There’s a new game that everyone’s talking about. You like the sound of it, but it’s not actually available yet. It looks like you can only buy it via something called Kickstarter. And it might not be here for a while? Everything feels a bit confusing. Well don’t worry, because here at GamesQuest, we’ve got you covered! Welcome to the first in a 3-part series explaining the sometimes-confusing world of Crowdfunding.
Today we’ll explain the basic concepts. In part 2 we’ll highlight some of the things to look out for when considering backing a project. Finally in part 3, we’ll shed some light on the long, dark teatime of the soul between when a campaign ends and when you actually get your game.
How does it work?
Somebody wanting to make … something, decides to use a crowd-funding platform. For Board and Card (and especially miniatures) games, this has historically been Kickstarter most of the time. Increasingly, other platforms like Gamefound are getting in on the act, but for the most part the same principles apply.
In order to create a Kickstarter:
- The Creator will put up a campaign page. This runs for a limited time, once live, typically somewhere between 1 and 4 weeks.
- The page should tell you about the thing they are intending to make. It will try to convince you in various ways that it’s worth your time and money.
- Then, there will be an option to Pledge money, along with a funding total that the project needs to reach.
The simplest projects will give you one Pledge option - typically something along the lines of “£X - a copy of the game”. Often you'll have multiple pledge levels to choose from. For example, “£X+£Y – a copy of the game and the expansion” – some projects will have loads of different options.
When you've decided which pledge level is right for you, click “Pledge”. Kickstarter will ask you to confirm how much you are putting in. You'll also have to tick a few boxes, and then you’re done!
You will then be added to the rolling tally of backers, and total £ pledged. Once you pledge, you are a backer! (congratulations!) You will be emailed with information as the campaign progresses, and have the option to post public comments on the campaign page.
At any time before the campaign ends you can change your mind. You can either to add more money, lower the amount, or drop out altogether. When the campaign reaches its end date, if the total value of all the Pledges is at least as much as the funding goal, your Credit Card (and that of everyone else backing) will be charged. The project will have funded, and the creators will take your money and go off to make the project.
Every so often, creators will post “Updates”. These are communications to all their backers regarding how the campaign is going, dealing with FAQs, or announcing additional content. These are also visible on the Kickstarter website, where non-backers can see, but not comment. Updates vary in style and frequency. For some it’s just a “this is going great, thanks everyone” every few days. Others will be a carefully choreographed plan where they drip-feed information to keep people coming back to the campaign page every day, and announce new expansions to keep nudging the funding total along.
Why do creators like Kickstarter?
A lot of board game creators love Kickstarter. It allows them to get paid for their games upfront, and tells them exactly how many copies to print. Selling direct to the customer also means that they are (probably) only paying a single fulfilment partner, rather than having to sell at 40% of RRP to a distributer who would then take their cut and sell on to the retailer, who would want to turn a profit of their own when selling the game to the individual customer.
Even the “big” companies in Hobby Board-gaming probably don’t have the capital to churn out 2 or 3 mega-games per year without someone else footing the bill up-front, and that’s before you even start thinking about the expansions. If you’re a gamer who loves expansions, it’s easy to forget that only a small percentage of people who buy a game will get the expansion(s), and many will only ever play the base game: this means smaller print runs, lower profit margins for the creators, and a much harder time convincing retailers to devote the shelf-space to stocking the whole range. At its simplest, Kickstarter means that games get made which would otherwise not get made, whether that be due to production costs, too many different SKUs or any number of other reasons.
Why do gamers like Kickstarter?
Yhat’s all well-and-good for the creator, but where’s the benefit for you as the customer? That’s a relatively complicated question to answer but, broadly speaking, there are 3 reasons you might want to back a game on Kickstarter:
- I want to support this creator
- I want extra stuff
- I want a discount
I want to support the creator
A fairly obvious one. Maybe you just think it looks like a cool project, and you want to make sure it happens. For small companies or independent designers starting out, this is hugely important. It’s a great way to monetise any goodwill or interest they might have gained from running demos at shows or generally interacting with the gaming community. This is often the reason a lot of these games are funded. If a creator is leaning heavily on this as their incentive, then look out for lots of communication, potentially including fairly direct or specific responses to questions, as you’re putting your money into a person as much as you are into a project.
I want extra stuff
The other extreme. More common with a game that features miniatures or lots of expansions. This is also getting into the murky territory of “Kickstarter Exclusives.” At its simplest, the proposition the creator is making here is “back my game now, and get extra stuff (that will be harder/impossible to get for people who don’t back the campaign)” this has its ups and downs.
If you’re really going to play the game lots, then getting extra expansions is potentially enhancing your play-experience a lot. On the other hand, if you’re picking up the latest Zombicide (to pick a popular example) and only intend to play it a dozen times, then was it really worth backing the Kickstarter to get the 50 extra Survivor characters, when you’ll barely even use all of the ones in the base box, and could have waited until a retailer had it on sale?
I want a discount
Probably the simplest at first glance. If the game will cost $50 retail or $40 on Kickstarter (most projects still seem to charge and quote in USD) then backing now means a $10 saving. However, sometimes there are hidden costs. More on that next time…
Hopefully that’s enough of an introduction to the world of Kickstarter for you to get your bearings. Check back in a week for part 2, where we’ll highlight some of the things to look out for – or to avoid – when you’re thinking about backing a game.