Ivion isn't the only reason I love Kickstarter, but it's the most recent, and a great example of what makes crowdsourcing such a great concept. I've backed dozens of Kickstarter projects, including companies producing new games, comics, laptop backpacks, alpaca wool, healthy donuts, and more. Although there are worthwhile projects on GoFundMe* I focus on Kickstarter -- I prefer their model, which works like this:
- A creator posts a project description, which often includes some specifics about the business plan, manufacturing plan, or other production details. The project MUST include a target amount to raise.
- For 30 days, supporters can pledge at various levels. There's almost always a $1 to $5 "just wanted to help out" patronage pledge, then various levels of pledge that result in different rewards. For example, a base pledge for a game might include a copy of the game, while a slightly higher pledge might get you an exclusive expansion pack with your copy, and a greater pledge earns you a guest appearance as a character in the game.
- At the end of the 30 days, if the goal amount has been raised, each supporter's credit card is charged. The project creator receives the funds (minus KS's fee) and goes into production.
- Sometime later, each supporter receives his/her rewards.
Last week I received Ivion, a deck-building battle game by Aisyln Hall. I've only had the opportunity to play a bit so far, but I'm already loving it. Without doing an in-depth review, I can tell you the game is fun, the artwork is gorgeous, and it's every bit as well-designed as anything you'll find at your local gaming store. Just unwrapping all the components was a delight, as I got to browse through over 800 cards that make up the majority of the components. And bonus -- my Kickstarter pledge level includes a poster and an additional art book.
One could argue that I paid for the bonus items, since I pledged more than the base level, but there's a more important reason for my love of the Kickstarter platform: without it, many awesome games like Ivion wouldn't exist.**
Kickstarter is typically described as crowdsourcing the funding for a project. I think of it as crowd-dispersing the risk. Better yet, the risk is spread to both sides of the buyer/seller equation.
First, consider the traditional way a game (or comic, or movie, or alpaca yarn-spinning operation) is funded: the project creator for even a modest game spends thousands of dollars (which may be borrowed) to produce 5,000 sets, hoping like hell that they somehow sell -- and often the independent game maker wouldn't be able to secure a distribution agreement before actually producing the first run. Lots of money at stake here, which dissuades many people from becoming entrepreneurs.
But risk is also mitigated for the project supporters. Most important: none of the supporters lose any money if the project fails to launch. Quite simply, if the creator fails to build a customer base before production, the entire effort simply shuts down. There are no investors left holding worthless promissory notes, no lenders trying to track down a deadbeat borrower. No money has changed hands whatsoever. ***
Keep in mind, there are plenty of other reasons to back Kickstarter projects. Foremost among them, the pleasure of being a patron to someone else's creation. Kickstarter's own message at the end of a campaign sums it up nicely: "817 pledged $23,567 to help bring this project to life." Facilitating someone else's dream, while getting something cool for yourself in the process, at little to no risk for anyone involved? Looks like the internet can do something worthwhile, after all.
* Yes, there are worthwhile projects on GoFundMe. There's also a ton of "give me money because I don't want to work and I'm hoping you suckers will pay for me to live." I stick with Kickstarter.
** And that would be a shame, because I'm enjoying Ivion and anticipate enjoying it a lot more as I find time in the next few weeks.
*** The project creator might have spent some money on pre-Kickstarter design and production costs, but that's nothing compared to the cost of producing a full print run of a game, or buying an expensive machine, etc.