It’s true: Kickstarter is the new big thing in indie RPG publishing. You can barely bump around on the site without finding something cool and awesome to pledge for, and a surprisingly large number of these campaigns are funded, and at double, triple, or even ten times their requested funding level. Everyone is flocking to this, and not just in the publishing world; Obsidian raised four million goddamned dollars to make a video game. Reaper Miniatures clocked in at nearly $3.5 million, nicely debunking the notion that video games are somehow more revenue-intensive than tabletop games.
All of the really successful Kickstarters combine two essential elements: they take a niche product and connect it to customer enthusiasm Before you dismiss that as marketing-speak, take a look at how that applies to us. The tabletop industry has been defined by those aspects for decades. We’ve discussed on this blog how traditional gaming is, almost by necessity, a niche industry. Crowdfunding, where slathering fans with pockets full of money get a chance to give as much as they want to see the projects they love come to life, is practically made for us.
I have been cautiously encouraged as I watch old guard companies (from the once-defunct White Wolf to the nearly-obsolescent Palladium) embrace crowdfunding and revitalize their efforts with an influx of cash. Not all have, of course; you can read here if you want to see a huge, fallacious justification for not accepting paying customers’ money.
What’s more exciting, though, is the fact that new blood is getting into the industry this way. This is the perfect venue for doing the things I’ve been talking about. No longer are you shackled to up-front effort and sunk costs. Now, small cottage companies are springing up left and right, just a few people and an idea, sink or swim. The fantastic part is that most of them are swimming, and doing it in style.
Crowdfunding presents the perfect situation for an infant gaming “company.” Yes, there is a great deal of effort that goes into pulling off a successful campaign. However, that effort is directly proportional to the rewards; if no one is interested in your product, your funding just languishes. You lose nothing (except, of course, a few dozen hours). It’s only when a Kickstarter hits that you start to see people spending a month with nothing on their table but answering customer queries and scampering to find new stretch goals.
The strangest things find a market. Want some dice rings? I would have never conceived of such a thing, and yet there it is, $300,000 worth of customer interest in little rings that let you roll numbers anywhere!
Who would want a card game version of Advanced Squad Leader? Apparently 1500 people, to the tune of almost $250,000. Chibi fantasy monsters? $105,000. A roleplaying game to learn Korean reached ten times its goal. The list is endless.
This is it. This is how how we stop making piles of shitty games no one wants and start crafting a new industry based on demand, not tradition.