So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What is Kickstarter?

In my last post, I mentioned that I had a game on the way that I had purchased through Kickstarter.  Some of you may not be familiar with Kickstarter, and I thought I would give a brief overview for those who are curious.

Kickstarter is a website which, in their words, "is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others."  In short, Kickstarter is a place for projects to look for crowd funding.  This is not just for games, but for all sorts of creative projects.  After talking about how one supports a project, I will discuss my experience with the site, as well as a few thoughts I have on this way of funding or buying the fruits of other's creativity.

Finding Kickstarter projects is a matter of either directly searching by name, or clicking on "Discover Projects" and picking from a list of project categories on the right side of the page.  Either will result in a list of projects grouped by popularity, staff picks, projects that are recently fully funded, or the highest funded projects in that category.  I am not particularly fond of this part of the interface, since where to find a project that doesn't fit any of those criteria isn't obvious.  (I believe you will see everything in that category by clicking on the "see more Popular projects" link on the page.)  After getting to the project you are considering, there will be a description as well as images that describe the project.  Often there is a YouTube video to go along with it.  This allows you to decide.  On the right there will be a listing of funding levels at which you may pledge.  Each of these levels also lists the rewards that come with funding the project at that level.  It works much like a PBS pledge drive, with one big exception.  At the top of the page, listed below the total amount of pledges received to day, is the pledge goal, as well as the number of days left in the drive.  The important thing to know is that your money doesn't leave your hands until after the drive is over, and only if the project is fully funded.  If the time on the drive expires without the project meeting its goal, the project is cancelled and your money stays with you.  Honestly, participating as a supporter is pretty straight forward.

I have been a "backer" on six different Kickstarter projects.  Two of these were card games, one was a game expansion, two were gaming accessories, and one was a camera mount.  All of them, except the camera mount, reached their goals.  At that point my card was charged.  The money was used to finish the development of the projects, and I have received all but one.  That one project is being shipped to me now.  I have been happy with each of the projects, and I personally have no misgivings about supporting them.  I am a little picky, which is why I haven't backed more than six in a year and a half.  (Well, that and my needing to slow down a little on game acquisition after last year!)
I am picky because this certainly isn't a perfect system.  There are those who are worried about someone taking their funding and skipping town, so to speak, but I am not one of them.  In general, I think that people who are creative enough to scam us in this manner will probably have bigger targets in mind, and its far too much hassle for petty thieves.  Someone could use their money to finish their product development and fail, but that's a risk I am willing to take.  In fact, that's the whole point of crowd funding; the consumer is also an investor.  In my case, the return on investment is a game related product.  However, like investors in other endeavors, my return may be zero.  I accept that.  However, I have never heard of that happening.  I have heard of entrepreneurs losing money on the their ventures because they underestimated development costs.  In those cases, though, they still fulfilled their obligations to their consumer/investors.

My only concern is the quality of the product: the game. I don't mean the quality of the components; there is often a company behind the physical production, and that will reliably indicate the component quality.  I am actually referring to the quality of the gameplay, since even a great company can produce a dud.  If I had unlimited funds and storage space, I probably wouldn't care.  However, Kickstarter is allowing many more people to publish a game with out the full development of the gameplay or ruleset.  With Kickstarter, it is possible to contract with a fulfillment company to handle production and distribution, but without anyone to thoroughly playtest the game and finish the gameplay development.  Because of this, I tend to be a little more careful about a game I buy on Kickstarter versus a game traditionally published by Days of Wonder or Z-man Games.

Alien Frontiers is arguably the first and most successful of all Kickstarter games.  (Image by CleverMojo Games.)
I will continue to use Kickstarter.  It has a place in the boardgaming world.  It reminds me of eBay, in that it has been met with suspicion and speculation.  Like eBay, I think it will continue to thrive.  Without it, there are games that would never see the light of day, such as the hugely successful Alien Frontiers.  There are amazing game accessories that I think will only be developed this way.  Kickstarter has found its place amongst my gaming sources, amongst the local game store in my area, online gaming stores, eBay, and game trading through BoardGameGeek.  Take a look; there is something that will draw your interest.  Whether your interest is gaming, performing arts, or supporting a podcast, there is a project that you can help bring to life. 

It's Your Move!

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