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Kickstarter VS Traditional publication

4 replies [Last post]
Joined: 06/07/2016

After a long hiatus (partly Covid, partly just burn out) i have returned to game design in order to finish my first game, Defenders of Wessex. Mechanically its sound, there is just one thing that needs to be ironed out, and that won't be hard to do. Anyway, I digress.

As I near the home stretch on design, what do you think is better: Kickstarting a game, going via a more traditional route with a publisher, or maybe something in the middle like a Game Crafter Crowd Sale?

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
A crowdsale is a tough gig

I did a TGC sale for "Tradewars" (the older version of TradeWorlds) and I made about $800 USD, sold just over 30 copies of the game. That's OKAY but 30+ people cannot compare to 200+ KS Backers. And realize that if you have little to no KS experience, your first campaign may only get 200+ Backers.

I think I am very vocal about Publishers. I believe in them, even if they don't really believe in us (the "little" people making it happen). There are not too many Publishers around nowadays... Mostly self-publishing companies which do fine for their own Brands and Products... But do little or nothing for the Game Design Community.

Game Publishers and the ability to partner or sell a concept to a Publisher is a really great idea. The smaller Publisher look for "near-finished" Products and/or Games, meanwhile the slightly larger ones look for fleshed out Ideas (BTW I have never been able to sell an "incomplete" game as many are doing so ...)

It kind of depends on HOW complete your game is?! Do you have an Artist that has rendered all the cards, mats and board??? If NO, then forget the Crowdfunding over at TGC. It's for finished products, art and all... You'd be self-publishing the Game in that scenario.

Again if you have NO art, a KS or a Publisher are great options. Both can help you bang-out a new game and complete the art. With a KS you'll be in full control over how everything gets finished and DONE! With a Publisher they will complete the game with THEIR artists and illustrators and you will have little to say about ART.

If you have NO art... Maybe find an artist you LIKE and produce five (5) or six (6) cards or a player mat (if you have them)... And submit this either to KS or a Publisher ... To EXCITE them and say: "This is what my game will look like given the artist that I've found!"

Now if you ALREADY have art DONE... This is trickier. The avenues are not so clear: self-publishing via KS is possible. But approaching a Publisher is HARDER unless they are rather SMALL (think 12 or less games). But no harm in trying to contact them and discuss your PROJECT.

It's more of a DIALOG in that sense.

That maybe demystifies the "landscape" a bit. What can and cannot be done and what your expectation should be. Maybe other Game Designers can give you another perspective about this topic. Cheers!

Joined: 09/24/2020
Hello, I am going the KS way

I am going the KS way as I think it is "better", in the sense that you have full control on everything and in case of success you get all the gain.

But to be fair, I wouldn't suggest it unless you are extremely committed to it and have somebody else supporting you as well.

I left my job to pursue the project, which gives me the possibility to do it full time (but also increases the pressure to publish soon) but even with this I don't think I could have made it if 4 friends did not join me, putting money and work on the project. The amount of time spent to deal with all the aspects of the process (which beside game design, include legal stuff nobody likes, financial analysis, art direction, graphic design, marketing, socials etc) is a lot to take on your own (even paying professionals for graphic design etc, you need to coordinate everything).

If you are driven by your project and really want to take care of every little aspect + possibly build a company to publish more games and expansions in the future, then go that way, I am very happy with my choice and I think it's an amazing journey. If you believe in it, other people will too as well. Otherwise, I'd suggest pitching to a publisher.

As a minor note, maybe not needed, I thought our game was solid one year ago, but then it kept changing massively until April or so. We had to playtest uncountable times with different people before we reached a version players couldn't have a bad time with, no matter how bad they were playing :)

Hope any of this helps and good luck!

The Professor
The Professor's picture
Joined: 10/25/2014
Risk vs. Reward


So, when assessing whether to pursue a KS or the traditional route, it's a deeply personal choice and one that depends on your tolerance for risk, level of control, and availability of time.

As to the risk, pursuing this endeavor on your own means that from end-to-end, publishing, manufacturing, shipping, and fulfillment rests solely with you. This is typically borne by a company if you decisive to go that route instead, which frees your time to be a designer. There are a number of folks who have written or discussed this matter extensively, including Jamey Stegmaier, the late James Mathe, and BGDL's Gabe Barrett.

Regarding control, if you enjoy (or think you will enjoy) this project, know that you will learn a great many things and have developed myriad skills on the other side including but not limited to negotiation, project planning, and budget forecasting. Again, the 30-60 KS is only a taste of what's to come. When the project ends on KS and you've hopefully made your goal, that's only the beginning. Of you do not want the burden of many hats, do not pursue this lightly.

Finally, time. If you have a family and/or full-time employment, know that you will sacrifice in some areas to see this too realization. I've joked with Jamey over the years as I've done extensive work with him, that he's fortunate that at the time he was single, responsible for two cats, and lived in St Louis. He had the time which he didn't need to dedicate elsewhere. Look at your life situation and see where you can make sacrifices.

In short, there's no right answer, but I would offer to you, as I provide to clients with a new game idea. Review the available literature, and among the best is content creator Gabe Barrett and his Board Game Design Lab.

I wish you the best.

Professor's Lab

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009
Game publishing, game sales,

Game publishing, game sales, is no longer a meritocracy (if it ever was), it's a lottery.

Traditional publishers were supposed to help market the game, but there's much less of that going on now. They have to publish more games because each game title sells less. No time for marketing. Designers have to do it themselves.

I try to deal with traditional publishers, but it's difficult. Unknown designers have an even harder time. Most people originally went to KS because they couldn't find a traditional publisher willing to do their game.

As for the lottery of it all:
One publisher showed me a Kickstarter for a game (that he'd bought to try). It had very simple black and white silhouette art on cards, and wasn't much more than the card game "War". It made one hundred thousand dollars on KS! We could NOT figure out why.

The game Wizards is a dumbed-down version of the traditional card game Oh Hell, but sold seven figures of units.

Exploding Kittens was a nothing game, pablum, but they got an artist who is very well-known, and that carried them to vast KS results.

Perhaps worst of all, when you self-publish, especially when you have to arrange the manufacturing yourself (rather than through TGC), you become a publisher and no longer a designer. Are you good at that? Do you want to do that? Will it be any fun at all?

So far I've said NO.

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