Oh man. Here it is. My post on Kickstarter. Promised years ago and stewing in my over inflated head for even longer, it took the release of what I hope will be a great game to finally pry these words out of me. If you want to skip the diatribe and just read about Scythe (TL;DR)- the first game that we have backed in years, just click here. Otherwise, let the random Kickstarter thoughts spew forth.
I have spoken at length to many of our customers over my personal duality involving Kickstarter. One personality – the G4m3r – loves the whole process of “kickstarting” a game. From the hype, to the updates, even the drama during production and shipping, culminating in a product showing up at your door months or sometimes years later. It’s like Christmas at random times throughout the year.
The other personality – STORE OWNER – struggles with Kickstarter. That side of me really doesn’t see how it can ever be a good thing for the small retailer. The offers online, the special EXCLUSIVE promos, stretch goals, updates, etc. make it extremely attractive for the end customer to go direct (via Kickstarter) to buy the product (in this case, I’m talking about games here – for obvious reasons) from the creator. The end result of this should be that a select few people who gamble on a game (by pledging and paying up-front), are rewarded with exclusive content as a Thank You from the creator. These rewards are ostensibly for helping fund the creation the game; after that we see those games on the shelves at your FLGS a few months later minus the exclusive content.
In practice however, I don’t see this happening too often. Yes, the big players in funding games on Kickstarter (Cool Mini or Not, Queen, Reaper, Dwarven Forge) have a track record of being able to successfully translate their products from the Kickstarter phase to the retail one – but those guys are (being a bit careful here) not really using Kickstarter in the spirit of crowdfunding. They are using it as advertising and market research. Those companies already have the capital and knowledge to bring a game to market unless they are doing something highly unusual.
For the small publisher / developer, the Kickstarter-to-retail path seems fraught with peril. There have been many times a customer has come into Fair Game and asked if we carry a certain game which they have heard about, only to have us tell them that “sorry – that game was funded on Kickstarter and we did not back it. I’m not sure if we will ever be able to get it since it isn’t clear if our distributors will by carrying it.” How disappointing for both of us.
It is my understanding that many small developers just don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to get their games in distribution and still be cost effective. Many of them have developed their game(s) as a hobby – not necessarily a business. As soon as the financial side starts creeping in, the interest level probably wanes (rightfully so I suspect) and the decision is made to either shutter the doors on the current game and move onto another, or try to do fulfillment on their own. Either way, it makes it that much harder for the FLGS to get their hands on post-Kickstarter games in a reliable and consistent manner.
Of course, the “easy” solution to this problem is to just back the games as a retailer. Many developers now offer retailer levels that give us a reasonable margin and also (usually) give us the exclusive stretch goals as well. To participate we just back the product at a specific retailer level – (pre)purchasing a number of copies (usually at least 6).
The problem with that is twofold. First, we don’t really know how well received a game will be once it is released. One thing us small retailers try to avoid is having a large back stock of a game that just doesn’t sell. Similarly – and surprisingly – a small game which is successful and in demand which we actually did back can also be an issue if there are no more in the pipeline (or there are severe delays). Even if I take the risk, back a game (and get my 6 copies) and sell them all immediately, unless I can restock quickly it almost doesn’t matter. There are so many new games coming out at an alarming rate – and our customers are fickle (justifiably – there are so many games to choose from) – that if the latest Kickstarter game does make it into our store, is a huge hit, and then doesn’t come back onto our shelves for 3 months or more – the buzz is lost. The interest might very well be gone. We may have sold out of our initial order, but are now turning people away awaiting the general distribution pipeline to fill. By the time we restock, the interest has waned.
The second more concrete problem in retailers backing these games is the required payment up-front of a product that may not ship for quite a while. While a bit of an accounting mess, it also wraps up inventory funds which could (should) be spent on tangible product which will sit on our shelves and be sold to customers.
Finally, as a kind of conglomeration of both problems is the process of deciding which game(s) to back. Which will sell? How many to buy? How much money to commit? The research involved in doing that can be quite time consuming and is fraught with potential emotional biases.
So – anyway. Therein lie my Kickstarter demons. Love and Hate. Frick and Frack. Fear and Greed.
Now, for whatever that rant was worth – below is some exciting news about a game I am personally very excited about. Excited because I love 4x games, the theme is awesome, the artwork looks fantastic, and the designer (Jamey Stegmaier) has developed into quite the crowdfunding guru as well as having a great mind for game design. My wife and I adore his game Viticulture and appreciate that he is trying his best to help local game stores participate in his Kickstarter projects without being too overbearing. His newest game is Scythe – which is described as follows:
Designed by Jamey Stegmaier (Viticulture & Euphoria) and based on the art and world building of Jakub Rozalski, Scythe is a 4x game (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) set in an alternate-history, 1920s Eastern Europe. Scythe tells the stories of 5 factions competing over an unclaimed patch of land surrounding the mysterious Factory.
Check out some of the artwork and pre-production pieces in this post and then head over to the official website to read more. Then – when you decide that you want to back this project – send us an email (email@example.com) or call us (630-963-0640) at the store to place an order. Choose from one of 4 versions:
Rather than ask that you pay for the whole game up-front, we will take a 50% deposit on whichever edition you choose. Once the games arrive, we will give you a call to come in and pay off the balance and pick up your game. That way, you and Fair Game both assume a portion of the risk but also the reward.
Also – for those of you who have already backed the game on Kickstarter, it is perfectly acceptable to cancel that order and then contact us. The net difference to the funding of Scythe will be zero.
All deposits need to be paid by midnight, November 4th, 2015.
Some common questions:
- [Q] Will I get all stretch goals if I buy through this offer with Fair Game?
- [A] Yes – all stretch goals unlocked during the campaign will be included with your purchase.
- [Q] Will I have to wait until the games are shipping from distributors, or will I get my game when the other Kickstarter backers receive theirs?
- [A] We have been assured that retailers participating in this program will be shipped their games at the same time as all other Kickstarter backers. You will be receiving your game during the same shipping wave as all backers.
- [Q] Do I have to pay shipping for the game(s) I order through Fair Game?
- [A] Not at all. Fair Game will pay for all shipping fees.
- [Q] Do I have to pay sales tax on the game(s) ordered through Fair Game?
- [A] Yes – like any other product we sell at the store, sales tax will have to be charged. We will take that out of the total cost of the game when you pay off the balance.
- [Q] If I cancel my order on Kickstarter, will I be charged a penalty? Will this jeopardize the success of Scythe?
- [A] First – there is absolutely NO penalty for cancelling a pledge on Kickstarter. Second, as long as you give us a down payment on the version(s) you want to pledge for, we will in turn increase our pledge on Kickstarter to match. Win – win!
- [Q] Will you be stocking any other Stonemaier products?
- [A] We do plan on bringing in Viticulture and Tuscany as soon as they are both available again. If you are interested in other Stonemaier products (like those awesome treasure chests), please let us know and we will try to get them in ASAP.
- [Q] What is the deadline for deposit?
- [A] All orders and deposits need to be settled by midnight, November 4th. This leaves us less than a day to update our pledge to reflect any last minute backers.
This is our first time at Fair Game trying this type of Kickstarter fulfillment – so if you have any questions or concerns, please contact us!
I am personally very excited about both Scythe (you better believe that I’m backing the game through our store!), and our first serious attempt at backing a Kickstarter project from Fair Game.
Let us raise a glass (is that just water in there?) and toast.
Dos vedanya Tovarisch!