Welcome to An Introduction to Kickstarter: Part 2. Last time, we provided a brief overview of crowdfunding board-games: what is, and how it works. Today we’re going to think about some of the things to be on the look out for when thinking about whether to back a particular project.
Who’s doing this?
Before giving someone your money, it’s often worth putting some thought into who they are, and that is especially true when it comes to Kickstarter. Has this person/company run Kickstarters before? If they have, then spend some time looking at those projects: did those games actually get made in the end? Where there problems? Were the games well received?
From the main project page, you should be able to find a link, showing the creator’s name. Clicking this will show how many projects they’ve run before, how many they’ve backed. Clicking through to this will give you access to a full list, insight into the projects they’ve run before – clicking onto those projects, you’ll be able to read updates (from the creator) and comments (from the backers). If all their old projects are 6 months without an update and hundreds or even thousands of comments along the lines of “where’s my stuff?!?!” then you might want to think twice about handing over cash.
Equally, you can go onto Facebook, Board Game Geek, or whatever your online-game-discussion-place of choice is and ask people there. Of course, this means being exposed to the full range of prejudices and preconceptions that people have – to pick a well-known example, lots of people seem to dislike CMON for their “lots of extras, lots of exclusives” business model, and will take any opportunity to criticise them – personally I’ve backed 8 or so of their projects, and whilst there have definitely been some issues, only 1 has been significantly delayed, and some have even arrived early, which is virtually unheard of from most other projects.
First Created: Zero Backed
Sometimes there will genuinely be nothing out there about a creator, this is just their first project. In some ways, that’s great – these are the people who, at least accordingly to a lot of people, Kickstarter is supposed to support. The guy in his shed, the girl in her spare room, trying to turn that kitchen table prototype into a bona-fide, mass-produced board game in your hands.
I have backed projects from first-time creators, and I’d do it again. That said, I’m usually a bit more cautious about just how much money I’m willing to fork out to somebody with no track record, simply because “this is my first time” sometimes goes along with “I don’t really understand the inner workings of logistics and fulfilment.”
The “Zero backed” element is a bit trickier. There’s no requirement to have backed other people’s Kickstarters before you launch your own, and it’s very plausible that someone might have a personal account that they use to back games, then create another business account to fund their own project.
[Caption – if you’re thinking about launching a KS campaign of your own, you should really read Jamey’s blog first – even if you decide to take the opposite decision on every aspect, you’ll know what you’re trying to do]
With all that said, I’d definitely be a bit wary of someone coming to Kickstarter with no experience. Even people with a lot of experience in the boardgame industry can easily come unstuck if they fail to understand what’s different about Kickstarter from more conventional publishing channels. Seeing that someone has back a lot of project gives me reassurances that they’re aware of the issues that can – and will – come up, and has planned their project with those things in mind. If this is a topic that interests you, then I’d definitely recommend checking out the thoughts of Jamey Stegmaier on the importance of understanding Kickstarter before you use it to finance a project of your own.
“It’s Just a Pre-order”
Of course, some companies who use Kickstarter have done this all before. Potentially a lot of times before – and there are definitely folk who get annoyed by that. Companies that feel a lot less “deserving” of the kind of up-front support from gamers. However, these established Kickstarter creators also have a track record – you can click into their profiles, view their past campaigns, and see whether they have delivered on previous projects, what the main gripes were that people had. If most of the griping is people who don’t like the fact that a “company which doesn’t need to” is still using Kickstarter, then that’s probably a much safer project to be putting your money behind than one from a company whose prior projects are an endless string of “3 years late, no update in months” and the like.
It costs HOW MUCH?
You don’t need to look far to see a fair amount of evidence that global shipping has been a mess ever since Covid closed… well, almost everything, back in 2020.
Shipping Containers from China (where most of the Factories are) to Europe and North America (where most of the companies responsible for the games are) are costing orders of magnitude more than they used to.
For this reason it’s very important to read the small print on your Kickstarter. Most of the time, the price you see to on the Kickstarter page is only for the game, and you will be charged for shipping after the campaign is over. Most projects will have a table giving you at least an estimate ahead of time as to how much the shipping will be, but the thing with estimates is that they don’t necessarily reflect the final amount you end up getting charged, and the final figures could end up much higher.
On top of that, there was also a change in the law a year or so back which meant that Kickstarters now have to be very explicit about paying VAT whereas before there were… well, let’s just say “creative options” available to them. As VAT is 1) no longer avoidable, and 2) charged at different rates in different countries, most Kickstarters now add on VAT at the Pledge Manager stage as well.
The end result is that the sticker price you see on the Kickstarter page can end up being A LOT lower than what you actually end up having to fork out at the end of the day. If I look at projects I backed 5 years ago, most work out to be a really good deal compared with acquiring what I did at retail later, even without factoring in exclusive material. Nowadays, that’s generally not the case, and it’s a much more careful balancing act to ensure that there’s actually value to be had in backing a project versus just buying it at retail.
On the Fence?
So, you’ve done all your research, and you’re still not sure on your options? What do you do? Well 1 option that you might want to consider is just pledging $1. Assuming your project allows it, this is a way to be “a backer” of the project – and gain all the benefits that entails – without committing lots of your money if something makes you ultimately change your mind. Just make sure that your project allows that option!
That’s it for today – hopefully enough for you to start browsing crowdfunding platforms and deciding which projects you might want to support. Next time, we’ll be taking a closer look at what happens after the campaign ends, and the process of getting the game to your door.