Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thoughts on Kickstarter

Let's start with a brief explanation of what Kickstarter actually is.  Kickstarter is a crowdfunding site, meaning that a person/business puts up an idea, people can pledge money to the idea, and if the overall funding goal is achieved, the project gets the money and produces a product to send to their backers.

What does this mean for boardgames? Well, several things.  First it means that anyone with a game idea can pursue the kickstarter route and get money to pay for their game to be published without having to take the traditional route of a publishing company.  There are a couple of ways to look at this.  One, people who do have a good game but can't find the right publisher can still have their game made.  Two, the overall quality is likely going down, because there is less quality control associated with Kickstarter.  The second thing that Kickstarter has done for boardgames is bring a lot more into the marketplace.  It's not as easy as looking at the big companies for new games anymore, there are a whole lot of other games out there.  Some are coming from long time designers who were told no by a company for one reason or another, but a lot of games are coming from completely new designers.  The potential issue here is a lack of uniform standards.  If I buy a game from Fantasy Flight or Mayfair or Days of Wonder or another big company, I know the game has been tested extensively and there won't be major issues.  If I kickstart a game, I don't have those same guarantees.  I know that most game designers want to publish a game they are proud of, but who knows how much testing they've done, how many people have played it, what styles people play with.  Ultimately, someone could design a game that works really well with their group, but it doesn't transition out of that group.

I've used Kickstarter for several games and a couple of other projects.  I've never been dissatisfied with my experience, save for every project coming in later than the estimated delivery date by at least a month, and some as many as 6 months.  Due to that, I've only received 3 games that I've kickstarted - Eminent Domain, Lemonade Stand, and Pizza Theory.  You've seen my reviews on Eminent Domain and Pizza Theory and I like both games.  Eminent Domain is a top 20 game for me, while Pizza Theory is a bit lower, but still a lot of fun, especially as a short filler game.  I haven't played Lemonade Stand enough, but I'm kinda "meh" about the game right now.  I do think that all 3 of these games are good, and they've been sufficiently tested and refined.  This is likely due to them coming from established companies, TMG, Mayday and Gryphon respectively.
I have a few kickstarter games on the horizon - Solar Circuit Racing (end of September/early October), Kings of Air and Steam (November), Fleet (October-November ish), Ace of Spies, Ground Floor, and the current project I backed last week, Story Realms.

I suppose I like smaller companies using Kickstarter for projects where they like the game, but they're unsure about the public response.  At that point, Kickstarter is one giant pre-order system, but that's ok. I think I'm still wary of the unknown designer with the unknown company and a game that doesn't have much shown.  Kickstarter for boardgames is best used for games near the end.  Development should essentially be done, and the game is ready to go except for final art, and then the whole manufacturing process.  Unfortunately, many companies use Kickstarter a bit too early in the process.  I don't think that asking for money to continue development is a good thing.  Believe in your game enough to spend your money on getting it close, then ask me for my money to make the dream a reality.

I'm still unsure of what roads I'll look at for Star Runner when I get closer.  Kickstarter is one, but I'd still love to go through an actual company.  I know if I did go Kickstarter, I'd want to work with a company like Game Salute, someone who knows the ropes of Kickstarter and can help the refinement process.

For much more on Kickstarter, visit or  The gamewhisperer does a podcast about all things kickstarter.  I've found it to be a great resource.

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