Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that has been a huge benefit for many game-makers. Many of the best games in the last several years exist only because of the funding that they got from a Kickstarter campaign. There is a problem though, when an 800 pound gorilla shows up.
What is an 800 Pound Gorilla?
According to Wikipedia’s article on the metaphor, the 800 pound gorilla references “a joke riddle: ‘Where does an 800-lb. gorilla sit?’ [The answer: ‘Anywhere it wants to.] This highlights the disparity of power between the ‘800-lb. gorilla’ and everything else.”
That fairly well describes some game companies and how they use Kickstarter. These are companies like CMON or Indie Boards & Cards, among others. Companies who run a couple of wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns each year.
Why Should They Stay off Kickstarter?
`Kickstarter provides a method of getting funding for a project that doesn’t rely on traditional investors. Instead a projects funding depends on how well they appeal to individuals reading about the project. It’s a great way for new designers and game companies to get up and running without going into massive debt.
That is, until the 800 pound gorillas show up. Why would that have an effect?
They Give a False Impression
Precisely because they’re 800 pound gorillas. To extend the metaphor, when you see an 800 pound gorilla (an impossibility in nature) no other apes really compare. In the same way, when you compare a CMON campaign, which is highly organized, heavily funded, and thoroughly professional against a campaign of a company just starting out, it’s not going to be favorable for the new guy.
I’m not advocating against having a polished campaign or good community support. Those are essential to succeed on Kickstarter. One of the biggest problems comes when you say “See Minko the Chimp isn’t King Kong! I can’t support Minko unless he’s King Kong!”
Most new designers or companies, the people who traditionally got the most benefit from Kickstarter, cannot afford to run a campaign like the 800 pound gorilla does. They quite simply don’t have the staff or the money. The problem is that people see the 800 pound gorilla’s campaign and it’s beautiful and perfect and delivers exactly on time, and they expect a 50 pound chimp to be able to do the same things.
They Crowd Out the Little Guys
Whenever one of the 800 pound gorillas show up on Kickstarter, I see smaller campaigns founder and fail. Not because they’re not good, or because they don’t work hard, but simply because they cannot compete.
It’s the same way that when a Walmart shows up in a small town, chances are most of the smaller grocery stores are going to be closing their doors inside a year. You can get games that come pre-polished with cool minis, no risk, and often at a somewhat lower price point. Why wouldn’t you gravitate toward the 800 pound gorilla? Clearly I like games by the 800 pound gorillas.
They Don’t Need Kickstarter
Kickstarter is meant to help people get funding for projects that they couldn’t otherwise move forward with. Most of the 800 pound gorillas generate enough revenue from their games, however small the margin on games usually is, to fund their games without using Kickstarter. What this means is that instead of using Kickstarter for its intended purpose, they’re using it as a store-front and marketing tool.
To go back to a previous point, Kickstarter isn’t meant to be a storefront. It’s meant to be a place where people can fund projects that they think are awesome and want to see on the market.
A Plea to My Readers
I’m not going to ask you not to fund the next CMON campaign, or any campaign from one of the 800 pound gorillas. That wouldn’t be fair or realistic. What I do ask is that when you look at another Kickstarter project, consider the following:
- If this is their first game, does it look like something you would enjoy? Just because they aren’t proven doesn’t mean it’s not worth funding at some level.
- Is the campaign page a little less than perfectly polished? If they have a couple of spelling errors, or are missing every video you would expect from an 800 pound gorilla, cut them some slack. Not everyone has videography equipment or a staff of copywriters and editors.
- Did an 800 pound gorilla show up when you already had money on another project? If so, don’t just drop the project you already backed so you can blow your budget on the gorilla’s game. The chances are that they need that money far more than the gorilla does. And even if you do end up lowering your pledge amount on the other project, at least show your support by keeping some money on that project.
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