Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Trials and Tribulations of KickStarter

Greetings friends!

Today I'm here to beat up a dead horse some more as I go over the already heavily discussed topic that is KickStarter and crowdfunding in general.

Now part of me wants to try and analyse the current trends we have seen with the crowdsourcing medium, but I know it will be redundant as someone else will have already done so in a better way.

What I can do is provide my own viewpoints and observations which I am sure will be unoriginal and uninspired, but at least they will be mine.

I've been following KickStarter for quite some time now, many years in fact and during that time I have backed a small number of campaigns:

The first I ever backed was City of Titans aka The Phoenix Project, an MMO aimed at being the spiritual successor to the online superhero game City of Heroes.

This campaign was successful and I am glad of it. It was run by a tiny team of individuals who began working on the game in their spare time whilst trying to balance home and work life alongside. This was a true startup campaign and it is my belief that without this money they would have never had the funds to get as far as they have (and you should see what they've done! Utilising the U4 Engine is a great move for them).

Following on from that was Blackmore: A Steampunk Adventure Game. This was being developed by the team who was behind my favourite game of all time; SNATCHER and so it was obvious that they would get my support.

Sadly however their marketing campaign was non-existent and it failed to fund.

Next up was Bio Syndrome: A Survival Horror Tabletop Wargame. Like those before (in particular City of Titans) this was a true start up campaign. It was a single guy trying to create a ruleset with custom cards, art and a single 'novelty' miniature.

Bio Syndrome was a success, however that was largely down to the small asking requirements for the campaign and the fact that the rewards were all digital apart from the single novelty miniature.

The creator of this campaign was realistic with his expectations and did not promise the world with his campaign.

After this came something that I am unable to talk about right here, as I pledged for a double pack and when it arrives I'm gifting one of the packs to a friend of mine who reads the blog, so I need to keep that quiet.

What I can say however is that this was a campaign I wasn't entirely happy with backing. I wanted the product; yes, and apparently it would not be shipping without KickStart support, however the parent company is a well established publishing company, one that I know does have the capital to push this to market by themselves.

Moving on...

Next came We Happy Few, a survival horror set in an alternative England. Again we are looking at a truly indie game that would be very unlikely to reach funding without public support, plus it looked awesome! Backed and funded!

Next up is something different for me; the first time I pulled out of Kickstarter - and this one is still going on and passed it's goals on day 1.

In this case we're talking about The Others: 7 Sins by CMON.

I was initially torn by this game. CMON do not need to go to KickStarter, we all know that there is the demand and capital available. In the miniature-boardgame world, it's the equivalent of EA Games starting a KickStarter. However ever since I first saw the Pride sculpt I had wanted it, and figured i'd give it a go and ride the CMON stretch goals.

As time went by however I got more and more uneasy with all of this. As more got released I noticed a distinct decrease in quality of sculpt and conceptual ideas and watching people scramble to add $30+ to their pledges just for additional dice which 'apparently' they were not going to reduce later just left me with a pit in my stomach.

Here was not a company who needed my pledge and me pulling out would not hurt them in anyway, I had yet to see any real ruleset, and the example of play video I saw had blaring gaps in rules. All of this tied with the knowledge that it was a sizeable amount of money £60 for the base game then additional add-ons you may want, for a game that I had not tested, and would probably play once a year, if at all. It just wasn't worth it.

So out I came.

At the same time the campaign for Allison Road, a survival haunted house horror game similar to the infamous Silent Hills: PT on PS4 began and again, we had a small team who with backed support will be able to release a project that they may not be able to without. Pledged!

Then today I saw The Icarus Project another scifi skirmish game with some very nice models that when I first saw I plugged in the @FLOverride account as proxies.

As it stands they are currently at £10k out of £30k with 11 days to go. The owner has stated, even if they do not reach their goal then he will still continue to develop the game but with releases at a much smaller rate, because for him this is a personal project of which he has already sunk £6,000 of personal investment.

Again we are looking at a campaign that needs support and backing and is offering fantastic looking models for their range. So yea I have gone in for a small amount, mainly because after reading about the project I would like to see it succeed, and I guess in a way I can relate to the creator.

I hope all of you who read this will check out that KickStart and if it looks like something you like, you'll give it a small backing, as currently reading the comments it looks like they are residing themselves to defeat, and that would be a true shame.


So why is this the case? Why is it some games that look like great campaigns but do not have the big name behind them either only barely make their target, or fail altogether?

Why is it that brand recognition works so well on KickStarter for some, but for others like me it acts as a dissuasion (on principal alone I will never back a Mantic KickStarter).

Sometimes it seems obvious, that the campaign creator has promised the world straight from the word go and has either been unable to follow through, or due to a lack of brand familiarity has not picked up much speed early on, meaning weeks into the campaign they are still promising the world through stretch goals when even meeting a funding target looks doubtful - and let's be honest, this is one hell of a turnoff to backers!

Then we have the breakout successes, things like Guildball.

What was it Guildball did differently that others who failed to fund or just nearly scratched by didn't do?

For me the answer is simple: marketing!

Without good marketing, support from podcasters, twitchers, youtubers and Joe Public, you do not have ANY brand recognition. People need to know what the product is before they shell out their cash which in some cases can be seen as a Catch-22 situation: you need to show product to get the pledges, but you need the pledges to get the cash in order to make product!

That is where we are going with First Law: Override.

I'm currently doing the rounds again trying to arrange follow up interviews on podcasts now that our latest full colour rulebook has been simmering in the public forum for a while and am making arrangements for public demos to get people interested.

I know how the game looks, I wrote the initial rules and on paper it looks good but it isn't until you get your head down amidst the miniatures and start to roll the dice that you start to see how splendidly cinematic the game plays.

What this means, is that if I ever want to see any sort of crowdfunding pushing for an actual print run of the rulebook, then I will need to follow suit and market the game to hell and back, but ensuring to follow the right avenues so the right people see it at the right time, all the while not shoving it down people's throats so they are sick to death.
- Unless of course that last boat has already sailed...

Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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