Musings: Crowdfunding and its purpose

This post comes courtesy of a mixed-up set of beliefs and a new card game: Audatia, a medieval swordfighting card game.  Let me be clear – this has nothing to do with the actual substance of the game/its playability or my feelings about the authors/etc.  This is more a general musings article trying to sort out some weird dissonances in my own mind.

The Kick-Off Point

I learnt about Audatia via mutual friends in the sword-fighting business.  I looked over the campaign, saw their breakdown on how they were going to spend the money, and my hackles raised.  I found it off-putting.  When I discussed this with Kaja, she pointed out I was being weird.

The issue that I brought up was the fact that a large portion of the funds raised (11,000 Euros) was being used for artwork, rulebook design and packaging.  Only a small portion of the actual funds (4,000 Euros) was being used to fund the actual printing.  That seemed high and just weird.

However, as Kaja pointed out, they are using crowd-funding for exactly what it is meant to do — raise funds for a limited-demand passion project.  They aren’t using it as a pre-order system as much, it really is to raise funds to do their passion project.

Still… it stuck in my craw.

Pre-Order or Crowdfunding

Don’t get me wrong – I understand the concept of crowd-funding for raising capital. In fact, I’ve supported a number of projects based on that – from video games (Wasteland 2) to movies (Veronica Mars) to small businesses (a random lady trying to buy a better machine stamp) and of course, a few board games and the obligatory comic book reprints.

In the vast majority of the cases, I knew I was throwing money at a project that I just wanted seen done.  In some cases, the chances of actual completion was low, but I thought it was something I should support.  Whether it was the online comic reprints for artists/stories I’ve been reading ‘free’ for ages or just to support a friend, how the money was going to be spent didn’t matter.

Yet, this project; it mattered.  I had, somehow, drawn a line in the sand in my head that said board games should be spending most of their money on printing/shipping cost.

Skin in the Game

Musing about it, I think it’s a matter of skin in the game.  As a business owner, I have a lot of skin in this business.   If we ever went out of business, I don’t even want to think about how much I would have lost – both in ‘real’ funds as well as opportunity/time cost.  I have a significant ‘skin’ in this game, which makes me eat/breathe/live this business.

Outside of actual game idea, rules and play-testing (which is in many ways a ‘hidden’ cost as some games obviously haven’t had enough play-testing), sinking funds into the artwork and design is a publisher’s skin in the game.  If a publisher isn’t willing to sink their own funds into a game, what right do I have to believe that they are committed to this?

Of course, skin can also manifest in other ways.  A dancer who has spent 10 – 15 years of their lives training has a lot of skin already when they ask for money to fund a production.  An online comic artist has sunk their time producing the strips, the developers in Wasteland 2 have their professional reputations at stake, etc.

Last Thoughts

I guess for me, board games crowd-funded should at least have their artwork paid for.  It’s obviously not the same minimum level – Guy Winsdor has a reputation to protect too (in the Western Martial Arts community) so it’s not as if he doesn’t have ‘skin’ in the game.  Yet, I guess I am holding them up to a different standard because they are doing board games, probably because I see so many games published with constant delays / etc.