Thursday, September 13, 2012

Scoreboard: Grading the Crowdfunding

So - how are you feeling about your pledges to various Kickstarters and Indiegogo's these days?

Smarter folks than me have discussed the new tools at length.  I've decided to group projects into one of three broad types and categorize them roughly.  I've observed crowdfunding is being used for:

1) venture capital for an undeveloped product
2) a way to expand or polish a nearly complete product
3) an alternative to a traditional preorder

All three uses seem pretty valid - the problems crop up when you think you're pledging to one type of program and you find out later it was another.  The key is understanding what you're being asked to support and make sure you're willing to accept the risk if the project falls into another category.

Many of these gaming projects are being done by hobbyists in their free time, not professionals as a day job.  There are likely going to be delays - even under the best of circumstances.  Heck, even professional and corporate products are frequently late.

I decided to run down the various kickstarter-a-gogo's I've been funding, relate how they're doing, and point out how they fit into the "three point model".  Since many of these are hobbyist products, it's unsurprising how many are running behind schedule.

ACKS Player's Guide
The player's guide was a number 2 - a full manuscript was ready early on.  However, the rewards system allowed backers to increase the depth and breadth of the book quite a bit, expanding the initial manuscript.  The hard covers for this one are running a few months behind the estimated date.  However, backers have had access to the final draft of the work for a while, pacifying anyone lacking a little patience.

Adventurer Conqueror King
ACKS seemed to be a number 2 to me; the rules draft was available almost immediately, but backers had the chance to tune the final rules while art was solicited.  This was a great project to support.

Barrow Maze 2
On schedule
This is clearly a number 1; Barrowmaze 1 was excellent, and the online response motivated the author to create a sequel; the funding project launched before the manuscript was in place.  However, it seems to be on schedule, so far, so good!

Bumps in the Night
Pagan Publishing used Kickstarter mostly as a preorder mechanism to get this collection of horror scenarios for Call of Cthulhu printed (#3).  It was ready for Gencon.

The campaign promised a July delivery; from what I see with the updates, this one looks like actual delivery will be sometime next spring - 9 months or more behind schedule.  The natives are restless.  It is what it is at this point - a project that's behind schedule.

Horror on the Orient Express
On schedule
The campaign isn't even done yet; I'm pointing this one out since it blurs the line between 2 and 3.  HOTOE is a finished product using Kickstarter to get reprinted, much like a preorder, but Chaosium is also using the kickstarter to do updates and overhaul the presentation, adding flavors of a number 2 project.

LOTFP God that Crawls and Monolith Beyond Space and Time
Partially Late
Both of these were presented as number 2, finished manuscripts that needed art, layout, and finishing.  Vagaries of layout and page counts have introduced delays and additional writing, creating split shipments.  However, communication has been up front, backers are being treated well, so I haven't seen torches and pitchforks forming outside Finland.

LOTFP Hard Cover Reprint
On schedule
This involves a straightforward reprint of an existing product (essentially a #3) but included a funding goal to get a brand new Ken Hite adventure written (# 1).  The risk of a professional designer not delivering seems fairly low.

LOFTP Grand Adventures
On schedule
This was clearly a risky # 1 - soliciting backers to fund a bunch of elevator pitches from folks known for work in adjacent games or media.  If a lot of unproven writers had gotten funded here, there probably would have been quite a bit of glass breaking at some point.  As it is, the selections that got funded all seem dependable.

Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man
This is a niche Call of Cthulhu product by Dennis Detwiler, a co-author of Delta Green.  It's a number 2, a manuscript that used kickstarter to fund artwork and enhancements.  It doesn't seem far behind schedule for a one-man product.