One thing I came across this morning was a comment that said, in essence, that Mantic was too big to need Kickstarter. On the face of it that might sound reasonable, but I think it falls apart when you look closer. Of course, I do freelance work for Mantic so you might think me biased. On the other hand my thinking applies to everyone, not just them. Even GW 😉
I’ll give you an example as illustration of what KS does. Mantic’s Goblin army release was 1 plastic tool and a bunch of metal releases. That was without Kickstarter. Their Kings of War Kickstarter campaign funded 22 new tools. Notice any difference? For Mantic customers this is great because they get a bucketload of models at very good prices. This is what people usually focus on. However, equally importantly, the funding means that the models get done years ahead of when they would have been made, if they would have ever been made at all. Partly this is a question of cash to pay for the tools up front, but crucially it also takes away the risk. A company that would have had to take a punt and hope that the tool was going to sell can find out in advance if it’s popular enough through Kickstarter. If nobody backs the campaign then you need to think again. That’s what happened to Gates of Antares – they started well and then began to lose money and backers so they cancelled it. I’m sure it will come back later when they’ve thought about what went wrong. And that’s a good thing. If we assume their £300K funding level was right they might have been in a bit of a mess if they’d spent that on their own and then got little support and sold only a third of what they needed to to even get their money back, never mind a profit.
With one-man-band operations this is where you hear of people losing their houses. They take out a second mortgage, convinced they have the next Monopoly, Settlers or whatever only to find out that the market disagrees. Kickstarter allows them to find out without having to live in a cardboard box by the canal if they’re wrong.
This principle applies to larger companies as well as one-man-bands, just on a bigger scale. I recently pledged on a new edition of the brilliant Uncle stories. He wanted just £7K and got lots more. That worked out very well for him and he’s ecstatic. Going back to Gates of Antares for a moment, their costs were vastly higher, so that amount of money is not going to let them do anything. They actually had £100K pledged, but that was only a third of their target…
So I don’t think that size of company has anything to do with it. There is always a level of risk for a self-funded project, and the proportional damage this could do if it fails to come off is just as bad.
For the customer, the flip side of all this is that they get to see projects which would probably not have been attempted at all, certainly not in the form they will now get them. Overall, I’d say that KS means three things:
- More cool stuff gets made that would otherwise have happened. Things like Secret Weapon plastic terrain boards are the sort of thing that might fit in here. Was Mr Justin ever going to fund them out of his own pocket? He made a brilliant start, but all of it? Seems unlikely, and if he did then we’re still looking at number 3 and possibly 2 as well.
- What gets made can be done with a higher spec than if it was self funded. This is reflected in the quality upgrades you get during a KS campaign. Not just the quantity, but also sometimes the quality of components can be improved. For example, my Uncle books will be on higher quality art paper than originally specced because the KS did well. Usually this improved quality is reflected in any eventual trade launch too, so it’s also good for those who don’t pledge.
- Stuff that does get made can be done faster. I pledged for the very handsome looking Heroes of Normandie and I’d be amazed if they could have produced all the stuff they are now going to get to us in the next 6 months within 2-3 years without KS.
So, products you’d never have seen with better quality components and lots of free goodies in less time than otherwise possible – and all from companies that are (thanks to KS) more secure and can go on making the toys you want for longer.
Is any company too big to benefit from KS?