Learning from the Mistakes of Others

EARTHDAWNLOGO3.012.13_2In last Friday’s post, I mentioned that the seminal fantasy RPG Earthdawn would soon be coming to Kickstarter to launch it’s fourth edition.  Well, it has arrived, and from here it certainly looks like the creators are new to this ‘whole Kickstarter thing,’ because they clearly haven’t learned from the mistakes of those who’ve come before.  Peek below the fold for the problems cropping up just three days into the campaign.

The first problem, which is admittedly the least damning, is the project’s high barrier to entry.  $30 for the basic digital package, including PDFs of the two books the project is ostensibly intended to fund.  $60 if you want the two books in 6″ x 9″ digest sized hardcovers.  Now, I won’t fault them for valuing their product as they see fit, and certainly pricing it to cover the costs of production, but history seems to bear out that the projects that price their digital rewards below full retail are more likely to drive excitement and end up doing gang busters.  Not that Earthdawn would pull Fate Core numbers–Fate Core is part of the RPG zeitgeist right now, and I’m not sure that was ever true of Earthdawn, great game though it is–but even a $5 price break would give incentive to back their project, rather than waiting for other retail channels.

The next problem I’ve observed is tied to stretch goals (the source of all problems?  The root of all evil?  You decide!).  At this point, there are stretch goals to unlock 3 additional books as add-on’s.  Now, these are add-on’s, so backers will be obliged to pay for them if they want them.  However, (Not)Fasa will also be obliged to write and print them.  I’m always reluctant when projects promise additional content, beyond enhancements to the core piece of content the project is intended to fund.  Additional content creates additional obligation and more opportunities for the project creator to fall below backer expectations.  This should be pure anathema for a creator lacking an excess of goodwill from their core audience.  What’s more, each of these new book stretch goals are priced roughly $25k apart, meaning that they’ll be coming up fast and furious (I expect this project to reach the ball park of $125k).  Consider the lovely stretch goal graphic on the project page for Monte Cook’s The Strange.  The first additional book that isn’t a reprint of core game material (as the player’s kit is), is the Bestiary at $130k.  Considering that the Earthdawn team is ostensibly funding two books to begin with, setting modest goals for additional books is foolish.

A much better approach to content driven stretch goals is the one that Onyx Path frequently takes, expanding the word count and scope of the core project rather than adding whole new books.  This solution gives backers better value for their investment over all, and has the added benefit of creating a linear increase in the creator’s obligation to the backers, rather than an exponential one.

Still more damning is the inclusion of a bevy of physical add-on’s and stretch goals, which I tend to be against on principle.  But the folks at (Not)Fasa have stepped beyond the pale with their third update, in which they promise that all backers are to receive, if various milestones are met, buttons, t-shirts, and an exclusive miniature.  All backers.  If you back at the $1 level and they hit  $80k, they will send you a t-shirt.  Or at least that’s what the update says.  It was subsequently changed on the main page to read, “All backers who pledged for PDF or hardcopy editions of the books will receive a t-shirt with the 4th Edition Earthdawn logo,” irrespective of details like shipping costs, etc.  In my opinion, miscommunications about rewards is reason enough to pull and relaunch a project.  It shows a grievous lack of forethought, and that’s what the cancel project button is for, frankly.

Most damning though is that (Not)Fasa, which operates under the nom de bull dookie, “Fasa Games,” is managing their project under the name Fasa Corporation.  I discussed the misappropriation last week, but this misrepresentation seems like a step too far.   I’d love a new edition of Earthdawn, because if any early 90’s game deserves one after a decade of abuse, it’s this one.  But these classy folks can take a walk.  In for a dollar, for the schadenfreude.

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This entry was posted by Chris Avery.

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