Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Does everyone have to have a Kickstarter now?

The news is out that Wyrd games is planning a Malifaux RPG Kickstarter. This following Kickstarters from McVey studios, Soda Pops miniatures, Reaper, Mongoose and Mantic who are now on their second. It's starting to feel like Kickstarter is the thing all the cool miniature companies just have to have.

For anyone not in the know, Kickstarter is a website that allows companies (not necessarily miniature companies) to gather donations to put towards a specified project. In return for these pledges they offer contributors a reward. In most cases this will be a copy of one or more of the funded projects, though all kinds of rewards are on offer.

Given that I contributed a not insubstantial sum to the Mantic Kings of War Kickstarter (enough to get my name in the rulebook) I can't oppose the concept in principal. At it's best its a smart way for a company to crowd source its funding and to gauge whether a project is worth pursuing before committing any money. It can also be good for the customer, though its worth be careful. Its all to easy to get carried away in the momentum and fail to realise that the rewards aren't much more than exactly what the company will be selling in a few months time.

What I do wonder, however, is whether Kickstarter is strictly a good idea for every company. Most of the established companies have declared their Kickstarter goal to grow their gaming system and release models earlier than they would otherwise be able. This sounds great in principle, but I question whether it is always a good idea for the company.

I have written before about the difficulties faced by established miniature companies, like Games Workshop and Privateer Press, before. Essentially the dilemma is whether to keep growing the game in order to maintain the interest of the existing fan base at the risk of losing new players, or move in the other direction and endlessly re-release in order and rely on high player turnover. A more rapid release schedule could simply exacerbate the problem. The more you release  the harder it is for a new player to find a way into the system, Warmachine and Hordes are all but impenetrable to new players, and the more you risk losing casual players who can't keep up.

As the game grows only the truly dedicated can keep up, and these are exactly the sort of people likely to contribute to a Kickstarter campaign. This could fuel a kind of positive feedback in which the most dedicated, even fanatical, fans drive the development of the game. This could  lead to a distorted picture of the popularity of the project. What happens when the audience for a Kickstarter is the same size as the contributors?

At least Wyrd are focusing their Kickstarter on a new game, the Malifaux RPG. But I do wonder just how much Malifaux do people want? There are already three main rulebooks for the miniature game with a forth on route and a handful of new releases every month. With this rate of growth it becomes harder and harder to find an entry point. Ultimately, will Kickstarter provide a boost for these companies or just allow them to grow faster than is wise?

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