I’ve been talking on and off about few Kickstarters as of late. Y’know, the one with the fox girl and the one that would make you a part of a self-publishing comic circle? This lead to some discussions how Kickstarter has become a sort of jinx to some, and to some it is something others veer far away due to it simply being Kickstarter. Looking back at the whole system, it’s really easy to see how Kickstarter can be abused, and have been numerous times, but at the same time how the backers constantly misunderstand what the service is about.
If we start with the latter, I still see people considering a Kickstarter backing the same as pre-ordering something off the net. This has never been the case, though it is understandable how the misconception can form. After all, your usual backer doesn’t exactly realise that they are effectively financiers of a business venture of some kind, but rather than having a stake in the business or similar, they instead are offered items as incentives for their funding. Truth to be told, backing a Kickstarter should never be made under assumption that you will gain anything back. As with any funding venture, there are chance that it all goes tits up and you’ll just lose money. This is part financial funding, where you have to decide yourself whether or not fund something or not. Difference is that Kickstarter is a softer form of funding someone’s venture, where you as a backer don’t really have any power a real financial backer would but get all the nice items you backed for. Intention is to realise a creator’s aim and wish, their desire to produce something and so on, rather than tie him down with Wallstreet-type bullshit. Not many seem to make this distinction however, and people just consider Kickstarter as that aforementioned pre-order service.
Your usual Kickstarter backer ultimately had to come to a conclusion that they need to vet people and organisations they fund. Check people’s histories and what sort of things they are able to truly pull off. If actual companies were involved, chances were that people with know-how and experience were included, and the only thing they really lacked was money. Even then it can be shooting the dark. As much a Kickstarter requires an experienced runner, the backer really has to make some educated guesses; even a man with best reputation can fuck things up royally, like it was with Mighty No.9. As a side-note, I never backed that game up. Why? Because nothing that was shown during the campaign equated to anything that might be in the final game and the footage shown was less than enticing. The music was bland, the concept seemed something that wouldn’t work and most of the people working on the title didn’t seem to have the best credits. Forward to years later, and the game gets shot the very moment people get their hands on it. Be it that it was supposed to be ported to every alive platform under the sun and that the staff were inexperienced with online multiplayer, plus the whole social media debacle, Mighty No.9 killed Inafune’s fame and whatever true story behind the game’s lacklustre development is, the media, backers and pretty much everyone in the industry has black listed him.
Backers can’t really tell sometimes if the person or a team behind a campaign has experience to handle what they intend to do. Often a Kickstarter fails either because money runs out for whatever reason, like the project leader being inept and inexperienced to the point of crashing the whole thing, or sometimes because producing something costs a lot more than expected. One of the major parts of doing a Kickstarter should be able to calculate expenses and project everything well enough to make a sensible estimation. The double that amount. This might be a personal interjection, but considering how many unforeseen events can hit the scene, you really need extra in the bank. While some might bark at this idea, consider what would happen if you get funding to buy a candy bar and share it with your friend. On the trip to the shop you get overrun or the candy melts on the way back. Without that safety net, you’re effectively screwed. With something extra in there, you can either deliver a bit more than promised, or you can recover from whatever mishap might’ve come across. However, all expenses really should be figured out beforehand to their best possible degree, so that money isn’t wasted by accident or surprise. There are stories I might tell you later how some companies and startups failed in this regard.
All that said, inexperience in itself should not be scoffed at. Asking for help or further information either from more experienced people or perhaps even asking backers’ feedback and such should not be something to be ashamed of. Openness with your backers, however, is absolutely vital. These aren’t your customers, these are the people who have given their money for you to work on something. If customers decide whether or not you succeed, your backers have made it even possible for you to have a shot. Never underestimate the value of giving some small update on anything. La-Mulana 2‘s Kickstarter was perhaps one of the best examples how I’ve seen a KS do it; every Friday there would be an update talking about some aspect of the game, be it lore, production, on-goings or overall development. Small and constant updates talking what’s going on are better than once-in-a-month or similar, as it keeps the backers enticed. Not only it makes for good PR, but also promotes the feeling of you caring for them, that you’re thankful for their money. Sure someone will call you an asshat hack and demand their money back, but as usual, you should always expect negative feedback. Negative feedback and criticism should always be noted with more care than positive, as positive feedback often is just stroking your dick and telling yer doing a good job. While spirit lifting, also absolutely worthless.
There is a night and day difference between people who have large experience, and those who don’t. Presentation is one of the major parts, but so is engagement with the backers. If you look at, for example, Anime Eigo’s Megazone23 Kickstarter, you can see that list of things are large and relatively detailed. If you browse the comments section, you can see Robert J. Woodhead, the project manager, replying across the board to relevant question, one being opening the KS for International backers. For example, when questioned about the soundtrack as a possible add-on, Woodhead replies that music licensing is both outside the scope of the project, but also outside their expertise. This kind of straight and transparent interaction is night must for a system like this, as it gives an idea what is possible and what isn’t. Anime Eigo has had numerous projects already, so they also have a history to back them up. This is similar to the fox girl Kickstarter going on at the moment, where a staff member from DLSite is handling the English side of things. While the developing circle, Megamisoft, don’t have history with Kickstarter, they’ve been selling merch of their titles in Comikets for some years now, thus have a very good handle how to get their items produced. The items they offer as backer rewards are largely the same, with additions of soundtracks and such. The only thing holding them back is international shipping, but that’s that isn’t all that different from sending a package in your own nation, overall. As a contrast, NijiGEN, the project to put up a shop for you to buy your own doujinshi, has rather lacklustre presentation with its video in comparison, zero comments, but has still crept halfway its funding. I’m guessing this is mostly because the people providing the comics are veterans and know how to set things up comic-side properly. All you need is the service, and then hope it’ll do good. Considering they list their corporation number gives them far more credibility than most as well.
Now I did promise to use more images per post some time back, so let me be cheeky for a moment and present you a (lacklustre) gallery of items that foxgirl Kickstarter is offering. How’d I got my hands on these? Via their Campfire campaign, of course. Each image has a review of sorts attached, so if you’re interested to see how things are done in the orient, or what sort of stuff is part of the Kickstarter, do check em out. Mind you, they were taken in terrible light conditions, so quality has suffered.
All this considered, it is amused to see people asking for refunds from projects they’ve backed. Despite many projects have seen its backers refund their money, the reality is that they’ve given their faith to see a project succeed, but as it sometimes (rather often actually) happens, the project is a failure. At that point its best to suck it up and write it off as a loss. If this was actual financial funding, you might be able to recover some money through some business deals or even stock trading, but that’s not a reality here. All that said, there is a certain skewed view on Kickstarter as a service. The service in itself is rather sound and solid, but you really need to make a call whether or not each individual project is trustworthy of your money. Nobody else can make the decision for you whether or not to put your money and faith into someone, and sometimes life just gives you lemons instead of Kyoto girlfriend pillows.