OPINION: Kicking off about Kickstarter again: A new miniatures assembly line?

Back in October 2017, I had a fair amount to say about the way a lot of Kickstarter campaigns were being used to squeeze as much cash as possible out of backers for new projects, and even more to say about the way some of these campaigns were being conducted by the use of ‘celebrity names’ and such-like to try to add credence to what were clearly ill-thought out campaigns to begin with…  So it’s probably no surprise to anybody that some of the recent and newer campaigns utilising similar tactics have ticked me off, somewhat…

If you wish to ‘catch-up’ or revisit these posts, you’ll find them here:

OPINION: All the gifts or not…
OPINION: Promising the world via Kickstarter…

In order to understand where I’m coming from here, a short history lesson might be worthwhile:  You see, back in 2009, Kickstarter launched with the plan to encourage creative projects that perhaps would never get funded otherwise, and in the main, this focus has stayed at the forefront, but to quote from their own blog, “Kickstarter Is Not a Store”, and yet, right now, that’s exactly what it feels like, especially if you’re ‘shopping for a miniatures game’…

There’s little doubt in my mind that most of the companies behind the games I’ll be covering here could afford to fund the projects they’re advertising on KS in some form or other, and bottom-line, what they’re really doing is using KS as a method of guaranteeing sales and/or pre-orders… regardless of your views on the matter, this is hardly in the spirit of “encouraging creative projects that might never have appeared otherwise”.  And to be fair, my main gripe isn’t even necessarily against this practice or the actual games or individual game companies (arguably, they’re protecting their time investment), it is the tactics employed to encourage backers to part with more money that bugs me…

Let’s run through a few examples…

A Song of Ice & Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game — CMON
(July-Aug 2017) — 9,040+ backers

Song of Ice and Fire logoA competitive miniatures game based on one of the biggest franchises of the last few years, pitting the Starks against the Lannisters in the ‘Starter Set’. Not a hard sell, by any stretch of the imagination (although a basic pledge level of $150 feels steep), and with a measly $300,000 funding target, this game brought $1,690,466 into CMON’s coffers (560%+ funded). I have no qualms about the game or the company, or the way they’ve handled the campaign, although I do take umbrage at all those juicy optional add-ons designed to get backers to part with more of their hard-earned cash…

There are three additional playmats at $35 each ($105 total), no less than thirteen additional miniatures boxes at $30 each ($390 total), a $20 deluxe rulebook, various additional terrain sets ($12-21), some custom dice sets at $10 each ($30 total), some additional sets of activation tokens, dice bags, and plastic rulers for $7.

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc — Mythic Games
(Oct-Nov 2017) — 9,980+ backers

Joan_Arc_logoAnother miniatures board game, this one plunging you into the Hundred Years’ War, where Kings and Knights clash on the battlefield for the throne… and another game that’s not exactly hard to sell: indeed, other than the video, the campaign doesn’t bother telling you anything about the game itself until they’ve shown you what you’re getting for your basic $120 pledge… 288 miniatures, and lots of other terrain goodies, special pieces, etc.  It was no surprise to me that this game funded double-quick, to the tune of 2150%+ — $2,152,285 raised for a measly $100,000 target, and I’m not knocking the value-for-money aspect here (there is a lot there for $120!), but it’s all those damn add-ons again… and so many of the bloody things…

There are add-on ‘packages’ from $170-$420 (nearly four times as much as the base game), and individual add-ons that include $6 for a dice tower, $10 for extra dice sets, $15 for extra bases and activation banners, $20-$30 for extra colourful hardback books, $60 for the RPG rulebook, $10 for custom RPG dice, $60-$70 for extra miniatures packages, and $60-$85 for extra scenery packs… the list does go on for pages and pages.

I’d really like to know who has that kind of money to sink into a single game… but for those who simply must fully invest into these sort of games, this particular one will burn a very big hole in your pocket, for sure…

Nemesis Board Game — Awaken Realms
(Jan-Feb 2018) — 30,550+ backers

Nemesis_boxA 1-5 player co-operative game themed along sci-fi horror lines (again with a strong emphasis on cool-looking miniatures), this one might not immediately strike prospective gamers as a ‘must-buy’ but it does typify another aspect of Kickstarter that I like to gripe about (see Promising the World: Richard Garfield’s Carnival of Monsters): that of providing extra rules and versions of the game as a stretch goal.  Here it’s more a case of if you want the complete game (with a 5th player, an alternative board set-up, a full co-op mode, rules for playing as an intruder and/or when you’re character dies), you’ll have to make sure that £475,000 stretch goal is reached… Er… what?  Again, no reflection on the game or company, but really?
Couldn’t they have just started with a higher target and worked all those other ‘extras’ that are not really just part of the basic game into the stretch goals?

The £50,000 funding target does seem completely misplaced here, and although £70 is a more reasonable basic pledge than some, if you need £475,000 for the ‘complete game’, why not just start with a higher funding target?  Nonetheless, this KS campaign put an awful lot of money into somebody’s coffers (£3,080,833 — a whopping 6160%+ of the target)… but hold on, there’s a handful of extras to spend your money on, too, albeit not as much as some of the other campaigns mentioned here, admittedly…

Optional add-ons include a comic book for £8, an art book for £15, some card protectors for £11 (ouch!), an expansion for £30… and an extra pre-shaded single miniature for £30, too.  There’s also some extra terrain for £20, and what strikes me as something of an anomaly given the way the rest of the campaign has dealt with stretch goals: there’s an additional character and miniature you can buy in the form of a Medic for £7.50…?

Given this is ‘just a boardgame’, this amount of optional add-ons still strikes me as a tad OTT, and as mentioned earlier, I am certainly not a fan of the type of KS campaign that has stretch goals for things which feel like they belong in the core game, anyway…

Pacific Rim™: Extinction — River Horse
(March-April 2018) — 1290 backers

A scenario-driven tabletop miniatures game based on the popular movie franchise and Japan’s obsession with invading Kaiju (giant killer monsters, creatures, aliens, robots — take your pick) is another game concept that’s not going to struggle to find interested fans. The ridiculously modest £35,000 funding target combined with a basic pledge level of  just £35 makes for a very innocuous start for this, and although it brought in just under £183,000 for the company (520%+ funded), I can’t help feeling that they will probably feel slightly underwhelmed by this figure, especially given that painted miniatures were part and parcel of the whole package (a good thing, I think)…

pacific_rim

Again, though, there is no shortage of optional add-ons here, with everything from extra dice bundles for just £8, right the way up to the ridiculous number of additional miniature bundles cunningly described as ‘Expansions’ (ranging in price from £20-£40 but there are no less than 25 different ones to choose from!)

I think it’s with the sheer number of extra add-ons that this one fell down, especially when it became readily apparent that the bigger the bundle of goodies you ordered, the more it’d cost you in postage (which makes perfect sense, of course), but if you went in for the ‘Miracle Mile – All-in Pledge’ level of £245 —a sizeable sum it must be said— you’re still looking at a minimum of THIRTEEN expansions — who needs that many expansions for the same game?  These are also likely to get split down into a number of smaller parcels, all of which would need postage to be paid separately!

It should be readily apparent that this one could prove a commercial disaster to actually fulfil, but we’ll have to just keep faith and see what happens, I think…

In Summary

Now I’m not naïve enough to think that every backer will fall into the trap of trying to buy every optional add-in, or indeed that there aren’t ‘virtual backers’ who use Kickstarter for window-shopping and then cancel or pull out at the last minute when they realise they can’t afford all the goodies they’ve pledged for, but I do think this practice of making things ‘Kickstarter-exclusive’ or throwing pages and pages of extras and making them available as ‘instant add-ons’ is somewhat disingenuous, smacking of the same corporate and commercial sensibilities as those emails that seem to arrive just before payday asking you to go ahead and spoil yourself for the weekend…

Some would argue that this is a way of companies getting a feel for what extras and add-ons people might be interested in further down the line, but I’d counter that with the fact that the company is still going to have to produce and sell those add-ons to the people that have pledged for them, regardless of whether it’s for one backer or several hundred, so why not downplay this aspect completely?  And what, honestly, is the point of labelling them as ‘Kickstarter-exclusive’ if you’re going to offer them for sale a few months or years further down the road, anyway?

Other games I have my cynical eye on at the moment, include:

Godtear (£79 basic pledge) — optional add-ons include a slack handful of extra miniature bundles ranging in price from £18-£29, dice sets for £7, £12 for extra base rings, and a £29 playmat, etc.

Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game ($80 basic pledge) — optional add-ons include a choice of two more extra dice sets at $10 each, or four different sets of 4-character pre-painted miniatures at $40 each (which’ll give you a total of 22 fighters to choose from)…

I am pretty sure you can point out plenty more examples, so my last comment would have to be: “…a fool and their money…”

3 thoughts on “OPINION: Kicking off about Kickstarter again: A new miniatures assembly line?

  1. Completely disagree with your comment on the Street Fighter KS. First off .. its US Dollars not Pounds so those prices are significantly much better than you suggest. $40 for 4 fully painted 3 inch models AND 4 forty card decks to play the game with. And 8 dice for $10 USD … that is not overcharging.

    For $140 … you are getting 15 3 inch fully painted models, 15 40 card play decks AND a board game.

    Not sure how you are adding up … but as someone that makes miniatures for a living … that’s a good deal.

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  2. Also more to your point of the original post before you through Street Fighter into the mix. As someone who has successfully run 37 KickStarters … I’m not sure I understand your point.

    I think at the core you are confusing Add-ons with KickStarter exclusives. For example … many of the items your talked about were not KickStarter exclusives .. they were add-ons and they were add-ons quite often put into the project through Stretch Goals. Add-ons have a big place in any successful project. They are items that are not needed to play the game but make the game experience more enjoyable if you want to purchase them. No one is forcing you to add-on. Also if the add-ons were added to the base game … it would normally make it too expensive for the purchasing power of most backers.

    Now … I’m with you 100% on KickStarter Exclusives. I do not do KickStarter Exclusives for my projects. I believe they are a poor way to do your project and just create dislike for your brand later. So on that I agree. But the bulk of your argument is not against Exclusives … but added at Add-ons. And I’ve never seen a non-KS exclusive add-on yet that I had an issue with in my campaigns or in any other campaign.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Thomas, and thanks for your comments.

      First off, apologies for using £ instead of $ with regards to the Street Fighter mention (a simple error I’ll put right when I’m next at my desk)…

      You are of course correct that my gripe is aimed mainly at the add-ons (which I clearly state are optional), but the general tempo of the post is not necessarily against the specific companies or the games (some of which offer great value), it’s against the practice of ‘bundling’ and laying out all those juicy add-ons to tempt backers… that phrase “Kickstarter Is Not a Store” springs to mind quite often!

      The point I also made (in the case of Nemesis specifically and in previous posts covering other games), is the idea that stretch goals are req’d to ‘complete’ the game: this strikes me as wrong on many levels, and thus again is a practice I’m not a fan of.

      Now, looking at Street Fighter specifically (and congratulations on Day One Funding btw – no big surprise to me, although it does state the whole campaign is a Kickstarter Exclusive!), I personally am all for pre-painted miniatures for games like this (you guys are the professional painters/modelers after all, although I’m sure some people will prefer painting their own), especially if the production is anywhere close to the gorgeous renditions shown in the campaign, and I’m not knocking any aspect of that in this SF campaign. However, since a basic pledge of $80 will only get me six SF figures and exclude me from any stretch goals, my cynicism is reserved mainly because (a) I’ll need to shell out an extra $40 to get a decent selection and variety of fighters (10?), or (b) Stretch to the $140 pledge level to benefit from the considerably wider selection of fighters and all-round replayable gaming offered through all the stretch goals — which are amazing and great value btw — and the additional Boss Expansion, of course.

      You’re evidently the KS ‘expert’ in terms of knowing your stuff (35+ successful KS campaigns is an enviable record), but I retain my right to question where the ‘$100-$120 basic pledge level’ is that allows me to feel I’ll be getting real value for my investment in terms of character variety and replayable gaming, instead of one of those backers whose half-hearted basic pledge of $80 makes me feel that my six characters and core rules are just not adequate, so to speak…

      That all said, the Street Fighter KS campaign looks fantastic, and I’m sure it’ll prove a huge success and positive investment for most backers, so it’s a job well done on that front. And sincere congratulations again on yet another successful KS campaign.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment on my post. Much appreciated.

      Like

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