Thursday, 21 February 2013

Kickstarter: Brave New World or Extinction Event?

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?


  1. Andy is definitely a smart guy when it comes to this industry. I've done a couple of orders from him, and will continue when I find something I "need" in his shop. I agree, he caters more to collectors than wargamers, and that might be hurting him more than anything else at the moment.

    There are a lot of other factors that are changing in the industry as well. The price of tin skyrocketing is changing the pricing structure for a lot of businesses. So, the move to other materials has been a big deal. Hence the Reaper Bones, and even better, the Red Box Games Kickstarters. These companies are making some smart decisions about the materials they are willing to use, and are doing so before what has been painful becomes incredibly dangerous.

    It's really a testament to the nature of business. Things are ALWAYS changing, and if businesses don't manage that change well they're going to do worse than they otherwise might.

  2. All this talk of fish makes me hungry!

    I agree with you though, big companies going in for it really takes the mick, but it does make business sense. I don't think I'd own Dreadball if it wasn't for their Kickstarter.

    Heresy miniatures is not a company I use very often, if at all! They sell lots of individual models that are great for Dunegoncrawls etc, just not my bag.

    However, for example, companies that are making games like Wild West Exodus and Warzone Resurrection are really small and Kickstarter is their outlet to sell more product. They just have a product people like and a very attractive product.

    Black Hat was a great little kickstarter, funding an odd range of models. Whether it actually meant Mike could sell more or not, I do not know.

    I think the future is Kickstarter, but I do not think we will be seeing the big deals offered by Reaper, Mantic etc anymore.

  3. Kickstarter means 80's classic Elite is getting re-made. So I'm a big fan!

  4. When customers realize that Kickstarters are really a bit like Eureka's 100 and 300 clubs, or GMT's P500 system...except crowd funding take the money up front then things settle down a bit.

    Right now its the new shiny and all the cool kids are doing it :)

    As another channel for the "community" getting things produced that it really, really, wants, while crushing those it does not before they go into production, crowd funding is a good thing.

    As always buyer beware.

  5. Companies like Hasslefree and Heresey have some very nice miniatures, but when I've thought about buying from them I ultimately have decided I would be buying a figure for painting purpose only, not for gaming or even collecting.

    I've backed two miniatures kickstarters both from Stonehaven because a) it gave me a range of figures good for roleplaying (and secondarily skirmish gaming), I got to collect the entire range at once at a good price, and they are nice miniatures to paint.

    However I think Andy needs to look at whether his drop in sales actually corresponds to his new online shop. That thing is horrible. I could quite believe it drives away potential buyers.