Jul 312012

EDIT: Kickstarter has clarified: http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/bulk-quantities — Kudos for getting specific and responding relatively quickly. I’m preserving the rest of my post as is, though I think their definition addresses many of the concerns.

I rarely post about things with a negative bent, because that’s not really my style. But hot on the heels of concluding a second successful Kickstarter campaign, this bit of news seems worth putting under the microscope. It was recently brought to my attention that Kickstarter has added (maybe it’s been there a while, maybe it’s a new addition) a bullet to their prohibited rewards list:

  • Rewards in bulk quantities

So, that feels pretty ill-considered.

For game producers using Kickstarter, it’s a salvo fired right at the heart of our efforts to support and promote the participation in Kickstarter projects by the retail tier.

Our recent Race to Adventure kickstarter had two retail tiers, offering 6 and 12 copies respectively, and we sold a couple hundred units that way along with the rewards we were sending to our non-retailer backers. Those couple hundred units showing up on shelves early into the product’s lifecycle will be a vital and necessary part of making sure that our product is a success post-kickstarter. If we’d had to heed this prohibition, we’d have had to institute less-obvious ways for retailers to participate, or remove that option entirely. Not to mention it would have cost the project all of its $50k-and-up stretch goals, as those retailer backers represented over $2,600 in pledges.

It’s also a display of poorly defined language. Should we be considering “bulk” to mean “anything more than a single unit”? Or is there some number down the line that counts as bulk? In essence, is it bulk if I have a reward tier for getting 2 or 3 copies, maybe at a mild discount, so folks can save on shipping & buy for friends? Not at all clear. Wiggle room is kinda bad in these situations, because it creates uncertainty, and uncertainty is the root of fear and inaction. Put those into play, and you end up with fewer kickstarters, less ambitious kickstarters, and people taking their intended-for-kickstarter crowdfunding projects elsewhere (or giving crowdfunding a pass, period).

I get why most of the other stuff is on their prohibitions list. A lot of it makes sense. But this? Without a good explanation, without a great many cases made for why it’s more than an occasional problem, it’s a message to me, and perhaps to others, that maybe it’s time to stop making use of the site for our projects. Which is a real pity; we were just getting started.

I’d certainly welcome a good explanation, and hope we’ll see one soon.

(Then again, if someone could produce a crowdfunding site that separates money to be spent towards shipping from money to be put towards the project’s goal, so someone could pay $40 for $10 ship and $30 that goes towards the actual goal tally, I’d be pretty damn tempted to move my business even without this gaffe on Kickstarter’s part. It’s a pity Kickstarter isn’t putting more effort into solving that sort of problem.)


  19 Responses to “Kickstarter: This Is What A Mistake Looks Like”

  1. That seems designed to keep Kickstarter rewards out of retail channels. They clearly want to focus on Kickstarter as a KICKSTARTER, not an alternative distribution channel.

    • I’m reluctant to speculate about intent there without direct words from Kickstarter as to the purpose behind that part of the policy.

      It could also be a policy shift intended to appease a potential acquisition company that doesn’t want to see bulk sales happening, or other explanations.

    • As a retailer who’s store has funded a number of kickstarter game projects this is sad news. I’m not some huge corporate giant taking advantage of some loophole. We are a friendly neighborhood game store that likes to support the gaming community. And yeah, it’s nice to be among the first stores in the area to have Race to Adventure and Dungeon World on our shelves.

    • Make sure to read Kickstarter’s clarification of the policy linked in the edited note up top.

  2. I believe the demand for a retailer identification is wrong on any Kickstarter campaign reward tier. Any backer should be able to enjoy lower pricing for multiple copies of a reward. Kickstarter is for all kind of backers, all treated equal, a company should not have advantages.

    • I think you’re missing some critically important ideas about what retailer sales represent for a game company trying to actually *launch* something through Kickstarter, as opposed to simply putting a product out there, and having the Kickstarter campaign be most of the business that the product ever sees.

    • But since the beginning Kickstarter was the place to put the creators in direct contact with the consumers, cutting the middleman. There shall be other places to link creators with retailers with a bit more weight on the creator side then before. A new business relationship. Kickstarter is for backers. Even the financial (as in taxes, etc) aspect of selling Kickstarter rewards seems unclear.

    • Kickstarter *is* a middleman, and without retailer backers, our projects would not have done as well. That’s the bottom line here, dude.

  3. Bulk to me means “a lot”, I would think at least 100 or more. I’ve seen kick starters with reward levels with 6, 12, and 24 items in them. I would like to see an official quantity from KS though.

  4. Out of interest, Fred, have you asked KS to clarify this element of their policy?

    I must say, I do agree with you regarding splitting out shipping fees from contributions.

  5. This KS project made shipping separate, don’t know if that would be enough for you or whether you want KS to make it more explicit or KS to manage shipping themselves (that would be much easier for all projects to manage then of course)


  6. I know in certain areas they have to tread carefully lest they run afoul of various regulations. This doesn’t SEEM like it would be one, but you never know.

  7. I have a kickstarter going on with 3 units for retailers and it it started a week ago so I guess we are not considered “bulk”.

  8. Re: shipping, I’ve seen a few kickstarters where they ask that shipping be paid for on the company store site, at the time of shipping… That’d be more work, and maybe a violation of kickstarter terms of use, but would solve the problem of sorting the international shipping pass through cost out of the funding the project bucket.

  9. Hi Fred,
    Angus Abranson (formerly Leisure Games and Cubicle 7 and now Chronicle City) has started a petition. Link enclosed here.

  10. This certainly seems to put a cramp in things like dice projects. :/

  11. I think I mostly just want the Kickstarter folks to actually say _something_. That I’ve seen this makes the third time when people have taken issue with something they’ve done (the Rachel Marone stalking thing, the Tentacle Bento thing, and now this), and their public statements about them have been slow to nonexistent.

  12. […] Kickstarter: This Is What A Mistake Looks Like by Fred Hicks at Deadly Fredly: It looks like Kickstarter will be prohibiting rewards in “bulk quantities”. That change could prevent small publishers from reaching out to retailers in a Kickstarter campaign. […]

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