The Kickstarter campaign for a first printing of Rift: Saga of a Dying World starts at the end of the week! (Insert wild-eyed, excited emoji, if one exists!)
So why a Kickstarter?
What a simple question - with so many answers! I think I can narrow it down to four answers.
1: It's the funding model that makes the most sense.
I don't have a network of capital investors, and I don't have a publisher. In addition to not having direct access to money through those sorts of channels, I also don't have any name recognition as a game designer to attract either of those sorts of people. (My careers thus far have translated to a lot of local recognition as a lighting designer and theatrical technician, and a tiny little bit of wider recognition as a science fiction writer. Sadly, neither are very helpful for getting Rift out into the world.)
There are a couple other ways of getting Rift made, like some form of print-on-demand (but Rift is probably too complicated of a package for that), or taking out a loan to do it myself. On the other hand, I could package all the documents that create Rift, pay for the art out of pocket, and shop the Design Document around to publishers without ever making it public.
But a Kickstarter seems like the most exciting and fun option; and really, those are the reasons I'm doing this whole thing to begin with, so it seems like a good direction to go in. A Kickstarter is really a marketing flurry wrapped up in a funding scheme, and those are the things that I need right now.
So why not a GoFundMe or IndieGoGo? Kickstarter's all-or-nothing funding is actually really important, for two reasons. First, it's more exciting - which is actually a big factor, and is shown in statistics. Most campaigns that get a good, early start end up succeeding, perhaps because of the psychological benefit of seeing a campaign that's got some gas behind it. Second, it makes the most sense for publishing a board game; there's a huge difference between printing 30 copies and 250 copies, with quantity having an absolutely massive effect on the unit price. If I print 200 copies, they're about $20 per unit... that drops to about $5 if I can manage 1,500 copies. So, scale (and printing the whole run at once) is good, and funding at a lower level is actually not a good outcome. It's make it or bust!
2: The Outcome of making the Goal is Great...
I would be absolutely overjoyed to make our goal; that means I have about 200 new best friends who might play my board game with me. It also means that I'll end up with a few extra copies of the game, and that's where things get exciting. I touched on the idea of creating a Design Document to shop around before, and while I chose not to do that exclusively, it is absolutely true that I'll probably end up taking a few of the extra copies of Rift that I'll have and use them as a sort of resumé. I have no idea if game publishers will care if I send them a copy of Rift and a letter saying "check out what I did, let's work together maybe?"... but, hey, it's worth a shot.
Plus, having a successful campaign in my history and some physical evidence of how cool my game is would vastly help a future campaign for another game, if I want to keep doing this - and it's been pretty fun so far!
2b: ...But Kickstarter doesn't have a ceiling, either, so it could get Even Better.
But let's be honest for a second. I set my goal pretty high (it's a lot of money, folks!), but I also set it pretty low. That is, I spent a whole bunch of time about four months ago cynically counting my friends and calculating printing costs, and I decided that $7,500 is a good stretch. It's up there, but it's also achievable, and it starts to reap some of the rewards of printing at scale.
At the same time, board games are hot right now, and I think Rift is awesome. I absolutely cannot count on making my goal, let alone making more than my goal... but I can dream, too. (Not to mention responsibly plan ahead, so I don't end up one of those disaster stories of overwhelming Kickstarter success being a ruination.) If I can double up on my goal, then I can get really big and start following up on the quotes I got from big-name manufacturers. That lets me massively ramp up production without increasing the cost that much, which means having a ton of copies left over. That, in turn, means I'll end up with enough additional inventory that I can start selling them online, to game stores, or at conventions like Gen-Con - which might let me afford to do another printing, or create an expansion. Basically, if the stars align and I work hard enough (maybe not in that order), Kickstarter has the potential to start me off on a new, totally-awesome career.
I won't lie - that's part of Kickstarter's appeal. If I didn't have that bit of a dreamer built into me, I'd just look for a real job, right?
This is a point that's been driven home again and again and again in my other creative endeavors: External validation is important. In the theater, reviews matter, feedback matters, and the audience clapping at the end of the show matters. It feels good, true, but it's also a gauge of how well you're doing your job. In writing, it matters when magazines publish your stories or when you start winning contests. These things are not decided by accident, and it is a recognition that you're good at what you do, and that you're doing good work (which are not always the same thing).
If this Kickstarter is successful, then it will be a validation of the year of work I've done creating Rift, and all the time spent tweaking, redesigning, and fine-tuning the mechanics, testing it, and working with Emily on the art. It's not the only metric - there are a lot of reasons a Kickstarter can fail; like timing, or marketing, or the public just not being very interested, or Donald Trump being elected and the world being swallowed in fire (though, thankfully, the Kickstarter is scheduled to end before election day, so we'll probably be okay on that score). In the end, I don't think it's vain to admit that validation is important to me; just honest.
But probably the simplest reason is that a Kickstarter campaign is a good thing to focus one's energy around. The Kickstarter has a schedule; I decided to launch it now based on some statistics about when the most successful campaigns are launched, and it's a good time for me to run it in relation to my work schedule. The campaign has a solid start date, and that means I've got to finish everything before that. It has a solid end date, when I'll know exactly how much money I have to spend and how many games I need to make for people (assuming it succeeds, of course). Doing a Kickstarter is the opposite of having a pet project; it is a real, tangibly-scheduled thing, and that makes it exciting.
And like I said at the start: that's kind of the point.
So I'm doing a Kickstarter, and it starts in four days (barring any setbacks, of course). Stay tuned!