Between the Fate Core Kickstarter’s later stretch goals and our ongoing Fate Adventures & Worlds Patreon campaign, we’ve had a pretty killer development budget for a bunch of games over the past couple years. That’s not the same as having a killer manufacturing budget, though.
I should perhaps define some terms first.
In this context, when I say development I’m talking about all the stuff that’s needed to get a book written, edited, art-directed-and-acquired, indexed if appropriate, proofed if appropriate, and laid out. All the stuff, in other words, to produce a digital release of that book. When I then talk about manufacturing I’m talking about the stuff needed past that point, to turn something you’ve got as a ready-to-go digital asset into a physical item you can hold in your hands, flip through, ship, and sell into retail.
What those various crowdfunds did, for the portions of them that I’m talking about, was give us a healthy-sized budget for developing the digital versions of various projects — all our Fate Worlds of Adventure, and approaching-the-final-few-laps books like Do: Fate of the Flying Temple and Young Centurions. But that’s about as far as the associated goal-driven crowdfunding took us on a number of those. If we want to turn those things into printed physical books, we’re looking at an out-of-pocket expenditure to make that happen.
Which is all well and good — to an extent. I manage Evil Hat’s risks and budget to make sure we’ve got money in the bank when we need it, especially when it comes to paying our bills. And yet, recently, as I constructed a more detailed company budget, a few things became clear.
One, based on what most closely fits a “standard” year for us (2014) under our current company model, that about 25% of our budgetary income comes from crowdfunding efforts. In 2015, we’ve been pretty light on our crowdfunding efforts, and that’s unlikely to change for the rest of the year (luckily, other outflows have reduced somewhat in proportion to this, so we’re on track to break even for the year). In 2016 we’re going to need to push to correct for that, running one or two more Kickstarter campaigns than we normally would.
Two, crucially, while we’ve got a solid foundation in our bank balance, the new projects we’re eager to get underway in 2016 (or which we already have underway) are looking to draw on some of the same funds that would be needed to take those prior projects from digital (development) into print (manufacture).
Three, we’ve been putting a lot of content out digitally, but that doesn’t have the same earning potential as a physical product (digital is great, but you can’t sustain a company at the size we’re trying to be on digital alone). On the physical product side, our output in 2015 has been a bit sparse, with a proportionate drop in income for the company. And that suggests we need to produce more physical products in order to better support our company’s ongoing cash-flow. And while we don’t need to take our digital releases into print — and without a budget to do so we might have to leave them as such — I think all our interests would be better served if we got those suckers into print.
So as we contemplate how we want to structure our crowdfunding efforts for 2016, all of that budgeting-driven thinkery is a part of the analysis. And I think that it’s pointing at one of our first being a “from digital to print” campaign to make it possible to take a bunch of items into print.
If fully funded through all its potential stretch goals, this would cover producing a few full-color hardcover volumes compiling three or four of the Fate Worlds of Adventure each, a combination of Venture City Stories and the upcoming Venture City Powers into its own book, as well as a couple of Fate Core’s digital-only stretch goals (I’m looking at Do: Fate of the Flying Temple and Young Centurions RPG there, tho much depends on how the timelines for those behave in the remaining months of 2015), and the currently-intended-as-digital Majestic 12 supplement for the Atomic Robo RPG (again, timeline behavior dependent).
But therein exists a bit of a dilemma. As noted before, these are all (well, these are mostly, but close enough to all) things that have had their development budget crowdfunded already. Folks may have assumed (consciously or otherwise) that that funding covered everything that would be needed to take the books to print. And regardless of that assumption, it may simply appear that we are “double dipping” on those various projects, rather than seeing this as a follow-up funding effort covering a separate segment of what these products could be.
So, it’s tricky. I’m pretty sensitive to the double-dipping thing — it’s a real thing, where two or more crowdfund campaigns are run to fund essentially the same thing, like a second crowdfunding campaign to pay for printing costs that the first campaign was supposed to pay for. But in this case we never positioned those goals as oriented on printing costs.
The question is whether or not we can convince the backing public of that. 🙂
And, relatedly, the question that the campaign itself is intended to help us answer: should we be putting these things into print? Or will digital-only releases be enough?
Hit me with your thoughts in the comments. I’m listening.