Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Ice Berg Cometh (Kickstarter)

Everyone's talking about the cancellation of The Doom That Came to Atlantic City Kickstarter project. It's hardly the first gaming Kickstarter to crater. I should know, with 21 projects under my belt, I've got two failed ones in my queue. That's about a 10% failure rate for me. One study reports that the overall Kickstarter failure rate is 3.6%.

In the scheme of things, that's probably not so bad. About 25% of new businesses fail in the first year, something that Kickstarter is supposed to assist with, since it gathers up the resources before the "company" begins serious production (The Doom attempted to establish a company with their Kickstarter cash, rather than just making a damn game).

Even after a company gets off the ground, a failure rate of 3% is average. One secret about small business is there is no year when you're not at risk, when you get to relax and say "We've made it!"As a Kickstarter supporter, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that 3.6% failure rate to be an ongoing threat, regardless of publisher.

So here is where I point out that the many thousands of years old system of production of goods has a reason for existing. There is a reason that if you want a pot, your entire village doesn't pay the potter up front and wait six to twelve months for him to make pots and deliver them late. There is a reason why the entire village doesn't trust the potter with their hard earned money. He's just a potter, not a damn saint. How many potters know how to handle a village worth of money? What percentage of people are likely to steal no matter what (security experts will say 10%)? Or steal if given a really good opportunity (those same experts say 80%)? So if you want a pot, you should really just go buy a pot. Or, you know, get the pleasure center of your brain tickled constantly with pot updates and new features the potter has added to your fancy, pot that you'll certainly get later than you want, if at all.

Kickstarter is not an investment, which is something you expect a return on, as in profit. What it has become is a one sided contract offering a way to pre-order stuff, with a 3.6% failure rate, 75% late delivery rate, and no recourse or consumer protections. It fails the friend test, as in it's not something I would recommend to an uninitiated friend.

When I charted out Kickstarter projects on Boardgamegeek, their ratings were average, no better or worse than what's on the shelf at the store (and some people believe this is inflated). It's possibly a great way to get things you couldn't otherwise, and there have been some notable bargains (that nearly bankrupted their established backers), but overall. lots of risk with average results.

My personal experience is that items from established publishers on Kickstarter tended to get produced and tended to be of sound quality, but they also tended to be on game store shelves at or shortly after the time of release. Games from unknown publishers have been alright or disappointing, or not ever delivered, despite really cool looking Kickstarter initiatives. But really, isn't Kickstarter supposed to be about supporting those people?

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