I hate Kickstarter. I love Kickstarter. I really need to step away from that damn website, one way or the other!
… and I may have been able to do just that.
I have previously talked in this space about how my use of Kickstarter to collect new tabletop roleplaying games over the last couple of years, and I have also discussed at length my difficulties with my excessive TTRPG collection. Over the last two years, I have increased my use of Kickstarter by 1800%, if my math is correct. Seriously.
That needs to stop, obviously. I need another new bookcase, just a month or two after building the last one, for Pete’s sake!
So of course, this is all Kickstarter’s fault. Well, DriveThruRPG’s print-on-demand service has been more responsible, but let’s focus on that another time. And Amazon, but again, another time. Today it is Kickstarter’s time to (not) shine.
The reason I want to point a knobby finger at Kickstarter here is for a couple of reasons. First of all, KS makes it way too easy to back projects on their service. Which is kind of the point, I suppose. But ease of use isn’t really why I’m blaming KS for my own foibles. You see, where KS is quite easy to use, and one can find all manner of great TTRPGs there, it is also extremely frustrating for backers.
Where projects are quite easy to follow and back on Kickstarter, as said previously, once you back something… or all the things… you then have to wait. And wait. Then wait some more.
Let’s just say most of these projects take a while. Some longer than others (“Voidheart Symphony”, I’m looking at you), but for most, an interminably long time. Almost none of these projects meet their delivery projections, although they are usually close enough to be acceptable (other than “Voidheart Symphony”, of course), and I’m not even considering once the items are placed in the hands of shipping companies (where all manner of heinous fuckery abounds).
This is why I try to back projects from proven developers, such as Evil Hat, who not only manage to meet delivery projections, they sometimes come in early. Seriously.
Unfortunately for me, Evil Hat can only put out so many products at once, so that leaves us Backers mostly stuck throwing our money into seemingly bottomless holes on KS. Okay, maybe that was a bit of overkill…
Nope. Not even a little bit. Nor am I sorry about it.
Why? Evil Hat, to be honest.
Let me explain. This is both the fault of KS creators, as well as KS themselves. The project creators could actually do more research into how long it takes to bring their style of product to market. In the case of most TTRPG developers on Kickstarter, they could easily look at successful development houses (see Evil Hat), who often put long timetables on their projects, just to make sure they are done on time. But no, more often than not you see projects failing to meet timelines, and while there are sure to be issues that delay projects, it is ridiculous to think that all these creators can’t just build in, y’know, maybe some extra leeway?! Or just take their projected leeway, and maybe triple it?!
Then there is Kickstarter themselves. Yeah, if anyone is truly responsible for this mess, it is KS staff themselves. Let me elaborate.
You see, KS is in a rather unique position, where not only do they provide a platform for creators to bring their products to market, but they also act as mentors to those creators. Teaching them everything they need to know about creating and delivering crowdfunding projects, from cradle to grave, as it were.
Oh, wait… I mean, KS should be acting as mentors to their creators, but apparently don’t. How do I know this? Because so many have the exact same problem. If KS staff were truly mentoring their creators, helping them develop reasonable timelines and expectations for their Backers, we wouldn’t have these problems.
It’s not that difficult, folks.
Now, obviously, I’m not a crowdfunding expert. But I can do one thing: Observe, and see what works, and what doesn’t. I can see professional projects, and their results, and compare them to the more amateurish projects and how things work out for them.
Case in point: “Corpsewalker Cove”, which is a zine for the TTRPG “Mörk Borg”. Now the folk behind this project did a fine job with the final product. I like the zine, and while it was late (which had virtually nothing to do with shipping, since it took all of two days to arrive, once it actually was sent out), it wasn’t “Voidheart Symphony”, either. Then let’s compare this to the prodigious works of Phillip Reed, who makes a lot of content for “Mörk Borg”, as well… and is a big-wig over at Steve Jackson Games, if I recall correctly. In short, like Evil Hat, Reed knows what he is doing.
Now Reed has also been late on some of his projects before (mostly due to shipping, 2020 being what it was), but has generally handled things much more professionally than most. So, where is the connection, outside of “Mörk Borg”? Well, with so many MB-based projects that have flooded Kickstarter over the last year, Mr. Reed has served as a bit of a beacon of light. Someone you might, as a fellow creator, y’know… want to emulate? But even aside from that, Kickstarter themselves could be… no, scratch that… Let’s start this thought again.
Kickstarter should be taking their creators by the hand, and giving them multiple tutorials before, during, and after the project.
More to the point, KS needs to either enlist their successful creators to teach others how to run a crowdfunding project, or if they are, it clearly isn’t working.
Now then, I have pretty much stopped backing KS projects, unless I find something that is by a creator that I know is being reasonable with their timelines. There is nothing worse than backing a project, and having to wait month after month, as the creators’ timeline becomes more and more laughable. See “Voidheart Symphony”, et al. And I’m not trying to drag the many creators on Kickstarter who are sincerely doing their best with their projects (see “Voidheart Symphony”… but seriously, you are overdue by a full year!), not really. But at the same time, something really needs to be done about the state of crowdfunding in general, and Kickstarter in specific. Creators need to do a better job emulating their more-experienced brethren, and KS themselves need to give their less-experienced creators the tools and knowledge to actually develop proper timelines in the future.
If I can see this, why can’t they?
Anyway, to get back to my original point, of how KS has been feeding my TTRPG addiction… I would be backing a hell of a lot more such games through their service, if they weren’t just so damn frustrating! Seriously, fix your shit!