There was a bit of a frenzy in my gaming circles as two highly-anticipated Kickstarter campaigns got under way today: the return of the swashbuckling RPG 7th Sea and the final expansion for the super-hero game Sentinels of the Multiverse. Both funded seemingly within seconds of going live and are happily on their way to myriad stretch goals and add-ons that we’ll wait … well, who really knows how long for.
Because it seems like there are a lot of Kickstarter projects lately that are just that: lately. As in not coming out on time. I’ve got two that are both over two years past the posted delivery date. One is apparently stuck in China because the designer can’t afford to pay the shipping (despite collecting for shipping as part of the campaign). The other didn’t even get that far; their game is still unproduced, and while we were able to request refunds, we were told they would be paid out from proceeds of sales of the game. Which doesn’t physically exist yet.
Now granted, Kickstarter has always been adamant that they are not a retail store. They’re a crowdfunding service. We’re not buying product, we’re investing in the existence of a product, with the usual reward for that investment being to receive a copy of that product, with some extra bells and whistles as the norm for being in on the ground floor. But the expectation is there will eventually be a product. And there have been plenty of horror stories of well-funded campaigns that go stretch goal happy, offer more than they can afford to produce once all is said and done, and can’t even get the most basic version into production because designing all the promised extras cost an arm and a leg.
As such, the frenzy with which a lot of gamers dove into Kickstarter seems to be waning somewhat, despite the flurry of activity on the two new kids today. But those are two established, reputable properties. They’re essentially using Kickstarter as the very thing Kickstarter tries to tell you it isn’t: a pre-order service. Because those products were coming out regardless. Now they just have a really good idea how much of them they’re going to sell.
Which is kind of the point I’m at with Kickstarter right now. If I’ve never heard of your company, I’m probably not giving you money. If I have heard of your company, your game is probably getting funded, and I can just wait and buy it at retail. Only if I’m extremely enthusiastic about the property — as is the case with the two campaigns that launched today — will I jump in now.
And even then, the Sentinels campaign has me slightly disappointed. One of the selling points was the promise of a big collector’s box that could hold all the cards they’ve produced for the game over the last few years. And there are a lot of cards. I mean A LOT. It’s crazy. So being able to keep them in one place was huge. Except the minimum pledge level to get this box is $99. Which is $60 more than the level that just gets you the expansion. Smash Up did a similar thing with their Big Geeky Box, which I can get for less than $20 most places. This Sentinels box better be the Fort Knox of game storage for that markup. But it’s got me thinking about not pledging, buying the expansion from my local game store, and spending three or four bucks for a regular old card box to keep everything in.
I don’t think Kickstarter is going to go away. Just that people are going to start being much more selective. Which, oddly enough, means you’ll probably see more big-money campaigns, because people will latch on to the ones with a proven track record and gladly throw their money at them (hello, Cool Mini or Not). But the days of people enthusiastically throwing money at games left and right is over. You’re going to have to be an established performer, or someone with a killer idea to see that sweet sweet loot. No one’s going to be willing to take a shot anymore. Which, sadly, is completely counter to the idea that got Kickstarter going in the first place.
Not to worry though. There are plenty of games coming through regular channels to keep us gamers eating Ramen for the foreseeable future.