Ripple Effects: Unintended Consequences
As this picture from New Scientist wonderfully illustrates, everything is interconnected. Today I thought I would share my thoughts on how Kickstarter interacts with the world around it, and its impact on both the digital and commercial ecosystems.
Last Week I mentioned how the top blew off of the Reaper Kickstarter project here. It was big, it was exciting, and it was the first Kickstarter that turned into a spectator sport for me; towards the end I would check back every hour, upping my pledge with each awesome new update. In the end they got a good chunk of change from me, and they deserve it. But what are the consequences of that phenomena? How many game stores lost mini sales? How many sales did Reaper lose that they otherwise would have gotten from their fans? Wired wrote an article on the subject, saying:
While the achievement is great for Reaper, some worry about the Kickstarter impact on neighborhood game shops, including Dan Yarrington, founder of game publisher Game Salute and owner of two game stores. “There’s already significant question about how this will impact the retail tier,” Yarrington expresses. ”Kickstarter continues to transform the industry and this is only the beginning. Every time we think we’ve hit a new threshold, it gets pushed higher.” For his part, Yarrington regularly release games through Kickstarter with his “Springboard” imprint.
The simple truth is that the money Kickstarter raises is money that will not be spent on other things. Currently I am backing three board games: Heartland Hauling Co, Viticulture, and Mars Needs Mechanics. Each of these games is cheap by Euro game standards, and for a variety of reasons, pretty awesome. I don’t think I will get the chance to devote a full post to Heartland Hauling Co in the three days before it’s Kickstarter ends, but I recommend you check it out – if only for the truckeeples. As for the other two – I will be discussing Viticulture in-depth on Wednesday, and I am sure I will be discussing Mars Needs Mechanics further before its project ends in five weeks.
The moral of this story though, is if I still lived near a FLGS, those would be sales he would miss out on; I certainly couldn’t afford to get all three of those AND Ticket to Ride Europe or the new Agricola expansion or whatever happened to be coming out that week. Consumers might be the giants of the American economy, but as report after report over the last couple years has shown, their pockets are not bottomless. It seems unlikely that boutique products will close local gaming stores, or even erode their sales in the way that Amazon’s discounts do; nevertheless it seems inevitable that impacts will occur.
On the flip side, it is entirely possible that great new products developed by crowd funding, could breathe new life into stores that chose to carry them, creating sales and counterbalancing any harm. The best way to breathe new life into any hobby is to get more people involved, and innovative new games might be just the thing to do that. What do you think? Is Kickstarter a net positive or negative? I would love to hear what any game store owners think, especially.