Kickstarter - Friend or Foe? | Zatu Games

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    Kickstarter – Friend or Foe?

    For many board game designers, publishers and buyers Kickstarter is a very common place. I myself have backed five or six board games from the platform. I am very fond of it and find it to be a great way to not only support designers but to get to talk to them and help shape the games they are trying to fund.

    The games in general are more niche and there are a huge variety of different games to choose from. Let's take a look at Kickstarter to see whether or not it is a friend or a foe to the board game community.

    What is Kickstarter?

    For those of you that don't know about Kickstarter, it's a way for designers and publishers to fund their project. It's not just board games either, there are projects for everything you could imagine. By using Kickstarter there is less risk than just getting the game made at an upfront cost and trying to sell it via shops or online retailers.

    There are normally several tiers available to pledge money to which give you varying amounts of rewards, such as £39 for just the base game and £49 for the deluxe edition that comes with Kickstarter exclusive art.

    The money is taken after the Kickstarter finishes, if the game hits its target. Kickstarter is an all or nothing pledge so if the game doesn't reach 100% or more then the game will not be made and no money will be taken.

    I have personally spoken to some of the designers on Kickstarter and James Hudson, of Druid City Games, commented:

    "Kickstarter is the best way to test your idea with the market. The audience is there to confirm or deny if your product is viable. If you have not worked out all the kinks, they usually surface from feedback during the project." 

    This further cements my thoughts of Kickstarter being a great tool for would-be designers and with his next project due to launch in March called The Grimm Forest it will be interesting to see how he takes on the feedback of others.

    The Good

    The thing I like about Kickstarter is the fact that you are in direct contact with the people that make the game. Sometimes they will listen to fan feedback and the project will evolve and change. You are not only helping the designers bring the game to life but you are helping them make it a better game.

    You often get a print and play version of the game and you get to play test it and give advice, with your feedback helping to shape the future of the game. What we have to remember is that a lot of the campaigns are a first for the people running them, they won't have made a game before and like us most of them are just board game fans trying to make a game they believe will fit into the hobby we all enjoy.

    Stretch goals are rewards given to the backers for reaching higher funding levels. Say for instance a game needs £30,000 to fund, every £4000 after that you will unlock exclusive items that will not be in the retail version of the game.

    If done correctly this is one of my main reasons for backing. The projects are generally cheaper than the MSRP will be and by getting more stretch goals ultimately means you are getting more bang for your buck.

    These items range from exclusive cards to unique box art and are often a way for the publisher or designer to get more money out of a project and further enhance the game.

    The Not So Good

    I find it hard to find any bad points about Kickstarter projects if they are done in the correct way, this means that the research is done and the project is run in a professional manor.

    One of the few downsides that annoys me is the delivery dates being pushed back, this is even more annoying when it's down to the designer being over confident and ambitious. The other biggest bugbear of mine is add-ons. An expansion or something substantial is fine but an extra £5 for a Kickstarter exclusive card is a way of trying to exploit the backers and is a sure fire way to stop me backing a game.

    A few people I have spoke to dislike 'Early Bird Pledges,' a pledge that is slightly cheaper if you are the first few hundred to pledge. No gameplay reviews and videos are another and I some what agree that a video of gameplay is a must even if it uses prototype pieces and is a bit rugged - after all we are backing an unfinished project and don't expect grade A quality.

    Kickstarters for board games have become more and more common and a few companies try to take advantage and use it as a pre-order method for their games. Mark Mckinnon is a huge fan of Kickstarter and has been around to see it grow and change. When I spoke to him about his upcoming game, Wreck and Ruin, he had this to say:

    "'I love kickstarter, it gives designers like me the chance to create something that wouldn't normally see the light of day. The system and indeed the customers have evolved so that you will likely fail if you aren't in the advanced stages of design, which means you have to show a level of commitment to your own project, which in-turn benefits the community as a whole and makes it less of a risk.

    "I enjoy the interaction with designers and being able to see behind the curtain if you like: without this I doubt I would be anywhere near where I am with Wreck and Ruin. Kickstarter is here to stay for a good while yet."

    Final Thoughts on Kickstarter 

    In my opinion Kickstarter is great for the future of board gaming and it shows just how many people play board games when projects reach thousands of pounds of funding over the initial target. A perfect project is impossible but a very good one would be one that has a great amount of research, a fair price, great communication on the page and a developer that listens.

    One such project that I backed was Lab Wars. If you have chance have a look at that Kickstarter page and you will see a game designer with passion and an understanding of how to work with his backers to help evolve the project and reach every possible goal. This has lead to me already wanting to back Alley Cat Games' next project before it even hits Kickstarter in March.

    The recent shambolic Kickstarter from Tiny Epic Game Studios just goes to show that if you don't research everything possible, even the big boys don't have a chance. The studio are veterans when it comes to Kickstarter Projects yet a bad price point, high delivery cost and a botched launch led to them re-launching and then cancelling again until later in the year.

    My final words are that this proves the power is in our hands when it comes to Kickstarter and if we all stick together we can help this hobby grow and give us gamers more choice than ever. Use the comments sections on projects to voice your opinions, be constructive and be helpful. The only warning is one I mentioned above and its that I don't see Kickstarter as a pre-order service, these games are prototypes and need time to be finished help the project grow and we can all be rewarded with a great game.

    I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts on kickstarter and I look forward to writing my next piece soon.

    *Image Credits go to: James Hudson of Druid City Games and Mark Mckinnon of Dream Big Games.
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