The Importance of Crowdfunding
Kickstarter has given the board gaming community many games that might have never got published without it : Gloomhaven, Scythe, The 7th Continent, Conan, Dark Souls, or many games from CMON publishing house which are now famous and sell in huge numbers, for example Zombicide or Blood Rage, just to mention a few. Just to talk about numbers: the ten most successful Kickstarter games raised 60 million dollars in total with the help of 450 000 backers! Designers and publishers who are important and famous today wouldn’t be there if not for Kickstarter. When they were unknown beginners, the community decided to give them a chance and put their trust in them. „Kickstarted” games make up a tenth of the 100 best rated games on BoardgameGeek. A last number about the importance of crowdfunding: games published on Kickstarter now make up 15-20% of the total sales on the American board game market.
Crowdfunding is a win-win situation for everyone: the creator, that is the publisher, and the user, that is the gamer. What does it mean in the case of board games ?
The first and biggest argument for crowdfunding is that it gives creators, who otherwise wouldn’t have the capital to enter the market, a chance to prove themselves. It’s a huge gain for everyone.
The publisher’s big “gain” on Kickstarter is that they can optimise their game: during the campaign they can see right away if the players are interested in the game or not, the result of the campaign shows how many copies they should manufacture, in one word the Kickstarter campaign is a huge challenge, sort of a voluntary market research with high stakes and also product optimisation. This way the publisher won’t make the mistake of manufacturing too few games which results in many potential buyers remaining unsatisfied; they also won’t manufacture too many games which would result in said games gathering dust in the bottom of warehouses. What is more, the “customers” give the publisher the full amount needed to produce and publish the game, which is a great help, especially for new publishing houses.
What do backers get out of it?
First of all, they provide invaluable help in the mere . It has an emotional value, it’s a good feeling to contribute to the creation of something and it also has a rational consequence, this way the backer has the opportunity to play the game when/if the campaign is successful.
However, the business model of crowdfunding offers the backer a much bigger gain and reward. Let me give you an example. A publisher runs a campaign for his game on Kickstarter, backers can get it for 75 dollars during the campaign. The Founding Goal, the necessary amount to fund the game, is 50 000 dollars, so they would need around 700 backers. If they manage to reach the amount, the game is founded and the backers get their game in 6-12 months.
However, the publisher can say that if they reach 70 000 dollars instead of 50 000, for your 75 dollars I’m also going to add an extra game element to your game because the production cost is lowered by the greater number of copies. The extra money can be used to reward the backers. This is what we call Stretch Goals. The next free add-on comes after 90.000 dollars, the next at 110.000 and so on. The more people back the game, the longer the Stretch Goal list becomes and the more free content the backers receive. The game I used in my example is Blood Rage, where the publishers raised 900. 000 dollars instead of the original 50.000, so for their original dollar pledge, the bakers received 250 dollar worth of stuff, in the form of 28 Stretch Goals. Later, when the game entered retail this amount of content could be bought for 250 dollar, while the original backers only paid 75. It’s a good deal for both parties.
It’s important to mention another good motivation to support Kickstarter games: these are the Kickstarter Exclusive content: game elements that are not going to be available if the game gets released in retail and they won’t be available for purchase after the end of the campaign. These Exclusive elements boost the value of the game, so if we decide to sell it later we can get a price which is many times more than the original.
How does it all translate to Cultistorm?
Our game contains (beside many other game elements) 240 cards – these give the engine and the replayability. There will also be a short story collection, a music CD, an Artbook, and a Script Book for the narrative gameplay. To be profitable, we need to manufacture at least 1000 copies, this is going to be our aim, our Funding Goal. HOWEVER, if we have more than 1000 backers but more and much more, then we will release a lot of extra content (Stretch Goals) and our backers will get them for the same price as the base box. Let’s see: if we have enough backers to be able to give you all of our Stretch Goals, then instead of 240 we’ll give you 650 cards and we will also add the seven mini extensions, four expansions, and some more gifts. For free!
Our Stretch Goals will be published before the campaign, so if you haven’t checked them out yet, you can do it on these pages:
- Pre-campaign promo gifts
- Social media Stretch Goals
- Kickstarter campaign Stretch Goals
How does it all work in practice?
1) The Creator plans, prepares and tests their game, creates the budget, organises production, then launches the (usually a month long) campaign with a set deadline and they try to convince as many people as possible that the game they designed and prepared is indeed good, worthy and doable.
2) In the beginning of the campaign, the creators set a minimum amount, (Funding Goal), they need to reach to be able to manufacture the product in a profitable way. They provide backers with a “motivation list” telling them what they would receive if different levels of funding are reached. These are the Stretch Goals.
3) The backer can choose to support the project any time during the campaign. They choose the Pledge Level they find the most attractive.
To be able to do this, they first need to sign up on Kickstarter. They can do it either with their email address or their Facebook profile. Important: during the sign up they need to give their bank account number because in case of a successful project Kickstarter debits the money automatically.
Transactions through Kickstarter are completely safe, there has never been any issues. Their financial provider is Stripe which is one of the biggest financial providers in the US.
4) If the project is not good enough and it can’t raise enough funds to meet its Funding goal, the campaign is deemed unsuccessful and no money is transferred! Nobody takes any money from the backers.
5) If the project meets its Funding goal, it’s deemed successful. Kickstarter automatically debits every backer with the amount they pledged.
If for some reason the backer doesn’t have enough money on the given account, they have six more days to get the money to the account. Kickstarter tries again after this 6 day period, if it doesn’t work, the system automatically cancels the pledge and it doesn’t try to get the money again.
6) The shipping cost is added to the pledge, usually there is an information table about the costs at the bottom of the campaign page. Usually the shipping cost for your country is automatically added to the pledge, but there are campaigns where you have to settle the shipping costs later, through the Pledge Manager. The publishers try to offer the best shipping conditions and they usually ship the finished game through a delivery service. If the product has the EU-friendly label it means that there is no further tax or custom on the game, so you only need to pay the pledge itself and the shipping.
7) During the campaign the publisher sets a shipping deadline, it’s usually 6-12 months. During this period the creator informs the backers through so-called Update Emails about the manufacturing process.
8) When the product is ready, the publisher sends a follow-up email to make sure the shipping address is the same and the game is shipped.
About risks with honesty
Kickstarter is not a shop, but a fundraising platform. The money you pledge is officially considered as a donation and the games you receive are complimentary copies in exchange for your donation. Theoretically, it’s possible that a creator runs away with our money and never delivers the game, but it’s almost unheard of in the category of board games. Since the 2009 launch of Kickstarter this has happened only once and the backers were later paid back.
Kickstarter users are protected by American consumer laws, so any misuse of the received pledges could be punishable by the law. As far as we know, up till this day no board game project has disappeared, no creator has run away with the backers’ money. (Sadly, it has happened in other industries.) In one word, this shouldn’t stress you.
However, there are two real risks to using Kickstarter. Firstly, there can be (sometimes quite significant) delays in delivery, sadly this occurs quite frequently. Secondly, sometimes the product we receive is not the quality the publisher had advertised or what we’d expected. We’ll do our best to keep to our deadlines and that is why we don’t manufacture in China, (Chinese manufacturers are often responsible -directly or indirectly- for the delays or quality problems.)