The State of Crowdfunding in 2022

We board gamers live in a gluttonous age of decadence when it comes to the vast variety and deluxification of board games and none more so than the sweet, sweet offerings from crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Gamefound. Crowdfunding has changed the way many players view board gaming.  Allowing gamers to get in on the ground level with designers and publishers from the beginning of a game project until the highly anticipated day of delivery is appealing to board game enthusiasts and satisfies many a gamers compulsion to attain the very best versions of the games they love.  Perhaps the biggest draw comes from the sheer level of additional content many of these projects offer their backers. The temptation to pledge for a game on Kickstarter at an average price point of $150-$250 in order to secure additional extras or Kickstarter exclusive items such as metal coins, token upgrades, expansions, additional minis or other content can lead many to abandon the game altogether if they feel they can't afford everything in an all-or-nothing tantrum.

Me whenever they announce another optional add-on.

Here I'm going to use CMON's latest Kickstarter project as an example of the state of crowdfunded board games, while there are a great many other publishers and designers that follow a similar model, CMON has made an art form of big, miniatures-heavy Kickstarter content.  As of this writing their 50th Kickstarter project, Marvel Zombies is in the midst of its campaign and, as expected, its doing exceptionally well. Marvel Zombies blew past its minimum funding goal in the first few hours of going live and is fast approaching NZD$7 Million! New stretch goal are being unlocked daily and several boxed expansions  and Kickstarter exclusives have already been announced.  This latest addition to CMON's Zombicide franchise is set to be CMON's biggest success yet.  So far so good right?

Sorry Danny, did I say the biggest? I clearly meant the second biggest.... is that a machete?

Well, not exactly.  You see in recent months the board game industry has seen a massive increase in production and shipping costs due primarily to the effects of the pandemic.  In fact, it's estimated that shipping costs alone in some industries have increased by up to 600% over the past two years, couple this with a reported shortage of around 2 million shipping containers worldwide and you can start to see the problem.  Even the biggest publishers and board game companies can only absorb so much for so long before they must eventually pass these costs on to their customers.  Obviously these issues are affecting all industries, not just board games, but the impact is still hitting hard when more people than ever are now turning to the hobby a result of being stuck at home for weeks or months on end.  So how does this relate to Marvel Zombies?

I'll get them there, how far away is New Zealand anyway, like walking distance?

Looking back to a last pre-pandemic CMON campaign from 2019, Zombicide 2nd Edition, the core game cost US$100 and shipping to New Zealand was estimated at US$38-56.  Compare that to a Marvel Zombies base pledge and you're now looking at US$130 for the core game and US$48-60 for shipping. At the base pledge level, this doesn't seem like such a huge leap, but the trouble is, a great many people who purchase on Kickstarter want all of the things.  And this is where it gets a bit dicey (pun intended). Let's say you want to go all in on Marvel Zombies, which includes a massive Galactus "mini", which is essentially an enormous statue for your table. The cost is currently US$410 (NZ$615) or more....  Thats right, you still don't get everything in the campaign if you decide to include all the additional content they have yet to announce. Given the vast amount of content you do get for that price, this still isn't too bad, and if gamers want all the extras for their luxury hobby, then this is simply the cost of doing business.  But the shipping at this level has priced many out of the market altogether.  For the Galactus pledge Wave 1 shipping alone you're looking at a whopping US$280, that's around NZ$420.  Meaning if you wanted to get a full Galactus Pledge sent to NZ in a single wave you're looking at over NZ$1000!  That's simply too much to bear for even some of the most avid collectors.  

Almost as high as the stack of cash you'll need to get it.

I've backed a fair number of Kickstarter campaigns myself over the years, including going all in on three previous CMON games, two of which I've already sold on because I only ended up playing them once or twice.  You know how many times I've played the remaining one? Twice! Now, I'm self aware enough to admit that it's my fault entirely that I haven't played it more, but when I look at how often I tend to get games to the table, even those I really love, I'm lucky if I play most of them more than 4-5 times in a given year.  My point here is this; is it really worth all that expense if you're not going to make use of it?  Collecting purely for the pleasure of having a full set of something sitting on my shelf is a pitfall I've traversed into time and again, and I know I'm not alone in that. Bloated projects also take attention from smaller game designers who rely on Kickstarter for their projects to even see the light of day.  It can be enormously difficult to compete with a multimillion dollar AAA game when you're trying to get a small independent project off the ground.

An all consuming plague that devours everything in its path? Nah, that's just Kickstarter.

So what's the answer? Personally, I'd like to see some of the bigger publishers step away from crowdfunding and open up the space for the smaller studios and indie designers and creators for whom Kickstarter was originally envisioned. CMON and others don't need crowdfunding, it's really become more of a marketing platform for them than a means to an end.  However, those smaller game studios I feel can really make the best use of crowdfunding to bring their passion projects to life and find not only the funds, but an audience for their games.  Crowdfunding looks to be around for a while, but only the future will tell if this is a sustainable model.

Thanks for joining me again this week.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on crowdfunding in the gaming industry.  Feel free to share them in the comments below or over on our Game Kings Gamers page.  Until next time, enjoy your gaming, however its comes to you.