Back in June I wrote about Kickstarters and how good it is for the community because wargame development is, for most people, is prohibitively expensive. Kickstart campaigns gives those people the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the community and gain their support. It’s a very very good thing.
However of late I’ve noticed that there are more and more instances of established companies that actually have capital using kickstart campaigns to fund their latest projects. I have a problem with this because businesses are supposed to work on the following principle:
Independents that don’t have that initial investment benefit from kickstarter campaigns because otherwise it would require an extraordinary long period of saving or a business loan which, especially in these times of austerity, they probably wouldn’t get.
Established companies have to make money before they develop new projects in the same way as a shop has to make money to buy more stock. It’s called economics. No money, no reinvestment. It’s not right for established companies to use kickstarter campaigns to fund projects when, seeing as they’ve already made money out of the community, they should be using capital.
There’s an argument that pledges equate to pre-orders and this is partly true however for a company to be able to fund the project and give pledges their rewards their paying an inflated cost. Let’s take a look at Mantic as an example. A company that has been kicking around for a while now. Their releasing an ever-expanding range of models for their Warpath game which suggests capital investment, yet they’re holding their hands out for community money for Kings of War and, more recently Dread Ball to the total sum of $562,845. And what do you get for your money? Well not a butt load. $80 gets you a copy of the game. Which won’t cost $80 dollars and it won’t cost $80 to produce. More over, as the retail price already has the cost price built into it you’re actually paying twice. But wait, that’s not all, you get a print of the cover art which costs pennies to produce beyond the salary of the artist, and a digital copy of the rules, which have already been written. Beats working for a living I guess.
Kickstarters for established companies boils down to this – profit. Kickstarter schemes to them are essentially a loan they never had to pay back. It’s free capital. So when the game launches and sells, any money they make goes straight into the bank. More or less anyway, I accept there are distribution costs etc but I’m willing to bet much of that is added into the cost of production.
The difficult thing is that there are lots of very cool kickstarter schemes out there, like Soda Pop’s Relic Knights, and some companies like them, such as Avatars of War, genuinely needed community money to take their development to the next level. There’s an argument that these companies are too super niche and found them in a position they couldn’t get out of but that’s the beauty of kickstarter campaigns; the community decides what’s worth funding and what’s not. And, realistically, like Membraine with their Exodus Wars game, if they hadn’t got any money they would have found the money themselves eventually.
Where crowd funding comes unstuck, however, is when a company can use their reputation and a marketing budget to promote their campaign above struggling independents. The obvious counter point is that free trade is a bitch and it’s a dog eat dog world out there. And that’s true. However, in a niche market where goodwill is as important a currency as the coin of the realm it’s a risky business to be so blatant in their profiteering. The conversation may as well go something like this:
Gaming company: Hey, fancy giving us some money to fund our new game?
Gamer: Don’t you have money of your own?
GC: Oh yes, but if you give us your money then we’ll give you a copy of that game and some other tat and you get to say you helped!
G: Hey that’s a great idea! I buy a game at an inflated price for no real reward.
GC: Yes, and when the game’s out we’ll make sure you get an inconsequential mention and then forget all about you, all the while profiting wildly from a game we had to make zero investment in ourselves.
Yes I’m a cynic but it’s also true.
I have very little hope this is going to change opinions as the fact that Reaper, one of the most established model companies in the world, raised almost $3.5 million for their BONES project. So people are clearly happy pledging. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say something as kickstarter campaigns are meant for those that can’t do it on their own, not for those looking to do things on the cheap.