My Year in Gaming Kickstarters

To say that Kickstarter is one of the biggest developments ever to happen in gaming would be an oversimplification, and not a subject I feel qualified to take on as a whole. For that kind of thing, I recommend Kicktraq, Funding the Dream, and Daniel Solis’s surveys.

However, there were two big impacts it had on my year. For one, pitches for us to check out a Kickstarter have increased dramatically, sometimes multiple ones coming in each day, and one memorable week where I received one every day of the week. (If your idea of promoting your Kickstarter is to spam the same message over and over again to as many related twitter accounts as you can find… you’re doing it wrong.)

Secondly, it’s increased my gaming spending- and from what I can tell, it’s added on to the games I buy, not replaced them from other sources. As 2012 wraps up, I wanted to take a look at the Kickstarters I supported this year, and ultimately focusing on the games, particularly the RPGs, my most-supported category.

In case it needs to be said, this is not a comprehensive look, nor is it in any way scientific. This is just a look at what I supported over the year to see if I can identify any trends amongst those that personally interested in me for whatever reason. Additionally, I’m not interested in calling out project X for being late or project Y for sending too many updates or whatever, so most of this is aggregate data only.

Overall

  • Total Projects Supported In 2012: 32
  • Total Projects I Supported That Hit Their Funding Goal In 2012: 28

Breakdown by Project Types of Funded Projects

  • RPGs: 12
  • Board/Card Games: 5 (I’m including one IndieGogo project here)
  • Video Games: 2
  • Other Gaming-Related Projects (Movies, Comics, etc.): 6
  • Other: 3

RPGs dominated the projects I supported this year. There are a number of factors for this, probably the strongest one being that I can usually toss in $10 for a PDF and not worry that much that it’ll take up space or be a lot of money if I don’t like it. Additionally, it’s easier for me to judge quality from a known quantity in an RPG than another type of game.

Board games are much more risky for me, especially since I’ve got burned so often by games I’ve picked up in a store, and usually no comparable option is there for board games: while I think print and play versions of board games is a good idea, I’m very unlikely to actually go through the effort to put a prototype together, especially for a game with many more pieces. Video games are even further out there most of the time between me giving money and having something I can try to see if I like it.

RPG Delivery Statuses

  • Fully Delivered: 2
  • Partially Delivered (Completed PDF but not print, missing Stretch Goals, etc.): 4
  • Draft Delivered, Nothing Else: 3
  • Nothing Delivered Yet, But Still Communicating: 3
  • Projects “Gone Dark”: 0

This doesn’t give the complete picture, since these projects launched at different times of year. However, I think it is important to underscore that projects will take a while to fully be delivered, no matter how complete the game is to begin with. Additionally, as I mentioned I’m more likely to back projects by creators I’m familiar with, I also have a better understanding of where they are in the process and unlikely to completely crash if funded.

As a rough estimate from what I understood when backing, when taking into account communications since:

  • RPGs Delivered Fully On Time: 1
  • RPGs Apparently on Schedule: 5
  • RPGs Running Late But In Progress: 2
  • Scheduling Status Unknown: 4

Kickstarter Satisfaction

For this one, I’m looking at all the Kickstarters I’ve backed (not just in 2012), just looking at the ones where I’ve actually received a final product (even if it’s not the complete package), and judging my satisfaction on a simple scale:

  • Satisfied: 10
  • Neutral/Mixed: 5
  • Dissatisfied: 6

This is one of the few metrics I was surprised by when reviewing, honestly. I expected more projects to fall into the valley of meh more than anything, but I should be thankful that I’ve been satisfied with a plurality of projects I’ve received. There is part of me that thinks that the middling project number will go up as more are delivered next year. For instance, I supported 4 different video projects and 2 music projects, and for some reason, I find that I’m more interested in helping those get out for others than seeing the end result personally. That said, the one video project I have received I was pleased with.

A Few Final Notes

Finally, I’d like to single out just a few projects for some exceptional or otherwise noteworthy aspects of a few Kickstarters:

Best Stretch Goal Rollout Strategy: Dungeon World

As new stretch goals were unveiled, the backers explored a dungeon, complete with boxed-text prose. Though the only way to play was to give more money, it was still a cool way to overlay a “game-like” experience on top of the base Kickstarter.

Biggest Stretch Goal Explosion: (TIE) Numenera and Hillfolk

Both projects were huge, and every day, blew through new stretch goals. Numenera continually rolled out new improvements, supplements, and even new games that turned it from a one-off RPG into a full fledged line of games. Hillfolk, meanwhile, added more and more setting write-ups from a variety of amazing talents, even outpacing the size of the physical book in a situation they called “Pagemagedden.” Both contributed to the feeling that not only were you supporting a game, you were on a roller-coaster ride along with the publishers.

Biggest Disappointment for Not Funding: BAM!: The Untold Story of the Future of Rock & Roll

A documentary about my all-time favorite radio station (and way more influential than many realize) made by a fellow gamer- some day I hope it makes a return to Kickstarter and funds in full. My wallet stands ready for it.

It also makes me wistful, wondering if we had Kickstarter when the station was on the air years ago, if we might still have it to this day…

Best Kickstarter Video: Are You The Werewolf? Deluxe

OK, that’s just because I was in it.

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.

Comments

  1. I’m a big fan of critical-hits.com, and I wanted to share a little something I wrote about Steve Kenson’s “ICONS: Great Power” Kickstarter campaign wrapping up this week.

    http://www.mindofthegeek.com/2012/12/31/interviewing-steve-kenson-part-one-designing-icons-and-great-power/

    It seems there’s a lot on Kickstarter that appears promising at first, but doesn’t quite measure up. Maybe from a lack of experience, or follow-through? I think it’s more interesting when seasoned creators put something out there, that might be just a little too specialized for the bigger markets bigger companies are going for, but really speak to fans.

  2. Something I’ve noticed is that Kickstarter seems to be responsible for far more gamers being open to trying “other” RPGs. Gamers that might have only played one or two RPGs in the past have found a vehicle encouraging them to try new RPGs on a periodic basis. I’m all for that, as I think trying new games is great for gamers.

    But, I’m curious whether that will have staying power. Any RPG has its pluses and minuses, and an RPG can’t please every gamer. When these RPGs start being delivered it will be interesting to see whether these gamers get turned off by this or whether they are turned on to the discovery of new RPGs. As you mentioned with buying board games, it is a let down when a game doesn’t deliver, and over time we can get really gun shy and change our purchasing strategy to be more risk-adverse. (I’m that way with board games… I want to play one before buying it).

    An RPG like Numenera… I mean, those numbers are off-the-charts for a science fiction RPG! It would seem that many backed it based on the interest generated, on Monte’s name, and on the buzz that he had been working on D&D Next. All of those have to do with underlying quality, but I would be shocked if all of those backers are huge fans of sci-fi RPGs. It will be really interesting to see how people react when they receive the game, especially when they start playing it!

    One last bit. It is also clear that the best practices for running a kickstarter are still in progress. Lessons haven’t yet been widely learned, but we see the smarter groups using them. I expect over time there will be more solid approaches so that more projects are appealing.

  3. I have to kickstarter related resolutions for 2013:
    1. Don’t spend so much money on Kickstarter this year.
    2. Have some of them actually get delivered this year.