Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Crowdfunding a Three-Ring Circus?
I think it's pretty clear now that crowdfunding through places like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo has totally changed the dynamic of small press publishing (and even the larger presses). Ever since traditional distributors changed the way they buy games, a publisher had to provide all the capital for a project upfront. This meant publishers had to bear the financial risk, but also had to carry the debt of the project until sales made it up. For some projects, this could take a while.
Crowdfunding is a great thing. I have a couple projects coming up and plan to give it a go again. The Labyrinth Lord Referee Screen was successfully funded through Kickstarter a few months back, which was great because that type of product is hit or miss. Some people love screens, some don't. Kickstarter let me raise the funds to cover the initial cost of printing. But I had a conversation lately with someone in which he said that he thought Kickstarter is kind of becoming a circus. I had some similar thoughts about some of the recent Kickstarters I've seen, but this statement got me thinking and I thought I'd see what opinions people have.
The circus issue is particularly in reference to stretch goals and the idea that "bigger is always better" when it comes to topping out as high as possible when the time limit is up. I think everyone would agree that stretch goals are a neat idea, and there is little doubt that they seem to "work" in terms of convincing people who may be on the fence to become a backer. But one real concern from a financial point of view is whether some backer rewards are "smart."
By smart, I just mean that the effort and monetary investment on the publisher side is worth the extra pledges. For example, if you have a $2,000 stretch goal that will cost you $1,900 to implement in shipping costs, production costs, and development costs (paying artists and writers), then in the end if you are a publisher what have you really gained from that stretch goal? I've spoken with more than one publisher who is concerned that the "stretch goal circus" may be setting unrealistic and possibly unsustainable expectations.
Which gets down to the heart of the issue. If you are a person who is planning to support a Kickstarter, what are your expectations? Are detailed backer levels enough, or at this point do you "expect" stretch goals? What sorts of stretch goals do you expect?