23 Feb Intelligently Backing Board Game Kickstarters
Kickstarter has quickly become the crowdfunding platform of choice for aspiring board game developers, and for good reason. Tabletop games are consistently able to bring in huge sums of money and surpass their funding goals by large margins. CMON’s Zombiecide: Black Plague and Adam Poot’s Kingdom Death: Monster serve as perfect testaments to this.
But why is there so much interest in tabletop games on Kickstarter? And why are people willing to take on the inherent risk of backing a project when they could safely sit back and wait for the game to hit retail?
The answer is value.
Kickstarter projects are textbook examples of the duality between risk vs. reward. Developers understand that they expose their potential backers to a certain amount of risk and counteract this by rewarding their backers with added value. This value could be in the form of product discounts vs MSRP, Kickstarter exclusives, stretch goals, and/or access to products before retail release.
The good news is that this provides a potential opportunity for informed Kickstarter backers to realize a huge return on their investment. A contemporary example of this would be the Kingdom Death: Monster Kickstarter, in which backers enjoyed a minimum return of ~400% ($100 pledge level vs current MSRP).
In hopes that we can all become informed Kickstarter backers who never miss a golden opportunity, I have included a few guidelines to keep in mind the next time you happen to be browsing through Kickstarter.
1. Identify value.
From what we discussed earlier on, we know that value comes in many different shapes and forms. The question that we must ask ourselves before we pull the trigger is this, “What do I get out of this Kickstarter that I can’t get from buying it at retail?” The answer will vary depending on the person, but in short, if you can’t provide a reasonable response to this question, you are probably better off avoiding the risk.
2. Identify risk.
With value comes risk, at least in the case of Kickstarter projects, so it’s important to be able to identify any potential red flags before taking the plunge. Here are a few questions that should be asked:
Is the project well constructed/defined? The developer should provide thorough background on itself, the project, and how it aims to meet its goals. The project should clearly define what backers will be receiving for their investment.
Does the developer demonstrate competence? Does the developer have a solid plan and a realistic timeline for the project? The developer must demonstrate that it has a clear and well-defined path to complete the project. The developer should display a certain level of competence in subject matter related to the project, or demonstrate that it has consulted with another party who does.
Does the project sound too good to be true? The developer should be able to justify its ability to fulfill its obligations to the backer. If a project sounds like it is promising too much to its investors without the finances to back it up, a red flag should be raised. After all, money makes the world go round, and without enough of it someone will be forced to draw the short end of the stick (usually the backer).
Is the developer properly communicating with its backers? Developers must maintain consistent communication with its backers, and be open and transparent about the progress of the project. Radio silence is a huge red flag which shows that the developer is either: in over their head, uncaring towards their backers, embarrassed of reporting failure, or has run away with the money.
2. View Kickstarters as investments, not pre-orders.
Kickstarters are not pre-orders. I repeat, not pre-orders. So let’s view them for what they really are, investments. Like with all investments, backing a Kickstarter involves a small degree of risk. The developer is responsible for fulfilling its obligations to backers, but things don’t always go as planned. There is ALWAYS a chance that your money will be lost, and so it is up to the backer to identify any potential risks and/or red flags.
3. Be disciplined.
Backing Kickstarters often generates a huge amount of anticipation and excitement, making it an easy thing to get caught up in, and addicted to. This is why it’s important to set guidelines with respect to risk and reward when deciding whether or not to back a project. It is even more important for one to be able to say no when the project doesn’t meet these guidelines.
4. Watch for additional costs.
At one point in time, it was quite a common tactic for sellers on eBay to make their item more appealing by throwing a large fraction of its cost into the shipping fee. This gave the item the appearance of being very cheap when in fact, it was the same price as the others after shipping was included. This same practice is no doubt carried regularly on Kickstarter. Always be on the lookout for additional costs that might be incurred to the backer. If information on these costs are not published online, its probably a good idea to contact the developer for clarification.
5. Have patience.
Tabletop games are notorious for being unable to meet their Kickstarter deadlines. It’s better to view the delivery dates on Kickstarter as very optimistic estimates, and be open and reasonably understanding about delays. As long as the developer maintains a consistent line of open communication, you’ll almost certainly receive your backer reward. It may however be a year or two late… But in my opinion, it’s almost always better to wait a few more months for a well-polished product.