I have a strange love/hate relationship with kickstarter. I love the creativity of the projects it produces, many of which I know would never have come to light without this kind of funding. On the other hand, I continue to wait for the day when a huge kickstarter based scam is revealed — it seems only a matter of time.
The first project I ever funded on kickstarter was a set of geomorph dice. It seemed a neat idea, fairly niche, and exactly the sort of thing kickstarter is well suited for. I have in the past tried to produce things that are economical on a larger scale, but for the individual are impossible. I’m looking at things like music tapes/CDs, t-shirts, etc. The price for one custom piece is usually astronomical compared to how cheap they can be bought by the gross. So it seemed very natural to use kickstarter to distribute the cost across a large group, and it worked just as planned. Within a few weeks I had some pretty cool dice, which I still haven’t actually used for a game to this day. But still, it did give me some confidence in kickstarter.
Next I backed two much more ambitious projects — Ogre and Dwimmermount, in May and April of 2012 respectively. Both became these crazy drawn out projects. Ogre trundled on, and gave regular updates, in fact, I just got update #147. The good news is though, a week ago I actually got the end product. I had long forgotten about why I even backed this crazy thing, but now I have this monstrous board game in my closet. Hopefully some day I’ll play it. Despite being a slow process, Ogre seems to be a real example of kickstarter success.
Dwimmermount, on the other hand, continues to struggle on. Mired by the dramatic disappearance of its creator and quazi-celebrity blogger James Maliszewski, it is under new control and I get regular updates often indicating some small progress. Will this thing every come to light? Maybe. Will I demand a refund? No. I didn’t really sink that much money into this thing, and I’m willing to gamble on maybe it’s being released some day. Also I have fond memories of James’ old blog, and to some degree feel like my investing in his nebulous project is perhaps in some way a karmic pay-off for all the enjoyment I got out of his previous unpaid efforts.
Since then, I’ve been a bit more hesitant in using kickstarter. I did invest in my friend Bob’s project, but perhaps there’s less risk when you feel like you could go bang on the guy’s door and demand to know where your book is. Or maybe that’s a mean-spirited way of saying that good friendships are based on trust. And then there was this kind of interesting looking WWI board game, which was canned within days of my backing it. That thing didn’t last long enough for me to get nervous about it, so maybe however risky it seemed is moot since no money ever changed hands.
So there I was, with pretty mixed feelings about Kickstarter, when the HeroQuest 25th Anniversay Edition was announced. I admit I’m a huge fan-boy when it comes to this game. I have the original, and the later Warhammer Quest, carefully stowed in my closet. I’ve written supporting software for the latter. I will still play it with anyone that wants to play any time. So yeah, naturally I backed this thing as soon as I heard of it.
Perhaps I should have done a little more research. You’ll notice the above link doesn’t go to kickstarter, here’s the actual kickstarter link. Not much there but a scary message saying “Heroquest 25th Anniversary (Canceled) is the subject of an intellectual property dispute and is currently unavailable.” I suppose that’s not surprising given how jealously GW is known to protect their IP, and I’ve worked on a GW licensed product, I know this all too well. Oddly though, it appears it’s not GW that’s complaining, it’s some other company I’ve never heard of.
In fact, the producers of the new project (Gamezone Miniatures) are a company I’ve never heard of. They looked like a pretty solid miniature manufacturer at first, though perhaps not a local one. The update emails I got about the project regularly had grammatical and spelling mistakes, which I assume is because they’re not native English speakers, but still didn’t fill me with confidence. They talk about how they’re not an American company and thus don’t need to worry about American copyright issues, and yet they also talk about the injustice of being hit with the C&D on Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday. (OK, yes, I know the Canadians have it too, but they celebrate it in October.) And their website, now that I look at it, has some unfortunate holes in it — the about us section is especially sparse.
Now it appears they are abandoning kickstarter. The kickstarter project is officially cancelled, and I’m told I won’t be charged any money. Meanwhile, Gamzone has said on their website that they will move to another venue for their crowd funding. Will I follow them? No, not this time. I’ll watch the project and if it releases in such a way that I can buy a copy, I will do so. But I’m not risking money up front on this one. It just smells a little too fishy for me. And let’s be honest, do I need yet another clone of a game I love and already own? Probably not.
And where does that leave me with kickstarter? Pretty gun shy to be honest. Granted, I have yet to lose money on anything that’s obviously never going to happen. Only in one case have I paid money and still not seen any return, and that project does still have every appearance of being actively worked on. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. I hope kickstarter is investing in a strong legal team, because I just can’t imagine that they won’t eventually be used as a vehicle for fraud, if they haven’t already.
A friend pointed me at this article, indicating that yes, it has happened that someone simply took the money and ran. And the project was a board game no less: