Friday, June 5, 2015

Chaosium, Kickstarters, and Idiots

The recent shake-up at Chaosium has opened up some old wounds from supporters.

No, that's not right, for while some are picking at scabs of old wounds, the disasters pertaining to existing Kickstarters have never gotten a chance to scab over, and continue to fester.

First off, there was the Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter, which might be the perfect example of what pledges want from a Kickstarter, yet what companies should avoid.  There are so many add-ons, pledge levels, and stretch goals that it turned a potentially functional Kickstarter into a morass of pain and financial loss.   

The new edition of Horror was going to be big ($60 big at least), but the finished product turned out to be the morbidly obese love child of two Ogre Designer Edition Boxed Sets.  When Amazon is selling this product for $119.95, you know there is no way a they made money on any part of this product.

And they absorbed most of the shipping costs.

Now, I'm a huge proponent of including S&H in whatever pledge levels you create.    I hate clicking on a level, only to find that I have to fork over another $10 to actually have it arrive at my door.  With a $60 revamp of the adventure, the company absorbing the $8-9 for shipping domestically isn't a bad decision.    They would normally sell to a distributor at roughly 50% of MSRP so they would still make a nice profit towards each pledge.  Turn it into an 8.4 pound behemoth to ship with a $119.95 MSRP, and they're losing money with every order.

And then there's those damn furriners...

Foreign orders only needed to pay $10 for S&H and $20 if they order add-ons.    This was the overweight straw that broke the camel's back.  With the Kickstarter bloat, it should have been readily apparent to all parties that $20 wouldn't cover it's shipment on a slow boat to China (I checked, cheapest shipping to China was $62.95 and that box would have zero packing materials inside to protect it).    By the time assembly, packing, and miscellaneous tasks that they didn't calculate were considered, it appears that each international order create a net LOSS of $50 per copy.

But that's my pitiful calculations, it might not have been as bad.  Or it might be far, far worse.

For the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition campaign, I saw less bloat, but a convoluted S&H system that shouldn't destroy profitability.  Merely printing the books might do that.   Too many special edition levels and other gee-gaws are just a logistical nightmare for a book that will be over styled and over-hyped (in my general opinion).

I'm waiting for a full report from Greg and Sandy on the state of the company once they get enough time to sufficiently dig around and figure out what happened , but assuming some issues with international shipping on Horrors and printing with 7th, and I'm surprised Chaosium exists more than than just a whisper in the shadows.

But let's be honest, the people pledging were as unrealistic as Chaosium's accounting?   A giant, and still growing boxed set AND they're covering shipping (less $20 in most cases)?   You're all delusional..     You're more delusional to think that a complete rewrite of a classic scenario, and a complete overhaul of the rules system (including playtesting) were going to make the pie-in-the-sky delivery dates provided.

So, let's look at my Kickstarters:
  • Car Wars Arenas  (Sched: June '15) was a minor pledge and it arrived a month early.
  • Scavengers (Sched: June '15)  Were in editing last month, this month's update should be close to wrapping up.  I have confidence I will have a pdf copy of the game on my hard drive well before the end of summer
  • Pyramid of the Lost King (Sched: June '15) was a whim to support a local writer.  They've been honest that they've been missing deadlines, but it's by days, not months.   I expect the product out by the fall, but I doubt I'll ever get to where I'm acquiring torches and pitchforks.
  • Horrors of War (Sched: February '15)  This one I only threw in a buck of support, but there's no word on progress for this one.  Then again, the only people that have a right to complain are first-time customers for any Pagan products.  The trials, tribulations, and delays of Pagan Publishing are far more well-known (in my circles) than those of Chaosium.  Some of you actually expected product delivered on time?  Morons.
  • Atlantis: Theragraphica (Sched: December '14) Another dollar pledge, but books shipped out in February '15.
  •  Age of Cthulhu 8 HC (Sched: October '14) All product shipped out by December '14. 
  • Darkest Star Games - 15mm tanks (Sched: July '14) Another dollar pledge.  Shipping started in July '14 and finished in August. 
  • Marauder Task Force (Sched Dec '14) Another dollar pledge.  No documented end in sight with this one.
  • City State of the Invincible Overlord  (Sched Dec '14) Another dollar pledge, another no end in sight.  I chose wisely on this one.
  • Reaper Bones II  (Schedu Dec '14) Each pledge level was delayed two months, and this one drove me crazy.  Why?  Because all of the "companies" listed above, Reaper, with all it's prior experience, should have been a seamless project with zero delays. 
  • Tanner Jones & the Quest for the Monkey Stone (Sched Jan '15) ARRIVED BEFORE CHRISTMAS!  Travis Hanson had perfect communication and the best printer I have ever seen.  I'm not a total fan of his Bean comic, but I'll pledge for projects like this and his artbooks in a heartbeat.
Do I sound somewhat nuts with that last one?  I should, it was a more than acceptable delay, even for such a large and professional company.   The fun thing is, I watched people lose there shit with this online moreso than the Chaosium pledges. 

On the flip side, I'm perfectly calm with...
  • RAFM Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Miniatures (Sched Dec '14)  Shipping will begin on June 22nd.  Why am I not tossing feces against the wall with this delay, even with obscure communication that would make the CoC RPG pledges riot?  RAFM set up a fair campaign, everyone knew full well that a lot of these were new sculpts that had not been finished, and finally, they're freakin' beautiful.  So as long as I don't TPK my investigators in my Masks game in the next few weeks, some of these folks might make an appearance.   I hope the shoggoth does.

My last two Kickstarters come from the the man who will either save CoC publishing, or put it to shame forever.
Oscar Rios and Golden Goblin Press know how to run a Kickstarter domestically, and after figuring out the issues with Crescent City's campaign, I hope the stop running into international snafus.  The books are high qualify, but not overblown.  The rewards are interesting, but don't break the bank for publisher or consumer.   They also follow the one key rule to a successful Kickstarter:  the bulk of their production is finished or getting finished before they launch.  My experience with Crescent City convinced me to jump into De Horrore Cosmico, and I don't play Invictus (yet...)  I'll be happy to make my first day pledge on Tales of the Caribbean this Fall, and the follow-up Horror on the Lincoln Highway (tba).

Perhaps I've spent too much time in gaming and comic retail to not expect delays and to see traditional solicitation get reconfigured and resolicited multiple times before they ever get close to a store shelf.    Perhaps I'm just amazed in a world where everyone is cynical about the most altruistic things,  1,246 backers pledged $122,874 towards  The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, an Lovecraftian expansion of Monopoly by some company no one ever heard of?  The fifty and seventy-five dollar options are far nicer than say, Penn State Monopoly, but what did you people expect?

Contrary to popular belief, and even Kickstarter's terms and conditions, I view crowdsourcing as an anticipated risk.  The companies should be doing Kickstarters as a way to release products that otherwise would not be made, not solely to expand print runs and quality (although they are a fringe benefit of the process). I will never make a pledge towards a campaign that I can't afford... or afford to lose if everything goes belly up.  For most of my gaming purchases, the FLGS will do just fine.  When that doesn't work, Amazon will be happy to take my money.

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