The Evolution of Kickstarter in the Board Game Industry

Kickstarter is the largest venue for board game publishing. Even companies that already have their own funding and an established following are publishing their new games on Kickstarter. Large IPs use Kickstarter to gauge public interest and to obtain funding before the development of their project. Consequently, it's no wonder that problems arise -- such as the failure of the Evil Dead 2 game

What is Kickstarter For?

Kickstarter was never intended to be a place in which to purchase a product. Instead, backers were supposed to donate money to projects that they believed in, under the premise that they could potentially get something back. This is why Kickstarter doesn't have products: Kickstarter has rewards. 

A chief misunderstanding of Kickstarter is the belief that you are buying something and that the product you are purchasing is guaranteed through the platform, such as buying something on eBay or on Amazon. 

Kickstarter has no guarantee on the end result of the project. Kickstarter also doesn't offer refunds for failed projects. Essentially, backers assume all of the risks for a project. And that's why Kickstarter was never intended to be a vehicle for companies that already have established revenue sources; Kickstarter was supposed to be a vehicle for independent inventors and manufacturers.

Kickstarter and the Board Game Industry

Any company can launch a game on Kickstarter. Kickstarter backers have been seeing increased delays, failed projects, and disappointing end products over the past few years. At the same time, larger companies are also coming to the venue, and producing multi-million dollar projects. This cus into the amount of projects that are able to fund, and has created an interesting new market temperature.

Though it may seem as though the market is expanding, it really isn't. If backers as a whole will spend $10 million on new projects in a month, they are going to be spending $10 million -- whether they are funding 10 individual, million dollar projects or 100 individual, $100,000 projects. Each large, multi-million dollar project essentially reduces the funding of smaller projects. 

Of course, though these businesses don't rely upon Kickstarter for their funding, each individual project might. Rather than creating games on spec, Kickstarter has become a testing bed; designers are able to test the market through pre-orders. And that means backers still need to go to Kickstarter if they want a particularly game.

The Hallmarks of a Bad Kickstarter Project

  • A designer who has no background in board game design. Many designers come from a different area, such as web comics. 
  • A overly ambitious project right out of the gate. A designer who is starting with a big box game is more likely to experience delays.
  • A lack of online presence. The more information available online, the more likely the developer is to have done their due diligence.
  • A poorly written manual or documentation. Good designers are now putting up their documentation and files in advance.

Kickstarter is now riskier than ever. It has evolved from a way to promote new, innovative projects into a way to develop projects without any upfront investment. Without a personal, upfront investment, companies have less compulsion to truly follow through, and Kickstarter backers need to be more skeptical.