Kickstarter is Entertainment


If you visited my blog before, it should be no secret to you that I am quite a Kickstarter  (Indiegogo, Peerbackers, etc..) enthusiast. Not only did a number of awesome miniature projects recently launch with crowd-funding help. Crowd-funding sites themselves are a phenomenon that is, for lack of a better phrase, still in the process of being defined. What is Kickstarter…  precisely?

#1 – Is it a plane? Is it a bird?

The founding myth – and I call it a myth on purpose, even if I exaggerate to make a point  – is that Kickstarter, or crowd-funding, is an alternative investment for ambitious and creative ideas and projects.

You have a cool idea, but lack the money to make it reality? Banks turn you down, art patrons laugh at you and you’ve never even met a venture capitalist? Enter Kickstarter and the power of the crowd! If you’re idea excites enough people, they will fund your project.

Kickstarter Founder and CEO Yancey Strickler recently wrote a blog post on the common problem of delayed Kickstarter projects. He used the opportunity to remind everyone that Kickstarter is not a store, that “creativity takes time”.

Naysayers that focus on late delivery of Kickstarter rewards evidently miss the point.

The focus on lateness within Kickstarter brings three problems.

First, it incentivizes creators to take shortcuts to hit their deadlines. As legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto recently said, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”

Second, it ignores what makes Kickstarter so unique: getting to watch a project come to life. The opportunity to see how something is made and to have a hand in its creation is a special thing. If a creator turns the creative process into a story they share with backers, delays don’t have to be bad news.

Third, it presumes that Kickstarter is a store. Sure, it’s unacceptable for a store to ship something late. But Kickstarter is not a store. The Estimated Delivery Date is the creator’s best guess at how things will go, and it’s made at a very early stage in the project’s life.

Just my opinion.

#2 – Kickstarter is not a Store! Or is it?

Among Kickstarter-enthusiasts, the accusation that somebody is using Kickstarter “as a store” or as “a second store-front” is the ultimate insult.

In this gaming niche of ours, Blue Table Painting recently triggered one mean shitstorm with a Kickstarter that people felt wasn’t a “genuine project”. Others, such as Malifaux Through the Breach Kickstarter, carry the claim to “not abuse Kickstarter as a store” before them like a badge of moral superiority.

It is still bullshit.

Why?

Because nobody on Kickstarter wants to deal with the nitty-gritty of turning ideas into reality.

Nobody wants to see your business plans or financials. Nobody wants to see ideas and plans rolled out, only to be discarded again to start from scratch. And nobody – sorry Yancey – wants to wait significantly longer for their rewards than promised.

The really successful “Kickstarters” are all almost ready when they go live. And then some. They put in the extra effort to deliver a good show.

The shipment of DreadBall, that was recently delivered to my door, is a good example. Mantic Games managed to get this game “from Kickstarter-to-shipment” in roughly six weeks. No major delays on that one. All ready for Christmas.

It made 3/4 of a million, not least because it was set-up and executed to perfection.

Being interviewed by Wired.com, CMONs Chern Ann pretty stated flat-out the near-completion of a project is a key to success. And there is little doubt that Chern has won Kickstarter in 2012 (well, if you ignore Bones that is).

Ann believes the key to Kickstarter cash is a modification of the golden rule. “If you wouldn’t pledge on your own project, it’s not ready,” he says. “Projects should be 90 percent complete before launching.”

#3 – Shopping Miniatures… with that personal touch

Still with me? Let me  briefly digress with a story from my childhood…

Let me digress with a story from my childhood…

A little story from my youth. When I first got into miniatures and roleplaying games at age 11 or 12 or so – before online-shops and blogging – I had to drive over an hour in the subway to the next hobby store. Or better, we had to drive over an hour.

My friends and I would spend every other Saturday or so to hit the hobby store, little more than a hole-in-the-wall at the other end of town. We’d geek out about miniatures, rpg-characters and everything else on the way there. Once we were there, we’d descend into the shops dim-lit basement, where the owner kept the miniatures.

There, we’d spend hours peering at the walls filled with miniature blisters, trying to discern the miniatures behind the packaging. Often as not, the sales-guy (some old guy..  at least 20 years or so) would join us and awe this gaggle of 11-year olds with his superiour knowledge of miniatures, games and what was latest cool release he had acquired.

Of course, shops like this are dying away, if they haven’t already.

One reason, of course, is that online does it better today.

There is hardly anything I cannot order within 10 seconds max from Amazon.co.uk. Ebay has more rarities and unique trinkets just a click away than my entire hometown. I can order rare, hand-cast resin miniatures from the US without leaving my desk.

But not all things from my childhood’s shopping experience translated online. Two things made my saturday-miniature-shopping-trips special.

  1. We were “shopping” (it feels like too mundane a verb for it) as a group of friends. It was as much, of not more, about being together, being collectively excited about the shopping trip we were about to undertake. And yes, I am aware that there are parallels to the infamous stereotype of “the girls” shopping for new shoes.
  2. We were entertained by the shopkeeper. It wasn’t the anonymous experience of clicking the “buy” button on Amazon. We knew the guy (as much as 11-year olds cared) and he knew us. He kept us entertained. Luxury stores around the world spend fortunes trying to imbue their sales staff with that ‘personal touch’.

#4 – Kickstarter: Shopping as Group Entertainment

Kickstarter! Be a part of us!

Yes, sometimes I just want to buy something quickly. It is very convenient that I don’t need to spend Saturdays anymore to simply buy my miniatures. Amazon isn’t going to go broke anytime soon.

Yet even in this day and age of hyper-efficient online-shopping, there are times when I feel the need to “take my time” shopping, especially when it is hobby stuff.

That is where Kickstarter comes in.

A “good” Kickstarter puts on a show – not unlike the store owner of my childhood miniatures store. If he/she is really good, he or she will be genuinely excited about the product as his or her backers will be.

And once there is a show, the crowd gathers. It gathers in the Kickstarter comments. It brands itself with hip Kickstarter-avatars and badges. It trades quips and remarks about the show going on. It anticipates, as a group, about what will be revealed next.

The incredible and amazing Kingdom Death Kickstarter – widely anticipated to experience a “lull” over the holidays, even put on a little Christmas celebration for its community of backers! You just don’t get that at Amazon. Not really.

Like my childhood trips to the miniature-store, Kickstarter is a group-experience.

#5 – Why We Don’t Need a Kickstarter Secret Police!

Of course, the entire thing (currently) works best, when the illusion, the myth of “this-is-not-a-store” is not broken. Like posh customers in the golden days of Old Bond Street, people want to shop without being seen doing anything as mundane as shopping.

Still, I am not sure if this odd pretense of “backers-as-investors” is truly needed. Why? Because people seem to have a tendency to launch full-blown conspiracies and witch-hunts towards the Kickstarters that ruin their sacred little illusions.

Here is an (anonymized) message I recently received about another Kickstarter campaign.

Hi All,

I’m contacting you about ****** KS. You may have noticed that I was quite active on this thread but haven’t posted in a while this is because I have cancelled my pledge.

I have been watching the pledge total on Kicktraq and it has raised some suspicions for me.

I believe someone is manipulating the total in order to get this to ******* and will then drop the extra money once it’s there – where’s the harm you my ask well it just seems dishonest to me and if it’s happening now who knows what may happen down the line. Now ****** may be totally innocent and I have no proof of any wrong doing on their part (this is why I haven’t openly called them out on this) but something just doesn’t seem right to me I have this gut feeling that’s saying get out so I cannot continue to support this KS and I am just giving you the facts as I see them so that you can make your own decision.

I truly hope this project is genuine as I do like the product but I will be waiting until it hits retail before purchasing.

That is just not healthy. Really. It is not.

If internet-shopping becomes a bit less Amazon-anonymous, that is surely a good thing in its own right? Even without self-delusions of “this is not a shop” and a Kickstarter-Inquisition purging the heretics? No?

I, for my part, am looking forward to the next Kickstarter to entertain me.