The following is a guest post/rant from my good friend Greg from the Fawcett Ave Conscripts. One of the many things I really enjoy about Greg is listening to him when he gets a bone in his craw about something. While I may not always agree with his perspective, the resulting tirades are typically explosive and always entertaining. Known for snapping his crayons about Sony, C-3PO, WH40K and prone figures, Greg has recently expressed exasperation regarding the proliferation of "Kickstarter" projects in the hobby. I largely agree with his positon on the topic and, for fun, I've asked (read: incited) Greg to share his opinions with us...
The Internet has certainly revolutionized modern communications and changed a lot about our day to day lives. Much of this is for the better. Thanks to the Internet, I can collect all sorts of fun figs, and communicate with other great gamers all over the world. But some Internet things are really, really annoying. For the latest evidence of this tendency I look no further than the recent proliferation of Kickstarter projects in the hobby.
They have spread, flu-like, from postings on TMP, to my own email box, all with the same "Look at this-or-that Kickstarter". Some of these notions are neat. Some are ridiculous. Some have clearly had work put into them, with greens sculpted, and masters ready. As far as I'm concerned, put them on the same pile of indifference.
In theory, crowd funding (to borrow the buzzword before it hits the bin) is a great thing for the hobby, right? A way to show those sculptors and game companies what we really want! Wow! Strike up another life-affirming transformation for the gosh dang Internets!
1. This is not new
Kickstarter is getting attention in the general media, not just in the hobby area. And these media stories all refer to it as "new". Always remember, by the time the media are telling you something is "new", it's not even close.
The concept of user-driven/pledge of for production is not new. Eureka has had something like this for years. There is also Wargames Factory. Both efforts managed to produce products of varying use and quality. Both produced a similar phase of "check out my submission" posts and tidal waves of solicitations and I would wager both foreshadow the fate of the Kickstarter spam, which is that most of these projects will never, ever appear.
|Still waiting for this particular Kickstarter to appear on TMP...|
Yes, they have greens. Yes, they have masters made. Yes - many of these get fully funded - even overshoot on the funding by a large amount. But most of these things will never, ever be finished, even with the hearty support of the proposed customers. This is not because the proponents are frauds (although the Kickstarter medium overall will be vulnerable to this) but because even the best intentions of current, hard-working top sculptors and figure companies working with a sure-fire product still BARELY get made.
For evidence, just look at how long it takes for the Perrys to have stuff from their work bench appear for sale. A year? More in some cases? I don't even look at the Perry greens any more. Is this because the Perrys are bad? Of course not! I love their stuff, and they provide great service. But they are constrained by reality - getting the moulds made, getting it ready for sale.
On the sci-fi side, go check out the 15mm "Doe Gunship" from Khurasan models. For a long time, sci-fi fans of Khurasan' Red Faction NF not-Soviets (and I am a HUGE fan) have pined for a VTOL gunship that essentially looks like a Hind. Who doesn't love the menacing Hind attack helicopter? A sci-fi version would sell like hot cakes. The outstanding fellow who runs Khurasan knows this, and has been labouring to get the Doe for sale for at least a year, maybe more. Pre-production test models have appeared, but even now it is still not available, even though it will sell out in five seconds once it is.
Kickstarter was orginally a way to allocate funds to venture capital, a type of investment that, as a rule, is defined by the failure of the overwhelming majority of its projects (that's OK - it's important that these things are tried). So what proportion of these things are ever going to get made?
Of course some Kickstarter projects will come through, but these will be the exceptions that prove the rule. Bottom line is that if Perrys, Khurasan and other very legitimate folks have to take a long time to bring solid, high-demand figs and models to the market, why should be we believe these little Kickstarters will have any better time of it? Which brings me to my next point...
Before you smash your keyboard on this one, hear me out. The central premise of something like Kickstarter is to connect funding (money) with ideas. To put this in the hobby context, we would pledge our money to the "28mm KISS Rock Band Armed With Late War German AT Weapons And Pikes" Kickstarter, and the figures would be cast because the money is there for them.
But financial allocation isn't the issue in the hobby. We're not rich - far from it. But as businesses such as GW, Battlefront, GHQ and Foundry have repeatedly proven, people will pay for $75 rule books and $40 character models and all the rest. Like anything else, we will pay for a product we value.
Do all of us run out and stock up on Forgeworld? Of course not! We have our favourites, and our price points. And we complain about the prices (myself definitely included). But gamers will pay for nice stuff. Kickstarter trying to line up money for interesting figures is solving a problem that is not really there. Money is a problem for me - but not for the hobby.
You might respond, however, that Kickstarter offers sculptors/mini makers a more certain view of what the market is looking for, because as a web-based tool it has such a broad-based appeal and reach. My response to that is...
|"Here is my money! Please sculpt some one-armed emo trench coat infantry with panzerfausts!"|
4. Crowds are idiots
This whole wiki-ocracy notion that web-enabled masses somehow contain any inherent wisdom that is not otherwise present is simply ridiculous. First of all, crowds of web users are no more inherently "wise" than the crowd of people at the Blue Bombers game. Second, even though there are fearsomely smart people present at the Bomber games, I would never expect them to somehow act as a group to fix a problem or find a solution to anything. Not even for football-related issues. If the crowd is calling for the backup QB to go into the game, we're probably wrong (yes I still wanted the backup to play...).
Throwing money into the mix just makes it worse - remember, the crowds were sure Facebook shares were a gold mine, just to take one recent example.
|Potential for 28mm gaming? Hmmmm.....|
|"It's on Kickstarter, so I can kick it for sure now...."|
Of course, I'm just a curmudgeon, so I'm sure this trend will continue until its well and proper flamed out. And some of these "Kickstarter" figures will be made, and purchased. Dallas sent me a note about someone trying to get 28mm hockey players made. I'm a huge hockey fan (cue the Canadian stereotype), and would eagerly purchase hockey player figures just to paint them up for kicks. A Force on Force game with several Toronto Maple Leaf players as objectives of some sort (needing to be rescued from their day care or emotional therapists, for example) would be fun. I'm sure that particular Kickstarter will get funded - but I won't hold my breath waiting for the figures...