Is it getting too hard to Kickstart an RPG project?

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There’s little doubt that Kickstarter, the crowd-funding site, has had a profound effect on the RPG industry. What was once impossible is now possible. Despite the successes Kickstarter is rushing towards new challenges.

One hovering problem is that of unmet expectations. We’re approaching the point where gamers are starting to expect deliveries on the pledges they’ve made and they’re expecting games. It’s likely to be the computer games side of the RPG world where this problem is largest; will some projects fail after meeting their funding goals and what impact will that have on future pledges?

A related problem is that too many people see Kickstarter as a pre-order engine. It’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a way for people to contribute to projects they would like to succeed. Kickstarter tries to fight this by limiting the use of pledge rewards as a way to ship large volumes of discounted goods. They’re also tightening up the rules on how mock-ups and renders are shown in the demo and pitch videos. Despite these efforts, this rewards culture may be why projects like the Fighting Fantasy documentary and the Dungeons & Dragons documentary struggle; lack of loot.

The biggest problem, though, might be that it’s simply too start to start and complete a Kickstarter in the RPG industry these days.

Let’s look at how competitive the RPG Kickstarter landscape is in in a minute and first look at the hurdles project managers have to pass before their campaigns are improved.

The following screenshots come from the 6d6 RPG core rules and adventure Kickstarter (which will complete successfully and you can still join). Kickstarter asked 6d6 founder Chris Tregenza questions about his mother.

Chris noted;

As I have a distinctive surname, this question is straight-forward and I don’t know anyone called Jan Tregenza. But if I was called Smith, there is a potential for confusion.

Kickstarter also asked about people Chis knew. This one worries me the most – I’ve contacts in Google+ and Facebook I barely know. These are people who work in the same industry as me and who may have been at the same conference as me and we connected just for that event.

Chris knew one person on that list.

Stuart Renton is testing out Kickstarter with a project to help fund some geeky Valentine’s Day cards. He faced similar questions from Kickstarter when launching this, his first, project and I asked him; “Do you think some good ideas never make it through the launch process?”

I imagine quite a few ideas are scuppered for all kinds of reasons. But it’s impossible to say without seeing some figures. Their process seems fairly robust and they appear to take every new campaign pretty seriously, so I would think only a small percentage of projects don’t get green lit (and I warrant most of those are because they failed to follow the guidelines).

So, are you a glass half full or half empty type of person? It’s good that Renton guestimates only a few Kickstarter projects fall at the first hurdle but that also means a lot of projects make it through and compete for our attention.

I would have imaged that, a year ago, a legion of gamers would have leaped at the chance to see a quality and commitment light way to experience Ars Magica online. Nevertheless, today a project from Black Chicken Studios that offered exactly that failed to fund. They raised an impressive $92,848 in pledges but needed hundreds of thousands more.

They said;

First and foremost we want to thank each you, our patrons, for supporting our project. We didn’t make it, but you all certainly fought for us. Your help, comments, advice and discussions brought this project closer to reality, and you have our gratitude and admiration. Atlas Games, too, brought every gun to bear, and were the ideal partner for this project.

We have heard the chorus of pleas for a second try, and we would like to, we would really like to. However, we cannot commit to it- our budget for speculative projects is small, and easily exceeded by the costs of a new campaign: after all, we somehow doubt you’d want to see the same video and screenshots again! ;)

There may come a time when we are able to create an Ars Magica g ame with your help, but we reluctantly believe it will not be soon. Which is a tremendous pity, because we believe gaming needs new, unique role-playing experiences, with original mechanics, stories and settings. But then, we’ve built a company around that idea. It’s possible we’re biased. ;)

There is a Tabletop Games section in Kickstarter. That helps. You can browse by Staff Picks (top), Popular this Week, Recently Successfully Funded and Most Funded. The “Recently Successfully Funded” is almost redundant; it’s too late to join those. The” Most Funded” and “Popular This Week” only promote Kickstarter projects that are already on their way to success. There’s no way to surface new RPG campaigns to look at and consider unless they become a staff pick.

One good way to find new projects is via Kickstarter’s friend connection feature. If you hook up your Facebook account and allow Kickstarter to do so then you’ll be given an alert when a friend finds a project worth backing and backs it. However, there’s no way to follow profile pages directly via Kickstarter; if you’re not a Facebook friend then you can’t use industry thought leaders as a way to curate projects.

What do you think? Is it getting too hard to launch an RPG related Kickstarter project?

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