Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Exploring Kicktraq as a form of Haruspicy


I can't help but notice some interesting figures parked over on Kicktraq, the site which thrives on analyzing Kickstarters to death. For the remainder of today's post I shall pretend that each Kicktraq report is like a scrumptious divinatory liver and I am the haruspex portending their weal or woe...

For the top example, the one I am presently invested in, Tunnels & Trolls Deluxe, is sitting comfortably at $81K right now, about 314% of goal today according to Kicktraqs. It's trending toward a 400% hit. T&T Deluxe is a niche game by RPG standards, but a persistent one which I know from personal experience has held a long time fan base that has remained dedicated to it through thick and thin. I also think it benefits a bit from overlap with the more traditional D&D-focused OSR crowd, because T&T is a venerable member of that club, even if it isn't a D&D-like, precisely--it has, more specifically, remained true to its roots and has deviated little over the decades from the original T&T.

So T&T has 7 days to go, but its trending at $81K with 1219 backers as of today. The buy-in for a decent return is $60, and everything on top of that is gravy.

Next we have the recently completed Razor Coast campaign, which is Frog God's latest deluxe hardcover set of modules designed for either Pathfinder of Swords & Wizardry Complete. We have a piracy-themed setting that looks pretty fun, actually, but the buy-in for a decent print set is $150.00. The KS did finish successful, at $164% of goal with $123K and 709 backers. At $174 per backer, that's pretty impressive. It makes me wonder what they would have earned if the books offered had included a more budget-minded lower price break (i.e. a $60-$80 price just for the two books in soft cover or something). As it was this was too rich for me, but a lower price point would have snagged my money. The ones offered were, alas, for pricey PDFs instead. I have enough PDFs I haven't read yet, no need to add some very, very expensive ones to the virtual pile!

Then there's FATE Core which is basically dynamite fishing toward success. It's got 7 hours to go as of this writing (which means it will be done by the time the blog sees print), with 9,584 backers and a ridiculous success rate so far thanks to $413K in contributions. On the other hand, they started asking for a meager $3,000 and clearly underestimated the interest for their product. At nine-and-a-half thousand backers, with the basic buy-in for a print copy at $30, and the average backer pledging at $43? Yeah, I have to say FATE as a system is clearly a Big Thing in gaming. It may not be for me, but clearly there's a large interest in it.

Of a far more niche nature we have Codex Celtarum, which I sure would like to back (conditional to some tax return money showing up before the KS closes). It's a new book for Castles & Crusades from Troll Lord, with a Celtic focus. It's at 171% of goal today with almost $7K in contributions and 109 backers. C&C is apparently very niche compared to some other more venerable products out there (or bigger name affairs tied to Pathfinder like Razor Coast) but its fanbase is hardcore about keeping up with it.

It looks like the Vampire 20th Anniversary Edition is getting more books, specifically The Hunters Hunted II, a revision of an older book that is apparently quite popular with 501 backers and $31K having just met its goal. I wouldn't know...I've never been that into the White Wolf games, and even when I tried recently my wife, who once was so into them that she got a tattoo of Sasha Vykos on her left arm, asked me not to. That was a bandwagon she didn't want to get back on, apparently (or fall of of, not sure which). So I remain curious at a distance.

So are there any other big hits out there? Browsing through what Kicktraq is following there are some apparently doomed projects, either faltering due to a drying of the RPG money well, or obscurity, or perhaps their pitch just doesn't resonate. For example:

The Endless Blue  is an RPG of a water world. It sounds interesting, but there's little to go on outside of the KS page, and the author's prior writing credits boil down to "lots of internet blogging." Which really might be a decent qualification but it's not something which serves as a good benchmark for a production-to-publication process. Actually, his credits mention several other minor works, but its nothing unusual in this hobby...we've all got a few writing credits rolling around in obscure RPG publications.

That's a problem with RPGs, unfortunately; our corner of the hobby world is top-heavy with people who all aspire to be game designers and writers, but very weak on professional oversight. That said, I sort of like the concept he's got going here, but maybe tone down the music just a tiny bit in the video?

And how about Broken Earth, a post-apoclayptic RPG that's just starting (34 days to go) but looks to be trending to success (thanks in part to a very modest $3,000 goal). It's a Pathfinder-compatible book, and in glancing through the description it looks Matt Hanson has done some work before, although nothing huge. Still....I may back this. I'd like to finally see someone produce a post-apocalyptic game powered by Pathfinder, maybe he can do it where others have continued to fail.

Aside from that, Kicktraq's listing has a lot of board games, but the RPG listings are a bit on the lite side.

So is there some means of prediction about the way the RPG hobby is trending? In a sense I suppose that yes, you can spot a few interesting trends. Obviously there is an interest for the hot and new (FATE Core) and there is also a dedicated fanbase for the classics (T&T Deluxe), while other games appear to have found their audience and can rely on them to garner support (Razor Coast, Codex Celtarum, Hunters Hunted II). Meanwhile a game with an entirely new concept, system and pitch from untested authors and artists languishes in obscurity (Endless Blue).

Personally, I think that every success on Kickstarter is a boon to the hobby (at least for now) for the simple fact that it shows that there is a dedicated core following for each game, one which is able to  stave off immediate gratification for a long term prospect. If our hobby was suffering for health, this might not be so typical. In fact, I'd suggest that a weak hobby might lead to plenty of KS failures right out the door, but that's clearly not the case. The only real failures appear to be the untested and the unknown.

The problem, unfortunately, will arise if too many past Kickstarters fail to deliver over time...or if the quality fails to match the hype (also known as the "great videographer, terrible writer" conundrum). Too many failures, broken promises or undelivered goods will lead to shaky confidence in the process.

Any Kickstarters you know about that I don't? I'd be interested in hearing about them.

(And now for my obligatory semi-weekly rant about old age, an aging hobby, and the lamentations of lost youth: Yessshhhh, we're all getting really long in the tooth in this hobby, aren't we? I know it's probably "just me" feeling this way, because I'm A: a very late father in life, B: still in the middle of a mid-life crisis, and C: my nostalgia for the old days is also strongly embedded in my memory of youth (i.e. being young at the time) and therefore I experience a persistent disconnect between my "sense" of the hobby and the reality of it each time I see yet another oddball forty-something (or older!) dude pitching his lifetime pet project. Gaaaaahhhh what the hell happened to me. Frickin' old age.)

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