Kickstarter and Cards: A Full House
The Kickstarter explosion in the past year has been a boon for would-be entrepreneurs, video game developers, tech startups, self-publishers, artists, small theater groups, and many others who otherwise would have had a difficult time raising money and awareness for their projects. It’s also a wonderful time for jerks like myself, the man responsible for the blog Kick What? For every project that is run effectively, there is another that is run without any awareness, resulting in unintentional humor or a clear attempt to grub dollars without a legitimate need or even a legitimate project; it really is enjoyable to make fun of these projects. But I also love the good projects, not only for the products they create, but also for the sense of participation that comes from supporting one – it’s almost like a drug, to be honest, one that sometimes affects my judgment. Which leads to this question: Is Kickstarter good for consumers?
Some people think of Kickstarter as a shopping mall (which it’s not; it’s an interesting take on venture capitalism) and fund without question. Others like me get stuck on the participation aspect, which might also raise expectations.
One of the most interesting ways to explore this question is through examining the playing cards projects on Kickstarter.
(Fund The Wardenclyffe Horror!)
As with life in general, Kickstarter projects seem to run in fads and trends. Double Fine clearly opened up the gates not only for other video games developers but also for big name companies that might have scoffed at begging online for money to fund their company. Recently, the number of playing cards projects has jumped through the roof, relatively speaking.
It’s difficult to track all of them because they get thrown in different categories as various as Art, Graphic Design, Tabletop Games, and Board & Card Games, but a search on Kickstarter for “playing cards” reveals 73 projects, of which 67 are true playing cards and not another variety of cards. Of these, 24 have failed and 3 appear likely to fail in the near future, putting the rate of failure for playing cards at 40% and the rate of success at 60%, which is higher than most of the categories on Kickstarter, surpassed only by theater (64%) and Dance (70%). What makes these projects so successful?
First of all, they aren’t going for that much money in the first place. Nearly 80% of successful Kickstarter projects raise less than $10,000, and most of these projects are within that range. 4PM Designs initially aimed for $5000 with their “The Grid” deck, and after raising 950% of their goal, they upped their initial goal for their next deck, “Necronomicon,” $15,000. Even that is well below the six-figure funding that some companies with other projects are going for, which often fail. The two most successful card decks have raised over $90,000, but they both aimed low with starting goals of $6250 and $7500.
Part of the low costs is clearly the ease with which anyone can print a deck. The art itself isn’t easy, but the technical aspects of the project are covered by a professional press such as Bicycle, which makes it easy for almost anyone to make a deck of cards as long as they have the time, the art, and the money.
A lot of this seems to break down to common sense. United Cardists keeps track of successful playing card projects, and while some of the projects look like fancy graphics or a trendy topic (steampunk), many of them are labors of love and true art such as the “Blue Blood” deck. These stand out from decks such as “Hipster Playing Cards” and “Internet Meme Playing Cards,” which both reek of roadside souvenir and thankfully were not funded successfully.
Even though some of the decks that have been very successful feel like they were planned with big company cash and don’t really promote the true “Kickstarter spirit” (a difficult thing to define, but something that I’d argue does exist), the two playing cards projects that have raised the most money reconfirm my belief that “the invisible hand” will right the market – consumers will have good taste in the end.
Although the “Cthulu Playing Cards” might seem to be relying on fans of Lovecraftian horror for support, the video is an impressive display of artistic ability: watch as Shane Tyree illustrates the entirety of the King of Spades in the pitch video – this is no cut and paste job.
And there are still 12 days left on Pedale Design’s playing cards project, and they’ve already broken the $96,000 mark set by the Cthulu deck just a week ago. What sets this project aside from all the other projects? It and the Cthulu deck nearly DOUBLE the next most funded deck, which is the “Quicksilver” deck linked above. First, Tyler Deeb’s Kickstarter video might be one of the best pitches ever created; he’s funny, humble, clearly explains his goal and the deck, and the video and sound quality are superb. The deck itself looks unique, and like the Cthulu deck, it features finely designed graphics that are clearly time intensive.
While you might sigh or laugh at another playing cards Kickstarter project when it pops up on the site, take a second to look at the project and see how it’s marketed and designed. The way that playing cards have been funded so far proves that Kickstarter backers aren’t idiots.
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Sooooo.. what was the answer? Is KS good for the consumer? Bad? I didn’t see a decision either way. You came to the conclusion that backers aren’t idiots, but not sure what that means for the question you posed.
The impression I got was that you turned it around… consumers are good for Kickstarter.
Ah, good point. I guess I kind of answered it backwards. I see the two ideas as linked, and in the end I do think that Kickstarter is good for consumers. I guess after talking with David for a while about cards and Kickstarter, we were both a little skeptical. I remember thinking, why more cards? Aren’t these projects taking advantage of a boom in a new market? In other words, I felt there was an audience watching Kickstarter predisposed to buy into projects, no matter how they were run. But after looking into it, it’s pretty clear that consumers are getting what they pay for. As with any market, people who have the money to run a slick-looking campaign will get their projects through, but others such as Pedale and the Cthulhu cards are providing serious artistic endeavours. And the real crap gets weeded out. So I guess I was wondering if the fad/trend nature of some projects was harmful to consumers, and the answer I think is no. Precisely because they aren’t backing blindly as I initially thought…does that make sense?
Some great ideas at Kickstarter. I bought the first edition of the Portable Fortitude Playing Cards at Etsy, but the artist raised funds for a second edition on Kickstarter.
The Wardenclyffe Horror book looks VERY interesting. I love to see real art and not just Photoshop collages. I collect cards and the odd graphic novel–have a Lovecraft comic which I referenced in my review of the Dark Grimoire Tarot, but Twain and Tesla is intriguing. I got going on Tesla through reading the book “Strange Brains and Genius” by Clifford Pickover.
Oh, and I like black and white comics–Eric Shanower is doing his serialized Age of Bronze comic in colour but the paperback graphic novels are done in black and white–I actually prefer the black and white.
I’m just wary of Kickstarter in general. It reminds me of putting a down-payment on an unbuilt condominium, so I can’t bring myself to use it. Also, as shipping prices go up and up, especially here in Canada, I find I’m not buying as much. Hopefully The Wardenclyffe Horror will make it to a wider circulation, it’s hard to beat the free shipping at Amazon.
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