I came across a really interesting post on ¡bitzkrieg! blog about crowd funding the other day. A chunk of the post was from Andy Foster of Heresy Miniatures and his viewpoint on how crowd funding is impacting the hobby and to my mind he made a really interesting point...
Andy likened the hobby to a pool of fish (us gamers with our disposable income) into which anglers (games companies) would cast their hooks and catch tasty orders from us throughout the year. Then along comes the Kickstarter trawler scooping lots of fish out of the pool. Some of the anglers realise they need to get onboard their own trawler to catch some fish so there are more trawlers casting their nets in the pool - and a few anglers on the bank not catching very much at all...
An interesting analogy which Andy backed up with evidence of his own orders drop off. Now this evidence of order drop off may not be as a result of crowd funding grabbing customers money, there is a recession on and much as I like the look of some of Heresy's stuff I consider them a company supplying miniatures for collectors not wargamers so they are not a normal point of call for purchases.
However, when I consider my own spending patterns over the last year I can see I have been caught in the nets of Kickstarter trawlers large (Reaper, Mantic) and small (Black Hat) and have not been spending much on the anglers (Folorn Hope Games were the first in a while).
This leads me to ponder the impact of crowd funding on the hobby and whether they are over fishing the pool...
The smaller crowd funding projects, such as Black Hat's WW1 French Halflings, are I think relatively harrmless. They are in essence what crowd funding is about, help financing a project and realising it quicker as the company shares the financial risk of the venture with the crowd funders. If adequate funds aren't raised then the project should not go ahead (Matchlock Miniatures War in the Pacific Kickstarter being an example).
It really is the big trawlers that are potentially overfishing the pool. Just look at some of the amounts raised through Kickstarter by some of the larger wargames companies: Sedition Wars $951,254, Zombicide $781,597, Dreadball $728,985, Reaper Bones $3,429,235!
Previous business practice would see the companies take a loan or finance these projects themselves . They might take a little longer to realise but they would get there. Crowd funding gives them a big cash injection up front whilst minimising the risk (and having an additional benefit of creating a community of pre-order customers).
Now there is nothing wrong with this, hell if I was running one of these companies I'd do it, it makes commercial sense big time. The problem, as Andy alluded to, is that a lot of gamers disposable income is now spent and whilst they wait for their product to turn up (six months and counting for Reaper), they no longer have the capacity to buy stuff elsewhere.
I'm not sure what impact this will have on the hobby in the long run, but certainly crowd funding will change it. At the very least it will cause it to evolve, at worst anglers like Heresy Miniatures are driven out of business.
Food for thought?