The Gentrification of Kickstarter
Wikipedia defines Gentrification as, “a dynamic that emerges in poor urban areas when residential shifts, urban planning, and other phenomena affect the composition of a neighborhood.”
It is also my greatest fear as far as crowdfunding goes. Everyone has their own private boogeyman the scammer, the fraudster, or maybe even an old timey grifter for a little variety. For me though, I fear the rise of the Kickstarter professional, and it’s already happening.
Plenty will argue that increasingly professional projects drive dollars and traffic into the neighborhood. I agree – they do drive more in, they just stick to the expressway, and don’t stop for anything short of professional.
Today I discovered a new symptom of this insidious problem. Interested? Read on.
When I first started getting into Kickstarter, I remember stumbling across Springboard, and thinking, “these guys do it right.” Good quality products, good pitches – they had projects that someone with ambitions to launch their own crowdfunding efforts could learn from. I saw new projects pop up from time to time, but there were never quite up my alley; a mechanic that I wasn’t a fan of, or an art style that I didn’t care for always got in the way.
Then they started launching all their products off one account, rather than having (apparently) the design studio launch them. Only then did I start to pay attention to just how prolific they were. As you may be aware, I glance at almost every project to appear on Kickstarter on a near daily basis via its recently launched page – thanks to Kickstarter’s terrible search tools, it’s the only way to catch it all.
But what the hell – Springboard is just a gimmick to help indie designers see their game come true, right? I guess like me you didn’t read the fine print. Take a look at their seal at the top of the page. Gamesalute.com is far more than just a few guys looking to help people out on Kickstarter, they are a fully developed company with dozens of titles and range of services, including “art, graphic design, printing, shipping, customs, marketing, media support, conventions, warehousing, sales, distribution, and customer service.”
On paper, Game Salute appears to be just as professional as some other board game mainstays who I have already complained about gaming an indie funding mechanic (I’m still looking at you Queen Games.) Springboard then, depending on how you look at it is nothing more than an imprint, or better yet – fig leaf.
Still – all that is their business I suppose, it’s all above-board, as it were. This brings me to my real (and recently discovered) problems. Early on, I always assumed that you could only have one active project Kickstarting at a time. I occasionally saw evidence in the history of older profiles that they had two up simultaneously but I never found an example until now. Apparently even two is not the limit though – that would be the sky, actually.
As of right now, Springboard has no less than four active projects. Don’t believe me? Take a look
The obvious question in my mind is, “how could anyone hope to run four Kickstarter’s simultaneously?” Their answer was fairly straightforward, “Thanks for the message. We have a great staff here at Game Salute including all the fine folks needed to staff and support multiple campaigns at once. Since many of our projects appeal to different audiences, we do find an issue with running multiple projects simultaneously.” I’m pretty sure they meant do not, but that’s beside the point.
I ask you, can any organization with enough staffing to manage and execute four simultaneous Kickstarter projects and still execute on their backlog of funded but unfulfilled projects really be in such want as to require crowdfunding in the first place? Personally, I don’t think so.
And backlog, don’t get me started on backlog! At present, according to the status updates on their various projects that I can track down, they have at least 10 projects that are currently unfulfilled on top of the live ones currently going on. That’s not wish-fulfillment, that’s not even madness – its industrial capitalism at its finest. The world is powered by it, but generally I like to think that the dollars I am backing are going to help an idealistic start-up with a dream, not an organization large enough to worry about which department gets what billable hours.
I am sincerely disappointed by this discovery. If they hadn’t started releasing those card decks using already created art assets from projects that had already successfully funded (but not yet been fulfilled,) I never would have thought to dig deeper. I wonder how many of their board game properties Game Salute will brand on the back of bicycle decks before that well runs dry.
Maybe I am over reacting though – what do the rest of you think?
It annoys me somewhat. They should be reaching the point now where they can plow the profits into their next project, rather than continually crowdfunding everything; and indeed on their failed crowdfunding venture Kaiju City (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/springboard/kaiju-city?ref=users) they still produced it anyway.
They’re not crowdfunding. They’re using Kickstarter as an advertising and pre-orders platform.
And yet I think that this will be the first account on Kickstarter to fund 100 projects successfully.
I guess that makes my question to you: why don’t more people have a problem with these behaviors?
In my opinion they’ve got the formula down to an artform, and they know they can make more money by kickstarting. People don’t complain because it’s subtle; and the products they offer are good, so people aren’t looking for problems.
If they failed in the way some of the other kickstarters you’ve talked about failed, they would be the focus of a massive shitstorm. Possibly big enough to put the Hobby Gaming community off Kickstarter.
And yet, having such deep pipeline of funded but unfulfilled projects – a pipeline that is only getting deeper makes such a catastrophic failure more likely, not less in my mind.
One lawsuit, one dispute of ownership, or one injunction and suddenly everything else can quickly become a casualty. It’s happened before, though on a lesser scale.
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“…but generally I like to think that the dollars I am backing are going to help an idealistic start-up with a dream.” David, you need to take a long hard look at the words “idealistic” and “dream”. These words have heavy risk associated with them and speak to the mindset of people that are in the situation of “realizing their dream” are somehow more deserving of funding, when in reality, its the least likely to come to fruition. When it comes to crowd funding, what is the difference in terms of risk/reward from getting funding from a publisher or venture capitalist? Why do people think that these companies somehow “don’t deserve crowd funding” when funding from a publisher or venture capitalist is another form of getting money from the public? Its either a couple guys with a lot of money, a company with share holders, or regular people. The difference is minimal. The point is, funding for any project requires money and if people are gullible enough to spend it without doing research, then that is their problem. However, just because a project is close to finishing or comes from a well established company, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be funded.
At the same time, I think such companies need to be more realistic about their monetary goals for such projects. I also detest that you can surpass your funding goal which essentially opens the doors to an unlimited money pit which some start up companies can’t handle on the onset because they’ve dealt with multi-million dollar funds in their lives. Once you reach such a high amount, you need to deal with manufacturing and logistical infrastructures that most Kickstarters don’t even think of. However, none of this means that established companies shouldn’t be given access to crowd funding.
Dreams and ideals are nice and all, but unfortunately the real world doesn’t operate on dreams and ideals. It operates on tangible evidence, business proposals, and project schedules. It runs on under and over estimates. The whole “funding to realize a dream” is largely fantastical and should not be the forefront of somebodies mind when investing in a product.
Kickstarter may have changed its tune and decided that all are welcome now that they have had a taste of the money big budget projects can bring, but the platform was originally pitched as venture capital for projects that would never be able to attract venture capital, aka the long shot,the little guy, and the garage industrialist.
Crowdfunding is quickly becoming the preferred method of transforming good will and popularity into something a little more tangible. I would rather fund a dreamer and see them stumble than pre-order a sure thing that never really needed my money anyway.
If you would like to discuss individual projects Jacob,rather than the broad strokes, let me know.
Ever watched Shark Tank? That’s the “little guy” attracting venture capital right there.