Monday, June 22, 2015

My experiences as a Kickstarter backer are disappointing

I was telling my wife about one of the Kickstarters I had backed, what seems to be a long time ago, without receiving "the goods", and realized that that's been my experience for many of those I've backed. So I decided to write a brief blog post about my experiences. I'll start with the good ones and work my way downward.

(Note that I have not backed a game; in my very limited experience, pre-ordering games (which is what Kickstarter amounts to) has resulted in me paying more than people who waited. And I'm not the sort of person to get excited by the hype and smoke and mirrors that surrounds so many Kickstarter game offerings. I want to find out what the game is really about before I buy it, and among other things I do not trust pre-reviews, a field open to vast possibilities of "shenanigans.")

In most cases by the time I backed the project it had already exceeded its minimum target.

The most immediate return, and one of only two that have actually delivered so far, was run by Evil Hat Productions, which is one of the stars of the Kickstarter universe as I understand it. It was for a new edition of the book Designers and Dragons, and three new companion books. Since I only "backed" electronic copies which were already more or less done the delivery was very quick.

I supported an offer to deliver custom laser etched dice. This one went off without a hitch and I received my dice some time ago. (They're not very practical as dice because many are hard to read, but the college kids think they're cool and prefer to use them when possible.)

The next one is much more recent than the others, an offering of fantasy coins. The producers actually had to try three times before they succeeded in funding, and there hasn't been enough time for them to deliver.

I think the first Kickstarter I supported was for "Doublesix Dice", 12 sided dice numbered 1 to 6 twice. This project has run into many production problems (Chinese manufacturer) but the man in charge has spent a great deal of time and is very open about what's happening, providing videos of the production candidates, and I expect that sooner or later the dice will be delivered.

Another project I supported is for "GripMats".  These are a great idea, but it turned out that only one printer in the United States could handle the job and they tended to ignore the project in favor of other things. At one point the project manager said he had quit his job in order to spend full time nursing this along, and later a foreign printer was found. But there's been no delivery and I have no idea when or if there ever will be. The best we have seen is photographs.

I supported another custom etched dice project that has hit hard times. The project manager used the money to buy laser etching equipment and reported on his experiences setting up, but then he went silent. Recently he has described in great detail a physical malady that prevents him from doing any work, and he's waiting to get an appointment with a top level specialist. This points up, of course, the problem that so many Kickstarters depend on a single individual. We'll hope he recovers sometime and can deliver. (There is no money to refund because he spent it on the equipment.)

At best you could call this a chequered experience. "It is what it is." But I notice that I haven't backed any new projects in quite a while.

UPDATE (22 Aug 15): Received my coins (in individual miniature ziplock bags).  And Doublesix due to be mailed soon.

UPDATE (18 Oct 15): Received my Doublesix dice. So two KS now left for fulfillment.  (I haven't supported a new one since this was originally posted.)

UPDATE (7 Nov 15): The man in charge of the last dice project has said he will refund the money, as his health does not permit fulfillment.

Gripmats still promise that fulfillment will happen.

UPDATE (13 Nov 16): Nothing from the last dice project, I don't expect to see that money again.

Gripmats still talking about fulfillment. Some people have paid shipping in order to get theirs earlier. Further, the product itself has suffered in manufacturing, unfortunately. So I'm still waiting to see what happens. The original estimated delivery date was January 2014 [sic], do we're approaching three years.

Update (18 Sep 17). Nothing from the dice project. Haven't heard from Gripmats in several months.

Update (19 Feb 18). I received my Gripmat. So five of the six have now been fulfilled. But I have to admit, I've not backed a KS project other than these from quite a while ago. Of course, I don't buy tabletop games (other than a little 5e D&D), which is the main thrust of KS.


JDsivraj said...

Such is the nature of business investment.. Not al. investments bear fruit.

Ewan said...

Sorry to hear it, Lew. I know that some projects - Up Front! - have been a complete disaster, but to this point (~20 projects) I'm batting a thousand in terms of getting what I paid for, on time.

Lewis Pulsipher said...

On time, Ewan! Wow.

JD, I realize that technically Kickstarter is a donation - KS will tell you it's definitely not a business investment - but for all practical purposes it's a pre-order system. That's how people (both publishers and backers) treat it.