Kickstarter is one of many crowfunding sites where people can throw money at projects or create their own for others to throw money at. The types of projects themselves vary: tabletop games and video games, toys and merchandise, drones and fucking submarines... It's a veritable smorgasbord of ideas. Tabletop games in particular have a healthy market on Kickstarter (thus giving us just enough reason to make an article about it); you have a bitch of a time getting an actual publisher to take you up on your idea, and self-published stuff won't get you the playerbase to make it worth your labor of love, but crowdfunding is a great way to get your funding and fans. Perhaps too much funding as we will see...
What's to explain?
If you can picture it, you can advertise it and someone will fund it.
...And sometimes that's sorta the problem.
For every Kickstarter success story, there's at least a handful (if not more) of prolific failures. Not in the "nowhere near its stretch goal" sense of the word, that's just unfortunate if anything.
No, when most people think of Kickstarter failures, they thing of the big projects that gave its backers an expensive ride upon the hype train, as they usually meet their goal a few times over - and before long, mismanagement, delays, and excuses set in for one reason or another. Insights into the project management's ethics (or lack thereof), a changing of hands, the fact most self-publishers don't have the connections to get the best of materials for their products, and other various factors combine to kill the previously built hype, and the end result is at least one of the following: A) the product never gets released and the backers start demanding refunds, or B) the product makes it out against all odds, but it ultimately becomes a shadow of its former self and a testament to its wasted potential... and the backers start demanding refunds.
Now, it's important to understand that, while the accusation of "scam" is pretty commonplace, more frequently a failed kickstarter project can be chalked up to a few different factors:
- The project was overly ambitious for the skill level or size of the production team
- The team badly underestimated the budget for the product
- The team suffers from frequent infighting due to clashing ideas or a lack of defined hierarchical responsibility
- The original idea was poorly planned and the team did not conceive how much work was actually needed to meet their goals
In theory, a project creator would alleviate these issues by providing a very thorough presentation outlining exactly what they plan to do and even have a working prototype to show off. In other words, most of the work is already done; they just need the money to create the final product. In practice, even veteran creators (one infamous example being legendary games designer Tim Schafer) can cause massive disappointment when they don't have a bunch of angry investors with teams of lawyers to keep them honest, and instead can use nostalgia or other easily manipulated emotions to ask for more money from backers.
- Numenera - An RPG made by D&D veteran Monte Cook made $517,225 which briefly held the record for most money raised for a tabletop game. Probably an example of good crowdfunding, as Monty had only intended to use the funds to create the core rulebook, but had so much money left over that stretch goals were added and eventually created an entire product line.
- The Torment: Tides of Numenera, was the Numenera video game and spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment was also funded on kickstarter, and made over $4 million on an initial target of $900,000, also setting the record for most funds raised for a video game.
- White Wolf and its partner, Onyx Path, have recently funded many of its World of Darkness RPGs via Kickstarter. All of them were met in record time (most of them within a couple of hours, some of them in under just over one hour) with several times the goal met. This results in a large number of stretch goals, many of whom include books that came out a lot later than promised. The worst offender is Wraith: The Oblivion 20th anniversary, which was going to come out in Fall 2014 but it took until July 27th 2018 for it to actually release to the public.
- 7th Sea funded its second edition via Kickstarter in 2015. They raked in a maddening $1,316,813 with 11,483, holding the record for the largest sum and most backers for a single RPG. The initial rules were due in October of 2016, but were instead released in June 2016, four months ahead of schedule. They have been less successful with their sourcebooks, with one being nine months overdue.
- Kingdom Death is a tabletop game with crazy detailed resin miniatures sold at crazy high prices, and most of them are rather lewd. Raking in $12.3 million from under 20k backers, the backer tiers are pretty expensive, with the lowest for their Monster 1.5 set starting at $50. But people still pay because they really like what it brings to the table.
- Lancer had gained several times the target amount within the first week of the fundraising. This was likely helped by two factors: One was the big name behind it (The artist of K6BD being a big dev on this) and the fact that the rules for the game were for the most part completed. All the fundraising was going towards was making hardcover copies, professional PDFs and bonus content.
- Mantic Games put two of its wargames on there: the sci-fi Warpath and the fantasy Kings of War, raking in several times the goal to get funded.
- Shieldwolf Miniatures did a Kickstarter to expand their miniature range. Asking but a lowly $5000, they got $20k and used that money to make miniatures that are totally not Warhammer Fantasy inspired and are not meant for proxies in your armies, we swear.
- Shadowrun itself did not use Kickstarter, but the three recent videogames (Returns, Dragonfall, Hong Kong) based on it did successfully.
- Order of the Stick funded the more recent printed volumes of the comic via Kickstarter.
- Robotech RPG Tactics was such a shitshow from start to finish, rules to miniatures, it's got its own page.
- Monster Hunter International had both versions kickstarted. Both delivered roughly on time, though were fairly unambitious (based existing systems). That the project lead (Larry Correia, author of the book series it's based on it) was an accountant might have had something to do with it too.
- Goblins: Alternate Realities is perhaps the most unlucky (for its backers) on this list. While funding for the card game was successful, during the long absence of updates, it was discovered that the project team had taken the money and ran off. Thunt, despite only being the artist attached to the project and not part of the management team who had stolen the money, still felt he was responsible since it was his license, and has been trying all this time to make the final product for his disappointed fans.