Imperfect Copy

After unimaginitive card decks and celebrities launching projects to raise money they don’t actually need, the coolest thing on Kickstarter is relaunching a failed project. It happens all the time. Good projects get relaunched and tweaked to bad projects get put back up in the hope they can inch a little closer to the finish line. The record I have seen is a project relaunch three times (and fail to fund 4.)

Intrinsically, there is nothing wrong with this. There are many good reasons why a project might get relaunched. They might have made the rewards too expensive, or had a poor pitch video for an otherwise good project. It happens more often than you think.

Sometimes projects relaunch for the wrong reasons – that is what I would like to discuss this morning.

Rich Nelson is the poster child for game relaunches. Last week he launched his 6th project. Those 6 launches consist of iterations of 3 actual projects, only one of which has actually funded. Hey – if at first you don’t succeed, right? It took three tries before his board game, Storm the Castle funded to the tune of nearly a hundred thousand dollars. I guess persistence does pay. I followed the second 2 iterations of that campaign closely, and came close to contributing before ultimately deciding to spend my crowdfunding dollars elsewhere. I don’t see anything wrong with his multiple attempts on the project though, as he refined his approach each time.

In May, Rich attempted to fund a project called Mimic Miniatures. At the time I described it in a post as “Ahead of is time? A bridge too far? I can’t decide. This project wants to sell you a customized mini that has your face on it. Seriously. Take a look – it is creepy and cool, all at the same time.” It was unique as far as I could tell in that it wanted to print a customized mini. Ultimately it failed, achieving only 1/6th of its goal, but I thought the idea showed promise.

I take it back.

Rich recently relaunched his project in a nearly identical fashion, save one major change: he has changed the funding amount from the 30k he previously thought he realistically need to succeed down to 5k; I’m sure the fact that that was the same amount as the money he left on the previous launch had nothing to do with the change. His FAQ helpfully said that the change was due to the fact that he was able to reduce costs. Messages sent to him on the subject were met with dismissive responses to read the FAQ, and then a long winded no comment, where he said “We don’t feel it an obligation to itemize our costs/price/expense structure in detail on our page – sufficient to say we were able to take the time between projects to work out a structure that allowed us to do this.” All I wanted to know was what changed – I didn’t need a spreadsheet.

First – if a prospective backer asks you questions about your project – ‘I’m not telling’ might be the worst possible answer.

Second – if you only need 5k, and it’s not to buy any hardware necessary for the project (the FAQ helpfully says he already has a 3d printer) then why do you need to kickstart the project – it sounds like a print on demand affair – the more you print, the more it costs. The is selling, not funding – it’s product placement, not project support. Why not simply open a store on EBay or Amazon and offer this service.

Though right now we associate the idea of print on demand with books, I imagine we will see more Kickstarter projects over the next couple years that fall squarely in this category. The technology is getting cheaper all the time, but perhaps not quite 83% cheaper between the two project launches. I like the idea of this project but it has three strikes solidly against it: it asks for money it doesn’t need (I suspect the creator could just as easily have set the project goal for $25,) It makes a major change to the goal amount with any explanation, and the creator is evasive when politely questioned about the two previous points.

This is just another example to me that Kickstarter is on a downhill slide – it seems more like a fleamarket than a source of venture capital with each passing month.

This entry was posted by David Winchester.

5 thoughts on “Imperfect Copy

  1. I agree with everything you said, right up to the last sentence. My personal favorite completely ridiculous relaunch is for “Undead Paradise”, which is allegedly a “zombie sandbox RPG,” from the appropriately named StraightUpLazy. In their risks section, they assert that “The hardest thing about making your first game, is the fans and the funding.” I would say the hardest thing about making your first game is the actual creation of the game, but I’m not a programmer. I’m not entirely sure they are either, though, as there’s nothing of the game except in the video, and that’s bland and too dark to see details anyhow. The rest of their pitch is a bunch of text done as PNG files, with a lot of empty promises, including stretch goals that say they’ll “try to get” Microsoft and Sony to put their game up on their stores.

    In their first attempt, they were asking £250,000. They shut it down after four days, as they were trending a little low, having raised only £115. Undaunted, they rebuilt the pitch from scratch…oh, wait, no they didn’t. They just took out the “stretch goals” and lowered the goal to £14,000. Everything else is literally the same as the first project.

    I decided to drop them a line to ask about the change, just to see what they had to say. Their response was “In the next update video everything will be clarified 🙂 and thanks for your concern.” There were no updates, ever.

    That project was allowed to run its course, and had a total of £45 donated. Maybe even sincerely donated.

    There won’t be another relaunch. I just checked their web page to see if they had decided on trying Indiegogo (where shitty KS projects go to die), and they’ve apparently decided it wasn’t worth relaunching again.

    “We are no more, the team closed which means the game will no longer be developed. On the bright side some team members may join to make other stuff. You will never know who they are though ;)”

    Sounds like a threat to me, or would if I thought they would put any effort into it.

    That said, I still disagree that Kickstarter is on a “downhill slide”. I think what it is is popular, and that’s going to draw in more of the crappy stuff. However, it’s still up to the backers to decide what’s worthy and what’s not, so good projects (one hopes) will be rewarded, and what will wind up scamming people with an Indiegogo flexible funding campaign. There will always be scammers, and deluded people who expect to be rewarded for their half-assed work. But there’ll also always be gold in there, even if it does sometimes take more work to dig it out.

      • No, not really. On the face of it, it SOUNDS like a good idea, but would you have wanted Kickstarter to have that kind of creative control before they’d let you run your project? “Sorry, your art does not meet our minimum standards.” Or maybe just control over the wording of the project? The whole point of Kickstarter is that it allows people to raise money (or not) to create their products without interference. If Kickstarter decides to take a more active role in being a creative gatekeepter, I think it would do more harm than good in the long run. I don’t have to look at anything bad more than once (if that), so let them come.

      • How about if they just enforced their current rules then, rather than taking a piece of every kind of action, no matter how shady?

        I still love the funding mechanism, but there is a reason my rate of backing has been falling off the last few months.

  2. I think it would be in Kickstarter’s best interest to have creators that hold to a higher standard, but ultimately, I think it will be impossible for them to make it that way without driving away some sincere creators. As with the rest of society, we’ll always have weeds among the wheat – good and bad projects together. As I have a Kickstarter coming up in January, I don’t like to hear anything about them slipping. Unlike some creators, I really do need the financial help with my project.

    I’ve been banging my head against the wall hunting down cheaper fulfillment options, ones that can do a good job without lowering the quality I seek. It’s been taking forever doing all this research and I want to ask for the smallest, realistic amount possible. Checking many existing Kickstarters, I’m seeing some creators able to do seemingly the same thing for much less than some other creators.

    This tells me that one of them likely is doing their math wrong or isn’t accounting for everything or the other is doing too much padding. As for the Mimic Miniatures concept, it sounds cool though yeah, I’d agree something is very fishy there. And while it’s possible that everything’s completely on the up and up, they should have been more forthcoming with info.

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