I recently published my Top 10 Games of All Time (as of the end of 2019). All but one of them were Kickstarters. I was astonished when I realised. I knew Kickstarters were some of my favourite games, but I didn’t think my Top 10 would be that heavily dominated by Kickstarters.
Admittedly, some of them were games that started life on Kickstarter, but went straight to retail afterwards. However, nearly half of them have never seen a retail release.
Why is that? Why do Kickstarters feature so heavily in my Top 10? Let’s investigate…
Despite the Kickstarter website’s assertion that “Kickstarter is not a store”, some companies use Kickstarter as pre-order system. Manufacturing and delivering thousands of games is expensive, even for a large company. Being able to obtain funds from consumers before production begins is a no-brainer for many companies.
It’s possible to view this cynically, but as a company, you either need a lot of spare cash lying around or you have to borrow money to finance production. The first option is only viable for large companies; the second option can be expensive and risky (if the games don’t sell after you’ve produced them, you’re in big trouble).
The pre-order nature of Kickstarter allows small companies to produce games, which they could never have afforded to do otherwise. This does result in a lot of dross in my opinion: games that aren’t very good, but get funded because they look appealing on the Kickstarter page.
However, it also results in some fantastic gems that would never have seen the light of day without Kickstarter. Crucially for me though, they also allow games to be manufactured that aren’t financially viable for retail.
Big Games Cost Big Bucks
I love big adventure games. They feature very heavily in my Top 10. I love the sense of exploration. I love having lots of great-looking miniatures. I love campaigns with dozens of hours of content that I can keep playing for months and months.
Games like this cost a lot though. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on some of the games in my Top 10. I don’t mind this at all as long as I’m getting value from the game. If it’s a game that I love that I keep playing over and over, I love the scale and scope of it all.
Like investing a lot of time in a big fantasy series of novels (like Game of Thrones), I love games that feel epic. Part of that is the length of the game/campaign, but part of that is the sheer amount of stuff.
If you produced a game that cost £300 at retail, very few stores are going to stock it. It’s a lot of money for a game that might sit on the shelf for months and never sell. And as a customer, it’s hard to justify that kind of money by looking at the back of a box in a shop, no matter how persuasive the shop assistant is.
Seeing Inside the Box
One thing that Kickstarter projects do very well (the good ones at least), is allowing you to see inside the box. Not just showing you pictures of all the miniatures and other components, but Kickstarter pages often provide videos explaining how to play and show people actually playing the game.
If you’re going to spend £300+ on a game, you want to be really sure that you’re going to like it and Kickstarter pages allow you to do your homework better than any other medium I’ve come across.
There may well be other games that could make it to my Top 10 if I get the chance to play them, but if I don’t know anyone else that has a copy and there was no Kickstarter, it’s remarkably hard to find comprehensive information on the game.
You can watch reviews on YouTube and BoardGameGeek has lots of information about games of course, but neither of those formats are designed to present every aspect of a game to you in a format that will allow you to decide easily whether or not you want to buy it. Kickstarter does that for you. It does it really well.
So Kickstarters feature so heavily because when they get it right, the format allows them to overcome all the obstacles that would potentially prevent me from playing the games that ultimately I love the most!
Have you backed many Kickstarters? Did any of your favourite games begin life on Kickstarter?