I think the idea of Kickstarter is pretty solid. I’ve backed a few things that I definitely would have passed up if I saw them in the store, just so I could be a part of the process, and help see something happen that may not have otherwise. I want to talk briefly about two huge Kickstarters that seem to be suffering similar problems.
If you made it to my small little corner of the interwebs, I’m sure you are at least remotely familiar with the Ouya. These folks are trying to take back the TV with a console that has the specs of a phone (that’s a scary thought). But having a controller and hdmi out. $100 was the base price to actually get a controller, and they were so successful that they were able to fuel a huge upcoming launch. Now I haven’t received my Ouya yet, which is understandable since I had been debating back and forth whether I actually thought it was a good thing to back. So I backed it pretty late after I decided it would be nice to have a second console in my “Den” next to my Genesis. The 360 that I have from my Microsoft days lives proudly in the living room with it’s Massive faceplate.
There is a fair amount of frustration being posted by users on the Ouya kickstarter comments. I think some of the frustration is legitimate, the poor communication including a line graph that is very informative, and a reddit AMA that dodged all questions that would yield any useful information, and an upcoming retail launch that backers were promised to receive their Ouya’s before official launch. I know just recently they pushed the launch date back most of June, but here we were sitting in the first week of May, very very early backers hearing no word, and people started to get nervous. I would hope that a little bit of communication could have eased a lot of this, but a lot of marketing hoo-rah also caused these same issues. Now I’m not one of these folks that are disappointed in backing Ouya or needing to get a refund or anything like that. But a more precise method of how shipments were going out (priority queue) along with more raw numbers about how many have gone out, would be more than enough to make a lot of the dissenters feel more comfortable.
I also backed Reaper’s Bones kickstarter. Now I don’t consider Miniatures to be inside my realm of expertise for my gaming knowledge. Board games, video games, Magic: the Gathering (even though I no longer collect cards) all fit comfortably in. I’ve been playing RPGs since I was in 7th grade, even though I don’t have a regular game right now. But miniatures? No, they seem cool enough, but they are way expensive. But I couldn’t resist when I found out about the Bones kickstarter. Not only was there a huuuge amount of value (as opposed to Ouya, where you’ll pretty much be able to get the exact same stuff for the exact same price), but their goals were fantastic. Every odd numbered goal, something was added to the base Vampire package (also $100 for those counting at home). Every even numbed gave you extra add-ons to choose from. Some of the add-ons were ridiculous too. Take Kaladrax here. This was one of the last add-ons available for the Kickstarter. The price for me as a backer was $10. The retail price is $75. If I realized what a bargain all of the add-ons were, I could have easily spent another $100. So before even being tempted by add-ons I was receiving 241 models for $100. What a steal!
Now, onto the communication issues. I thought Reaper did a pretty good job explaining how things were going to work. They said that they were building all the molds, getting all the stuff produced overseas, and then had to package them up in their HQ in Texas before sending them out. They were planning on doing the simplest orders first (so they could get in a good groove of how shipping works). They said their estimates would be when they would start shipping, and hit those dead on. They warned us about RepearCon (which was already in the works before the Kickstarter) which meant nothing would happen that week and in general made me feel pretty confident I was gonna get my stuff in a reasonable amount of time. I wasn’t expecting shipping miracles, but I was (and am since they haven’t come yet) pretty damned excited about having all of these bones, and painting a few of them for different things. But as soon as shipping started, all of the updates stopped. Early on I think one of the guys was in the comments trying to reexplain what they had mapped out, but no official updates came through. No Friday evening post saying “hey guys, things are going great, we’re still working our way through plain Vampire levels” or “I know you ordered a lot of stuff, but if you included the 4 pound Kaladrax, that pushes your order backwards in the priority queue”. Thankfully they did post very recently saying that they’ve made it through their whole first round of boxes, and are waiting the second round. I hope mine come soon, the stretch goals and the pure awesomeness of this has been an experience I hope can be replicated by other Kickstarters I back in the future.