Kickstarter - Bad for Business?

Editorial – Having seen and/or participated in numerous Kickstarter campaigns recently I've found them to be fun, good bargains for many games. However, out in the blogosphere there seems to be a growing amount of grumbling that "established companies" are using it to get "free loans" and or free marketing etc. I can understand the grumbling however I don't really agree with attacking companies for taking advantage of a funding source that guarantees sales of a upcoming product.

How many games come out each year 100s, 1000s? How many of them do you hear about after the initial buzz and launch 10s, 20s? Investing in creating a new game is a risky venture for any small business even large companies can suffer from releasing a stinker or a product the market isn't ready for yet. To use Kickstarter or other crowd funding sites as a gauge of interest and potential sales makes sense. It takes some of the risk out of the process and allows companies to potentially improve on quality because they're sure of the initial sales. 

For gamers that decide to back a project on Kickstarter they're making an investment in fun. Hopefully the projects they back will turn out as expected and become part of their stable of games. However like any investment there's a risk. What if the game sucks, what if the final product isn't what you were expecting or worse what if nobody will play it with you. Suddenly your great deal turns into a money sink that you'll ebay for a fraction of the cost.

The flip side of course is the game takes off and succeeds, you have a ton of special edition stuff that will rise in value because of its limited nature. Or you got a great deal on a ton of extras and don't need to purchase anything else for this cool new game that you helped get produced.

That not needing to purchase anything else leads to the title of this post. Kickstarter is great for the game companies trying to publish and produce product. But what about their retail partners?

In the internet age we've already seen a drastic decline in Friendly Local Game Stores. The overhead costs of running a brick and mortar location make it difficult to compete with online liquidators that can afford to see things for a fraction the MSRP. Gamer's love to have a place to hang out and play their games but many of them run to the internet to get a better price, essentially leaving the FLGS hanging in the wind. (I'm a firm believer in spending money where you play, sure you might not get the best deal but if you have a place to gather and play games you owe it to that store owner to support his/her business).

Enter Kickstarter, the internet is buzzing with the latest project with all the crazy stretch goals and 300% funding. Holy crap this is going to be the next big thing! The hype machine reves up, local store owners take note and plan to order when the game is released, because it should sell like hotcakes right?

Not necessarily. Hugely successful Kickstarters seem to consist of the same early adopters jumping into a new game based on the shininess of it and or innovative mechanics etc. Many of the core customers at most shops have no idea what the new hotness is or care. The demographic of customers that will buy new and shiny most likely backed the project and got a ton of stuff so they don't need to buy anything else for quite a while.

That leaves the FLGS sitting with a bunch of product that won't move until those early adopters grow the interest in the community to play their shiny new game. If they can't grow that community their copies are bound for ebay or the shelf and the game sits on the shelf until Christmas sales come around and the owner needs to free up space so they discount it to move.

Of course this if the doom and gloom view of the process which unfortunately 90% of the games that come out are destined for. The cycle changes from area to area and so long as their is some popularity systems will continue to thrive. 

Time will tell if Kickstarter is a good or bad thing, but for me I think I'm done with it. The bandwagons and rush to produce things now that companies have found a fountain of free money is resulting in a glut of games that may or may not take off.

Essentially many of the recent campaigns have become less about funding a project and rewarding backers and more about doing a hyped up presale for something you haven't made yet. 

SIDENOTE: I'm still pissed I didn't get in on the Zombicide Kickstarter and the limited editon Tentacle Bento models look cool (dunno about the game ... but).  But I can't wait for Relic Knights and Evil Baby Orphange to get released.