Are You Now Allowed to Use Kickstarter as a Preorder Store?

15 November 2018 | 79 Comments

Have you noticed that a few creators have started using Kickstarter for true preorder campaigns?

But let’s be clear about what a true preorder is (in my opinion). It’s when a creator completes the manufacturing of a product, and then they start to accept orders for it. In that case, customers are simply ordering something that already exists, reserving their copy until it’s ready to ship.

This is distinctly different than a crowdfunding campaign where the funding contributes to the creation and production of a product. The funding is received before production begins (sometimes long before).

I think the two definitions are so often confused because of intent and necessity. When CMON launches a new Kickstarter, some people dismiss it as a preorder campaign because of the perception that CMON intends to make the game no matter what and they don’t need the funding. But (a) if they haven’t started producing the game, by definition it’s not a preorder, and (b) do you actually know CMON’s current cash flow? That doesn’t even include stretch goals (a key element of the creation process) and and gauging demand for the first print run (which you can do if you haven’t already started producing the game).

But we finally have an example of a campaign that really is running a true preorder campaign: Claustrophobia 1643. How’s it working out for them, and why did Kickstarter allow such a project on their platform? That’s what today’s article is about.

***

On November 6, Monolith launched their project for Claustrophobia 1643. It’s a game for which they’ve completed production of all 10,000 copies, which they emphasized would be not be available in retail. In fact, the 10,000 copies were already allocated (presumably on the boat) to fulfillment centers around the world, as the limited reward levels are region-specific.

It was an audacious approach to a project, and I was both impressed and curious that they would try such a thing. It’s not entirely dissimilar to the approach I’ve taken with Stonemaier Games: We make a new game, announce it when it arrives at our warehouse, and start accepting orders for it (but then we release it to distributors/retailers for release 2 months later).

Also, I like the idea of backers knowing exactly what they’re getting from Day 1, and there’s such a short turnaround time from the moment you pay to when you receive your reward.

However, I was a bit surprised that Kickstarter allowed Monolith to use their platform for a true preorder campaign. I’ll get to that in a minute. First let’s check in on how the project is doing, as they’re now in their final day of the campaign:

Well, that’s an usual curve, isn’t it? Honestly, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen on Kickstarter (aside from a scam project, which this is not): Over the last 5 days, the project has been losing money. It’s not uncommon for any project to have a bad day or two, but it’s particularly odd for the 48-hour reminder to have a negative impact on a project.

Compare this preorder campaign, for example, to another 2-player game ending soon on Kickstarter: true crowdfunding campaign Skulk Hollow.

While there are various reasons that Claustrophobia 1643 may be losing funds instead of ramping up at the end, I can’t help but think their preorder strategy had an impact on it. They’ve removed the act of creation from their campaign, and while FOMO (fear of missing out) may have inspired backers to jump in early, many of those same backers are now dropping their pledges now that they see that there are going to be over 2000 units to spare.

It’s certainly not a failure by any means–selling 7,700+ games is a great achievement, and backers are paying about $100 (KS price + shipping) for a game that would normally retail at around $150. But it does raise some red flags for other creators who might be thinking about a similar approach on Kickstarter.

***

That leaves the final question: Why did Kickstarter even allow this project on their platform?

I hadn’t planned to ask Kickstarter about this, but I was already talking to Luke Crane about how Kickstarter is now blocking some new projects from creators who have unfulfilled rewards (coincidentally, Monolith hasn’t fulfilled their Batman mega-project yet, though they weren’t estimating to do that until April 2019).

My confusion stemmed from two of Kickstarter’s main mantras:

  • “Kickstarter is a community of people committed to bringing creative projects to life.”
  • “Projects must create something to share with others.”

So…what if the thing has already been created?

Luke was very forthcoming and transparent with his response, though I still have difficulty wrapping my mind around the answer. Here are a few key points, along with my commentary:

  • “[Monolith is] making something new that couldn’t otherwise be made in the same way.” Sure…but they already made it. If the argument is, “This product could not exist without Kickstarter,” that’s simply not the case, as the product existed post-production before the campaign launched.
  • Luke explained a bit more that the intent matters, saying, “How and why the game is made counts.” I think the idea here is that Monolith made the game and priced it based on the knowledge that they would use Kickstarter to sell it. Luke is essentially saying that the timing of the creation isn’t what matters as much here–you can sell a product that already exists as long as you planned and designed to sell it on Kickstarter.
  • So I asked Luke about Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig–if we had planned all along to sell it on Kickstarter after manufacturing it, would Kickstarter have allowed it? Luke responded that Claustrophobia is leveraging the direct-to-consumer aspect of Kickstarter as a way of offering a much lower price than what they could offer off of Kickstarter. Given that Castles is a $45 game and Claustrophobia would be a $150+ retail game, Luke said that Kickstarter would not have allowed Castles on their platform (assuming the other production schedule parallels to Claustrophobia).
  • I was a little surprised that the price had such a big impact on Kickstarter eligibility, so I finally asked Luke about a hypothetical scenario in which Stonemaier Games designed and produced an expensive game. It’s ready to ship to backers. Can we launch it on Kickstarter? Luke’s response was “maybe.” He says, “If you’re telling your fans you’re doing a Kickstarter exclusive with a front-loaded production timeline, I’m inclined to accept it.” Obviously Stonemaier Games wouldn’t do an exclusive project, but Luke clarified that it’s more about whether or not we’re offering the game through other sales channels at the same time.

So can you, fellow creator, now use Kickstarter as a true preorder store? The answer is: Maybe, depending on how you express your intent to Kickstarter and your fans, and if it’s for such an expensive product that you can only afford to offer such low prices on Kickstarter.

Does any of this really matter? In my opinion, backers have the power to decide the types of projects that should or shouldn’t exist on Kickstarter. I love that backers have the power. But for the sake of creators, I also want to make sure there is some level of consistency and transparency from Kickstarter–if intent and price matter so much, shouldn’t they be noted in Kickstarter’s public guidelines?

I’d love to hear your opinions on this topic–please do so in a way that is respectful to Monolith, Kickstarter, myself, and other people who choose to comment. Thanks!

[UPDATE] A few people have mentioned that Arcadia Quest Riders followed this model too.

Also read:

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79 Comments on “Are You Now Allowed to Use Kickstarter as a Preorder Store?

  1. They’re 2nd.
    For better or worse, I beat them by an hour.

    We’re doing the same thing on our Kickstarter for Christmas Halfsies Dice that ends in 12 hours. Monolith and I had the exact same idea at the same time it seems.

    That said, I’ve seen plenty of campaigns that launched while the product was “already in production” in years past. If that’s the definition of a Pre-order, then Monolith and I are doing nothing authentically new.

    1. John: That’s good to know! If you can name other specific projects, I’d love to hear about them. For example, I had the thought that Queen Games had done so in the past, but I couldn’t find a specific project where they actually had not yet started production.

      1. I believe that was true for the Mottainai Wutai expansion. Ironically, after their ultra-fast delivery, they then ended up having to reprint decks because of production mistakes. So it didn’t really work out very well for the publisher. Also, Rising Sun had an amazingly fast delivery speed so you may look into that one.

      2. Queen games likes to do package deals to sell off existing stock on older stuff. E.g. I backed lancaster big box (technically just a repackage of existing game with expansions) and they offered discounts for other games like alhambra, fresco, edo, escape, kingdom builder if purchased together. Personally got lancaster+edo

      3. The Pioneers and Merlin kickstarter did that. They claimed their games would be produced mid-October 2017, yet the shipment arrived at Queen on October 5 and some backers started receiving their games as early as October 11, prior to when they claimed production would start. Granted, the Queenies didn’t ship until later, but the games themselves must have completed production prior to the end of the campaign on September 25 in order to arrive at Queen 2 weeks later. The only clue they gave to let you know production was complete was saying they’d sell the games at Spiel ’17,- the timing of mid-October production would not work for selling games at the end of October, but you’d have to be paying close attention to the campaign to see this (I only realized it after the games began shipping).

        1. Hmm, it also looks like for their Kobold campaign (which did not fund), they clearly stated “The production of the games is already done.” It seems like Kickstarter is allowing publishers to use it as a preorder campaign, but backers seem quite resistant to publishers who are honest about it in their campaigns.

  2. Interesting that on the list of banned projects is the following:

    “Projects that share things that already exist, or repackage a previously-created product, without adding anything new or aiming to iterate on the idea in any way.”

    Does it count as existing of it’s been already manufactured but had never been seen by nor offered to the public before? Where does this place Kickstarters for reprints of games by the same punisherp?

    1. Thanks for highlighting that rule, Josh. That certainly seems pretty clear cut that you can’t fund a project before production has begun (as that’s past the point of being able to add anything new or possibly iterating).

      I could still see reprints fitting that guideline if production hasn’t begun, as it’s common to make small changes and improvements to reprints (or, for more significant changes, printing new editions).

  3. When it’s a popular creator that makes great games (and usually brings in hundreds or thousands of backers), it kind of feels like a pre-order… BUT I don’t like the idea of the game being in-production before I pledge for it.
    (I saw a campaign recently with a 4 week turn-around shipping date. It looked like it wasn’t gonna hit the funding goal and now, I can’t find it. Maybe it was a mistake on the project creator’s part, but I was assuming the game was already printed.)

  4. Kickstarter is great for a lot of reasons which you’ve covered in previous blogs. I wonder about the value of this project when you’re paying a percentage to Kickstarter. Is there enough of a boost to sales that makes going this route value added. Personally, I’d rather not see a “preorder” on Kickstarter. I want to help create something or at least feel like I’m helping create something and there is enough noise on the site already. Thanks.

    1. Ryan: That’s something I touched upon with Luke as well: Why didn’t Monolith just host the preorder on their website like any other company that offers preorders for produced games? While Kickstarter does have built-in community engagement elements like comments and updates, any publisher can do that (like, we’re talking in the comments right now, and if you want regular updates from Stonemaier, you can subscribe to our enewsletter).

      1. I think for better or worse, Kickstarter has become THE destination to shop for games. Monolith will get a lot of foot traffic from being on their platform. It’s probably very similar to being a boutique shop vs a store in the mall.

        This is one more reason why I think Kickstarter needs to spin off the tabletop board game segment into a different platform that more directly addresses the needs of small and large game publishers and their customers and fans.

        1. Breadmaker Games, who posted a guest blog on this site, is trying to do that, but hasn’t launched yet. A July 2018 question on their blog comments thread asks if this is still happening, but remains unanswered.

  5. I’m very surprised by those vague answers. What is KS minimum price for a pre-order campaign? $80? $65? $55? And does the price depend on the product? $100 for a TV is very cheap. What about an 18 card card-game for $55, would that qualify?

    I’m also surprised that the majority of backers are from Europe and not the US. I thought it would be the other way around. Is that normal?

    This project makes KS sound more like a system to sell new(ish) things than to help create something.

    On Wed, Nov 7 Kickstarter sent out the following newsletter:

    “Ye Olde Games Newsletter”

    “We’re especially excited about Claustrophobia 1643, a game published way back in 2011 that has returned for a limited-edition print run.”

  6. Kickstarter has become an interesting website (in reference to the gaming industry). I think as the platform continues to age it is making it harder and harder for truly small startup companies to run a successful campaign. In my mind that’s bad for the gaming industry. The more indie games that can have their own platform and have a higher success rate creates more games in the hobby that wouldn’t be there otherwise. I like that opportunity to give the little guy a better chance.

    I have this opinion because I see the game page continue to have repeat creators (such as Monolith Board Games) that take the attention off of the small projects. The repeat creators generally get better at presentation on the campaign pages and also have larger budgets to pay for advertising/graphics/gifs, etc. because of their past successes. That makes it hard for the little guy to compete against as they get pushed farther and farther down the Kickstarter page. I’ve backed several games that should’ve funded but didn’t because they were in a flooded market. In my mind the intent of the Kickstarter platform was to help businesses start – and one day become a business that wouldn’t need crowdfunding. I don’t think it is intended to be a “preorder” site. I’d love to see Kickstarter limit the number of successful campaigns that a creator could have. That would make creators more selective in which projects they launch and which ones they do “the old fashioned way”. This would likely limit the draw of having a “preorder” campaign.

    However, having those larger companies on the same platform also could generate “foot traffic” which could help the smaller projects… in theory anyway. There are my two cents. :)

    1. I agree with you, Mike, ‘cos it feels like we’re getting to the stage – if we’re not already there – where there are ‘professional KS creators’ leveraging out the small 1- or 2-man start-up companies that genuinely need KS funds to make their projects happen… A couple of gaming colleagues are having just this issue with a dexterity-based flicking space game that clearly needs the funds, but because of the uncertainty of KS success they are torn between hand-crafting X no. of copies, or having them mass produced if they make enough money – it’s a terrible halfway house between the two for both of them at the moment…

      1. I think this is due to the market forces of the KS consumers. Many people have seen the quality and reliability of many of the game start-ups be very suspect, turning out half-baked games with sub-par components and poor rules. That’s why the reliable companies have risen to the top and are able to provide these bigger projects and have backers reliably turn out for them. For every Stonemaier and Far Off Games that have been able to use KS as a platform to launch innovative and quality products, there are dozens more shoddy and unreliable companies and individuals who are putting up CAH clones and forgettable games with abyssmal rulebooks and mediocre gameplay, and that’s if the game even makes it to the backers in the end. Backers are becoming more risk averse and want better assurance that they’re backing a quality product that will deliver. While big guns like CMON and Monolith can drown out a lot of smaller projects, I think the legacy of bad board game projects from new and small publishers have played a large part in making it more difficult for a new game from a first-time publisher or designer to get off the ground on KS these days.

      2. Hey @mangozoid, the Flick Fleet campaign is a perfect example of what I’m discussing below. The game looks pretty sharp, it’s definitely original, Jackson has spent a lot of time building up hype for it, and he’s done all the right things as far as creating and maintaining a social media presence. I think the campaign will succeed but it’s by no means a sure thing and if he can’t succeed with that game, I can’t honestly suggest to a new game designer that he go the Kickstarter route. I’m a new game designer myself and I was going to go to KS but I’m now thinking I won’t.

        1. My point exactly, and although I didn’t specifically name FlickFleet, that was the game I was referring to – the KS ‘newbie’ is always at a huge disadvantage nowadays – – even with an original product and following every bit of advice (well, most of it) offered by luminaries like Jamey, etc — and it means they’re expected to work even harder to get noticed when sharing the same lake as ‘pro’ companies.

          Granted, the slickness and quality of some of these campaigns can’t be argued with, but I totally agree with the points you make re. limited time, money and shelf-life of a FOMO attitude. I’m close to that point myself, and am thinking that even if I resolve not to buy any new games next year, I will have enough KS games trickling in throughout the year (based on what I’ve already backed), so I won’t be short of ‘new toys’ to play with… And it gives me a perfect excuse to re-focus my energies on my own game designs that have been neglected these last 6 months or so.

          Just as an aside, I’m not sure if it’s the Essen factor or just bad timing on my part, but I had 6 or 7 new KS games delivered in November… these will see me through the first 5-6 months of next year quite easily!

          All that said, I’d be interested in getting some advice (on behalf of an editor friend) or pointers to alternative crowdfunding sites for a boardgames magazine that’s trying to upscale from a solid start and strong base readership into something with more market penetration and potentially into a position where it can pay its contributors…? Any help/advice would be appreciated…

    2. Good stuff, Mike! I’m beginning to think Kickstarter has reached its point of saturation and is no longer a good bet for a new game designer:

      1. I’m seeing well-run, slick campaigns struggle, and other well-put-together campaigns fail. I don’t know what those campaigns did or didn’t do to build a community, but I can tell you that they had interesting games, great art, great videos, great reviews — all the boxes were checked as far as I could see, but the projects still struggled or even failed, e.g. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/overworldgames/new-salem-the-constable

      2. A friend who has backed a lot of projects no longer backs projects. Why? Because he doesn’t even have time to play the games he’s already bought, so why would he buy more? FOMO doesn’t last forever. There’s only so much room on the shelf, only so many dollars in the bank and so many hours in the day.

      3. To your point: Hi, I’m an unknown game designer with my first game, please back–
      IT’S ROB DAVIAU AND A REMAKE OF FIREBALL ISLAND!!! GOT TO GET IN ON THIS! OOH OOH OOH! THIS LOOKS AMAZING! EVERYONE IS BACKING IT!
      i’m sorry, what was your game again?

      4. Throw in the established game companies using KS as a preorder site and I just don’t really see much room for a first-time game creator anymore.

      Feel free to tell me how wrong I am!

    1. Thanks! I looked into Queen Games’ projects, and it looks like the vast majority of them have not actually entered production (or completed) at the time they launch the Kickstarter. But it looks like the Arthur expansion is an exception to that.

  7. Interesting. So it seems that unless you plan to only sell through Kickstarter, and that your project will bring in buckets of money for Kickstarter, you likely will not be accepted. Either way, I’m voting with my wallet on this and not supporting the project as I feel it goes against the mantra of why Kickstarter exists.

    If they want to do this type of thing, they should just create a Kickstarter storefront.

    1. Derek: I do wonder a bit if a smaller, new creator (not one who had recently raised $4 million on Batman) had gone to Kickstarter if they would have been rejected. Though, it’s Kickstarter’s platform–they can do what they want. I just prefer consistency. :)

  8. I enjoyed hearing this perspective. As an RPG designer (and future board game designer), this is something I’ll keep in mind when launching my own campaigns. Thanks for your thoughts, Jamey!

  9. Uhm it feels like the article was over before it started? I might be wrong, but it feels like you intended to elaborate on the questions you ask…

    “How’s it working out for them, and why did Kickstarter allow such a project on their platform?”

    Or are you just pointing this out to us, in hopes to start a discussion?

  10. Great article Jamey. This is a campaign I was watching with interest as well. Lots of thoughts, some good and some bad, still need more time to soak it in before I think I am ready to really discuss it.

  11. A case that benefits the game creator and shouldn’t make acceptance by KS iffy is when creator has manufacturing underway but takes it only to prototype stage before launching KS campaign. That allows creator to set final order quantity at end of KS campaign—and maybe even make a few changes to game based on backer feedback or stretch goals met.

    1. Dorothy: I would say that’s somewhat possible. For example, a creator could start to manufacture the non-printed components before Kickstarter, as they take longer than the printed components. They could add onto those quantities during the campaign and make small adjustments to the printed files before sending them to the printed soon after the campaign.

  12. I am still surprised that they allowed the campaign to happen.
    It seems Kickstarter is not a store. Unless it has exclusive distribution for some time.

    1. Yeah, it seemed a little odd to me that the response included a note about exclusivity. I’ve never heard that from Kickstarter before, that they would choose a project due to exclusivity over a more inclusive project.

  13. I’m presently one step removed from being a creator on KS, but should I ever choose to self-publish I will find myself in these matters.

    I’m not thrilled with the answers given by KS here, as the process is clearly subjective rather thsn objective. This leaves little room for confidence in the model should anyone choose to pursue it.

    I’m also more than puzzled by the tangential KS change you noted regarding denial of new KS launches for creators that have unfulfilled prior campaigns. Several publishers run their entire KS business model on the assumption that they can run overlapping campaigns – this appears to have a much bigger impact on the industry than the pre-order concept.

    1. JB: It does seem a bit subjective, while I also prefer clarity and objectivity. If Kickstarter is consistent about it, I support the idea of not allowing new projects if previous ones haven’t been fulfilled. Though here’s the exact wording from Luke about that:

      “My Trust & Safety team will review the creator’s project history and check to see if rewards have been fulfilled, projects updated and backers are happy. If that’s the case, the team will let the project through. If not, we simply ask the creator to slow down and get all previous ducks in a row before launching.

      [My team] will need to see significant (public-facing) progress on the unfulfilled project(s) before they will allow overlapping projects to proceed. This doesn’t necessarily mean all boxes shipped, but it does mean updates posted, comments answered and messages replied. If the creator is doing all that, they shouldn’t have any trouble launching overlapping projects.”

  14. I am not fond of this approach and it seems to fly in the face of what kickstarter is meant to be. And the answers by Luke seem pretty wishy washy to me. All due respect to Luke, as he’s probably trying to be very diplomatic in his answers and not painting himself or kickstarter into a corner… but this tactic seems to open the doors for pre order only projects, especially that plan much more exclusivity as a weapon to sell their product.

    I’ve seen many people I believe mistakenly call kickstarter for all intents and purposes a preorder system, and that image is only going to get worse with this new tactic.

  15. My biggest takeaway from what big companies are doing with these ‘pre-orders’ on Kickstarter is that they’re using Kickstarter because gamers are basically agreeing to pay the shipping costs they would normally incur by shipping these games to stores. I find that very oddly wonky.

  16. several campaigns from Queen games are just pre order campaigns for already finished and sometimes even printed games. they are by ni means the first

    1. Yeah, I’ve heard that from a few people, and apparently 2 out of their 42 campaigns fit the definition I mentioned: They completed production of the game before the Kickstarter campaign began.

      1. Was just about to comment on Queen Games. I have at least 4 Queen products (base game or expansions) that arrived on my doorstep just a month or two after the campaign ended. They do not limit the number of copies sold at each tier which makes me wonder what would happen if they sold more copies than they had. But they seem to not be worried about it.

  17. Given that – most people treat it like it is a pre-order service
    AND
    – more and more companies have to have more and more of the game ready to go to compete

    this feels like just removing the figleaf and admitting what has always been the case.

  18. From the comments, blogs and general discussions, it seems that this was a Strategy to combat the Pre-Christmas glut of games..

    There are now, what, 7, maybe 10, large box $100+ mini games, which would retail for $150-$200, a majority of retail consumers would balk at, The average kickstarter backer has maybe $200 disposable income for either the month or the pre-christmas season, so thats likely to be 1 game, maybe 2.

    FOMO gets people in, but then they do the math (Claustrophobia is $5.70AUD a mini) compare to Assassins Creed ($2.40 a mini) or Deep Madness ($1 a mini), or they gauge the game, 2 player PvP instead of 4 player co-op. So instead of a 24+ day run, the KS teirs, stretch goals, keeping people interested enough to stay in. Instead, Monolith try and get in, grab the cash, and close the project before FOMO wears off?

    Looking at the kicktraq of those other games, you can see the typical flow of backers, but what we don’t see is how many out, vs how many in.. only the end of day results. Claustrophobia may have already gained 10k backers, but 2.5k backers dropped out, which is a big difference to gaining 8k backers and 500 dropped, thought with a low of -133, we can take an educated guess that they have lost approx 100 a day from FOMO dissipation?, so they were probably never going to hit the full 10k.

    Is it a set up for a maybe future game?

    If they sold out the 10k in the first 24 hours.. they know they have at least 10k potential backers for expansion gear.

    I’m curious how many were lost due to the warehouse rules, that in the end were not so legit. Australia got 200, gone in 18 hours, so they unlock another 200, but struggle to sell 50 of them in 48 hours, if they’d started with 400 or 500, would they have hit it? That’s more me as a potential Kickstarter creator wondering about the logistics of the market.

    Also, whats up with the % of goal stat.. listing 1million %

    Lastly, I’m also Curious as to production, while they state 10k, but they haven’t hit 10k, they can go back on their word to sell the other 2300 on retail, If they hit 9,500, they could at least sneak 500 odd copies off through ebay and other 2nd hand sellers, If they got closer to the 10k mark, would people create 2-3 KS accounts to bypass the 1 per person rule, knowing that they’re likely to resell an indemand product?

    1. Bannister: Those are great questions. I don’t have many answers, though I did see on BGG that if they don’t sell out, they will launch another campaign after they fulfill this project’s rewards just for the remaining copies. At least, that’s what they said they will do–I can’t imagine Kickstarter approving such a project.

  19. Would not the recent KeyFlow campaign also fit into this category.
    It was just used as a pre-order mechanism to get the games delivered direct to US customers in post Essen-Pre-christmas time frame.
    The game was already in printing.

  20. I think there’s something a bit odd with this blog entry. On the RSS feed, the full text is there, and on the front page of the blog here, it says there’s 6 comments – but on this page itself, the text cuts out part way through, and there’s no comments… I suspect it’s just a weird formatting thing or some bad HTML somewhere.

  21. Hi Jamey, I’d just like to make a small criticism of your definition of exist. As in, did Kickstarter allow this game to exist. I think that it’s a bit narrow/literal of a view to say that the game “existed” without Kickstarter, because the thing that allowed Monolith to make the game was knowing that the game could be sold direct to consumers. Would the game have existed if it weren’t financially viable and would have caused great harm to the organization if they had made it without Kickstarter. As a business owner, I would say maybe no, it’s not possible to make a production run that big. Further, the business model of over produced games that ship direct to consumers at reduced margins to the creator is like a pillar of the Kickstarter board game community.

    So yea, that’s my only point. Did the physical product literally exist before the campaign / without Kickstarter. Sure. Could that product have been made had it not been immediately recouped by the community? That seems like a factor. I feel like Luke’s call makes sense to me. Full context, I’m an engineer at KS, so I believe in the mission more than the average individual, and while I don’t love the possible implications for small creators (like myself), I see where Luke’s coming from.

    1. Orion: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Luke mentioned something very similar to this statement, “the thing that allowed Monolith to make the game was knowing that the game could be sold direct to consumers.” I absolutely agree with that. But while Kickstarter is a great way to sell directly to consumers, it certainly isn’t the only way. I just want to make sure we’re not treating “sold directly to consumers” synonymously with “Kickstarter” at this point, because if we are, that would open anyone to sell anything through Kickstarter at any time.

      1. Agreed, that almost makes Kickstarter sound like a place to sell the stuff you (used to?) see in classified ads where someone has a large quantity of goods (‘existence of’ and ‘quality of’ maybe questionable – not that I am suggesting this of Monolith btw), quick advert in the newspaper, 20000 cheques (checks) in the post and maybe the buyer sees something, short duration advert probably only ran one or two days. That or the person down the flea market who never has the same goods week on week, or is even there week on week (at least you can see what you are buying with this though).

  22. Studio Bombyx did something like this back in May for the Bruno Cathala game Imaginarium. The game was already in stores in many European countries but lacked distribution in the US, Western Canada and others, so they they launched a Kickstarter to reach that market. Buyers who had already bought the game in Europe were not happy to see that a Promo Pack had been added to the Kickstarter Version. Also the amount asked for the base game was more than what it was being sold for in stores. The project ended up being cancelled on May 24th. The game did find distribution and showed up in FLGS in late October.

  23. Hi Jamey – I wrote about this a good while ago (‘Kicking off about Kickstarter again: A new miniatures assembly line?’), and one of the things that came back was the fact that potentially a company like CMON maybe cannot afford to front the costs of a big production without the help of KS backers (even for a successful franchise like GoT). I remain unconvinced, but my main gripe is with the extraneous add-ons that creep into these campaigns. Going purely on your article, I’d venture that KS is not being used “to help creative projects happen” in this instance (because like you say, it’s already happened), and looking at your graph, I fail to see how this project could be a KS exclusive if they’re going to have 2k+ ‘spare’ copies…? These will either end up in various FLGS or somebody’s spare room, unless they’re planning a trip into the desert for a repeat of the Atari/ET debacle? It also feels like a rather controversial ‘Early bird scheme taken to the extreme’ in that all backers are early birds until they run out of copies…?

    1. @mangozoid: Thanks for sharing. I don’t think Claustrophobia is a “KS exclusive” project (at least not as far as I can tell), meaning they could sell the product directly from their website post-Kickstarter. They have said quite clearly that they will not be selling it to distributors/retailers, though.

  24. Well, I’ll be honest: For board gaming, I think Kickstarter has hit rock-bottom in my personal perception by now.

    I will be default *always* assume a game isn’t worth it. This is because of a mix of things, but mostly it’s an inability to know whether the game is good or not (so as a consumer I have to assume it’s not) and the fact that publishers also (ab)use it to shed the monetary risk of production (kinda part of why you use a publisher…) onto the consumer.

    If a game is good, it’ll do well in reviews. It’ll hit retail later. If the makers are decent, they’ll not have kickstarter exclusives which change the game in such a way that it’s a lesser game without them.

    And if that’s not true, if the game doesn’t hit retail or has too many exclusives: It wasn’t worth it. There’s *tons* more great games out there deserving my money, no use playing the kickstarter-lottery with it.

    1. Hi Carighan, I’m leaning more and more onto this side of the fence, too. I have backed several KS projects, and although the majority have been ‘successful’ in the sense they’ve been completed and fulfilled, the end product in a few cases was simply not something I would ordinarily buy off the shelf from a gaming store. I am guilty of a bit of FOMO, I suspect, but I’m learning to look beyond the basic KS page and associated ‘fluff’ and hype when these KS are launched, and have started to analyse things a bit more deeply (I like to think) before pledging. Many have already expressed their ire at the propensity of ‘miniatures games’ (incl. me!), and I’d probably add that it’s not the KS Exclusives that I have an issue with (these usually become available afterwards, anyway), more all the added extras they try to sell you — it’s like the drinks and sweet counters next to the checkout at your local supermarket!

      I’d also agree that reviews are the key here, and vastly undervalued imho — and when so many of these KS games finally arrive months later after fulfilment (so to speak), the companies involved have already moved onto their next project without stopping to support and advertise the one they’ve just delivered… some half-decent press and publicity coverage could really support the game when it finally reaches the shelves of a FLGS. This is also why I believe there are no new ‘blockbusters’ in the same category as Settlers, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, etc. because a lot of KS games (even the really good ones) never get beyond personal backers. I think Azul is the only game I can recall of late that has started to push into broader markets and break some new ground (well, old ground already trodden by Ticket, Catan, etc to be precise). Does this make KS a cliquey market, or just a very small niche in a very wide market?

  25. Hey Jamie, interesting article. I’ve backed a few Monolith projects before but not this one since this game didn’t really interest me.
    A few weeks ago though I read facebook posts from Monolith about their thought process behind the Claustrophobia campaign Here are the links if you haven’t read it before.

    https://m.facebook.com/notes/monolith/re-establishing-the-risk-factor-at-the-center-of-the-model/1461710807267231/

    https://m.facebook.com/notes/monolith/what-playing-the-game-of-disintermediation-and-breaking-up-with-stretch-goals-po/1551865141585130/

  26. For me claustrophobia is even more than a preorder campaign, it’s a real order campaign, boxes are already on the ships and even if the campaign had failled they had no choixe than receiving and try to sell the boxes….

    Queen games campaigns look a lot to a pre-order campaign and could have been done on any online store (like claustrophobia)
    You also have campaigns of reprint without any new sMythic battles, crisis, etc…
    And sometimes you have campaigns where you sell games over producted (if my memory is correct Monolith or Mythic games have done it)

    For me KS is a crowdfunding platform but some companies use it as an online store… and I really don’t care as long as I have good games ;-)

  27. This may have been addressed above, but I think for the Claustrophobia campaign, it was also a way to advertise the game. Starting a KS project will get a certain number of eyes to see the project. Are there other projects that you think use KS for the “advertising” side of things?

    On another note, I’ve been disheartened lately by the “angry KS consumer.” I backed Fireball Island (and love it btw as do my kids), but I know some of the unkind emails the creators received probably really really hurt. I heard a recent interview with a game designer publisher and he used the word “entitled” for some KS backers. I think he was totally correct. The point I’m trying to make, in a round about way, is not about the angry KS consumer, but how it seems the atmosphere around KS has changed. It is still a very interesting business tool….but I wonder if the “Golden Days” are behind it.

    1. Definitely! Using KS to get more eyes on a product is one of the core reasons creators use Kickstarter. :)

      I appreciate your empathy for Kickstarter creators–there is definitely a certain level of verbal abuse that creators endure from a small number of backers, both publicly and privately.

  28. Interesting discussion.
    I do user research and strategy consulting, focusing in depth on startups for the past three years. I’ve found that identifying and working with structural patterns, backed with insight into human behavior, is the way to go about this.
    KS’s issue is fairly standard. They’ve hit the “scaling wall.” Like many software-based innovative startups, they caught a market, but it wasn’t the one they were chasing or that they wanted. Symptoms include hand-crafted, idiosyncratic founder responses in place of what should be predictable policy. I’d guess that Monolith in particular represents an early experiment in a “store” model, one they’re keeping quiet. They know a way to get money; their original idea was wrong. Maybe they can twist things so both can work?!? (Consultant: “No.”)
    Because they’re probably smart enough to know that the revenue-producing market is a terrible market. They are addressing a real problem: the incredible production and logistics challenges involved in a hit-based specialized entertainment product with a small and incredibly geographically dispersed market. But the issue is that this may not be an *interesting* problem. That is, the current challenges keep many or most potential market entrants out. Letting them enter it may be like giving the keys to a Formula One car to an enthusiastic teenager…just enough support to get that teenager in serious trouble. It’s certainly not a long-term business model. Those teenagers are KS’s main source of revenue. Assume they don’t die in a blazing explosion. The few who make it–and Mr Stegmaier I’d count you as one–wonder what they need KS for anymore.
    Oh, and they’re focused on a market with some serious upcoming demographic challenges (millennials are going to age out of boardgaming, most of them, and none of them are going to keep playing Kingdom Death Forty Pounds of Plastic) and that is still small, making even small crises, the common kind, able to wipe out the whole thing. Ask a baseball card store owner, or Comics Guy.

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