Kickstarter isn’t any one thing
I’ve been trying to figure out quite how to present this blog for some time now, and in truth the underlying idea is something that I’ve said several times in different blogs, but I’ve been struggling how best to put it in one single blog. The underlying idea is, however, that Kickstarter isn’t any one thing. Kickstarter is a marketplace, it’s a gathering point of people with the willingness to spend money on things of a type that you might be offering with the facilities to allow for that money to be taken and processed. That means two important things. Firstly, that there isn’t a single set of advice that’s true for everyone, certainly any advice that opens by stating that Kickstarter is one single thing is highly unlikely to be useful to you. Secondly, that because its lots of different things, acting as though it can or will be the parts of those things that you want it to be when you want it to be them just because you want it to be them is therefore a sure route to failure.
Kickstarter isn’t a pre-order system
The thing of this type that I most often hear stated about Kickstarter is that it is a pre-order system. It can be used as a pre-order system, but that doesn’t make it one, any more than the internet is a pre-order system because it can be used as one or my shoe is a hammer because I can use it to bang a nail in with it. There are companies that produce a game totally from end to end at a very high standard that’s fully funded and going to launch no matter what and then put it on Kickstarter. These projects are not the majority of Kickstarter game projects, and they do not mean that every project needs to be of that kind.
Technically the major difference between Kickstarter and a pre-order system is that all pre-order systems are followed by, you know, order systems. A pre-order with zero orders will be followed by an order system. A Kickstarter with zero orders will usually be followed by nothing whatsoever. Practically the difference is that the majority of Kickstarter projects don’t know that they’re going to happen until they’re funded. Not all of them involve the backer interaction and shaping of the project that is much held up as the centre of a Kickstarter, but it’s a rare backer who really wants to engage with a project to the degree necessary to create such interaction. That does mean that Kickstarter projects can fund with far lower up-front investment than a pre-order, and it does open it to smaller creators and companies, even while massive companies exist in the same market place making little more than pre-orders. That co-existence is what is important about Kickstarter and is worth noticing.
Kickstarter isn’t a lottery
One of the complaints also levelled by people that bring up the idea that Kickstarter isn’t a pre-order system is that it is no longer a place where someone can come up with a vague idea, outline it roughly, and then get $100k thrown at them. Essentially, that it is no longer a lottery that comes with a massive logistical commitment when it pays out. To be honest, thank goodness. What is much more present in Kickstarter now is a rough levelling between input and output. You can’t throw up a rough idea and get the best part of a million back, but you can throw up a well thought through idea and get enough to scrape together sufficient artwork to launch a campaign that will fund a print run, and you can put up a solid idea with proper development and a little financial investment and raise enough for a respectable print run and sufficient profit to make some promotional moves or invest in a second project.
Kickstarter is a lot of different things at once, that doesn’t mean that its all those things mashed together, but rather all those things bundled up together, a plate of spaghetti rather than mashed potatoes. You can’t go in at any entry point and land up on any exit, but there are plenty of entry points to choose based on your resources and intentions. If you take the resources you have, apply them sensibly with hard work, research, careful thinking and clear plans, there will be a successful outcome available. If that outcome is not what you’re looking for, you’ll need to shift the resources entered or change your expectations, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing.
Too big to fail, or succeed
Its often said that what you need for Kickstarter success now is investment, sheer size, but an increase in the size of a project means an increase in the size of goal, in fact, more and more big projects have been struggling and even failing recently. I don’t like to include direct negative examples in these blogs, but the following projects are big enough to take it, and I’m not really saying anything new. Take for example the recent Harry Potter: Catch the Snitch - A Wizards Sport Board Game by Knight Games — Kickstarter and its original launch, Harry Potter: Catch the Snitch - A Wizards Sport Board Game (Canceled) by Knight Games — Kickstarter, or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - The Game by Cryptozoic Entertainment — Kickstarter. Now, that’s a miniatures heavy game based on one of the biggest book and movie franchises in history that needed to cancel and re-launch due to their campaign not going as well as planned and a miniatures game based on one of the biggest superhero licenses in existence and specifically one of its most beloved and critically acclaimed manifestations that has had to allow late pledges to count towards its stretch goals to reach a respectable level of them. Actual failure to fund a project like these would be more or less inconceivable, but both struggled and possibly by their own criteria could be said to have failed. Every month projects with big investment by small companies more directly fail to fund, investment doesn’t naturally equate to success, and certainly doesn’t equate to a direct scaling in success. If anything, a £4-5k profit on a one-person project with a £2k upfront investment and a year of effort could be seen as a bigger success than a £50k profit from a £100k investment of a multi-person team over several years. It may be that increasingly there are fewer projects that are too big to fail than there are those that are too big to succeed.
In conclusion, Kickstarter can be, and should be, what you make it. Seek the advice that fits your goals and your intentions. Don’t believe that its one thing or another just because that’s what it is for someone else. It can fit with what you need if you’re only realistic about what you need. Don’t listen to people who tell you what it is or isn’t to them, figure out what you need it to be for you.