The Deadzone kickstarter has come to an end and Mantic have managed to raise over a million quid. As I got in pretty early I have spent a good chunk of the last month sitting back and watching my rewards steadily increase. I did very well out of the last weekend.
With Dreadball I arrived late to the part and put in for the $100 Jack pledge, rather than the $150 Striker. At the time I was trying not to spend out too much at once, and thought that the $100 level gave me more than enough. In retrospect I didn't look carefully enough at the difference between the two reward levels and have felt slightly left out. This time round I forked out the full $150 (actually $146, I got one of the early birds and saved a whopping $4!) for the best deal and all the additional freebies.
Not that its easy to gage how good a deal I have got. I certainly seem to have a lot of stuff for my $150. Other skirmish games like Malifaux or Infinity would never have been able to match that. The only thing that comes close is Games Workshop's Dark Vengeance and Isle of Blood starters and they don't feel like good value because they represent such a tiny proportion of a proper army. If we were still using second edition Warhammer 40,000 rules you could get two full armies out of Dark Vengeance and it would be the best value boxed set ever. In the end I've come away with some fifty miniatures, 12 sprues of scenery, a battle mat and various accessories including the rule book, and that's just the basic pledge.
And that brings me to the subject of add-ons. There a good trick. You can get lots of stuff, but they aren't anything like as good value as the basic pledges, even with buy one get one free offers. The point is to get you to pledge more money, but that leads to some pretty ambivalent marketing. You pledge in the first place because of the incredible amount of stuff you get for the price, but persuading you to buy add-ins requires to believe that it still wasn't enough and you need more.
You certainly can't knock Mantic's marketing. This has been a hugely successful campaign that has built on two previously successful campaigns. Mantic have learnt how to run a Kickstarter. Set a low opening target so that you can achieve it fast and report success then have lots of stretch goals to build momentum. They were very smart in having models and scenery already painted, and even available to handle for those of us who were at Salute or the Mantic open day. Add in plenty of concept art and be ready if things go really crazy and they're away. One lesson learned from failed Kickstarters, like Beyond the Gates of Antares, is that you have to have plenty to show off.
In an odd way, its the inverse of the Games Workshop approach. Instead of holding everything back until it's ready for release, push out as much information as possible. Of course we have a long wait before we get anything, nothing's due until December, with the second batch of stuff coming in the first quarter of 2014. When added to the Kings of War and Dreadball Kickstarters this leaves us in the odd position of knowing most of Mantics release schedule for the next year already. Thinking about it, this is how a successful Kickstarter works, by allowing us access to a years worth of releases over a period of two months. We just won't be getting any of them any time soon.
I say successful, but we don't really know what a truly successful Kickstarter looks like yet. So far, it has been gauged in terms of the amount of money raised, but that doesn't tell us where the game will be in a year, two years, five years time. The advantage of Kickstarter is that it allows you to gauge interest in your product, but what you can't tell is how it will do afterwards. What if everyone with an interest has already pledged? $1 million is a lot of money, but is it enough to sustain Mantic for the next year? Dreadball has, apparently, sold very well beyond the Kickstarter, which is encouraging, but can we be sure that Deadzone will do the same? Given the amount of stuff I'm getting, I can't see myself buying anything more for it any time soon.
But this is the third Mantic Kickstarter, and they still haven't done one for Warpath. I'm firmly expecting another in six months time. I've written before about how Games Workshop has become trapped in a cycle of new editions in order to maintain its momentum. Could Mantic find itself in a similar cycle of Kickstarters?
If some of the above sounds cynical, it's not really intended to be. I am hopeful that Deadzone will do well and am pretty optimistic, the rules look strong, the models are great and there's plenty you can do with it. The wait will be long, but if I can manage to sit back and forget about it, there will be a nice bonanza come Christmas. But after two months of excitement it's hard not to feel deflated. Kickstarters work by channelling enthusiasm into a brief period of time, its hardly surprising that when they come to end they leave us all a little worn out.