While from a publisher’s point of view, there is no real downside to Kickstarter, from a retailer’s point of view, there is almost no upside to the process, at least at the basic level at which crowdfunding works.
Conisder, the publisher lists a game on Kickstarter, or IndieGoGo, or some other crowdfunding site, gets pre-orders for it, collects funding, produces the game and ships it out. Yes, there is more to it than that, but the publisher is selling their games to the customers who are most primed and ready to buy them. At least one publisher that uses Kickstarter extensively has said they have moved their business model to a crowdfunding platform. The company develops a game, puts it on Kickstarter, pre-sells 500-1000 copies, then, instead of keeping the game in print, develops another one and launches it via Kickstarter.
From the retailer’s point of view, stores see games coming up on Kickstarter and watch as they fund, with the opportunity to stock them occurring weeks or even months after those who participated in the Kickstarter receive their copies. Assuming the typical print RPG sells 300-500 copies of a print run while small press boardgames sell 500-1000 copies, almost all of that demand gets satisfied by the Kickstarter campaign, leaving little demand left for distributors and retailers to satisfy. Unless the game attracts a lot of post production buzz, such as Brotherwise Games Boss Monster, a Kickstarter funded game has already seen most of its sales during the campaign, leaving only a few potential sales through the distribution channel and lots of unsold Kickstarted games sitting on the shelf.
A number of Kickstarter campaigns do offer retailer tiers, wherein the retailer commits to purchasing several copies of the game, delivered at the same time as other supporters, at a discount comparable to what the store would get if purchasing the game through distribution. This does require the retailer to tie up precious capital for several months, waiting for the product to release. Other Kickstarter campaigns, if the retailer commits to purchasing a certain number of copies of the game, have arranged to take payment and ship the game at the same time as it ships to the regular backers, putting it on the shelves while buzz still exists about it.
The big benefit that Kickstarter provides to retailers is the potential to develop an unending flow of new games and related products, some of which will prove comparatively successful in the distribution channel, such as 13th Age, and some which will not, such as Kill the Overlord. The case then becomes how much scarce time the store can allocate to determining which is which.
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