OPINION: Why do so many boardgame projects on Kickstarter get cancelled? (1)

A few weeks back, I wrote about ambitious Kickstarter projects, and mentioned a couple of projects that seemed, to me at least, both ambitious in scope and lacklustre in execution: they tried to use ‘big names’ as a main selling point, and failed to put more effort into what they were offering prospective backers. Both these projects have since been cancelled. You can read about these, here:
Promising the world via Kickstarter… (1): Frank Mentzer’s Worlds of Empyrea
Promising the world via Kickstarter… (2): Richard Garfield’s Carnival of Monsters

The first project had already been cancelled before I started writing, the second was cancelled just over a week after my post (not because of my post, I hasten to add!)

Recently, a number of much more promising boardgame projects have been cancelled, some completely failing to get off the ground from the outset, others that had already reached their funding goal, and yet others seemed to get cancelled for arbitrary or practical reasons. Why does this happen?

Much has already been written about Kickstarter projects that ‘fail’, and that’s beyond the remit of this post, I’m looking more at why projects get cancelled by their creators, occasionally with spurious reasoning…

Purely for the purposes of illustration, I’m going to briefly look at three projects that recently got cancelled, one of which had reached its funding goal, one that just seemed to stumble early on, and one that has already been successfully relaunched…

Fruit Ninjafruit_ninja

I am always curious to know why projects that are successfully funded suddenly get cancelled, more so when they meet or exceed 200% funding… surely all the extra money can be put to good use in helping to ‘get things done’?

On the face of it, Lucky Duck Games seemed to have got a lot of things right with their Fruit Ninja campaign, with plenty of images, videos, gameplay tutorials, etc. but I personally found the main campaign page very confusing, and given the stretch goals were tiered for specific games, it’s easy to see how confusion could arise. If you were after the Fruit Ninja Combo Party game, for example, you’d have to watch the other two stretch goals pass you by, before getting anything extra for ‘your’ game, so to speak…

Lucky Duck recognises they made a fundamental error in trying to launch three games at once, and cited this as the main reason for cancelling the campaign: they believe the project was overly ambitious. Unfortunately, with very little further information forthcoming, they also received a bit of a backlash from backers who were (a) very disappointed to find out a ‘successful’ campaign had been cancelled, and (b) that the production of each game would be staggered approx 3-6 months apart.

One can understand why backers often feel a sense of ‘ownership’ when they back games on Kickstarter, but I also think backers need to recognise that sometimes companies just get it wrong, either through a lack of preparation and foresight, or just because they haven’t fully appreciated the work and effort involved in bringing their project to fruition after the campaign… This seems to be where Lucky Duck came unstuck.

I suspect they’ll be bringing the games back individually, and ensuring the campaign spiel for each is much clearer and easier to navigate: simplifying the pledge levels and ordering the content more logically would probably be a sensible place to start.  Alas, I also think there’s a trust issue here… how many of the original backers would be happy to support them a second-time?

Sarah’s Singularity

Unlike Fruit Ninja, this game failed to make its target funding, and was cancelled just a week after it was launched, despite raising 40% of the funds within the first week. Daily Magic Games said the game “just isn’t getting the traction we were hoping for…”

sarahs_singularityGiven that Daily Magic is a trusted company who have produced many games, already, this cancellation came as a surprise to me, and at least a week or so premature. That said, ‘hope’ is perhaps not the most reliable thing to pin a campaign on: what exactly, were they hoping for?

Looking at the campaign and some of the comments, it would seem the main criticism was aimed at the presentation of the campaign itself, rather than the game. Indeed, a few backers complained the campaign focussed way too much on all the positive reviews and opinions rather than the gameplay. This strikes me as a harsh criticism given there was a rulebook available, a specific how-to-play video, and several previews, too, so what went wrong?

I think the blame lies fairly with Daily Magic Games here, perhaps failing to set their own targets, parameters and expectations for the campaign before it was launched, and expecting backers to do a lot of the work for them in trying to raise the game’s profile on sites like BGG (BoardGameGeek.com), etc.

Personally, I don’t think they had an issue with getting the word out, but they do seem to have come unstuck with the perceived popularity of the game or subject matter. As has been said before, crowdfunding is still at heart a way of gauging demand, and the fact is that if the demand isn’t there, a project simply won’t be successful. In this particular case, I happen to think Sarah’s Singularity would have been funded, which is why I’m a little bemused at the stance taken by Daily Magic Games in this instance.

This post has already stretched beyond my original expectations, so I’ll cover Valhal by Tetrahedron Games in a separate post: it’s a project that got cancelled and then relaunched (successfully), and is still live on Kickstarter (until 10th Nov 2017). It’s also an interesting one to break down and examine… I’ll post that one tomorrow!

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