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odinsgrandson

Kickstarter failures and moral/financial choices.

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I've recently been looking at a lot of the Kickstarter failure and success stories, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

The best thing for any Kickstarter is for things not to go wrong.  Reaper seems to do an extremely good job at this (they do the math ahead of time and stick to the plan- I think they always run their company in the black).  They also communicate well, and that's nice. 

But what is the right thing to do when  things do go wrong?  What is the right thing to do when the company has run out of money?

- Robotech RPG Tactics ran out of money to deliver everything, so they created a first wave 

- I suspect that some of the early CMON Kickstarters went over budget, and were saved by the company's other sales (Zombicide and Super Dungeon were huge retail hits at that time).  If that's the case, then they were using a "wave 2 after the money lines up" model.  They also continued to run more Kickstarters (each with a different game developer, so as not to split the resources too much).

Their communication model was mostly to not say anything, and sometimes give some projected dates (which would sometimes pass without comment). 

I think it is important to note that I cannot confirm for certain that any of these projects were overbudget (CMON won't talk about it).  With their recent company losses, it is clear that the company does sometimes run in the red (even with all of their Kickstarters).

- Kingdom Death suffered from ridiculous scale creep- even after the Kickstarter was over.  The difference was funded by continued resin releases (which all sell out within minutes, if not seconds).  Wave 2 was probably funded in part by the release in wave 1- the core game was totally out of stock by the time the expansions came out.

His communication strategy was to be silent for LONG stretches, and then wow backers with a mega update.  He hid the financial troubles he had (he did confirm later that the resins were funding the game).  This seemed to work exceptionally well for him- even as the project ran stupidly late, and was obviously in the red, the backers stayed with him and were excited when the game showed up (I suppose it also helps that the game was really fantastic).

 

- Prodos is one of the craziest ones.  They ran out of money and ran late, so they decided to split waves- and also produce non-Kickstarter items for AVP.  They said that they didn't have the money for split shipping, so they required backers to purchase any other item from their store in order to receive their pledges.  Some backers did, and got their stuff, but other backers did not, and have received nothing

They continue to support AVP- they're slowly making all of the Kickstarter items along with other new releases for AVP.  One of the more infuriating things they did was release the game's 2nd edition (they did post the new rulebook online for free).  In theory, when all of the Kickstarter items are produced, Prodos will be shipping pledges out to the backers that opted not to buy anything more from them.

 

Since Prodos' reputation was demolished, they decided to hide their identity by creating Archon Studios and staring up the LOAD Kickstarter.  While LOAD was the red-flaggiest Kickstarter ever, it did fund well, and then delivered.  Now, Archon (Prodos) seem to have no trouble running successful Kickstarter campaigns (while there are detractors, it doesn't seem to hurt the funding numbers at all).

- Super Dungeon Legends had the same sort of issue.  Ninja Division's first attempt to reconcile their problems was to run other Kickstarters to get other products to market- and ran into the issue that none of their other lines are close to as popular as Super Dungeon (and therefore couldn't support the load that ND was asking of them).

It seems to me that Ninja Division intended to split the waves so that retail can handle the difference, but missed the boat several times (ie- I think they planned on splitting into waves, but were running short on money by the time they were ready to go through with it).  They're currently hoping to find someone to buy them out or loan them money, but the prospects don't look so good.
 

-There are a few other Kickstarters that I'd like to use as examples, but I'm not totally sure what went wrong.  Hero Quest 25, Journey, Rivals: Masters of the Deep and Middara are all Kickstarters that definitely had problems, but I didn't follow any of them close enough.  And I guess Hero Quest wasn't a Kickstarter by the time it actually funded.

 

 


So here's one of the things that I'm thinking about.  Life continues to be unfair.

If CMON did the right thing (getting stuff to retail in order to fund games for backers) then didn't Palladium do the same thing with Robotech?  It went extremely well for CMON- it formed the basis of that company, while Palladium is one of the least trusted names in gaming- and it came down to one failed game release.  Does the morality of it all depend on the outcome?

Ninja Division were also trying to do what CMON did (running many Kickstarters, so the successes can pay for the losses).  It clearly backfired, and now they have tons of disgruntled backers- some of them got a partial delivery from Way of the Fighter or Starfinder, but Relic Knights 2 and Super Dungeon Legends backers have gotten nothing at all (and they seem even to lack the funds to fix some screw ups with Rail Raiders delivery)
 


But the worst of all of this is the success story of Archon/Prodos. 

I'm not totally sure what I think about Prodos' release model.  Honestly, if I could pay an extra $30 and get my Super Dungeon Legends pledge, I'd be all over that, but the most vocal backers really hate them for it (and they're continuing to produce more stuff from the AVP Kickstarter).

But I definitely disapprove of hiding their identity with LOAD.  And yet that move has clearly paid off for them- big time.  And I'm sure some of those sales of LOAD and such are funding the slow releases of the AVP stuff.

 

So-  it is clear to me that Kickstarter rewards conservative/responsible business practices first, but when things go wrong, it seems like lying your broccoli off can actually get your company into a place where the public trusts you.  There's something REALLY wrong with that.

Edited by odinsgrandson
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15 minutes ago, odinsgrandson said:

while Palladium is one of the least trusted names in gaming- and it came down to one failed game release. 

I'll stew on this and reply more when I have more time, but I just had to comment on this: I don't think Palladium had that great of a reputation before the Robotech debacle. 

If reputations went on a scale of -5 through +5, with 0 being neutral, I'd say that Palladium went into the Robotech KS with something like a -1, while CMON more likely had a 0 or 1 when they did their first KS.  

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Sadly if you run a KS and for what ever reason are going to have problems fulfilling it the best thing to do is stay quite, don't update, don't rock the boat

 

most KS backers aren't like us and don't keep on top of their projects very well,  just look at how many people forget to fill out pledge managers or even just provide a postal address when KS asks for one, (you even get people complaining about monthly/bi monthly updates as being too frequent, and being rabidly annoyed about weekly ones)

 

so i'd guess a solid 80% of backers will never even think to bother you if you don't post an update (of the more engaged you probably start with a pretty even split of those who'll be patient and those that will start getting grumpy and a few of those will already have started looking for refunds)

 

and of course refunds are the very last thing you can afford to start giving as you've spent the money (hopefully getting some way towards fulfilment in the process since i'm talking about projects that aren't deliberate scams). You may be able to trade your way out of trouble but it will be slow going, you may be able to sell out to somebody who'll finish the KS instead but both options need as calm a situation as possible. Letting all your backers know you're in major trouble doesn't help, your non KS business will get trashed, more people will call you a crook, more people will send death threats to you and your family, investors will be scared off etc

 

You'll eventually come unstuck anyway but going silent will give you a year, maybe 18 months which if you're clever/lucky/have another income may be enough to let you deliver. You'll have burned 10% of your customers, you'll have ongoing problems but as long as what you delivered met expectations the 10% who were actively involved and trusted you will feel vindicated and probably support you more strongly

 

it may not be the 'right' thing to do but it's the smart one, if however you put out an update saying we've got problems, your probably not getting your stuff but we're going to carry on trading anyway you'll get all of the problems above but from a load more backers, you might get really unlucky and find one of them is angry enough spend money on real lawyers and court which will kill your business anyway as you won't be able to defend the case (that costs money you don't have)

 

now if there isn't any prospect of turning stuff around be open and honest to the extent legal obligations let you and shut the business (Hysterical games recent shut down seems a good example, most backers myself included were gutted but supportive)

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38 minutes ago, kristof65 said:

I'll stew on this and reply more when I have more time, but I just had to comment on this: I don't think Palladium had that great of a reputation before the Robotech debacle. 

If reputations went on a scale of -5 through +5, with 0 being neutral, I'd say that Palladium went into the Robotech KS with something like a -1, while CMON more likely had a 0 or 1 when they did their first KS.  

 

Man, I so want someone to make a co-op board game about trying to run a board game company and deliver Kickstarters.

It could work kind of like Dead of Winter or Battlestar Galactica.  You assign resources to various projects, things go wrong,  backers launch attacks, etc.

It could be pretty awesome.

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10 minutes ago, Orlando_the_Technicoloured said:

Sadly if you run a KS and for what ever reason are going to have problems fulfilling it the best thing to do is stay quite, don't update, don't rock the boat

 

 

 

I think you've got a good point here.  People claim that they hate the lack of updates, but I think they hate frequent updates a lot more.  Ninja Division was doing weekly updates (most of which didn't say anything important) and it seemed to me like the backers revolted against the Kickstarter WAY earlier than usual.

When they did post an update that cooled things down, it only bought them a week- because the very next week, the empty update brought back all of the discontent.

Adam Poots almost never updated- so when he published one of his grand mega-updates, all the backers would be content long enough that they could forget about the project (rather than being angry at it).

 


I think that announcing your financial issues causes problems as well, since backers seem to be offended that you have any money that isn't getting spend on their KS project (I think this is a lot of the issue with AVP- they've released a number of small game expansions before finishing with the KS stuff).


 

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I cant speak to the examples above, only my own experiences with kickstarters I have backed. 

 

I would say a lot of kickstarter users I have encountered act as if backing something on kickstarter is a sure thing- basically a pre-order. Which is what we all want it to be really, but that isnt what it is, and that's not what kickstarter intended their company to be. But some companies do use it this way, an example off the top of my head is Oathsworn, who's kickstarters I think at launch time seem to have everything lined up and ready to go- all they need is the money to pay the bills and there are manufacturers waiting to start the build. Other companies, for example Saga Worldbuilder, have an idea- a great idea! and they've priced up everything they can think of and then in the excitement of the kickstarter, start promising stretch goals, these stretch goals aren't as well thought through or priced up and in the case of Saga, I suspect are why the kickstarter is deemed "failed" (though recent updates have re-ignited hope in this particular instance) because in the stretch goals they promised an app, probably paid a developer to work on it, and then when problems came up with the manufacturing process they didn't have that money available to fix the problem.

 

Another kickstarter that I suspect has just managed to overcome some serious financial problems without ever alerting backers to it is the Critical Role miniatures KS by Steam Forged games, after their wildly successful kickstarter there were a few updates... and then silence. Absolute silence, for months. Then they announced additional minis that were also Critical Role minis, but these were Resin, and Limited Edition, and at no point were they mentioned on the kickstarter-despite the obvious huge captive audience they had for this product there. I think they started making the resin minis to raise additional funds to continue the Critcal Role KS- and they didnt post anything about it there because then people would have suspected something with the "additional" minis coming so quick and fast and yet radio silence on the KS ones. They're now on their... fourth or fifth? resin release, and the kickstarter updates have resumed, so I assume they've made enough money to carry on with the KS- they never had to announce a problem and risk the wrath of backers, there were just a few people upset at the lack of updates as opposed to everyone being angry if they said "we underestimated how much money it would take to do this"

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On Ninja Division and Prodos.

 

I think the big difference between them is that Prodos/Archon used the Load funds to deliver Load, and then any extra money to continue to deliver AVP.  From the outside, ND seems to use the funds from their successful KS, like Starfinder, to prop up their failed KSes, and thereby adding one more KS to the list of failures.

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2 hours ago, odinsgrandson said:

 

Man, I so want someone to make a co-op board game about trying to run a board game company and deliver Kickstarters.

It could work kind of like Dead of Winter or Battlestar Galactica.  You assign resources to various projects, things go wrong,  backers launch attacks, etc.

It could be pretty awesome.

Kickstarter ...the GAME! lets do it. actually lets call it Bootstrapper the game cuz Im sure KS would sue us!!

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57 minutes ago, Sanwah said:

On Ninja Division and Prodos.

 

I think the big difference between them is that Prodos/Archon used the Load funds to deliver Load, and then any extra money to continue to deliver AVP.  From the outside, ND seems to use the funds from their successful KS, like Starfinder, to prop up their failed KSes, and thereby adding one more KS to the list of failures.

 

 

There's a lot of speculation to that end, but the other Kickstarter projects didn't show any progress either...

 

 

 

19 minutes ago, amuller33 said:

Kickstarter ...the GAME! lets do it. actually lets call it Bootstrapper the game cuz Im sure KS would sue us!!



I think "Crowdfunder" would be the generic term.

Edited by odinsgrandson
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its not very hard to tell the pre-orders from true risk crowd sourcing. When they have All the minis in Metal to show, they have 1 and only 1  Stretch Goal,  When the prices are fair but not to good to be true or if the name is Reaper its a safe bet. Mid-lam  is a great example of using KS as a pre-order. I have barely any concerning in them not fulfilling. Frankly its easy to avoid the risk. Humble brag...I have 30 of 33 deliveries (31 if you count Bones 4) Only one that is lagging was a 1st timer with multiple stretch goals.... I didnt take my own advice.

 

AJ

1 minute ago, odinsgrandson said:

 

 

There's a lot of speculation to that end, but the other Kickstarter projects didn't show any progress either...



I think "Crowdfunder" would be the generic term.

Agreed!

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Kickfundus. Kickstarter + GoFundMe + Plural. BAM. :poke:

 

 

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I personally feel that Super Dungeon Legends and LOAD broke the risk assessment mold.

SDL had all of their renders finished, they had delivered two Kickstarters already, and been involved in several others, and the KS was for a known successful property.  Their own Kickstarters had good communication, one was basically on time, and the other was a couple months late.  It was pretty red flag free.

LOAD had all the red flags- shady past of a notoriously undelivered Kickstarter, hiding their identities, caught lying to backers, and a plagiarized rulebook.  No way that one should have delivered.

I'm losing my faith in my ability to predict these things.

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3 hours ago, kristof65 said:

I'll stew on this and reply more when I have more time, but I just had to comment on this: I don't think Palladium had that great of a reputation before the Robotech debacle. 

If reputations went on a scale of -5 through +5, with 0 being neutral, I'd say that Palladium went into the Robotech KS with something like a -1, while CMON more likely had a 0 or 1 when they did their first KS.  

Yep, Palladium already had a terrible reputation before they ever ran the Robotech Kickstarter. Issues with unpaid freelancers, not crediting writers, sending C&D’s to fan sites and more thugs along those lines.

 

Everything I’ve heard about Kevin Sembieda indicated to me that the Robotech Kickstarter was going to be an absolute train wreck, which is exactly how it turned out. That and the continued lies and attempts by Kevin to blame the Kickstarter’s failure on anyone but himself is why Palladium is so poorly regarded.

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2 minutes ago, amuller33 said:

its not very hard to tell the pre-orders from true risk crowd sourcing. When they have All the minis in Metal to show, they have 1 and only 1  Stretch Goal,  When the prices are fair but not to good to be true or if the name is Reaper its a safe bet. Mid-lam  is a great example of using KS as a pre-order. I have barely any concerning in them not fulfilling. Frankly its easy to avoid the risk. Humble brag...I have 30 of 33 deliveries (31 if you count Bones 4) Only one that is lagging was a 1st timer with multiple stretch goals.... I didnt take my own advice.

I think that user expectations are a large part of the issue, too.  And a lot of most people don't set themselves realistic expectations about Kickstarter projects, mostly because they ignore red flags, and don't do their own due diligence.   That can really tie into a project's overall success or failure in a number of ways. 

In some cases, you simply have creators who aren't prepared and ultimately over promise. If you get a lot of enthusiasm built up, the project can easily run away beyond anything they can deal with. I think most of these types have good intentions at least to begin with - but how they deal with failure can be drastically different.  Some people will take each problem in stride, and deal with it, while others will let them pile up while barely addressing any of them. 

Then you have the cases where the creators own enthusiasm for the project catches hold among their backers, and blinds the creators to their own red flags.  I think this happens a lot - I wonder how many of these train wrecks would have been successful projects had they funded at significantly lower levels with less to deliver.  Again, how each creator deals with it can make a big difference. 

And then you have the cases where the creators appear to be deliberately seeking funds, such as the Defiance Games debacle. 
 

 

1 minute ago, odinsgrandson said:

I personally feel that Super Dungeon Legends and LOAD broke the risk assessment mold.

SDL had all of their renders finished, they had delivered two Kickstarters already, and been involved in several others, and the KS was for a known successful property.  Their own Kickstarters had good communication, one was basically on time, and the other was a couple months late.  It was pretty red flag free.

LOAD had all the red flags- shady past of a notoriously undelivered Kickstarter, hiding their identities, caught lying to backers, and a plagiarized rulebook.  No way that one should have delivered.

I'm losing my faith in my ability to predict these things.


Just the way you describe this makes me wonder if it wasn't because there was a split in the team.  I'm not familiar with either project, but I could see a situation where one part of a team that was financially responsible chose to create a separate entity to raise funds to buy their way out of debacle.  Say you had partners Ann, Bob, Charlie and Debbie who run E company.  E Company runs into problems, and no one can agree how to fix it.   It finally reaches the point where C & D go do their own thing with F Company, not only to raise funds, but to show up A & B.  But because they're all tied to together thanks to E Company, it looks like shady dealing on the part of everyone. 

I could also see a situation where between the successful Kickstarters and the problem one, the part of the team responsible for them being successful left the team. 

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3 hours ago, odinsgrandson said:

 

Man, I so want someone to make a co-op board game about trying to run a board game company and deliver Kickstarters.

It could work kind of like Dead of Winter or Battlestar Galactica.  You assign resources to various projects, things go wrong,  backers launch attacks, etc.

It could be pretty awesome.

 

1 hour ago, amuller33 said:

Kickstarter ...the GAME! lets do it. actually lets call it Bootstrapper the game cuz Im sure KS would sue us!!

The was a discussion about this in the KS comments of Bones....3 or 4?  I've got some notes written down and and some preliminary ideas fleshed out somewhere.

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