Happy to go by the moniker PullsyJr for this one, though I may regret it! :-/

With the rise of Kickstarter, Indigogo and the like, the gaming market has seen a massive spike in releases from both established and new companies. But is this a good thing, or will it actually damage the already small wargaming market?


A little background
Prior to the rise of Kickstarter (and others) there were a handful of miniature producing companies. The biggest was of course, Games Workshop. The larger competitors (though not a comprehensive list) included Privateer Press with the Iron Kingdom setting, Rackham Games and their Aarklash-based Confrontation series, and Battlefront Miniatures provided some modern historical love with Flames of War.

Each of these games had developed a following of varying sizes; indeed it can be argued that the later companies “stole” a not-insignificant chunk of audience from Games Workshop. These were the people who who were after something more: smoother games mechanics, a system that more accurately reflected the setting, better/different miniature lines, or better value for money. Some people wanted only one or two things, some wanted all of them. There will always be the dedicated gamers too, who simply buy whatever is released because they want to collect them all.

Indigogo came onto the scene in 2008 and Kickstarter followed in 2009 quickly becoming the best known crowdfunding platform. With a quick look at the Kickstarter games category we can see the following systems that are either currently in progress, or have been successfully funded:
 - Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster
 - Judge Dredd: Block War
 - Rivet Wars
 - Darklands
 - Gates of Antares
 - there’s more, but I don’t want this to just turn into an unending list
So now we have a niche market fracturing into even further segments. That list above doesn’t include such projects as Kingdom Death: Monster or Dreadball, both games which impinge on the wargaming market but which may not be a wargame in itself.

Market movements
The dominance of the gaming market by Games Workshop cannot be ignored. As they refuse to provide anything other than the most bland public relations releases , or even publically admit that other companies exist, their audience is forced to assume that their competition was hurting them: price rises occurred more frequently (from one every couple of years or more, to annually), their already aggressive legal departments went on a massive blitz of “cease and desist” to anyone who looked funny at the company, and the core profitability of the company took a beating. However they did seem to increase their capacity for releasing new miniatures (in existing lines only of course) with more detail and their products in general became a lot prettier. For example, check out the difference between the old Ork Codex and some of the later ones.

The threat
Wargamers, like every other section of society, have finite funds. Kickstarter takes some of these funds away from established games and puts it into other areas. For the most part, every dollar spent on a Kickstarter wargame is a dollar not spent on an established game like Warhammer/Warmachine/etc. As well as the Kickstarter monies, we have the games that begin and people collect rule books and models for. This is the more critical aspect of this discussion as the bulk of cash goes into this. Even “cheap” games like Infinity cost a couple of hundred dollars to begin – that’s a noteworthy chunk of bucks that aren’t going towards the larger companies.

So what?
So why the problem with crowdfunding? Well, it’s coming up with so many alternative games, at such a rapid pace, that the above threats are very real. Where a new system may have appeared every two to three years before Kickstarter et al, we’re now seeing at least one new system every six months. A massive amount of money is moving away from established production companies. Kingdom Death: Monster took two million dollars in pledges, Sedition Wars made almost a million, and Relic Knights got another nine hundred thousand. Including the one hundred thousand that the Judge Dredd Block Wars game grabbed, that’s a whopping four million dollars that went to just four alternative games.

It remains to be seen how this affects the bottom line of the established publishers, but I can’t imagine their accounting teams seeing rainbows and unicorns. Are we already seeing an effort from Games Workshop to reclaim their lost revenue? The rapid releases for Warhammer 40,000 are outside the norm for them (but may be explained away somewhat by needing to keep up with the new edition) and they appear to be a lot more on the ball when it comes to updating Errata and FAQ. Are Privateer Press moving into their Colossal line to recover lost ground?

[The assumption here is that almost all of that money is derived from people who already play wargames. It’s impossible to confirm this detail though.]

In addition to this is the effect on the local gaming scene. As those who pledged on Kickstarter go to play with their new toys, the existing systems are left behind. The player base dilutes in the region – it becomes harder to find a pick up game for either system, and tournaments end up competing amongst themselves attendance numbers. Speculatively this will result in one of two things (most likely a mixture of both):
 - Newer systems are left to gather dust as people return to “old faithful” where they are more confident that they can get a game in.
 - Wargamers lose interest: they've seen the perfect system (for them) and can’t go back to an old game. Instead their gaming time dwindles into nothing and they essentially leave the hobby altogether.

The future
Two questions are raised from this phenomenon.
1. Will this crowdfunding surge will cause enough damage to throttle an established company?
2. Is it possible that reduced player bases will hurt the very wargaming population itself?

So what do people think; is crowdfunding good for gaming, or will it hurt the hobby?

 Afterthoughts
In my opinion, the pace of crowdfunded game releases is not sustainable. I can see a lot of people getting burnt out from trying to maintain a hold of multiple systems, released or upcoming. These customers will become a lot more discerning of the product they back as they simply can’t afford to throw money at publishers yet maintain their current game systems. In addition to this, the dilution of a games’ player base will come back and bite a lot of people on the bum. A system may be AMAZING but if you can’t find any opponents in your area, why bother?

For what it’s worth, I believe crowdfunding can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Of course the problems I’ve listed above are evident and important, but Kickstarter etc allows for more ideas to come into the gaming world, as well as enabling unpublished writers to get their names known. The less of a hold that the big businesses have on the industry (as with any industry), the more competition and options we see.

Whilst this is something to consider for wargaming, RPGs are in even more risk of immense dilution. It’s far easier to produce a single role playing game book, than it is to create a line of miniatures!

25 Comments:

  1. I think crowdfunding is actually a great thing. Yes it can create a more fragmented niche market but at the same time it is allowing some really great developers who might not get their games/ideas off the ground (due to their small size). People are generally smart enough to recognize a quality product with a well developed game plan.

    Also I think it forces bigger companies to produce a better product. If one of these crowdsource games becomes recognized enough for more established companies like GW, etc. to become worried or concerned they will be forced to create a more competitive product (whether it is through offering more competitive prices or better gameplay) like everyother company who competes for the same customers.

    I will admit that I have contributed to crowdfunding campaigns and I think they will contribute to a better market for all tabletop games (albeit it will take either a very very good game or a lengthy time for these games to match companies like GW in the tabletop market).

    Dark Potential is one table top game that I am extremely interested in and I think they address some aspects of tabletop gaming that GW doesn't.

    /end rant

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  2. Crowd funding will force the bigger companies to get their heads out of their asses.

    GW doesn't realize yet that their accelerated release schedule still doesn't answer the problem(s) with their product.

    GW will still see a positive bottom line in their accounts but they dug a deeper hole for themselves.

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  3. Honestly, one of the largest concerns that I have with crowd funding is the reliance that some companies are placing on it.

    While crowdfunding is nice to get startup funds, extremely successful kickstarters are not a great thing for the company in the long-term. Most kickstarters offer discounted products as rewards, thus there is significantly less profit than general retail. For every person that pledges beyond the required money, that is a lost sale and lost revenue.

    This means that a lot of companies, while succeeding in getting a product to market, will find that they have already sold to a significant portion of the market at a really poor margin. This means that they have less sales right away, thus have less ability to continue on without more kickstarting funds. This leads to a cycle of constantly needing to kickstart.

    I see this ending two ways, first, the company eventually has enough products to support itself and stop kickstarting, or second, the company ceases to be able to succeed in continual kickstarting and fails.

    One situation where i feel this is happening is Zombicide. An extremely successful kickstarter, but they already have another kickster running. This says to me that they aren't making the money to support themselves yet, and they may be getting into a cycle of kickstarting.

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    1. I thought about this when you look at a Kickstarter like Reaper. For them to have opened their BONES line, they would have had to slowly release a couple new models a quarter until they had enough to get to the library they currently have pouring into their warehouse by the case as their shipment of pledge rewards come in.

      On the other hand, with the Kickstarter they received all the money up front to purchase the molds for the BONES line, plus a new injection molding machine, things that they can use to start pumping out models immediately. Yes, they some on sales by pandering to the demands of their Kickstarter investors, but they can immediately turn around and start making profit once the Kickstarter ends because they now have all the facilities necessary to fish for themselves.

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    2. Actually i think reaper had an amazing kickstarter. The difference between what i was talking about and reaper, is that reaper already has a full catalog of products which support their business. They are an established company, and so the major hit to release sales that they may suffer is countered by the fact that they will already be making the money to continue business, whereas many startups will not. Reaper can continue business as normal while they wait for the long term sales.

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  4. I think the problem with this logic is that while yes, gamers may move on to a different game system (I myself am about to try out Infinity) I don't think that this is a problem. You've mentioned that players will either 'go back to the old system and ignore the newer ones' or 'lose interest in older systems to pick up the new ones'. This is how the market works, and people won't abandon a game unless there is something wrong with it.

    Like 8 Bit Librarian said, it'll force the existing companies to correct their games to keep up. If they do it correctly, then they can retain their player base and if not, then they aren't paying attention to the needs of the customer so how to they expect to keep people interested?

    I like the Kickstarter concept, there are a lot of things I want to see and without it you don't get the other entries into the market. Infinity (and Warmachine/Hordes) are skirmished base, they let you run a smaller game than the Warhammers. It takes me forever to unpack and repack my army for a game, so I want to check out the skirmish games. But at the same time sometimes you do want the larger numbers of an army-based game like Warhammer. I love when my heavy artillery takes a chunk out of an enemy infantry unit.

    You've listed several board games that have been funded through Kickstarter, but at the same time I don't see anything that competes with the niche that Warhammer has created. The ones I recognize are all single box board games with miniatures or else you've mentioned skirmish games. While I may see some people picking up only one skirmish game, I don't see anything stopping them from picking up $100 for one of the boxed board games, $100-$200 for a functional, playable squad for a skirmish game, and then still spending the rest of their money on Games Workshop's offerings.

    And you did mention that your article did not consider customers/gamers who had not yet entered the market. Maybe the Warhammers never appealed to them so they held onto their cash, and now with the emergence of the new games and systems and genres they can finally pick up something that interested them over holding onto their cash and spending it on, I don't know, books or something!

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  5. While I agree on some of your points, mainly finding games for both 'new' or 'old' systems, I have never seen a more competitive market hurt the over all quality of a market. More and more people cutting into an already relatively small market will force the larger name brands to keep producing at high levels to keep their cuts of the pie.

    Monopolies create a very stagnant market. When GW was the only real name in Scifi war gaming how many times did every codex get an update in an edition? Several armies are still playing with 4th ed codexs in 6th edition. Maybe now with with crowd funding causing concern in accounting we might actually see armies being updated in under a decade.

    Crowd funding will not kill GW, PP, or Corvus Belli. Their inability to keep their customers in a changing market will. I spent a good amount of money on Kingdom Death myself and that means no new army in 40k this year and I have been eagerly waiting for a new Eldar codex. However GW hasn't told me its coming and the odds are good it will need an errata the next day fixing 20 spelling and grammatical errors. If crowd funding causes GW to make a better all round product I fail to see how that hurts the community.

    I apologize if that came off as a rant it was not intended. Thank you for sharing your opinion and putting it out there for the rest of us to read and talk about!

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  6. The wargaming market is growing, fast enough to accommodate new systems and the existing.

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  7. I have around $500 pledged to Wild West Exodus. Just pledged $85 to Drake.

    I refuse to buy another useless plane for my DA. I already bought the other stuff they gave my faction. No desire to start a new army when I can start a whole new game. Competition is awesome, keeps me in the hobby.

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  8. Since when is "more competition and options", as the author puts it, a bad thing for the consumer? Most product categories go thru cycles of expand-and-contract, where brave entrepreneurs put forth new ideas and the consumers vote with their wallets on which ones are likely to succeed. And yes, it makes the big players a bit nervous, and it should. But the good companies, large and small, learn how to adapt to changing business environments in order to stay alive.

    It used to be prohibitively expensive and difficult to self-publish your own game (I know, I tried at one point), but modern options like Kickstarter give creative folks with a great idea and limited funds the opportunity to see their dream pet projects see the light of day and actually be produced. Perhaps they don't catch fire, but it's much better than having a dram and being frustrated because it's so hard to break into the Old Boys Club of established game producers.

    I like having more choices & more options. I might not buy one of everything, but I'm also not restricted to just a small pool of available options. Variety is the spice of life!... :-)

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  9. here's a perspective from within the industry and not one of those "big companies" kickstarter is supposed to shake up *cough*Mantic*cough*

    http://forum-of-doom.com/index.php?topic=16575.0

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  10. Few years ago, RPGs had the d20 open license. The market was flooded with new companies on a weekly basis and new products daily! Those that were good or mostly good survived and the others cashed out. Same thing will happen here as well. So I doubt RPGs are in anymore risk now, then they were then.

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  11. I don't see a lot of these companies really going anywhere with their intended war games, but I like seeing the variety of role-playing minis and potential proxy material for making unique units for existing games with a lot of the sculpts being released. And who knows - maybe some of the new game mechanics will be game-changers (pun not intended) to improve our hobby. Yeah, a bunch will no doubt fizzle out, but these projects are paid for up front, and the supporters generally get cool stuff even if the company goes bust in a year or two.

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  12. I think honestly this article is correct though as with GW releasing products at a faster rate it makes those of us, like myself, who become bored with what we are doing happy. I started playing Dust Warfare and while I like the game no one will play in my group so I dropped it before my investment grew.

    I purchased the start of a Mantic Warpath army and... Rather than have Mantic finish their game line or so some serious work on it it's almost two years from the launch and they have not successfully completed every unit for a single of its eight armies... Instead they take pledges on kick starter for things like LOKA and Dreadball or whatever it is called... They use Kickstarter more like a ore order method and ironically they have stretch goals and magically have the product available for photo when they reach it. I've all ready packed my figures for Mantic up as I'm not dealing with it. I spend a lot of money on my games... I have Dark Eldar, Space Wolves, Chaos Space Marines, Chaos Daemons, Imperial Guard, and then several smaller point listings of Tau and Necrons. I like spending my money but only if the game is going to take off...

    Kick starter might have been good for some companies had they used it, AT-43 anyone?

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  13. Let not forget the ever growing popularity of 3D printing and as it continues to become more accessible to more and more people, the easier it is do develop your own system. Hell, you could knock up a prototype game with models quite easily and on a relativity cheap budget. Play test it with local gaming groups and if liked, set up a kick starter for it. Job done.
    GW have dominated the market over the years as they were really the only players in the game. Now that is changing and they need to be very careful. GW needs its friends and its community now more than ever and considering what they have been like over the last decade and a half, Good luck with that GW!

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  14. I think the crowdfunding trend is really interesting but here my 3 observations:

    1) There is only so much time to game. Unless a new system is awesome does it have any chance of gaining a hold. In many ways the gaming is no different then any other product launch. While Infinity hasn't used a KS, it's taken them about 5 years to grow. I look at game like Dreadball and without a KS it would probably been DOA since KS gave it an instant community.
    2) Miniatures - some of the KS are just amazing deals and appeal to the hobbyist. Many people I know bought Sedition Wars simply for number of mini's they could use for the price. In their minds it's a bunch of cheap and generic sci-fi mini's.
    3) How does this harm the local gaming store? This is my biggest concern, because the KS sucks the wind out of the local retailer who would help launch a game and build the community. If the game has no staying power, they are stocking something which will never sell. While the internet has transformed gaming with blogs and forums which make discussing the hobby easier then ever with wider audience, the gaming store is still place many gamers go to game and make the real world connection. If wish all these upstart game companies or new products would offer a retail option in their KS.

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  15. lawl what if Gdub crowdfunded the codices... you think they would get updated and redone more often?

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  16. I've been really impressed with some smaller companies so far. Empire of the Dead seems like a game that got a second wind due to kickstarter: between the new minis promised, some really positive blog/press and a bunch of buzz, it seems to be capturing attention (not easy for a smaller company like West Wind). Dreamforge is making some really promising plastics. Reaper is going to sell a gajillion Bones in the coming year, and they'd only sell some million without their KS. I really like where it's going as a way to get some cool projects out of development stasis. It seems a great way to keep a project "fresh" and stay in contact with fans during the unveiling phase of a project.

    Also, the Gates of Antares slammed shut despite being a really promising universe and project. They just failed to offer something concrete and real. The prototype figs and such failed to create something tangible, and 300k was a crazy amount to wish for.

    A final thought: shipping. If its free I react positively... if I have to pay anything extra, I tend to weigh the retail option. Fifteen bucks extra for being in Canada (not even "abroad-abroad") feels rotten.

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    1. I agree, I was upset with GoA outlavished goal. I set up a reasonable plege and it went bust. But then The wild west exodus is just soo good.

      I too think the canadian shipping is a bit high...

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  17. Nice article! I'll chime in here and say from a strictly hobby and not gaming perspective: I like it. It has broadened my range of minis i want to paint and i no longer have to "make do" with one company. The variety of stunning minis to paint out there is super and has given me a chance to stretch my skills and explore new styles, techniques, content and to connect with new communities :)

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  18. The reason kickstarter and other games are starting off so well is that they offer more of what people want and better quality/prices/etc. GW isn't keeping up and will have to do better.

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  19. Crowd funding won't kill wargaming companies. Cheap and precise 3D printers will. They are already pretty cheap and if their quality increase and price decrease to the price of "normal" printers we have now. Who is going to pay for minis if you can print them at home. Rules will be invented by player communities and we will be able to play only at houses because there won't be any retail stores as they will close if they won't be able to sell minis.

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  20. I'm surprised this topic didn't generate more discussion, but for my two cents I think that concern about crowdfunding is misplaced.

    I think that the two primary results of an expanding miniature wargames market will be:

    1. Bringing in more customers

    2. Holding companies to a higher standard to compete and stay viable.

    I think that GW customers are already reaping the benefits of this more competitive environment when you look at the increasing production rates and revamping of product lines that GW has been involved in for the past 18 months.



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  21. Kickstarter products often don't live up to the expected quality, something that "houshold" companies can provide.
    Take for example Sedition Wars. Raised almosta millon bucks, and their components are of poor quality, incomplete and terrible rules set and poor packaging are some of the complaints buyers have filed. The game is unplayable if not for the various "errata" backers have published in an effort to make this game work (and feel better about spending $400+ in a box full of nice figures).

    This reason alone is why new companies kickstarting their new models and games are going to have a very hard time in surviving the market. Most will die a quiet dead and will leav backers with an unsupported game collecting dust in a shelf (or on ebay).

    The problem lies in identifying good games from poor ones, something that is impossible to do in kickstarter. Designers will never publish game rules because they don't want to expose their creativity to copycats, or because the rules can practically kill the kickstarter campaign and flood the designer team with thousands upon thousands of suggestions.

    An finally most new games have very poor background, a field in hich PP and GW have the upper hand. Take sedition wars for example,it's all about the minis, who is aware of the full background of this game? That's right, no one.

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  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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