18 July 2019 | 25 Comments
Before I delve into this tenuous topic, I should clarify a few things: One, as much as I try to stay on top of the evolution of crowdfunding, I haven’t actually run a Kickstarter campaign since 2015 (my company completely moved away from Kickstarter after that). Two, I’m a publisher, not a retailer, but the information I’ll share today comes from retailers.
Last week, new creator Joe Sibert (here’s his game on Kickstarter) contacted me with the results of a massive survey of US retailers that he and his team conducted. I thought I’d share some interesting results from that survey, paired with some information from my past surveys and the official stance of the Game Retailers Who Back Kickstarters Facebook group.
Joe and his team called every US board game retailer they could find on Google, resulting in 1042 stores that sell games like Catan and Scythe. Out of those stores, 223 indicated that they support tabletop Kickstarter projects (21%). Of the remaining 79%, the reasons they weren’t interested in backing KS campaigns included:
- Most said they would rather just wait until the game entered distribution.
- They believed that if a person wanted a game, that person would just buy it on Kickstarter, not through the store.
- Some had backed KS projects in the past and the games just sat on the shelf.
- A few said that cash flow and cost were a concern.
My thoughts: I can understand these perspectives. Though I think it will be increasingly rare that a significant number of units will ever enter distribution. There are just so many games on Kickstarter now. So if a retailer really thinks a game has potential, Kickstarter may be the only chance to get a guaranteed quantity.
In the Game Retailers Who Back Kickstarters Facebook group, Dave Salisbury maintains a running list of the elements of a Kickstarter campaign that retailers find appealing. It’s a long list–and worth a read–so I’ll just pick a few key recommendations here:
- 50% discount on MSRP (with the KS price being close to the actual MSRP)
- 1 free demo copy
- free shipping
- minimal up front payment
- delivered at the same time as other backers, ability to sell before the game reaches regular distribution
My thoughts: I think it’s perfectly fair for retailers to express what they want. Whether or not this is reasonable or feasible is another matter. Contrast the last bullet point with the others–retailers are basically saying, “Treat us the same as other backers, except when it comes to price, free stuff, shipping, and cash flow.” I think it’s a really tough balance for creators to navigate (a) a desire to treat individual and retailer backers equally and (b) a desire to have a good relationship with retailers.
I’ll also add my summary from a survey I conducted 2 years ago of retailers worldwide. 160 responded, and my overall conclusions were:
- Distributors like MAP and promos, and they actually seem ambivalent to whether or not publishers use Kickstarter
- FLGS like MAP, priority access, publishers who don’t use Kickstarter, MSRP on publisher websites, and promos
- Online retailers like discounts on Kickstarter, publishers who don’t use Kickstarter, MSRP on publisher websites, and promos
Here are my final thoughts:
If you’re planning a Kickstarter campaign for a tabletop game, either make it super appealing to retailers (i.e., follow all of their preferences) or don’t even try (i.e., acknowledge that no matter what you do, 79% of retailers aren’t going to back your project anyway). I don’t think it’s worth the stress of navigating the middle ground.
What do you think? If you’re not a retailer, how have you seen retailers respond to Kickstarter campaigns? If you are a retailer, what’s an example of a campaign you’re happy you backed and why?
- What Do Retailers Really Want?
- The Secrets to Making Your Tabletop Game Kickstarter Project Appealing to Retailers
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