Kickstarter Face-Off #2: Big Companies on Kickstarter

12 January 2014 | 33 Comments

One of the ongoing debates about Kickstarter is the increasing number of big companies using Kickstarter as a platform to launch products. I wanted to see what the average Kickstarter backer thinks about this subject, so that’s the topic for this week’s Kickstarter Face-Off.

Adam photoPro: Adam Buckingham

I live in Madison, WI, where I am a financial analyst for a software company. In my free time, I am an avid board gamer, sci-fi writer, and aspiring game designer.  The most recent Kickstarter I backed was Coin Age by Adam McIver and Tasty Minstrel Games. I can be found at and on Twitter @AdamBuckingham.

As a backer, do you like the idea of big companies using Kickstarter?

Yes. I think that any and all companies should feel free to use Kickstarter to launch projects. The size of a company isn’t important. Rather, the value of the project is the most important thing.

1. It’s not about the money. Ok, it’s a little about the money, but only a very little. The full potential of Kickstarter is as a marketing and sales forecasting platform. Kickstarter allows a company to predict the sales of a product prior to actually putting it on store shelves, and helps build excitement and buzz. This is something that any company, large or small, can benefit from.

Imagine if Columbia Records was considering producing a Kevin Federline album. They could use traditional means to determine whether that was a good idea, but ultimately, the truest test of sales would be to produce the album, and get it on store shelves. With Kickstarter, they could put the project out there to determine if sales would be large enough to make it worthwhile. If the project fails, then they have saved themselves and K-Fed a lot of work that would have netted minimal gain, and wouldn’t have benefited the music industry as a whole.

On the flip-side, what about K-Fed’s loyal fans? If they can rally together and pledge enough money to the campaign, they can enjoy a new record from their favorite artist that might not have otherwise been made.

2. Large companies produce products by ordinary people. It is easy to say that a large company has the resources to produce a product without using Kickstarter funding. This is certainly true, but it’s important to know that the ability to do so does not always translate to the will to do so. Producing a product from a first-time designer or artist is a huge risk for a company when they don’t know what the response will be.

In the board game community, it’s often said that every gamer is designing a game. In my experience, this is actually not far off the mark. Everybody has a dream of having their idea published. However, in terms of sales volume, much of the industry is dominated by a few larger publishers. Producing a game is expensive, and for a major publisher (and smaller publishers too), they have certain numbers they need to sell in order to make it worthwhile to publish a game. It is much less risky to produce a game by an established designer or within an established franchise.

However, a larger company may be willing to take a chance on a new designer or concept if they know that they can meet their minimum sales quota. With Kickstarter, they can guarantee that prior to taking the risk. If the community gets behind the project, then the company will benefit, and the designer will have his or her project made.

3. Kickstarter enables better products. As a backer, I want the best product possible. For me, if I’m backing a board game, that means better components, more content, better packaging. These things cost money for a publisher, especially at small volumes when they are unsure whether a game will sell out and see a second printing. More often than not, a company will choose to forego the upgrades and just produce a small number of products that are “good enough.” If they knew they could sell twice as many games on the first printing, they would be able to upgrade components at a much lower per-unit cost. That means a better product for the backers, but also a better product on retail shelves.

Kickstarter allows them to offer the basic product and if support is bigger than expected, upgrade via stretch goals. With the expanded Kickstarter support, they can also make larger orders for retail copies. That means that more games can be on shelves at the game’s public release and fewer people having to wait out a long lead time when the hot new game sells out of stock.

In conclusion, Kickstarter is an invaluable tool for companies of any size. As a sales forecasting and marketing tool, it can provide large and small companies with the confidence to produce better products for backers and traditional consumers alike.

Counterpoint from the Con

Running a business is full of risks. Predicting sales of a new product is just one of them. A big company, aware of the markets where it operates, needs to know how to do it. I agree that any mechanism that would allow it to mitigate this risk would be highly beneficial to the company but Kickstarter might not even be a reliable platform for forecasting demand. Its users are in no way representative of the mainstream market, and predicting post-Kickstarter sales remains a foggy business. Let’s take the K-Fed example. If his loyal fans all “rally together and pledge enough money to the campaign” does this mean that the album is going to be a success after Kickstarter?

The reason why big companies want to be in Kickstarter is to pre-sell their products at no risk. This is extremely valuable to them, but that’s not the issue. The question we should be asking is whether big companies using Kickstarter is also beneficial to the ecosystem, which involves its competitors, big or small, and consumers. My opinion is that it is not. Not only it goes against Kickstarter’s core principals, but it also impacts negatively on small creators. Recently, Kickstarter helped triggering a revolution in the board gaming community by allowing small independent publishers and game designers to launch extremely successful and high quality games. In theory, big companies could also participate in this revolution by bringing new designers on board to launch their projects. But only in theory because this is not what we have been seeing.

In the end it’s all about the games and gamers. It is true that Kickstarter enables better products for companies of any size. However, if big companies start using it more and more often, there is a price to pay. Small creators are the ones who are are truly taking the industry to a whole new level and bringing new gaming experiences. If big companies flood Kickstarter with their new product releases (or in same cases re-releases), the visibility and chances of success of smaller projects will be greatly affected. This will have severe consequences for independent publishers and new game designers, for the gamers and, finally, for the games we play!

TiagoCon: Tiago Marques

My name is Tiago Marques and I’m a Kickstarter believer. I was born 28 years ago in beautiful and sunny Lisbon, Portugal. I’m a physics engineer turned neuroscientist, after a brief experience in management consulting.

When I am not in the lab studying how the brain builds sensory perceptions, you’ll find me running, cycling and swimming, as I train for an Ironman in May, or playing card, board and video games with my friends. My latest Kickstarter backing was Villages: a Construct and Conquer Card Game, that I can’t wait to add to my gaming evenings.

For me, big companies clearly don’t belong in Kickstarter and here’s why:

1. It completely misses Kickstarter mission

Although, Kickstarter’s main goal is to help bring creative projects to life, it goes much further than that. According to the “What is Kickstarter?” page on its website, backing a project is more than just giving someone money, it’s supporting their dream to create something that they want to see exist in the world.

Big companies don’t need this kind of support. Big companies don’t need Kickstarter. They’re basically exploiting the hype that it has generated to free fund their ventures. In some cases it’s even worse, with companies using it as a straight pre-order platform for their products.

No, Kickstarter exists for people like Jaron Frost, the creator of Villages, who describes his goal quite nicely in his project video, “I would like to bring the game to as many people as possible and that’s why I am here on Kickstarter”.

2. It impacts negatively on smaller creators

It does. In several ways. The most obvious one is competition for funding. Money is a limited resource and backer’s money is no different. In fact, due to the nature of how patronising projects works and the fact that it might take several months to receive the rewards, the psychological effect of spending money on Kickstarter is very different from buying something of the streets. So less money in circulation means less funding for smaller creators which means that fewer dreams are supported.

Additionally, the resources that these companies have are orders of magnitude higher than those of indies. They may invest more in a project video than what a small creator is asking for his total funding. This will accustom backers to a level of polishing in projects that might be out of range for a typical small creator. This situation has even bigger consequences when a big company launches a megalomaniac project that directly competes with the one of your average Joe. It really is an unfair fight.

Finally, one of the reasons for Kickstarter’s earlier success was how easy it was to submit a project for funding. Everyone there was, to a certain degree, on par with each other, and therefore the decision to launch a project could be taken relatively lightly (as long as the project was well-grounded). As more and more huge projects appear on Kickstarter, small creators will start feeling overwhelmed by them and question their decision to advance. Quoting Kickstarter’s co-founder Yancey Strickler from an interview about a year ago: “The thing is, if Michael Bay came along and wanted to do a Kickstarter we’d probably tell him, please don’t. I would never want to scare the girl who wants to do a $500 lithography project, ’cause that’s why we started this thing. We think we have a moral obligation to her.”

3. It will eventually corrupt the platform

Supporting big companies in funding their ventures is not Kickstarter’s mission. I will even say that it goes directly against its mission. It will make funding for smaller creators even harder that what it is, and for what? So that big companies can save some pennies in interest rates? Is it really worth it?

In my opinion, in the long run, this will ultimately destroy Kickstarter. Creators will either flee to other platforms or give up on their dreams. Original backers will see Kickstarter as just another online store and will spend their money somewhere else. Maybe I am sounding too dramatic and pessimistic. Maybe I’m just being realistic.

A few years ago an online platform was created to facilitate consumer-to-consumer commerce. It was the equivalent of a gigantic online garage sale. From there it became the storefront for small and local businesses. Nowadays it is flooded with low-cost overseas manufacturers selling products of dubious quality. Can you guess the name of this website (hint: it starts with an “e” and its name represents a large body of water connected to the sea).

Counterpoint from the Pro

I agree completely that Kickstarter provides a fantastic platform for independent people and small companies to do something they might not otherwise be able to do. It’s a great place for that. The fact that an average person with a great idea can create a page and get support for his or her idea is fantastic. But my question would be, “Where do you draw the line?” Who fits into the category of “small enough” for Kickstarter? What about a mid-sized indie book publisher that has published dozens of books in the past? Or a software company who is running their second kickstarter after their first raised a million dollars? How about a game publisher with a handful of games that were successful on Kickstarter or retail in the past? I’m not sure how you say that a company is just a little too “big” for the platform, while another company competing in the same space is ok. It creates an unfair competitive advantage to the smaller company, based on an artificial distinction of “need.”

The argument against large companies seems to assume that they are cynical and heartless, faceless companies. I think that’s an unfair depiction of these companies. As I said in my main points, these are people creating projects. The products they produce are often the dream of a small-time author, artist, or designer. The fact that the company is large doesn’t mean that there aren’t people involved who are passionate about making their dream a reality. To imply that the passion project of a so-called “indie” producer is more worthy than that of an established producer is creating a distinction that ultimately does not exist in the marketplace. Why should I be able to use the platform to create my passion project, but if I take that exact same project to a large company, they can’t do the same thing?

Large companies won’t destroy Kickstarter, as long as good projects are being created. The thing that will destroy Kickstarter is if backers feel like they aren’t getting what they expect to from projects. Backers fund projects that they feel are worthwhile. Whether that project comes from a large company or small, the most important thing is that the creators deliver on their promises. There are small companies doing great things on Kickstarter. There are also large companies that can do equally great things. Likewise, small companies fail to deliver quality products just as often as large ones. Kickstarter is a business, and they run the site for other businesses. When you acknowledge that Kickstarter has never been about charity, it’s hard to argue that a one-person business is more deserving than a 100 person business.

My Take

First, I want to say that both Adam and Tiago presented excellent arguments (as did the first two participants in last week’s KS Face-Off). I found myself agreeing with both of them, and I don’t think there’s one correct answer here.

As the co-founder of a very small publisher that I hope will grow into a slightly bigger publisher, this is a topic I think about a lot. I love Kickstarter as a platform because it allows me to directly connect with backers and even let them shape certain aspects of our games.

The question for me is: Can I mimic the Kickstarter experience on my own website? One example that came to mind as I was writing this entry was Plaid Hat Games, which often offers pre-orders for their games at a healthy discount. They even create a small amount of involvement by posting a question for customers to answer when they place their pre-order. I asked Colby at Plaid Hat if he would mind sharing the number of pre-orders they’ve received during the first month that their new game, Dead of Winter, has been available for pre-order. Colby divulged that they’ve received about 650 pre-orders (651 after I  placed my order a few minutes ago) during that time. So, a fairly large number based almost purely on Plaid Hat’s stellar reputation and the nice discount, but probably less than if Plaid Hat has used Kickstarter. (Not that Plaid Hat is a “big” company, but they are an established company.)

As a backer, it’s very rare that I see a big company use Kickstarter in a way that excites me. I don’t mind that they’re on Kickstarter, but for me to back a project from a large company, I need some level of engagement to draw me in. I don’t think there’s anything ethically wrong with a big company using Kickstarter as a pre-order system, but I simply think that I–and many other backers–aren’t interested in supporting those types of projects. I think they’re actually less likely to overfund to the extent of a well-run project by a little guy.


What do you think? Do you mind seeing big, established companies on Kickstarter? Have you supported their products?

Leave a Comment

33 Comments on “Kickstarter Face-Off #2: Big Companies on Kickstarter

  1. Honestly I think this just is a two sided argument, there’s not always a right answer. I think that the big companies draw people to Kickstarter and more eyes on their stuff means more eyes on the little guys stuff. On my local high street there are little independent retailers next door to international chains, the little shops don’t look as good or offer as much but they’re still there, and they get footfall from people going to shop in the big chains. In fact the death of a high street is usually heralded by the lack of those big chains.

    Its true that “big” campaigns can hoover up money from backers, but huge campaigns can be launched by independent producers. I pity the projects from “big” companies that launched the day that Exploding Kittens or Kingdom Death hit Kickstarter.

    At the same time projects that would be printed with or without Kickstarter seem a little sad. They do very well, despite what Jamey said about them not overfunding as much Queen games has a project for an Escape the Temple expansion on Kickstarter as I type this which is on 1866% with 8 days to go in its campaign. I suspect it would have been launched no matter how the Kickstarter did, and I suspect that Queen had the funds secured to launch it without the Kickstarter. If there is a “should” to Kickstarter its that you “should” need Kickstarter to launch your project. But there isn’t really a should, and big companies are a double edged sword, but they’re one that’s not going anywhere, so learn to love the good bits I think.

  2. as: Those are interesting comparisons. You might be interested to check out some of the data from this study, which indicates that first-time, small-time creators are actually thriving on Kickstarter:

    I’m not sure if the boutique comparison applies to Kickstarter, because Kickstarter is product-specific. Sure, when you put a Walmart next to a boutique, Walmart will drive the boutique out of business no matter how much local loyalty the boutique has. But the boutique is selling hundreds of different products.

    What if the boutique only sold ONE product? They’re completely focused on a single product. They put their heart and soul into it, they built up a great fanbase for it, the clearly communicate what the product is, and they offer it at a fair price. Walmart doesn’t stand a chance against them.

    I also don’t think it’s the case that the press only highlights the big companies. There are hundreds–if not thousands–of media outlets (blogs, podcasts, video channels, and forums) that cover tabletop games. I subscribe to about 300 of them, and I guarantee that they’re not just talking about the games from big companies. In fact, those games comprise only a small fraction of press coverage.

    I think one of the greatest things about Kickstarter–and the reason why small creators will continue to thrive on it–is that backers are motivated by being a part of the creation of something that won’t exist without their support. Big companies can’t compete with that.

  3. The problem is the big companies are going to drive out the little guys. It’s like a multi-designer clothing boutique. More of these boutiques used to support small local brands, giving them more exposure, a chance to grow. Then they started carrying the bigger brands, and based everything on profits, and you just don’t see the little guys any more. Same with a game shelf in a big box store, you now only see the big producers. Kickstarter’s window shelf space is limited too. It’s great they do those ‘Projects We Love’ etc to highlight great creative projects from little guys… but the press will always highlight only those big companies. Or those big companies have money to drive the press. It’ll be harder to hear from the great small projects.

    –I encourage you to revisit this topic again with these thoughts.

  4. Jamey: Thanks for getting back to my comment. I see your point about tracking funding. It may prove to be difficult. I guess I just see a lot of big name companies taking advantage of what I believe KS was created for. I’ll use this analogy to make my point. A mother bird teaches her fledglings to fly. After a few solo flights, they can manage to fly and go out on their own. So why are all these “big birds” afraid of leaving the nest, when they can clearly fly on their own?

    Now, I realize not all KS repeaters are multi million dollar companies. But for those who are, rather than launch 30-60 day campaigns that drain funding possibilities of the lesser know start-ups or medium size companies, why not 5-10 days, they can clearly reach their goals in that time.This is only my opinion and everyone has their own,but I think it might level the playing field a bit. Thanks for allowing me to part of the discussion.
    P.S. I read your 10 ways post. Lots of good suggestions :)

    1. Eric: I think that’s a good analogy, but it’s based on a few assumptions: One, that Kickstarter is all about money (it’s not), and two, that previously successful creators don’t need the money (without seeing an individual’s financial documents, that’s a big assumption to make).

      That said, I do think that repeat creators benefit from shorter campaigns, independent of any other campaigns happening at the same time.

  5. Eric: Thanks for your comment. That’s an interesting idea to have a separate category (or subcategory) for first-time creators. I’m not sure I like the idea of separating creators by funds collected, though–that number doesn’t inherently say anything about the company (it doesn’t speak to their actual cash flow situation or if they delivered on their promises).

    I’m am intrigued by a rating system for creators. I wrote about that idea here:

  6. With some me new and small companies trying to use KS to start their businesses, why not have a separate category for 1st time KS projects. This way people who are interested supporting new comers and their ideas would be able to go to the direct category, which would work pretty much the same as standard KS, by categories of interest art, music, games, etc..

    I also think a good idea would be to separate in classification of most funds collected. That way you would be able to see those smaller companies vs the power players. If big companies make no difference to you, you can go right to them. But, if you want to support someone who say has nice little company who has shared some success, you could go to their stuff too.

    Also, think you should be able to rank companies on performance and quality. This would separate so to speak “the wheat from the chaff” making the overall KS experience that much more fulfilling for everyone. Thanks for listening.

  7. Seeing more companies on Kickstarter led me to this piece. Recently Light & Motion sent me a Kickstarter campaign to fund a GoPro lighting system. Then I was exploring purchasing a Mandala Electric drum and they will soon be launching a Kickstarter for their newest version of the hardware/software. That led me to ask “Why are these established companies not pursuing the normal business/bank relationship?”

    I appreciate both points of view and there clearly is no right or wrong answer. It depends on personal beliefs.

    That being said I am less likely to back a project from a larger company than a start up or smaller company.

  8. Reaper Miniatures says, in their State of the Union 2012 video (search for it on YouTube), that, with the traditional retailer-distributor system, the distributors can no longer carry all the SKUs they did back in the 1940’s, when this system was established. This means that the distributors, not the customers, make the decisions of what game products are on the market. I don’t like this form of decision making.

    Since KS makes funding easier, companies can bring more product to market. However, crowdfunding also removes the publisher, which sometimes acts as a gatekeeper in the quality of games that are available on the market. CMON’s Zombicide 3 KS is being criticized for providing *too* much content. Had retail been their only option, it’s possible that only their best ideas would be published, not the kitchen sink that is currently being funded. And, of course, since these crowdfunding products haven’t been made yet, it’s difficult for the consumer to determine if they’re any good. I don’t back product designs, technology, video games, or even boardgames for this reason (and because often there’s a discount on these items after the product hits retail).

  9. Ok, my two cents. Over the last two months I’ve been hearing the complaints about big companies (Queen Games). I felt a little guilty since I had funded two Queen game kickstarters. The first was because I saw an opportunity to get a game I like with a ton of expansions/stretch goals (Escape Big Box). The second was because I wanted a game that was out of print and they were offering it (Thebes).

    After reading this debate I realized that the Pro side was correct in my case. Sure I spent money on games that I probably could have bought in the store when they came out but I did turn around and fund two “small company” projects. I would not have found those projects (at least one of them for sure) had I not started with queen games projects.

  10. I don’t know, people keep talking about size of companies from terms of employees, but I really think it has more to do with the amount of business they do. Banks aren’t regulated by size in terms of number of employees or even how many states or branches they have they are regulated by how much money they transact compared to other banks. Likewise I look at the “big” companies as those that already transact more business than other companies which Queen most assuredly does. They have the credit resources, they have the ability to start their own pre-order/pre-fund development system such as what GMT has they just choose to be cheap about it. If we got something out of it like lower costs that would be great but we usually don’t.

    So that’s why I have problems with a “big” company being on kickstarter. It wasn’t intended to be that and you don’t see it being used in any other segments of kickstarter the way we do it. inXile being mentioned above was a brand new company formed by the maker of the original Wasteland specifically for that reason, it wasn’t an EA or Activision. Likewise, you don’t see Nike or Google or anyone else like that using it and I wouldn’t want them to. It goes against the very nature and purpose of the platform. Which is to enable those with no ability to acquire the resources to try to realize their product to be able to do so. Queen hardly needs the resources to realize their “dream” so to speak, they’ve already “made it”.

    1. j_dunn: Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree that looking at companies from a financial angle instead of # of employees is probably a better assessment. The trouble is that we really have no idea how much cash on hand private companies have, so it may not be fair to make assumptions about that (unless you have access to Queen’s financial data).

  11. I wouldn’t care if Apple or Google did a KickStarter project. If it’s an awesome product, idea, whatever you can count me in. iPad with my face engraved on the back? YES!

    Also, what’s smarter than using other people’s money instead of your own?

  12. I had no idea how big Queen was (thanks for the facts) but I have to say that in my mind, they ACT like what I think of as a rude, impersonal big company when they run their Kickstarters. They mostly ignore their backers, they spam their previous projects’ backers with cut-and-paste updates about new ones, and they refuse to even entertain basic stretch goals.

    I sometimes end up backing their games but I have to hold my nose to do it; it’s rather like shopping at Wal-Mart… I feel bad about it and often choose not to do it because it offends my sense of the right way to treat other people. But I do shop there sometimes because I really want what they have, it’s not available somewhere else, and the price is OK… witness Fresco Big Box. I love the game and want to have it all, but I knew that I’d be able to buy the last few expansion modules from my FLGS, I’d drop right out of that campaign… does anyone know about that?

    I will say this about Queen… just like Wal-Mart, they are unapologetic about their behavior. “This is just a pre-order system” and they really don’t try to dress it up or sugar-coat it to make you feel better about things. I begrudgingly respect their honesty even though I don’t like their operation.

    As for the rest… there are actually very few BIG companies on Kickstarter. Nike doesn’t try out new shoes here, Microsoft is not selling a new OS loaded onto tablet computers in 30-day campaigns, Eli-Lilly is not hawking a secret new weight-loss supplement that tastes like incredibly rich organic-handmade fudge, and Ford has yet to offer leather seats as a stretch goal for its new solar-car project. (I’d love to see any of these companies try these things, though; the amusement value would be intense.)

    The closest I can think of might be a few of the video-game companies, like inXile doing Wasteland, but really, developing video games is an incredibly risky business and it’s nearly impossible for a studio to stay honest and independent while self-funding major titles. For that reason, I support those big companies coming to their fans for funding via Kickstarter… then everyone gets the game they REALLY want to make and play instead of a corporate-funder’s version of what might be a big hit. As inXile has developed Wasteland, it has been a dynamic collaboration between the coders and the players. Same goes for Shadowrun Returns by Harebrained Schemes…. it has been amazing to watch that come together with all the backer input at the start of the project.

    Anyway, I see both sides of this and agree that it’s a grey area. One happy note for Tiago… I don’t believe that the “big” companies making pre-order only campaigns on Kickstarter will kill it. Backers see what those things are, and we can still reach for the dream with people like Jamey and Alan. Those great dreams, and the huge successes of projects like Viticulture and Euphoria, will keep us here, giving the dreamers money in hopes of getting another fantastic reward. I don’t worry about the bad stuff; if the good stuff is happening, it will drown out the noise from the projects that aren’t in the true spirit of crowdfunding.

  13. I think there’s a certain amount to be said for large companies bringing more exposure to Kickstarter. I created an account to contribute to Penny Arcade – a company that admitted that they didn’t need Kickstarter, they just wanted to find a different way of raising their running costs. A few weeks later, I discovered Viticulture and, already having an account, it was easy to pledge to it. Thus started the slippery slope to Kickstarter addiction :)

    Without that large company getting me to register initially, I wouldn’t have backed 91 projects since then. It saddens me when companies don’t use the platform to produce more creative things but if they’re upfront about what they’re producing, I don’t see too much problem with it. The Queen Kickstarter for Fresco is a great example – they’ve basically said “it’s a pre-order programme, there won’t be any stretch goals” and that’s quite dull but the price point is such that I jumped straight in.

  14. I’d have to go with Jamey’s take on it.

    In my opinion, it doesn’t have to do with “who” is using the platform as much as “how” it’s being used.
    When I see a board game, already done, ready for print, and the only thing the publisher wants it to know, is exactly how many copies he should print, without offering any “unique” things/benefits for backers – I get a bit offended. Then why not just do a pre-order somewhere else?

    Offering backers the opportunity to influence the game, the process and the final layout is the essence of Kickstarter. It’s more than money – it’s progressing together :) And if it is done well, the chances of you ending up with a better product in the end, is pretty high!

    Best regards Emil

  15. I was thinking of Slugfest Games’ RDI4 KS, which I backed…

    I think that for this one, KS was an interesting choice, as the SFG folks really engaged throughout the KS with the community…however, there is already an established pool of people who would buy the product…(all the RDI1-3 buyers), so this was really being used as a pre-sales engine…not as a way to gauge interest in the product…

    I liked the engagement, and I liked the product, but I suppose I could’ve waited until it hit my FLGS…and probably should have…

    1. fwiw, Slugfest Games had a pallet or lot or whatever of RDI3 games *stolen* from them, and Eagle Games had a container of games damaged in transit (and were facing a cash flow crunch because their insurance company was not reimbursing them).

  16. Thanks for the comments! I would just like to clarify a couple of points.

    Obviously, I don’t think that big companies are evil. As Adam put it, they are also composed of individuals with hopes, expectations and dreams. I also agree with the issue of discriminating in terms of size and where to draw the border.

    My major point is that there are many companies that due to their size, access to credit and existing fan base, they don’t need Kickstarter. In most of these cases they use Kickstarter as a pre-sale platform of already finished products, which is not its purpose. If they were to use it to launch riskier projects or to involve backers in some aspect of the development, I guess I would be more ok with them using Kickstarter.

    The risk that I see is that if too many of these established companies use Kickstarter, they might steal some of the spotlight of the little guys who really need it in order to launch their projects.

    It’s definitely an interesting topic that should be further discussed!

  17. Chiming in as someone who has backed over 50 games…

    “Big” is an interesting term in the board game world. Let’s face it – in the grand scheme, most of the well established game companies aren’t necessarily BIG companies. We’re not talking Shell Oil or Hasbro here. But “established” game companies that are on KS seem to be lumped in with “big” companies. Take Wattsalpoag and their recent KS for Buccaneer Bones as an example. Wattsalpoag is a 3 man shop but they have a number of games published over the years. They could have been perceived as “big” but really, they’re just a small company trying to make it in a competitive space.

    As to the indies, the gamer with a dream, the amateur – yes, Kickstarter is their platform. Its purpose is to give these people a chance to fulfill a dream. But being inexperienced is not an excuse for the lack of professionalism I’ve seen from a lot of the smaller campaigns. Publishing a board game turns you from a hobbyist to a professional and newbies need to realize that. I’ve seen so many projects in which the creator doesn’t seem to have researched (by backing, reviewing other campaigns, or reading the excellent series by stonemaier) what it takes to produce a board game. By now there is a huge amount of info for the taking (materials, US vs overseas production, using stretch goals, setting delivery estimates, COMMUNICATION, etc.) that too many people trying to fulfill their dream don’t take advantage of. I find this frustrating as a backer and have taken to backing projects for $1 so that I can message them and point them to the Stonemaier articles. Being inexperienced is not an excuse for being ignorant. Not anticipating is not a pass for not addressing.

    The Fresco big box or SOS Titanic Kickstarters definitely start to stray into the “did you really need KS for that?” territory. It’s not the size of the company/campaign to me – but that the game will not be improved/altered materially or in distribution through the campaign. But let the consumer decide. The gamer community is opinionated, vocal, and loves the underdog. They also love a deal and hate feeling like they were gamed. I believe the community will outline the parameters in which they will accept “big” companies and in which they will not.

  18. I’m a pro, to a degree. I think that big companies can make great use of crowd-funding to publish things that they normally wouldn’t. The thing is that big companies tend to be risk adverse. If they aren’t pretty sure they will turn a profit, they probably won’t bother. But crowd-funding does derisk it for them. It could be used to fund something different from what they’ve done or it could revive something later on.

    One example where this would help would be Atlantis Rising from Z-man Games. I’ve seen it on BGG somewhere that the designer has designed an expansion, but due to poor sales, it doesn’t look like it’ll ever see the light of day. If Z-man were to put that up on KS, that expansion might see the light of day and that game will take off again.

    On the flip side though, I feel that they shouldn’t use it if they don’t need to, as that would hurt retailers/FLGS. For example, if Mayfair were to release the next Catan expansion on KS, that would basically take a load of guaranteed sales from FLGS, which would be bad for FLGS because that will eat into their profits. Also, if they do flood KS with their products, that could take away money from other KSes though, since they may not necessarily bring in new backers (board games are kind of niche, unlike films).

    As for the argument that it discourages small creators, I think it’s a good thing if it forces people to improve their project. They don’t necessarily need to be compete, but I’m sure a backer would trust a project more if they put the effort in, rather than a half-hearted attempt at one. I do agree that some will be scared off, and that’s a shame, but overall, I think it would be a net positive.

  19. When I read the topic for this discussion, I initially thought, “Yeah! I hate big companies on KS!” Then I read what everyone has had to say. I am thankful for the open conversation and the different thoughts from both sides.

    So, my take now? I am thankful for Kickstarter and the way that they have united and developed the arts community. On a whole, we are still a small group! Even our “big companies” are small groups in the grand scheme of world commerce. If a “big” company with a fan base brings in backers to look at their project, they’ve bought in more backers to the community! I say, whatever promotes independent art and artists, I’m for it.

  20. Also, I would like to point out that the Spike Lee controversy came after the Michael Bay quote that Tiago mentions, and that KS, in defending their decision to accept Lee’s project, mentioned that high-profile film projects were bringing in more money for other projects – the 3 months that the Zach Braff, Spike Lee and Veronica Mars films were active, more money was pledged to film KSs than ever – even when discounting these three “professional” projects. That does not mean that the risk is not there, but it seems to show that “pro” projects tend to increase funding for other projects, not reduce it.

  21. Right on cue. I have been having the most terribly convoluted argument over at LaBSK (the Spanish cousin of BGG) because of the recent Fresco Big Box KS by Queen Games.

    I’m on the Pro camp, by the way. And I take issue with the ‘big’ label being applied to companies in the game publishing business – they are usually tiny by most stardards. I have mentioned Queen – well, Queen has 8 employees, which is firmly “small” (in fact, 10 employees is not even ‘small’ small, it’s ‘micro’ small by most business clasifications). I have 4 or 5 supermarkets in my general vicinity which each employ 2 or 3 times that many people.

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