people experience are due to the project creator realizing that writing a game manual is harder than compiling notes, which is unacceptable. Getting funded is like putting a quarter in a pinball machine. Everything is all in place. It's just time to light it up and get things rolling.

I also think that you are fixated on reputation. After all, Defiance launched a successful KS and inevitably defrauded their customers, who should have known better than to pledge after the Wargames Factory debacle. Yet, many of their customers had no idea that the owner had been involved in any previous malfeasance. Few people do their due diligence when considering a project, so changing your business name gives your tarnished identity a whole new lease on life. There's also Torn Armor, which received a ridiculous amount of compassion and industry support in response to their complete ineptitude and utter bungling of their project (again, Defiance played a role). Negative examples perhaps, but my ultimate point is that a KS takes on a life of its own outside of any reputation you perceive yourself as having. Unless you are Monte Cook or Reiner Knizia, your name doesn't matter. If you are running a KS then it's the company name that matters. You've been establishing brand identity for months prior to launch, and you establish a reputation the moment that the backers receive their quality product in a timely manner because of the excellent infrastructure that you built from the ground up.

Overall, KS is for projects that you are passionate about, but the litmus test to see if it is viable should have been performed prior to launching. It is not a proving grounds for worth, and I think people who treat it that way not only tend to fail but deserve to. You make cogent points, but I think that they are based in faulty assumptions about the purpose of the venue and its problems.

questccg wrote:but perhaps

questccg wrote:
but perhaps you can do better than the average of 200-300 copies . . . The problem with all of this is that the volume of sales is MARGINAL. A first print run of a game is about 2,000 copies. Publishers like to get a good price for a volume discount from their Chinese Manufacturer. So they will buy a little more... And of course sell the game to Distributors all around the USA. Thing 200 copies to 10 Distributors and that's 2,000 copies... How fast those Distributors re-order is the key. I guess that aspect has to do with how well the Brick & Mortar Stores do with your game!

Keeping in mind that those distributors receive a 70% discount and your royalties are based on the manufacturer's selling price, not net, so if those 2,000 copies are selling for $30 each then your 5% royalty comes out to $900 -- compared to the $6,000 gross profit that you'd make selling 200 copies yourself.

Giving the wrong impression

Soulfinger wrote:
Keeping in mind that those distributors receive a 70% discount and your royalties are based on the manufacturer's selling price, not net, so if those 2,000 copies are selling for $30 each then your 5% royalty comes out to $900 -- compared to the $6,000 gross profit that you'd make selling 200 copies yourself.

With those numbers you make it seem as if Kickstarters are real money makers. So as you said, $6,000 GROSS:

  1. First deduct 10% for Kickstater and Amazon Payments = $5,400.
  2. Account for 20% Shipping costs to backers = $1,000 so we are at $4,400.
  3. Next we need to factor in Manufacturing which is between 35%-50% = $2,200 left. Let's say $2,500 left in your pocket.

But who in their right mind would charge $2,500 for artwork for your game??? Sorry 200 copies of a game does not make for a profitable game. Your NET earnings will probably be NEGATIVE.

Where you can MAKE some money is if you can FUND a game for between $20k-$30k. But that requires more than 500 backers... Then we are talking about a fine line between breaking even and earning some money.

questccg wrote:With those

questccg wrote:
With those numbers you make it seem as if Kickstarters are real money makers.

Nope. I wrote "gross" assuming that everyone could do the very same math that you did. Doing a KS to fund 200 copies of a game wouldn't be too bright.

Interesting article. A agree

Interesting article. A agree with some of the points you mentionned, but I still think that there are good products that has been released with KS that would have not been possible otehrwise. But it's true that there is more crap than good stuff.

KS is more about marketing your game than making a good game. Like you said: Good idea, demo video and reputation, that is all marketting. Your game can suck like crazy, if you have all the above, it will sell.

One example is "Tiny Epic Kingdom" that I criticised and got criticised for criticising. But which in the end did not get a very good rating, making me want to say "Told you so".

Anyway, If you take that game, the "idea" could be sumarised as: A 4X fantasy strategy game that last 30 minute and cost 15$.

Now without having a single designed mechanic, you could probably KS that idea just because who would not love having a master of magic board game that cost 15$ and last 30 minute. The idea is wonderful, but is the game awesome, no.

So KS is not about making good games, it's about making your game look good.

Smoke and Mirrors

KS is about dreams and participation in a project, not about good games.

Video/screencast: What Attracts backers to Kickstarter Board and Card Games?

http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2015/01/videoscreencast-what-att...

WOW! I think you nailed down

WOW! I think you nailed down the problem here. KS is about selling a dream not a game. Like my tiny epic kingdom example. Who would not like to have a 4X strategy game that las 30 min. Thanks for the details.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY)

Well I believe that having Kickstarter is sort of a *blessing*. Why? Well it gives opportunities for games to be created that might not normally get shelf space at Brick & Mortar stores.

That having been said, the Internet is a *tough* market/segment and your really need to know how you are planning to sell via this "wonderous" tool. First time mistakes allow you to learn that "children" are most probably not going to browse your website (#1) and that parents will rarely buy an unknown game for their kids to play (#2).

Things that sell well for kids are toys that have animated shows that go along with cartoon content. Take for example Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Most kids will KNOW these card games because the cartoon has made their games household names...

But for the rest of us, there is little to low market penetration when it comes to kid games. The good news is that there are Publisher who cater to this category!

So does it really matter if your game only sells to 300 or so backers? Well in my mind is if you *break even* and get your game "out there", you are one step ahead.

Personally I have my own hurdles/challenges: 1st finding a publisher who want to publish the game, 2nd having that publisher agree to using my artist... And I don't think #2 will be happening soon. I'm sure they are going to love the artwork (as other publisher have said) - but that the budget allocated for said artwork will be "too high".

The good news is that there are a few smaller publishers who may still be interested - we'll see what the next round of *blind* playtesting returns as feedback! :)

KS...and the other parts of the Internet Trinity

lew puls,

Great comments! Lew, I just another set of videos last night, and I'm admittedly a few years older than the crowd that watches Dice Tower, but I greatly appreciate the feedback from a set of reviewers who have played the reviewed games a number of times and can provide cogent comments, using board gamer vernacular (game mechanics, genre, etc.) to describe the pros and cons of the game. Given that Tom has played over 3,000 games since the 2005 or so, that alone has saved me thousands of hours to concentrate my efforts on game design and development...or actually playing games! Anyway, loved your video on KS...it definitely resonated with me.

questccg,

I'm enamored by the digital triumvirate for board game designers...BGG, BGDF, and KS. The first site, BGG, brings thousands of users together on one platform, from whom you can collect a variety of data on myriad design ideas. You'll never please all players, but a good designer will get a good sense of what's needed in the community. As for BGDF, from what I've seen thus far, includes game designers ranging from unpublished novices to experts in the field. I've not yet encountered the level of arrogance or dismissive behavior one might find in other disciplines when those wanting to learn more request assistance. Maybe because the main lubricant in most transactions, money, isn't really a factor, or possibly because we're all engaged in creating games, which by it's nature should prove collegial. Finally, KS. I've backed a number of games recently, including Ryan Laukat's City of Iron, Traveller: Imperial Warrant, and Marco Pranza's Historia. Both City of Iron and Historia (I'm awaiting Traveller) have been a huge hit at the gaming table. KS is a great venue, and if done right, can prove exceptionally rewarding to the game designer.

That's it for now.

Cheers,
Joe

I hope...

...that I'm not coming off as some arrogant game designer. The post was not to blast KS, but to let people know that KS isn't this holy grail of getting funding. There are ups and downs of it.

Are there great KS projects? Yes, of course. But I know a lot of people that see KS as a no fail and used to get money whoever they want. It's almost frustrating and I kinda want to shake them and say, "DO SOME RESEARCH YOU FOOL!"

Anyways, I love the discussion! Keep it going!

The antithesis of arrogance

radioactivemouse,

While I've only been out here for a few months, I've read a number of your posts, and they've come across, almost without exception, as completely lucid and desiring nothing more than an open dialogue. I'm in full agreement with you regarding those who use KS ostensibly as a fast-cash machine. Nothing about game design should be arduous...but it is, in fact, work.

Cheers,
Joe

Alternatives?

radioactivemouse: Interesting post and you've done a good job flushing the pros and cons, but what other alternatives are there to funding your campaign besides KS/Indiegogo? You would have to raise your own capital to get your units manufactured and shipped to your customers - Not a lot of people have that luxury.

Alternatives...

MachBros wrote:
radioactivemouse: Interesting post and you've done a good job flushing the pros and cons, but what other alternatives are there to funding your campaign besides KS/Indiegogo? You would have to raise your own capital to get your units manufactured and shipped to your customers - Not a lot of people have that luxury.

True. But in today's internet savvy world, there are far more outlets for your projects.

For me, I live near a game studio that I used to work at. I'm just blessed that the company accepts game designs and has a forum where you can pitch games. Many designers come to try and pitch; I just passed it on the first try.

To be honest, I believe games are a team project. Even though I'm the designer of my own card game, I'm always getting advice and asking for help in things like game design, art assets, packaging, etc. You can certainly go Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, but you must deliver promptly or you will lose your audience.

But, just as fast as you can Kickstart something, you can just as easy get a loan. Is not Kickstarter a big, crowd funded loan? Sure, you have interest in a loan, but on Kickstarter you still have to "pay back" in terms of a shipped product.

Someone told me that by going Kickstarter, you're pretty much building a business. Your product is the game you're making in the same way a business offers a product or a service. You get capital by getting a loan or by finding someone that will support you financially. But your product has to be worth funding. The difference between getting someone to help fund you and Kickstarter is that with Kickstarter, you have to convince a lot of people to contribute a small amount of money while getting someone to fun you, you only have to convince one person. In addition, Kickstarter doesn't require approval of your idea in order to create a donations page and I think that's very dangerous ground; the audience is trusting that you know what you're doing...and if you don't, then it's your reputation on the line if you deliver a crappy product.

I hope this helps.

Line of credit

Sure there are OTHER ways to FUND a tabletop game - but that's only HALF the problem...

The biggest thing is SELLING your game - even if you use a Line of Credit to make it... How are you going to get people to BUY your game. Don't say by selling it via a website, I've done it and it yielded HORRIBLE results.

So Kickstarter gets you 250-500 people who will buy your game. That's still marginally low quantity. So what 500 people out of MILLIONS of gamer have bought your game. The BEST Kickstarters who have 1,000 to 3,000 backers are real success stories in the KS community - but selling 2,000 units through traditional distribution and Brick & Mortar stores is not unheard of...

That's why I hope to find a Publisher that wants to Kickstart my product so that we can have enough funds to pay for the artwork. I really love the artwork my artist is doing - I want him to finish the remainder.

I can only afford to pay him advances and to produce preliminary artwork to showcase what he can do... He is also interested in more work for other projects but doesn't want to do low commission work. Negotiate a budget with sufficient artwork (like 50-100 pieces) and that would appeal to him... A "complete work" he can put his mind and talent towards.

He told me: "I hope to design the BEST Science Fiction artwork I have ever done - because it allows me a lot of creativity!".

Anyhow SELLING and MARKETING are the parts that are difficult in this business. Getting money is not too bad of an issue you have KS and Lines of Credit... But getting your game "out-there" is a real issue. Even for Publishers!

KS

These guys aren't having an issue with KS. Just befriend a popular internet personality and you're golden on the money and marketing front.

That's INSANE

More than 100,000 backers! Unbelievable... Who is the popular Internet personality you are talking about??? I just see Exploding Kittens with 56 cards to the game - INSANE! But AMAZING!

The Oatmeal I had never

The Oatmeal

I had never personally heard of the guy but apparently he's pretty popular.

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