08 July 2016

Kickstarter: Not What It Should Be

Memes, what Photoshop was meant for making.
I am not enamored of the current state of crowd-sourcing because of two incidents, a personal one that has turned me off something I was really excited about, the second because Kickstarter was used to rip off my wife and the company does not seem to give a rats ass. First, the details, followed by analysis. Note, there is a bit of passion in this essay because I am kind of pissed.

Also, these are not the case for most projects, but one bad apple can spoil the bunch.

Incident One

Back in late last year I extolled my excitement for the return of Kult in a new edition. Kult is one of the best of the horror genre ever, and I like it more than the wonderful Call of Cthulhu. I was so chuffed I immediately decided I need to be in the Kickstarter and set aside money for it. I have never given to a crowd-sourcing effort before so this was kind of special for me to want in. My wife has done many (and I have benefited from that), but I have never actively been in the process. To make sure I did not miss it I signed up on their website to be informed by e-mail of updates.

Fast forward to last month. Wondering when the Kickstarter begins I go to the website and find it already ended… almost two months ago. I check my e-mail and there are none from the company. I assume something went wrong, however when I signed up there was no sign of an error, you just put your email in and go. I use automatic form fill so I know I did not mess up the address.

I contacted the company and was told, in a terse two-sentence e-mail, they were sorry but I can still pre-order the items, I should have followed on the Facebook page, and should go there now and sign up (although there is no reason now, I already missed it). Turns out I can pre-order, but not only do I not get the cool editions I would have gotten, the prices of the items are a but higher now, so I get the privilege of paying more for the items because they (IMO) made the mistake.

Further, I cannot get the PDFs early, and I cannot join their private, backer only forums to discuss the game and those people who did back are not discussing it elsewhere I can post, at least not in numbers to make it interesting to me. They “might” release the free PDFs later, though they did not say if I would be lucky and have to pay extra or not.

Inevitably I feel that they owe me something more than a dismissive “sorry,” and relegate me to the club of the people who were fortunate enough to hand them tons money for it- even though I would have. I know companies use this to cover printing and make it affordable, but it is so obvious in this case if you didn't get on board you are not really cared about by them, even with their mistake a part of it.

Anyway, I responded to their response and they have not written me back. The lack of giving a poop is deafening. As it is, I will not be buying their game, no matter how much I love the previous editions, because they are seeming like a bunch of jerks right now who are all about the money and care less about customer service. They may be nice people but this is not being handled well, and future projects from the are off the table as well.

Incident Two

If you see the name Ken “Whit” Whitman on a Kickstarter, run away. This guy has started many of them, collected tons of money, and the money disappears with no product delivered. For a full detail on this guys immoral activities click here.

My wife pledged for the pencil dice campaign and to the live action version of Jolly Blackburn's Knights of the Dinner Table strip. She did not give money to the Traveller video project but that one also has stopped with the money gone and nothing to show for it as well.

In this case part of the fault lies with Kickstarter who tells the people that make these campaigns they need to deliver, taking the money is a promise to fulfill. Campaigners are told to be in a position where they are ready to finish it before ever asking for money. That does not always happen.

So what does Kickstarter do to fix this? Nothing at all except pocket their cut of the money. No matter if the project is delivered or not, they make their money. They even let their users break their own rules and not give a damn such as not running more than one campaign at a time, but here the same user had multiple campaigns concurrently. Now it is up to the people who funded this to go out on their own and pursue legal action while the founders of Kickstarter buy their 15th sports car on their cut..

Truth About Crowd Funding

Crowd-funding is a powerful tool to get projects going that would not happen because of lack of capital. RPG and board game projects have benefited immensely with games coming to reality that would never have made it. There are so many more choices and interesting undertakings, it has been a boon.

However, Kickstarter has also become a marketing tool, the term means "excitement." The idea of a Kickstarter with a limited window is all about hype for most. Larger companies use it to fund projects they could do otherwise. Although it makes it more efficient, Kickstarter seems like it was originally aimed at the underdogs who have not made it yet. They hype though! That is what drives it.

These larger companies could do crowd-sourcing themselves. Most already have e-commerce set up and could do exactly the same thing without giving a percentage away to Kickstarter and make the money go further which could mean even better production values and extras. GMT games essentially does this (and predates Kickstarter) with their P500 program. Small up-and-comers need Kickstarter because it provides all tools they would otherwise not be able to put together.

The worst part is when you miss it, and I am not the only one who has missed one as I have found out searching the web, you are kind of an outsider. While it is fine not to have the extra goodies, cutting the fan base out of the forums to discuss the game is kind of cutting your own throat. What if the person had bad cash flow and missed? By not allowing him to be able to discuss a game he is excited with others does not engender good will.

Steve Jackson Games added, at the last minute, a new pledge level of (I think) a buck to their Ogre Kickstarter; if you give it you would get exclusive access to their secret, members only forum to discuss the development of Car Wars Sixth Edition. I am not an Ogre fan, and I also am not a regular follower of there crowd-sourcing efforts (I buy TONS of material though, usually through my FLGS, and Kickstarter in some ways hurts the mom-and-pops by cutting them out to an extent but it is like my patronage kind of means diddly-squat), so I had no idea about this cheap way of getting in that was added at the last minute. Car Wars was the other project I would Kickstarter because I know it will have cool extras. However, cutting me out of those forums I find capricious. Forums are a great tool to engender excitement and a feeling of involvement that makes me want to buy it. As it is Car Wars has dropped off my list. Someone tell them that marketing is supposed to make people want to buy it, not piss them off.


You may not agree with me (although Gizmodo seems to, read their scathing article). Your experiences may vary, but my limited experiences have made me very wary of the whole thing. Certainly cutting out people who may buy it later, or cannot afford at the time to get in on the campaign, of even talking about the game with other enthusiasts is just not healthy to the hobby in the long run, although right now the excitement of crowd-funding outweighs those negatives, but will that last forever?

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