The 2022 Kickstarter Autopsy

Normally, this time of year, I’d do a rundown of what I got from kickstarter in the previous year, what I had expected to arrive and what hadn’t arrived yet. What I’d received and what I thought of them, as a sort of general demonstration of the kinds of projects I’d been backing. It is, in my opinion, a good idea to do this kind of reflection and in my case I want to do it to have a good, reasonable analysis of the kinds of games I’m backing. I can tell myself that I support kickstarter because I want to make sure small industry-excluded voices get a shot, but if I actually mostly just back Reaper minis and the latest We Like It million-dollar plastic-fest, then I’m probably not lining up my self-image and my actual behaviour.

A wrench, however, has been thrown into this project.

Late 2021, Kickstarter, during the flurry of stupid posts from idiots trying to take money from bigger idiots, decided that they would be looking into ways to pivot to the blockchain. This idea was dabbled with, experimented with, teased and tested and cajoled and flirted and then suddenly the CEO of Kickstarter was replaced, and the new one said – to me, personally, on twitter! – no, we’re not doing that. Weird. I’d like a more reliable source than that but whatever.

The thing is, I figured that if I didn’t want kickstarter to do something I should do something to divest of it; I made a point that I was avoiding kickstarter because of their consideration of blockchain and would continue to do so until I had a clear sign that they were going to stop. That means that in 2022, I backed no new kickstarters, and all I got to deal with there were the results of 2021’s kickstarters. What games did I get? What arrived?

And what did I miss, because of this choice to divest?

Skytear Horde

Man, this game looked cool! It’s a solo game, and I don’t need a lot of those at the moment (even though I can make a case for how good solo games are as a way to get away from screens and engage the mind in an enjoyable way), but I still liked the look of a moba-style game with this vibrant aesthetic.

Of course, because this is made by an existing company that has retail avenues, I’ll probably be able to pick this up in a board game store. It’s got preorder prices, too.

Mina the Hollower

Perhaps a GBC-themed graphically simple adventure game about playing a cute mouse was simply too likely to be perfect for my personal tastes, but either way, this was a tiny indie videogame, and those are really desireable because there’s no real transport costs (the secret sting in all board game kickstarters).

This thing looked cute and it looked convenient and I dunno, was I going to be the reason this game got made? Probably not?

Thing is, Mina the Hollower is going to come to Steam. You know, the place I can already buy games really conveniently.

Astro Knights

Ooo, a cooperative deckbuilder against waves of enemies.But what makes this one really interesting to me is the mechanism where your deck doesn’t get shuffled. It’s an invisible kind of stress but you’d be surprised how many games think of shuffling as a free action, something that can be a serious concern for lots of players who don’t like shuffling, don’t want to be shuffling, and find that effort difficult. Game has a cool aesthetic, a good play pattern, I am pretty confident I wanted this one. And the kickstarter came and then went and I made sure I didn’t give in and back it, to maintain what I had asserted.

This is an Indie Board and Cards game, and they’re setting up to take preorders for when the game is available commercially.

Maul Peak

Hey, Skulk Hollow was a cool Pencil First game, and this is a sequel, which iterates on it. If I don’t have Skulk Hollow but I like the box form and the visual style, this would have been a great place to jump in. Plus, I like Pencil First Games – Eduardo Baraf works really hard to present a positive view of game making to the youtube community at large, and that’s a good thing.

Of course, since it’s a Pencil First Games, when it’s out, I’ll probably be able to buy it from their website.

Castles By the Sea

Here’s a painful one. When it was on kickstarter, the premise of this game was charming enough that I didn’t even notice the mechanics at first. The idea is that you’re a tiny civilisation of cute little people building homes in sandcastles, and so things in the game are like, crabs as full sized entities that you or I would know as tiny little crabs the size of your thumb. It has a building mechanism and a spatial control mechanism that tend to be satisfying but I cannot just get past the bottle-cap lilliputian style of themeing. There was a chance, in my mind, that this game wouldn’t succeed, the kickstarter would fail and I might miss my chance to have it.

Now, I can go preorder it from Brotherwise Games.

Battlecrest

Button Shy made a strategic positional game. They’ve made a few games like that and they tend to kick ass. I like them a lot, and I have a stack of Button Shy games that I have uh, failed to play. My physical game backlog is a problem, but not this problem.

Anyway, Battle Crest is a cool looking heads up duel game. I can rely on the ability of the developers, and I knew that it was a safe bet to back it because it would fulfill and I would get the game, and it would be high quality.

Lot like just buying a game at a store.

And now I can go buy it for retail on Button Shy’s website.

Paleo Vet

I backed Paleo Vet originally. I thought the game looked like a reasonably cute board game about dinosaurs and running a dinosaur park, a theme I like a lot because, shock horror, I like dinosaurs. It’s interesting that for a time there there was a nonzero chance I was going to have a collection of a bunch of games about running dinosaur parks (which right now is just Draftasaurus and Rawr And Write). Originally, when I backed Paleo Vet, it was to share with my youngest nibling, who is now remarkably different as a person because that’s what happens when games take three years to get made.

This is the one game where I don’t know if I’ll ever see it at a retail front-end now it’s succeeded. But also, the chances are, the need for it has passed me by.

Conclusions

Here’s my big conclusion: I didn’t miss any of these things.

This sucks! It sucks because I feel like the promise of kickstarter is that it lets you connect to small makers and give them the leg up to make things that are too big for an individual to pay for but not like business-level investment. A bunch of these businesses are small enough that they’re doing things like fulfilling kickstarter individually, putting games in envelopes and all, but mostly, these are still established games that will becoming to retail entities.

I’m not saying kickstarter can’t do what it was doing! I think by divesting of kickstarter, and no longer browsing it for lots of weird things in the low-end of attention the way I used to do. When I was only looking at the site occasionally, at a surface level, what I found was mostly the most successful things from reliable producers…

Which just made kickstarter a really bad preorder service that relies on me making mediocre decisions.

It’s really restructured how I think about the system. I think the thing I have to do, going on, is to make sure I’m following streams of information that developers are contributing to; hashtags on sites that I can trust, small spaces where people are going to share the examples of their work. As with so many of these things, relying on the algorithm just gives you what an algorithm can easily show.

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