The Kickstarter Conundrum

With board gaming clearly supplanting videogaming as the dominant Kickstarter product, the question gets asked regularly in the community about when a game should be backed. People often attempt to take a moral high ground claiming when games “should” or “shouldn’t” be on Kickstarter, but often ignore the facts of each unique situation. We all need to ask ourselves every time a popular project comes up whether it is something, we want to spend our money on. While morality might weigh heavily on our mind, self interest will still most likely prevail.

I personally feel that there are two respectable reasons for starting a Kickstarter. The first is the original intent of Kickstarter, to allow companies to raise enough capital to fund their projects. Sadly, this had become a smaller and smaller portion of games on Kickstarter. The second is a proof of concept, to prove to overly skeptical publishers that prefer to play it safe that the demand for their project exists. For projects with flexibility this allow risk mitigation by engaging with the community and getting much firmer numbers on the type and quantity of product desired. It’s one thing to have 50 of 100 people say they want something in a survey, it’s another to ask those 10 people to enter a credit card number and commit to buying a product. The third most common type of Kickstarter is one that gets the most scrutiny and that is as a preorder tool, when a game with ample funding behind it was getting funded in the same way regardless. Most people feel that this takes attention away from games that wouldn’t exist without crowd funding. Ideally the mechanisms wouldn’t make this beneficial but it seems like the advertising benefit of Kickstarter offsets the additional fees.

Regardless of how we think the world “should” be we still usually resort to self interest. Boardgame Kickstarters are almost always more expensive than retail. Unlike digital games the cost of shipping has to be factored in. This is what I usually need to remind myself every time I think of backing a project, I as a consumer am taking a higher cost than if I waited for release and picked it up from a store that sells below MSRP and without shipping. With projects exceeding goals regularly by hundreds of percentage points, I rarely need to consider if my support is really helping the project reach its goals. I am required to focus much more on if I want to support a game for its existence in the world, and if there are any other benefits to make up for this cost. Exclusive items are the other main selling point of Kickstarter and unfortunately the one I rely on the most. Often as a consumer the altruistic desire alone to see a project realized isn’t enough for the added premium. There is only so much money in each consumers wallet, I support other artistic endeavors through Patreon and carefully weighing thrifty buying practices with supporting what I want to see in the world is necessary to ensure that there is enough money to pay the mortgage.

Backing a crowdfunded project inevitably becomes a very personal experience. Morality and benefit need to be weighed and in a way that is unique to each consumer. There is no objective right answer and every project will need to be examined in a different way to the ones that came before. 

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