Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Quitting The Kickstarter Grinder

 I'm trying to give up Kickstarter. I bet a lot of other people are as well, and some may even succeed. The problem is not with the product, most of the time, but the timing. I've had some generally successful backings over the years, and even the ones which stretched out well beyond their due dates eventually fulfilled, usually with a decent product at the end. But....as there is always a but.....

Sometimes that amazing game you are really enjoying in 2020, which has a Kickstarter that comes out for a product with a promised 2021 release date that gets pushed back to 2022 or beyond? Yeah, it may not be the game you care as much about two years after you successfully engaged with the initial product.

Or maybe it is, but the perpetual tardiness just generally makes the final product less and less viable over time as you wait patiently for something to play, only to find other actual real live games coming out that end up fulfilling the goal here while the Kickstarter languishes.

 Maybe the product seemed cool and came out, maybe even on time or early, and you suddenly discover that the hype was much more promising than the delivery. I have several in this category, where the finished product once received was just a huge helping of "m'eh" as I realized the idea of it was so much better, and indeed that idea still exists, waiting for a better form of fulfillment.

There's also the "Rich Guy" Kickstarters out there. The ones which plan to produce 1-3 years' worth of product in a single showing, and ask you to fork up hundreds of dollars up front. These can be the worst, because you are asking to commit to funding a game with many products before you know you're really going to be happy with it. Quite a few of these KSs exist, and I have skipped many of them. These days I skip even ones I know I'd like, only because I am reaching an age of elderly enlightenment where FOMO no longer concerns me. The new Adventures in the Cypher System on Backerkit, for example: I am confident I can end up getting the books out of it that I want eventually, when they are actually out, without forking over a few hundred dollars now or running up a credit card. 

Gamers love to get a new thing, especially one catering to their niche, and even better if it seems to come with a heap of support, which we love to death. But Kickstarters are in some ways a terrible burden on the industry, because they depend entirely on the diehard fans who have more money and less sense to back them and then fund lavish projects that ultimately go nowhere outside of the people who backed them. And if the company does print enough product for more than just the backers, will that product have any legs outside of the core fanbase that backed it? Can it ever generate a fanbase if the product is only ever really aimed at the diehards? 

What happens when a company decides it only produces new product that it can guarantee is a sure thing through what amount to preorders, anyway? Now the focus on product is not on "what will get people to buy this?" but rather "What can we promise people that will get them to buy it?" That seems like a bad deal for everyone involved. (Edit: Okay this sounds pessimistic; right now what happens is you get some very focused, niche level products that are often excellent for what they do. But, just as often, we get products that maybe are so niche and so specific that one wonders if anyone, anywhere, is actually playing them. I can think of a dozen such Kickstarted products right now).

Not all Kickstarters must be quit, though. A few are really good, they announce their product release on the platform mainly to get traction going for preorders on an already finished product. Some use the KS to generate revenue to pay for decent art and editing. The zine scene also uses this wisely. Not always (I have evidence now of a few zines that are in KS hell right now) but others are quick and timely on their release with plenty of consistent content (Hexagram for TFT from Steve Jackson Games is one I back consistently, for example).

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