Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kickstarter and the future of board games

If you are a frequent user of BoardGameGeek you might have noticed that the majority of the adds there direct you to Kickstarter or other crowd-funded projects and most of them are board games.

A year and a half ago, most Kickstarter projects were coming from start-up publishing houses from the US and only a special few were able to raise more than 20-30 kUSD. Also, there were no more than 2-3 relevant active board game project at a time. Today, the big picture looks totally different. There are at least 20 project currently running on the crowd-funding platforms with real chances to succeed and become board games and the amount they raised is increasing day by day. Just at a fist glance I discovered a project that has already raised 325 kUSD and it still has 40 days to run. Furthermore, even Kickstarter is expanding and is now allowing UK residents to start projects.

Retailers used to be happy to carry in their store board games previously funded on Kickstarter, most likely because they were benefiting from the free advertising campaign. A game that has gathered one thousand backers is likely know by several other thousands who are not early adopters and they want to see the real board and to check the quality for themselves. But that was a while ago already and the attitude is slowly shifting. Now, brick and mortar store owners are asking "are there any gamers left who don't already own that game?" and they think twice before ordering even one case of a successfully crowd-funded game. There's a very interesting article I've read on this matter here.

In all this dancing around Kickstarter and the attitude of store owners towards it, there are two more important actors, or maybe even three - the gamers, the publishers and the distributors. 

Judging by the increasing amount of projects and the success rate, I believe that gamers learned to trust crowd-funding and that an immense majority are satisfied with what they're getting in the end. And in the whole gaming community there no voice more important that the one of the gamers, the final consumers who end up approving or rejecting any new project. 

As a gamer, I am using Kickstarter or Indiegogo to get more and more games (5 projects backed in the last 2 months) because I know I have a very good chance to get good games with a discounted price before anyone else. What more can I ask?

As a publisher, NSKN has already used Indiegogo with some degree of success and we're planning to do that again soon. We are adapting our business strategy to what is happening in today's world. It would be foolish t ignore this trend and only the really big players have the luxury of working the old fashioned way knowing that the community will embrace their game anyway.

I would say that overall, the whole industry is growing thanks to Kickstarter and the other platforms alike and as long as the end users - the gamers - are satisfied this method of publishing will keep increasing in popularity. There's also the risk of abuse, but that has been there all the time. In any functional community there are those 'special' few who don't play by the rules, but break and abuse them and the crowd-funding world cannot be any different. But as along as they will remain special cases and not become a significant percentage (and so far I do not personally know of any successful board game project which did not deliver), the trend will be the same and the board gaming community will increase in size and more and more awesome games will reach the market.

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