Monday, August 10, 2015

Kickstarter ISN'T as Bad as Some Make it Look - Balancing the Perception

As I sit at my desk brainstorming for the article I owe Old School Quarterly on the subject of RPG Kickstarters, it occurs to me that the perception of Kickstarters in our corner of the gaming universe is defined like much of the public's perception of law enforcement is defined - by a handful of bad apples in a very large bushel.

Failures, fuckovers, pyramid schemes and the like are relatively rare in the world of Kickstarter. The vast majority of successfully funded projects ship quality products. The +Kevin Crawford s (where you get the beta PDF the moment you back), +Joseph Bloch s, Melia Valors (PDF less than 3 weeks after completion), the Reapers, the Frog God Games, the Goodman Games, the Monte Cooks, +Pete Spahn s, +Peter Regan s, the Dwarven Forges, +Lloyd Metcalf s, The Steve Jackson Games, +Newt Newport s, +Lesser Gnome s, +michael mindes, the Troll Lord Games (edit more better damn you!) and many others wouldn't be producing the quality products they are if it weren't for Kickstarter.

The Gareths, Nysuls, Whitmans, Brave Halflings and a few other bad apples each define their failures uniquely. There is no singular path to failed success.

Here at The Tavern, I certainly do hold the bad projects and project creators feet in the fire if you will, as I don't want anyone getting burned by these folks in the future. The thing is, much of the future of our hobby is linked to Kickstarter whether we wish it to be or not. There are good, skilled, honest creators and companies that wouldn't be able to produce what the do - or produce it to the higher standards that they would like - without Kickstarter. Kickstarter shifts some of the risk of a project on the consumer and away from the producer (there's an article right there come to think of it.)

In any case, the articles for OSQ will need to find a balance of exposing the bad while highlighting the good. In retrospect, I think I need to find a bit more of the balance here at The Tavern.


  1. The problem is as you say - and, as the saying goes, "a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch". People hear about the negative experiences with Kickstarter and that starts to affect their perception of (and participation in) KS as a whole. I'm not sure what KS can do to improve this, but I hope they can.

  2. Kickstarter can do little to improve that, and has little responsibility to improve that. It's up to creators to follow through, communicate and deliver.
    I see Kickstarter as a neutral service in the matter. It's up to us not to be douchebags and take folks money and run away.

  3. Kickstarter can do little to improve that, and has little responsibility to improve that. It's up to creators to follow through, communicate and deliver.
    I see Kickstarter as a neutral service in the matter. It's up to us not to be douchebags and take folks money and run away.

  4. Dwarven Forge: so good it's mentioned twice! :D

  5. Bravo! DM Mike and I were discussing this very thing just last night.

  6. I've had enough successful Kickstarters that I don't feel negatively about Kickstarter in general. I look at the estimated delivery dates to get a general idea of what they intend, but I mentally add a year to it anyway just for my own benefit. Expectations don't make anyone happy :)

    But on the Tavern along with good Kickstarters I would like to see more about things you're excited about in general, the negative/positive ration seems to lean more to the left than it did a few years ago.

  7. Having worked on the amateur/freelance side of the gaming industry for a few years, and having worked with and known creative people outside of gaming, I've found that there are 10 big ideas for every 1 follow through. Many people get very passionate about an idea, and really mean to finish it ... but then it doesn't quite happen.

    Now, factor in Kickstarter. Relatively easy to start a Kickstarter, and fun to see the money roll in ... and then you have to produce something. If you're just Joe Blow with a dream who talks a big game, not following through is no big deal. Nobody gets hurt. But if you're already funded and people are expecting something, it's a disaster. From what I can tell, these bad Kickstarters generally don't end in a fine or jail time, so there's not much of a mechanism for weeding out the people with big ideas from the people who will follow through on their promises.

    That brings up the other problem - the promises. When I did the Mystery Men! Kickstarter way back when, I kept my promises to a minimum and kept them well within my ability to keep. When we have people who have a hard time following through on making the project itself, imagine when they now have to also follow through on all the offered premiums for the Kickstarter. It's a recipe for trouble.

    So, you have a few folks out there who intend to defraud, and I think many more folks who have big ideas and no follow through that have now found a way to turn their lack of discipline into a major problem for themselves and others.

    This is why I fight the Kickstarter temptation. I know I could get more working capital, and get really cool art and layouts and all the rest for my books, but I just don't want the added responsibility of buyers and subscribers waiting for me to get things done. As Harry said, "A man has got to know his limitations."

  8. My personal track record is one "Failed to deliver anything" disaster out of 33 projects backed. MANY projects are late (including Reaper's - full disclosure, I work for Reaper), and a few projects end up not living up to the hype, but that last bit is true of many projects I bought at retail. I know of a friend who has had 6 out of 8 turn DOA and deliver nothing, so the pendulum swings both ways.

  9. I have had a number of bad experiences with kickstarter, most notably the Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed Debacle and Funhaver Industries just shutting up shop and going full radio silence after taking our money. All this has proven to me that the kickstarter model is just not worth the money to me, there are a number of issues and they are not all down to poor management by the companies looking for funding.

    First up there is the fact that Kickstarter themselves are spectacularly unhelpful in any situation where you get screwed by the production company. Their opinion seems to be that once they have taken their share of the money they don't owe anything to anyone.

    Second, the shipping is a huge issue for me, most of the RPG kickstarters seem to ship from America and want $40/$50 for shipping, this is often the same as the total amount that you need to back the project for in order to get a physical book.

    Finally there is communication, the various projects I have backed have often suffered from appalling communication with the team failing to talk to their backers and in some cases outright lying to us.

    All these things add up to me having decided that Kickstarter is not for me and that I will not be backing any further RPG projects on this basis. I'll just wait until they hit the local gaming store and buy a copy there, classic example is the Chaosium Horror on the Orient Express adventure, my local RPG store was on their second or third commercial restock of this product before any of the people I know who backed it had received their copies.


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