By CaulynDarr

Long story, start reading here,
Last summer when I saw that Battlefront was running a Dust Tactics Kickstarter, I went into immediate nerd rage mode.  I wrote a nice flame post on it, but deleted it before posing.  I was fairly sour mood when it came to Kickstarters at the time.  Robotech Tactics was quickly approaching a BS singularity, and I was getting a bit jaded about the whole concept.

But I figured it was Battlefront.  They'd have their backers backs; the Warstore pre-selling all the SKUs at a better price DURING THE KICKSTARTER thing notwithstanding.  All my bluster would look like another negative hit piece by an angry fan boy who just likes to piss in peoples' Cheerios(it is cathartic).  Well, I guess to paraphrase the great Captain Sparrow; there will be no living with me after this.  Thanks, Battlefront. 

So what did I almost say 8 months ago? 

Pretty much that established companies like BF should stay off of Kickstarter.  It's a common argument that comes up in most KS discussions.  My exact position is a little more nuanced.  If you can release a product traditionally then you should do so.  Crowd funding is a great tool, but it should be reserved for the risky projects that could not happen with traditional investment.

What's the harm in a company like BF using KS as a glorified pre-order system?  It muddies the waters.  KS as a platform has virtually no consumer protections.  You are an investor, but not an investor.  A customer, but not a customer.  You give some yahoo with a slick presentation some money, and hopefully you get something that may or may not look anything like what was presented at some indeterminate point in the future.  And if things go pear shaped, there's not much you can do about it.  It's probably too late to do a charge back on your credit card, and the amount is too small to justify a lawsuit.  Plus the whole concept is so new that the law doesn't know how to handle the situation if you did.  It's the wild west.

wikky wikky

Yeah, there are the Terms of Service, but the only things they really protect are Kickstarter and Amazon(they handle the payments).   They have been recently changed to increase the appearance of accountability.  It's just that, though; an appearance.  They made it explicit that a project must deliver on their promises or give some restitution if the project fails.  Who determines success or failure?  It's still the project owner.  And what restitution can you make when you spent all the funds and nothing is left?  I also find if hilarious that project owner has to give a full accounting of where all the funds went if the project should fail.  I can't wait for the report that finally honestly lists strippers, booze, and a new car(like where Paulson Games claims all the Defiance Games KS money went to).  

And really, I'm cool with that, so long as you know what you're getting into.  You are backing an idea you'd like to see come to life.  If you are willing to take the risk, then good for you.  It's just that sometimes the CIA mind lasers get in the way of your board game getting printed(apparently a creator for a project a coworker backed went off her meds).  

Then a few established companies started to come in and skew the whole system.  Cool Mini, Steve Jackson Games, and a few other all wanted a ride on the money train.  That's probably a bit too mean.  The gaming business isn't the most lucrative, and it's populated by a lot of small companies that don't have huge cash flows, or the ability to risk their entire company on new product lines.  However, any one of those companies is a whole lot more likely to deliver a product than some dude who wants 20k to publish his home brewed board game.  Just by being on KS they gave an much larger impression of backing being a safe bet.   

I think it gave the confidence needed to go all in for some gamers.  Suddenly you had projects collecting 6-7 digit sums.  It seemed like a win-win.  Companies avoid risk and gamers get more games at good prices.  The problem was that you hadn't really bought a game yet.  Just the idea, and the whole Kickstarter business blew up before anybody really got their stuff.  Turns out it's a lot easier to hire some artists off Deviant Art to knock out some quick CG than it is to manage international manufacturing and supply chains. Shocking really.

More and more projects started seeing delays.  Quality showed to be often less than promised.  It's one thing to put $30 bucks down on a video game KS and be disappointed.  It's another to put down $500 on miniatures and feel the sting of crushed hopes and dreams(my worst hit was Relic Knights for $300).

There managed to be just enough successes(Bones, Zombicide, Dwarven Forge, Sentinels of the Multiverse) to keep the momentum going.  Plus the deal was working out pretty well for the companies involved if not for gamers.  While I don't think these companies are consciously trying to screw us over(well some of the most egregious might be), there's a whole different dynamic involved in customer relations when you get all your money up front with practically no strings attached.   While some companies manage it better, other are more than happy to take a 'STFU Peasants!' approach(cough, cough, Palladium, cough).  When thing go bad, they can always bring out the exclusive KS bonus figures the next time around.  We gamers can be such suckers.

As bad as the Robotech Tactics situation continues to be, I don't think it's objectively any worse than whats going on with other long delayed projects such as Kingdom Death and Aliens vs. Predator.  Those guys just have more tact when breaking bad news.  I mean look at what's happened with AvP this last week.  Their IP holder decided at the last minute to not approve some of the final product, then the KS page goes down with an IP dispute as well.  The backers where told it's going to be OK, things will happen soon(SOON! Trust us!), but they're going to leave the KS page down for reasons.  That's epic level BS even for Kickstarter.  The page is supposed to stay up unmodified from project funding as the record of all that was promised.  It's also the only way for all the backers to communicate with each other though the comments page.  It's kind of like that scene in an early season of The Office where the slick guy they picked over Micheal Scott screws the company over.  For all their faults, Palladium never pulled that level of BS.

When you think about it, the Battlefront/Dust Studios dust-up(heh) isn't really that exceptional of a thing either.  Companies small and large get into contract disputes all the time.  There are only two remarkable things going on here.  The first is that one of the parties threw a Facebook tantrum, and the other is that 1475 poor SOBs paid upfront.

So, basically, here's the situation.  Established companies inflate the market by providing consumer confidence.  Which leads to people who probably shouldn't be given large sums of cash receiving large sums of cash.  Then it turns out that the established companies aren't that much better at fulfilling promises than the outright fraudsters and the mind beam lady.


Sorry, not just for the caps, but I've been guilty of boosting for Kickstarters in the past.  I got wrapped up in the offers of 100s of minis for pennies on the dollar too.  But you get what you payed for.  And maybe banks where right all along by not giving these guys money in the first place.

I've seen people get more conservative with backing in these last few months. Gamers are getting smarter at detecting inflated promises.  We know that a cool CG model doesn't equate to a nice physical miniature.  I still feel disheartened though whenever Cool Mini returns to the trough again.  I mean c'mon, CMON put on your big boy britches already and make products like an adult now.  Battlefront last summer was the epitome of that feeling.  They shouldn't have needed it(at least from the outside view of things).  I didn't think anything good could come from it.  I was thinking just of the precedent it set.  What happen was much more delicious and vindicating.

While Kickstarter might be great for game companies, I see it as quickly becoming more apparent that it's not so great for gamers.