In tabletop games communities, “big” companies have been criticized for abusing Kickstarter platform, turning it into a kind of pre-order system and transferring the risk of new games from the company to the consumer, among other things. Monolith Board Games (Conan, Batman: Gotham City Chronicles) has announced its new strategy on this famous crowdfunding platform, I’m afraid there will be conflicting opinions.
First of all we must make some concepts clear, if you have lived isolated from the world for more than a decade and you do not know what Kickstarter is I can tell you that it is a crowdfunding platform for creative projects, where a person with an idea can raise it to the public and request economic support to carry it out.
This idea might be a movie, a book, a video game or a board game among other possibilities. This last case is the one that we are going to talk about, in board games campaigns we have seen cases like Robot Turtles, a board game created by a Google employee to teach his son the basics of programming.
But as well as that game hundreds of other games that have been published and funded on that platform and other crowdfunding sites, there are games of all sizes games with anything between some cards and kilos of cardboard and plastic, and about any theme too zombies, medieval fantasy, mythology, superheroes and any other that you can think of.
In fact, as we see in the image the category with most funding on the platform is that of games, nowadays with the boom of modern board games it is a very lucrative business to mount a striking project on Kickstarter, every month there are projects that we would like to invest in, even generating stress in some people.
This situation has aroused some criticism from the community of players, where it is not uncommon to read opinions such as “much plastic but little fun”, “companies are abusing Kickstarter, now it is more a pre-order platform for large companies while small companies, which should be the true beneficiaries of it, are overshadowed and put aside” or “companies no longer want to take risks and transfer it to consumers through Kickstarter”.
This coupled with the complaints of campaigns successfully funded but with strong delays, sometimes up to more than a year, to deliver the product to the backers, in fact on more than one occasion the product has reached the stores before backers, people who gave money to make the game possible, can give it a try.
Monolith Board Games is a french company founded among others by Frèdèric Henry (designer of Timeline, The Adventurers, The Builders, etc.) who wanted to create highly immersive games in all aspects.
Under this concept Conan was born, a game set in the well-known novels of Robert E. Howard. This miniature game of Monolith Board Games came to collect more than three million dollars, an important quantity of money for a board game.
But like many of the board games that are funded through the platform, Conan, was designed from the beginning to be marketed through stores after the end of their campaign, however, due to the scope of the project it seems it have not been profitable.
The issue is that, as Frèdèric himself says, in this thread in the Board Game Geek, they must have a competitive price, but also retailers and distributors want a good part of the price, not only reducing their profits but causing losses, he states that for every Conan game sold, Monolith Board Games is in fact losing money, and no one make a company to lose money.
Therefore, when they launched Batman: Gotham Chronicles they decided to do this board game completely Kickstarter Exclusive, that is, once the Kickstarter campaign was finished it would not be commercialized in physical stores or online.
Some gamers shouted and ripped their clothes, some said it was an abuse, that they were never going to support a Kickstarter because they preferred to buy in stores or that it was abusing the platform or even that it was a movement that threatened their consumers.
However in the words of Frèdèric himself, they had two options “jeopardize the company because of negative margin” or “to keep a normal margin and sell the core box (without any SG) 70$ to Asmodee, which would sell it 100$ to Alliance or PSI, which would sell it 120$ to retailers, which would sell it 240$ to consumers”.
The user BadKam, who also spoke on behalf of Monolith, for what I suppose will be part of the company, said that for their games to have a reasonable price someone in the chain must diminish their margins and that someone is always the publisher, because neither the distributors nor the merchants diminish their margins, while the other option would be to offer a lower quality product and they were not willing to do that, and I’m grateful about that.
It is worth noting that according to Frèdèric words, Monolith Board Games had already invested hundreds of thousands of Dollars in the development of Batman: Gotham Chronicles board game at the time of launching the campaign, defeating the argument that they use Kickstarter to avoid taking risks, moving them to customers.
A few days ago Monolith returned to the news when announced the campaign of the new edition of the game Claustrophobia, previously published by Asmodee, this new edition, called Claustrophobia 1643, will be launched on Kickstarter under a new modality created by Monolith.
This time the bets have risen declaring in their publication on Facebook that their intention has always been to use “Kickstarter not as a tool for protection against risk, but as a tool for better value distribution between players and publishers”.
Therefore, with this new release Monolith Board Games not only have assumed the costs of development a priori, as in the case of Batman: Gotham Chronicles, but have also decided to make a first print of 10,000 copies of Claustrophobia 1643 and send them to their distribution centers.
What does this mean? in this case Kickstarter is not really working as a funding platform but as an intermediary in the sale, being effectively a kind of pre-order platform, something many people tend to complain about.
Of course, what make this campaign apart from others is that instead of waiting months and even years before the product arrives, as has happened until now, Claustrophobia 1643 will arrive to backer’s homes in about six weeks because it would be ready for delivery.
According to this publication 60% of the cost of a board game goes to distributors and stores, they propose to distribute that percentage between them, and the consumers, obtaining the latter a product at a lower price than if it were sold in a store while that the extraordinary profit obtained by the company would be destined to the development and publication of more high quality games under this modality.
At this time you might ask yourself, why do not they sell their game on their own page? but as they say, Kickstarter has turned itself into a market, and one where there is a fierce competition to attract more backers, the platform gives them visibility and participation in that thriving market.
Something that stands out is what they say about the famous Stretch Goals, classifying them as marketing gimmicks, stating that these are not gifts but “are already included in the campaign financing plan and serve only as an adjustment variable”, they propose to offer everything they could include in Claustrophobia 1643, this caught my attention and I’m very curious to know how this will be working.
Finally, their intention is also to capture the attention of people who do not want to take risks or wait many months to get their game, because they think that the number of people who are willing to take risks is getting smaller.
I like this new strategy, what they are doing with Claustrophobia 1643 is an innovative use of the crowdfunding platform and if they succeed we could see more projects under the same conditions. What will be the best for us consumers / backers? I do not really know, but for the moment I like this approach very much and I hope they do well in this new campaign
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