02 August 2012

Kickstarter: Part 5 - View From the Top

This is the fifth part in an ongoing series on crowdfunding. Overview and Index.

On July 10th Kickstarter changed their Community Guidelines to prohibit "Rewards in bulk quantities." Since ICv2 covered the first affected project, Killer Bunnies, Kickstarter has clarified what exactly "bulk quantities" constitute on their blog: "a reward that offers more than ten of a single item." According to the Playroom Entertainment site, the affected Retailer Level reward offered on Kickstarter was four copies for $300, for retailers only, which is in contrast to the definition provided later.

This change was foreshadowed in a Reuters article from May that features an interview (kinda) with Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler. The prominent topic is the niche that Kickstarter is growing to fill and how that isn't necessarily what the creators had in mind when originally envisioned. That is filling a commercial purpose when venture capital is not readily available as a proof of concept to show that a product is viable and distribute to retailers through that model instead of a traditional one.

Not long ago I wrote about the differences in how people interact with projects on Kickstarter: funding a project as a patron because it is something you want to exist versus a way of directly purchasing something. In the Reuters article it is fairly clear which side Strickler comes down on: Kickstarter is for creative purposes, not as a novel distribution method with free advertising.

The affects that this will have on crowdfunded RPG projects is currently unknown. It isn't uncommon by any stretch to see a retailer option (only for retailers) with a bulk discount, but without many of the other perks/stretch goals. Those examples are just from my backer history, and only one would be affected by the definition of "bulk quantities". Going against the stated goals of Strickler, established gaming companies are now employing the crowdfunding model to minimize risk and get their products out there. It isn't just for the independent artist.

This shouldn't have a major effect on RPG projects as very few offer quantities to qualify and even major studios like White Wolf cannot be considered anything other than a creative enterprise which the informal mission statement espouses support. Others  with more perspective than myself have also offered opinions on this matter, with Gareth M. Skarka offering an interesting one regarding the role of retailers and distributing games, particularly with regard to Kickstarter.

A particularly draconian reading of the "bulk quantities" definition could spell trouble to projects that offer large quantities by definition. Given that the spirit of Kickstarter seems to be pretty Libertarian, projects will rise and fall on their own merit based on the community, I don't think that there will be any problem. That being said, it's not uncommon to see a control freak at the center of any egalitarian commune.

Let me know your thoughts on this, how you see the function of Kickstarter and your preferred way to interact (i.e. as a patron or purchasing product).