Jul 242013

So, this happened to a perhaps too aptly named board game:


Have a read, then come back. I’ll wait.

Okay! So let’s review:

• If you have one, don’t quit your job to fulfill a kickstarter campaign. The time and financial costs always turn out higher than you project, and you need that other source of income to make sure you stay afloat — and can (if you didn’t start with money in your company coffers) personally float yourself a loan for overruns.

• Don’t, y’know, move or make any life decision based on the funding of a Kickstarter campaign. This has to fit into your already available time-space and current location.

• Put yourself and your partners through whatever emotional stress-test you can in advance of running the thing. There’s no sure riftmaker like success, and few pressurecookers like a Kickstarter campaign; add to that the obligation to and expectations of your backers after you’ve funded and you’ll find yourself at a high-stress breaking point all the damn time (believe me).

• Unless you’ve got some rock solid experience personally implementing and delivering on a project at any scale under time and budgetary pressure, do NOT make a Kickstarter your first time out. It’s all of that _plus_ additional stressors unique to a crowdfunding campaign. Take incremental steps: not giant leaps. Kickstarter doesn’t patch over any of that for you.

• That means you need to build experience to do your dream project. For 99% of folks who make things, that’s how you have to do it. Yes, there’s a loud 1% of folks who got it right the first time. They’re the exceptions. The rest of us have to get there by increments. Dream big, yes, but also dream small. Make your first thing a small thing. Make your next thing a slightly larger thing. And so forth.

Evil Hat spent 6 years working on being a successful RPG publisher before trying to branch into board games. Our Race to Adventure Kickstarter was a success. We funded to the level we asked for. Getting there meant a bunch of swag and shipping that we maybe shouldn’t have taken on. All told it meant we got to product launch about $20,000 in the red with the expenses that went beyond the funds covered by what was funded.

We knew we would probably see overruns. We planned for it. That $20,000 came out of funds we already had prior to the project. After several months of sales following the game’s release in April, we’ve cut that number in half. We’re confident we’ll eventually break even on the game—it’ll just take time. Time we can afford.

This is not an atypical Kickstarter boardgame scenario.

Be ready for it.


  13 Responses to “Doom Indeed”

  1. I’m a backer. Or I’ve been burned. Given the lack of assurance that I’ll actually see my money, I guess I’m probably just burned. And this, to be honest, along with a few other gaming failures, has turned me off to Kickstarter entirely.

    • People perceive Kickstarter as they do eBay, when it’s more like Kiva with a free gift. There’s a chance that it will fail and you will get nothing, either from the project not getting funded, or from something like this.

      Kickstarter should be seen as a hobby: the money may not be returned or successful with it’s intent, so spend wisely, and never anything you can use better elsewhere. (Not saying this is what you did, just read posts from folks who spent their backer money that made them late on a bill or two when they should have sat it out.)

  2. I’m a serial backer of your projects. I’m also a backer of The Doom. It’s disappointing as hell to see it come crashing down, especially since there were always delays but never an indication that everything was falling apart. I know this is part of the danger of backing a Kickstarter, and it’s not a cheap lesson to learn. I’m not ready to leave Kickstarter over this, or to stop funding board games, but it’s going to make me take a step back and consider my pledges more. Which kinda sucks. Not taking a risk with new game companies would have saved me here…but also would have never netted me Agents of SMERSH, which has become a favorite among friends and family

    Though my thanks to you and Evil Hat for always being a known quantity when I’m considering KS projects to back.

  3. What I have to admit curiosity about is all these people demanding refunds. Regardless of the reasons behind it, sometimes projects fail. Are they actually entitled to these refunds or not, since it was an investment not a purchase? On the other hand, there are also some mentions they violated KS rules. Not a backer of this one, but have backed a few projects. All of those bar one have had a pretty good track record before hand, though (Atomic Robo Last Stop, Race to Adventure, Project Eternity, Double Fine Adventure) . Sorry, I realize it’s a bit of a derail, but it’s just a question from someone who has worked in retail far too long and had to deal with some insane customer entitlement from time to time, (hence why I have gotten out of that industry and intend to avoid any that require that sort of interaction) is it people not realizing what they’re getting into, or just kneejerk reactions?

    • Yup, they are entitled to refunds. I think Kickstarter even says so. The projectrunner has an obligation to deliver on what was promised, or to provide a refund. The projectrunner is liable for legal action if he does neither.

    • From the Kickstarter FAQ: “Yes. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use require creators to fulfill all rewards
      of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot
      fulfill.” Unfortunately, if I had to guess, by making it a terms of use thing it just means they won’t be able to launch another Kickstarter if they don’t refund this one. I’m not sure if we, as backers, will have any actual legal channels.
      The calls of violating rules come from a notion that Kickstarter funds are meant to fund projects but it sounds like he was trying to launch a company with the money. I suspect that’s the pique of the moment talking.
      I think the whole thing was doomed from the moment he got a C&D about his board looking too much like the Monopoly board. Whether that was the killing blow or not, it all seemed to go downhill from there.

  4. I and my buddies doing the Stark City Kickstarter watched what other people were doing and tried to mitigate those pitfalls. Well written, sir.

  5. I think there’s more than just a failed project going on. Check the comments, the guy seems to have a track record for getting investment then blowing the money on crap and delivering nothing.

    Personally, I think anyone can start their first project with KickStarter – you just gotta do your research. Talk to people who’ve done it before and make sure you know ALL the details before you start. The real problem is people get excited, start their project, over-promise and under-deliver.

    And of course, incidents like this ruin it for the rest of us. I’ve been planning my Kickstarter project since last October. My prototype will be ready soon and I have all the details of production and logistics with all associated costs all worked out to the finest detail. So long as people actually like my game and my game is funded I don’t see any reason for failure. ( http://www.trade-frontiers.com if anyone is interested 😉

    There’s plenty of examples of “first time projects”, I really don’t think it’s the 1% you’re making it out to be. Almost sounds like you’re scared of a little competition … ? (just kidding 😉

    • I don’t think that was what Fred was saying: First time projects from entrepreneurs looking to make a new business is fine, but know how to be an entrepreneur first. Start accepting risks from your business when the world isn’t breathing down your neck so much first, then take on more risk as you get better on delivering your deadlines. Eventually, Kickstarter will be a good move, but if you’re new to business, it’s not necessarily a good first move.

      The project failing to fund could be the best thing to happen to you if this is the case (disappointing, and you won’t see a dime, but at least the pressure is off of you). The worst thing is anything but that outcome if you have no idea what is needed to carry out your project. (Granted, I’m sure the project owner wasn’t completely wet behind the ears, but it can get on top of you quick.)

    • Spot on.

  6. Good info, Fred.

  7. Though I did not back this particular project, and wouldn’t have if I’d known about it (though I’ve backed more expensive projects, I’m not a big Lovecraft fan), I have backed 46 projects over three years, including some Evil Hat projects. I’ve only been disappointed once: I backed an RPG that I thought was almost press-ready, turns out that not only was it not in the final stages of development, it pretty much had not seriously begun development. Several updates were “We’re playtesting X this weekend!” or “Here’s a beta for the character sheet!”

    Very disappointing. Although they’re now close to finishing edits and getting near production, I’m totally disinterested now. I’ve always thought KS projects should be nigh unto complete. And from what I can read about Doom, the game was pretty much near ready for production until this guy moved from LA to Portland with the money then apparently squandered the rest. Starting a company with KS? I don’t think so. They were so over-funded they should have been able to get it into production in just a few months.

    It was a fraud, only now this guy has hundreds of people around the world on his tail. He’s absolutely right that if he gets sued, all of the money will go away to lawyers, and I’m absolutely certain that that is what’s going to happen. He had 431 backers give $100 or more, a third of those who contributed to the project. If I pledged $50 to a project, I’d want something for it but if it vanished, I’d survive. But the highest pledge was $2500: those 431 people are going to want blood.

    Caveat Emptor is really the catchphrase for Project Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Excellent advice, Fred. I’ve always considered myself a mom & pop and would not use KS, if I ever put Zombie Cafe up on it, to use it to start a brick & mortar operation. If sales of Zombie Cafe and others funded me to that level, that’s different: that’s sales supporting business. If it over-funded and after I made my commitments and had funds left for a better laser printer that made it easier to do layout proofs and test sets, that’s different.

  8. […] number of game publishers experienced in running Kickstarters have spoken out on the subject, and they all seem to be saying the same thing: Kickstarter isn’t magic. Running one of these […]

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