Monday, July 27, 2015

Kickstarter: The Gift that Keeps On Giving... Disappointment

By CaulynDarr

Except for this, this was awesome.
Consider me off the Kickstarter train.  Two bits of news dropped pre-Gencon this week that pretty much invalidated all the little remaining value I still had out of two of my largest Kickstarter investments.

I've known for a while that the next expansion for Relic Knights was going to be in more traditional spin-cast resin.  With the quality that they got out of the restic used for the primary game, I don't really blame them.  Someone asked what the future plans for the existing line were, and this was the response:

Since the game didn't do it for me, all I had left was a big pile of sort-of-nice miniatures.  Now people get to go buy the great quality I was originally promised as a backer.  That's cool.  My backing helped make the game actually happen.  I'll take the sloppy sub quality sculpts.  I guess.  I would happily accept half or even a third of the minis I actually got for quality resin versions.

Then there was Robotech.  So far only half of what I was promised has shown up.  In that half is a rule book so terribly edited that I couldn't even get though the second page of "rules", and miniatures so overly complex that I only built 6 before giving up.  It's not that I mind overly complex models.  I'm a major gunpla fan myself.  It's just, all that work, for models that don't even look that terribly detailed when finished.  It was so disappointing that I tossed the lot in a corner and didn't even bother writing a review.

Never mind that the second wave is not likely to ever happen in my lifetime, this bit of news was posed by a competitor.  The only value I had left from my Robotech minis was for accurate unseen.  

This is just a render, but there's some potential for being a very nice looking miniature.  Even if it only turns out as well as the Palladium version, I know who I'd ranter pay money to at this point. And it will probably be less than 28 parts, so that's a win right there.

Both these developments tank the resale value of the miniatures I've acquired.  There will now be objectively better versions in circulation.  What's worse is the money I spent is a direct precursor to these products even existing.  It's the same molds produced for the Relic Knights Kickstarter that are being used for the better quality pieces,  For the unseen, the Robotech KS showed there was a big market for the unseen mecha, and then Palladium dropped the ball and failed to fill it with an adequate product.  Catalyst seems more than happy to fill the void.  

If I seem a bit callous in my analysis of the Operation Babylon Kickstarter, it's not that I don't sympathies with the backers. It's because the BS that they are dealing with isn't all that special. They're blaming Battlefront for the symptoms of a systemic problem.  

These Kickstarters are not bringing us better products.   At least not for the backers. There are Kickstarter wins, but, for each one, FFG and other traditional manufactures(even GW) have released many products of equal and better quality.  Many of the wins are more in the card game and traditional board game realm anyway.  I haven't seen a miniature Kickstater gain any traction against Warmahordes or X-Wing or 40k.  Putting pretty colors on paper seems to work really well. Developing compelling products in three dimensions, not so much.

Contrary to popular opinion; we here at theBack40K don't enjoy being constant haters.  We're just critical of things.  Fawning fluff pieces on how everything is awesome don't help anybody.  When it comes to Kickstarters, everything is most assuredly not awesome.  I don't think it's because we've been backing the wrong horses in terms of the projects invested in.  I think KS's very nature does not incentivise quality results.  

In traditional product development you have to make sure what you're making is going to sell. Otherwise the failure is completely on you.  With Kickstarters, the goal becomes fulfilling the rewards constrained by the initial funding.  Any money spent to improve quality is a hit against having the funds to fulfill a reward.  Schedule and quality are completely free to slip.  And slip they do.  Backers are completely powerless in the whole process.

It's an equation for broken promises and crushed dreams.


  1. Most Kickstarters violate one of the rules of sales, which is under-promise and over-perform. You have to manage expectations, and unless you know for certain that you can exceed expectations, then you shouldn't be creating any. Part of the thing about Kickstarter is that it's bringing all the ugly business of making those delicious gaming sausages out to the public, who are used to being served a finished product in a retail venue.

    1. True. And we shouldn't forget that traditional investors are horribly disappointed all the time by the results of what they put money into (see Battlefront and Dust for instance). We just don't normally see, or care about it as its hidden from us. KickStarter has expanded product "investing" to now include the gamers themselves, but as part of that we have to learn to become good investors.

      I've not yet been horribly disappointed by any of the 3 KS projects that I've backed, but as CaulynDarr points out, those have all been low-cost card games. Not promises of a bazillion awesome-sauce miniatures for a few hundred dollars. Expectations scale with cost.

  2. Raging Heroes' first kickstarter was awesome and I had no qualms about dropping some major cash on the new one. It's all about the company and their rep. Of my 5 or so kickstarter experiences, they have all been good with the sole exception of planetary annihilation, whose major crime was being just too much for my mid-range PC :(

    On the other end of the spectrum, Wasteland was totally awesome and far exceeded my expectations.

    1. Didn't Raging Heros take forever and and a day to fulfill? Wouldn't it have been less grief if they had released those products slowly over the same period of time?

      How do you feel about all those guys(like me) who got a better deal on planetary annihilation from steam sales?

      Realize here that you've been lucky. I mean, Battlefied, had a good enough rep, and they blew it. CMON and Mantic have blown it on a few of theirs, and those guys are experts at this whole kickstarter thing. You have no guarantees that RH won't spend all their next take on hookers and blow. And if they do, there isn't anything you can do about it.

    2. That should be Battlfront not Battlefield in the last post.

    3. Raging Heroes is still not fulfilled. Assaults.

  3. I tend to agree with your conclusions about kickstarter campaigns for miniatures. I do think, however, you were overly optimistic in your initial pledges. You should always be wary of people promising you a lot, asking for money up front, with a fair amount of ability to walk away with your cash.

    1. I've never put money in I couldn't afford to loose. And my expectations where for parity with average existing released projects, not the moon. For instance many of the relic knight models have practically no detail to their faces, their just a blob of plastic. Is too high expectation for miniatures to actually have faces?

      It's not so much about individual results, but the system failing to produce quality on average.

    2. The average output of any industry as a whole is going to be kind of awful. What percentage of the movies released each year are any good? And how many of those are actually great? Answer: About 10% and 10%.

      I think you're down because you bet on the KS equivalents of Uwe Boll and Joel Schumacher. Robotech is cool and all, but you knew Palladium's reputation when you went in on it.

    3. There are plenty I didn't back that have also been a train wreck. There's not one that I can think of where I've felt, "man, it's a shame that I missed that one."

    4. Maybe the system hasn't performed well for miniatures. A number of award winning PC games have been launched on Kickstarter (Pillars of Eternity and Wasteland 2, to name a few). Board games as well (Zombicide and Conan).

      I'd say that it is harder to point towards an amazing miniatures kickstarter.

  4. I have essentially done 4 kickstarters so Far:
    Reaper Bones 1: Late with quality below materials potential
    Reaper Bones 2: Late Again with quality at materials potential
    Impact Trollcast Teams: My experience was fine but we got our minis hand delivered at event.
    Mantic Dungeon Saga: Still Waiting but not late yet.

    One of the issues is that good games are actually pretty hard. Making nice looking miniatures is not that hard but doing on the cheap is. Most of the stuff being kickstarted is getting pushed way beyond what the inexperienced teams are really able to handle in the time and cost they have claimed.

    1. Personally, I wouldn't trust any game on KS that isn't either dirt-cheap, but interesting sounding, or 80+% done and distributed as a beta already. If a KS includes miniatures, I pretty much just write off the chances of the tacked-on game being any good at all. Since it's the both the hardest part to pull off, and the easiest to skimp on.

  5. I have done 3 kickstaters
    1- Big Box Terrain by Angry Mojo Games- laser cut mdf terrain. I got ALOT of stuff at the exact quality they still produce. Only about a month late, but that is because their laser actually broke...
    2- Gettysburg Playing Cards- on time and as described. But they were playing cards by an actual playing card company, so easy to do
    3- Samurai Lords by Steel Fist Miniatures- So he is using KS to expand upon an existing range of super high quality metal minis. They have been delayed by some time those because of issues with the casters. Should ship this week. I know I am getting a quality product, but the time delay is just something I have had to accept.

    Basically I only use KS to buy components for existing games/ranges. Too many NEW things fail to deliver

  6. If there's a competition for the worst run kickstarter, have a look at Imbrian Arts.

    Three years later & most of us are still waiting for minis, get given a plethora of excuses for why it's taking so long and only ever provides updates when the backers start wondering if he's still alive!

    This guys pretty much made up my mind with kickstarter. I'll never go near it again.

  7. I normally dislike the majority of posts on theback40k since 5th edition 40k, but this one is spot on.
    Kickstarter is great for showing really cool ideas, and then letting the owners skip out on all the tough parts of a business, with no obligations.

    In the end I hope it makes a smarter consumer out of all of us. One that appreciates all the behind-the-scenes business crap that seems pointless.

    1. Yeah, I don't think the problem is so much Kickstarter itself, so much as it is the expectations that everyone takes into it. As consumers mature in their understanding of how stuff gets made, producers will be forced to be more professional at all stages.

      I think if there's an outright Kickstarter hero-project, it would have to be the Star Trek Axanar film. It wouldn't exist without crowd funding, and the producers are going out of their way to communicate exactly what they're doing and where the money is going with line-item budget reports.

      Of course it helps when the final product is digitally downloadable, and they can release teaser scenes as they're completed.


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