After some initial hesitation, I have become keen on Kickstarter, and I often take 5-10 minutes each day to scan the latest listings on the /games section. So far I have pledged for 26 games and 2 comic books, but only two of the games have been delivered so far. Most of the games I have backed, have been backed in the last six months, so I am not too worried about that lack of fulfillment so far. It is a bit worrying, however, to get an update on Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, which was originally scheduled to ship in November 2013, that Chaosium have a new President and unspecified company problems. A firm reminder that everything on Kickstarter is vaporware until its in your hands.
Over the last few weeks I have passed on a lot of tempting Kickstarter offers, as I need to save some coins for an upcoming trip to the USA/Canada. So I started thinking on why exactly I was passing on some Kickstarter projects and not others. I have looked at a few other crowdsourcing websites, but Kickstarter seems to be where all the action is.
- Pretty much every pitch for an MMORPG, RTS, phone app, or top-down isometric computer game.
- People asking for charity, or to support events/organisations in places I don’t live.
- Bad thumbnail art.
- Failure in first sentence/opening paragraph text to convey what the main hook of the concept is.
- Beautiful artwork.
- Established IP that I love, or…
- … something that sounds innovative on a topic I am interested in.
- A designer whose prior work I like.
So I look through the rest of the pitch carefully, star it if I don’t see any further turn-offs (gender exclusive language annoys me) and come back to it 2-4 weeks later. I do not usually look at the video pitch until the final 48 hours, at which point I will also scan through the updates and comments looking for danger signals.
The danger signals are:
- Pledge levels that are confusing.
- Updates or comments from the developer that indicate problems with the project, or where I can’t actually understand what it means (sometimes this is an English as a second language problem).
- Massive mid-campaign changes to the product or pledge levels.
- People posting that its a rip-off.
So if I still like the general idea, and I have some degree of confidence I might get the product someday, how do I choose to part with my money or not?
- Would I buy it off the shelf at that price if it was in front of me right now?
- Bread, taxes, bills, etc, all come before entertainment spending
- Opportunity cost – what else could I be doing with this money?
- What is the shipping cost? Living in New Zealand, shipping costs can exceed the item cost.
- Do I intend to use it in actual play, or do I just want it for the ideas?
- If I just want to loot the ideas, PDF is fine, and can I find something similar already on Drivethrurpg.com?
- If I want to use it at the gaming table, hard copy is better.
- Will I use it more than once?
- If I want to hack it, will I get the files to do this easily?
- What am I rewarding in the pitch?
- Innovation in setting or design principles (or an iterative progression on existing ideas).
- Nostalgia for the games of my youth (I backed Paranoia but not OGRE).
- Is it just a fun looking Fantasy Heartbreaker?
- Am I just being a fanboy for this particular designer?
- How close is it to completion?
- A boardgame should already be fully playtested and draft rules available.
- A roleplaying game should have a playtest draft ready for backers to access.
- Computer games … should at least have concept art ready.
- Is it bleeding edge research that could fail? (I did not back Clang!)
- Do I already own this product?
- You can get diminishing returns from anything. For gaming, dice are pretty, but few systems really require me to get yet another set of the classic polyhedral dice.
- Do I really need the new edition?
- Does it look beautiful?
- Art is subjective, but if the art looks ugly to me, I am unlikely to spend money on it.
- Are those add-ons, peripherals, etc really needed?
- I have eight plastic tubs full of t-shirts, I really don’t need more of them.
There is a very old adage – if the deal looks too good to be true, then its probably not a good deal.
Part of the reason I am paying attention to Kickstarter, is to learn what not to do for the day when I try running one. A lot of the problems I have seen come done to poor communication, or insufficient preparation before the campaign begins. I would not start a boardgame project unless I was 99% sure I could get the components manufactured, and I would not start roleplaying game project unless I already had the first draft of the manuscript ready for playtesting. I can see that communication also needs a lot of prep for the crucial early launch phase.
Anyhoo, time to listen to some game design podcasts and scribble ideas on paper.