Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gentlemen of the South Sandwiche Islands and Kickstarter funding

I've discussed James Taylor's game, Gentlemen of the South Sandwiche Islands, and his funding model, via, in previous posts here and here. The quick summary is that James has used Kickstarter to amass nearly $9,000 toward production costs for his game, mostly in the form of pre-orders. He's pledged to print 500 copies, so he's raised just under $18 per copy - a reasonable price-per-copy for a small production run of a game without too many parts. You have to pledge at least $26 to get a copy of the game, so there's probably at least a small profit margin in there at that price point. Furthermore, he's raised the money via 141 pre-orders, so he'll have the opportunity to try to sell the remaining 359 copies he prints entirely for profit. With those numbers, this looks like a viable way to take the huge personal financial risk out of self-publishing a small print run of a game.

This is a model that I've now seen used on Kickstarter a couple more times, although most successfully with this game. In looking at this, my guess, stated in my last post, was that Kickstarter isn't a magical source of startup capital from strangers - instead, most of the funds raised are actually from relatives or friends of the authors.  But I didn't know.  So, I figured instead of just guessing, I'd ask, and James was gracious enough to reply. (Holy cow, I suddenly become an actual journalist!) He says:
"I would say I knew about 70% of the people who bought a copy of my game through Kickstarter. Some people think they can put a game on kickstarter and just wait for the masses of strangers on the internet to fund it, but that's not the way it works. Kickstarter even describes itself as a way to pool your own social network in order to raise funds."
So, there you have it. You're not going to magically produce money from places like Kickstarter - in some ways, it's kind of like a Tupperware-party hit-up-your-friends model, although more techno and less guilt-laden. What it does provide is a place to organize and raise startup capital, mostly from sympathetic friends and acquaintances (some of whom will probably get their copy of the game, play it once, and then put it on a shelf). Because you specify a minimum amount to reach before actually charging anybody, you actually place a bet on your game and gauge interest (and simultaneously find out how many friends you have).

If you're interested in the Gentleman game, there's an interview with Jim about the game here, and a commentary by one of his professors, Henry Jenkins, here. It looks pretty clever - a simple concept, but a really fun theme.

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