Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kickstarter is No Way to Run a Business, Part One

TRIGGER WARNING:  It is not the purpose of this post to a) disparage any one publisher or backer or b) make light of those who have actually been swindled via Kickstarter.  Instead, it is to provide information in the form of facts and experiences to help not only KS backers, but also those who develop Kickstarters.

I received my +Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics 4th edition Kickstarter box yesterday.  For those of you not playing at home, on October 24, 2015, I pledged as a First Time Fan.  That was a base $40 pledge for the following:  
receive the print + PDF edition of the classic "blue-cover" edition of DCC RPG 4th printing, with all the stretch goals that get cleared! In addition, you'll also receive a randomly determined adventure module of our choice, and you'll also receive some free swag similar to that produced for our prior Road Crew programs. We ask that experienced players please reserve this pledge level for our new fans! If you would like to add on another edition of the book, simply add the "dollars" to your pledge, then complete the survey at the end to specify what the dollars are for.
So, up to that point I did not have a copy of the rules and did not own any of their modules.  I had read some, but didn't own any.  I added $20 to upgrade to the Peter Mullen cover, which I loved for it's science-fantasy feel.  I also added $12 for shipping based on this:
this Kickstarter includes shipping charges as follows:
USA: $12
I also added on $15 for the "new compilation module" (#89 Chaos Rising) and $20 for the Monster Alphabet and an additional $5 shipping for add-ons.  This brings us to $112 total which was collected after the KS ended on November 25, 2015.  To give you an idea of how that works on average, there were 2259 backers for $215,369 or an average of $95.33 per backer.  So I'm a little above average, but not much.

There was a "randomly determined adventure module", which ended up being #66.5 Doom of the Savage Kings.  When I got my pdf of this, I was super-excited.  This is one of the best modules I have read; I hope to be able to review it here in my spare time (HA).
Now for the stretch goals, apparently the bane of KS.  
1) two sewn-in satin ribbon bookmarks.
2) a full color dust jacket.
3) two built-in 4-panel judge’s reference panels. 
4) DCC #71: The 13th Skull, with include new material on magic skulls
5) DCC #75: The Sea Queen Escapes, with a new mini-setting on the sunken lands of Ru
6) DCC #76: Colossus, Arise! with a include a new conclusion / wrap-up section
7) DCC #78: Fate’s Fell Hand, with a number of edits and updates
8) DCC RPG will be printed with gilded page edges.
9) DCC RPG will be printed with drilled-out dictionary-style “thumb tabs” 
10) DCC #79: Frozen in Time at 8.5”x11” dimensions including the new material added in the second digest-sized printing. 
11) DCC #69: The Emerald Enchanter at 8.5”x11” dimensions including the mini-adventure “The Emerald Enchanter Strikes Back” 
12) a custom color pocket folder for print backers. 
13) sticker sheets with the cover art from modules (and perhaps other images) for print backers. 
14) bookmarks for all print backers
15) custom-printed pencils for all print backers. Probably #2 pencils so everybody gets several.
16) custom-printed dice bags for all print backers.
17) a notepad of 0-level character sheets for all print backers.
18) an updated judge’s screen (i.e. a traditional one you set on the table, not attached to the book) for all print backers.
19) custom D6 dice for all print backers. 

And this KS achieved ALL of them.  Now, this is my first observation:  the KS had the first 9 listed as initial at launch, which were cleared in a little over a week.  5 of those are direct updates to the book itself, which means the cost should have been calculated before launch.  The other 4 are re-prints with some additional information, which should have been on hand before launch and shouldn't have cost much if all the art and original text had already been paid.

On November 5, 2015, the final 10 stretch goals were laid out.  I have no idea if these were previously planned/accounted for, but I do know that they asked for backer suggestions for additional goals.  10 and 11 are like the previous reprints, so shouldn't be that expensive.  Then we get into stuff I don't know about.  That folder should have cost (higher quality cover and folding) and I would think stickers are expensive to manufacture.  The bookmarks shouldn't have been too bad, but it is double-sided.  15 and 16 are custom-printed items and the notepad could be expensive due to the glue.  The judge's screen should have been easy to figure out as they have previously put one out on Free RPG Day.  Custom dice, I have no idea.  How many of these were figured into the initial cost to print the 4th edition at launch?  Again, no idea, but I feel confident some of them were not.  Also note that none of these touch the core book like 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9, but are all outside it.

Now, the KS originally projected delivery April 2016.  As you can tell, it didn't deliver then.  For calculation purposes, from the end of the KS to receipt was 14 months for a project that was projected to take 5 months from KS completion.  If I grant them the full month of April 2016, 8 full months and 25 days is how late the KS was.  Also, note that this is not the complete KS, only the items that could be shipped media mail.  I am still owed pencils, dice, and dice bag.  Is that excessive lateness?  It depends; if Joe Blow Schmuckatelli is doing his first KS and had all these balls in the air, I would call it outstanding.  When you are an established publisher from 2001 who has 10 "successful" KS under your belt, I'm gonna say yeah, it's late as hell.  At least +James Raggi had the foresight to give us a heads-up in 2013 that we should expect delivery 2019.

So what happened?  Before delving into that, let's do a little KS history with the publisher tomorrow.

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