May 15, 2015 by crew
Kickstarter and crowdfunding is something quite new in many ways and the world has not entirely come to grips with it yet.
Both the marketplace as a whole and the legislators are still in the process of figuring it out and adapting to this new contender for our money. It is certain that we, in the forseeable future, will see changes to how things work as legislators around the world will soon be trying to regulate the crowdfunding phenomenon. There is simply too much money involved for them not to.
As of now it is far too easy to make off with backers’ money. Backers have uncertain legal standing in many areas as backing a kickstarter is not quite like buying from a shop. More on this in a bit.
One of the things that drew me into Kickstarting was the ability to patronize miniatures and games makers (no, not like condescend to! Well, maybe just a teeny bit that as well)!
There is a special feeling or sense of joy when helping bring something new into the world. This feeling gets tickled rather a lot when helping a creator make the dream come true by backing and taking part in the dream. Many backers get really into it through participating in the comments section and a sense of community grows around this.
Kickstarter lets you communicate directly with the creators, and often the creators actually listen to their backers, adapting and creating models and rules based on backer feedback. This amps up the community feeling considerably. However, there are drawbacks to be aware of…
Now we enter the Negative Zone…
What Kickstarter is Not
Kickstarter Is Not A Safe Bet
When you pledge you take a risk. You might get your rewards and all is well, or the rewards might turn out to be a massive disappointment with shoddy product of lesser quality than what you envisioned. You might get strung along with false promise after false promise, or you might even never hear from the creator again…
A KS campaign is like any other business proposition. It may or it may not happen even though you pay. Even when the creator seems solid and the campaign well run and presented, it might hit some snag that ruins everything and you loose your money. Even campaigns run by previously well known and long established companies encounter problems.
Almost all projects miss their estimated delivery dates. Such is the way of things. Do not pledge if you are not willing to risk the money and wait the long wait.
Kickstarter Is Not An Investment
You help fund a project, but you are not buying stock in the company. It does seem some people do not understand this. There is often a feeling of entitlement amongst backers that comes along with backing. Some backers seem to take things a little to personally and get, shall we say, entitlement about a project they have invested money, time and emotion into.
I have seen examples of backers trying rudely to dictate to a creator how they should run their campaign and what they should be making. Kickstarter does not make you a shareholder, part-owner or even get a vote. You are not actually entitled to be privy to every little business decision the creator makes. You pay your money, you wait the wait, and in the end get your reward together with the creators gratitude.
When that is done, the creator has no more obligations towards you as a backer. In this way, a backer is not much more than a glorified customer. Of course, savvy creators know to engage the backers and use them as a resource to build communities and get massive amounts of free word of mouth advertising!
Kickstarter Is Not A Shop
To pledge for a Kickstarter campaign you give money to the creator, expecting to get the promised reward when the project is finished. However, some people seem to view this as placing an order, as if they were simply buying stuff. This is not the case. You are paying money towards the creators project becoming a reality some time in the future. In fact, in most cases the products in question simply would not even be made if the backers did not pledge. The rewards you are promised are more like loyalty rewards given to good supporters…
Oh, who am I kidding?
In practice, most rewards are treated as pre-orders for planned goods that do not yet exist. You cannot simply cancel your order however because it is not an order for goods, it is a pledge of support for a business venture…blah blah blah. I will not bother with the legalese techno-babble. Nobody reads those walls-of-text user agreements anyways.
Kickstarter Is Not Accountable!
Kickstarter.com has terms that state that creators are obliged to fulfill their promised rewards. They do not seem to enforce those terms to make the creators deliver. When you get down to it, Kickstarter.com and the other sites themselves are only facilitators. They do not check the creators ability to deliver, and only a cursory examination of projects before launch happens.
They definitely do not let themselves be held accountable for anything to do with creators delivering on their promises or not. There is no help to be had there in case of creators not fulfilling their obligations to the backers.
But where does this leave the backers?
In real life backers are pretty much on their own if the creators make off with the money or otherwise fail to deliver. The sad fact of the matter is that the true legal standings of backers are yet to be established in cases where the creator has run a scam or otherwise failed to deliver said rewards. Not customers, not investors. Who do you turn to if you need help with a non-delivering and non-communicating creator?
That is just domestically. Multiply this by every country any affected international backers might be from and you have a morass of legal entanglements you would need an army of lawyers to even start to make sense of.
We eagerly await the first lawsuits to take place and establish some sort of precedence. Then the pro-bono class action law suits might start to happen. THEN we might see some accountability.
Well, this was just a long list of bad, scary things, wasn’t it?
So why does anybody dare to pledge when it is so risky? Because the rewards so often outweigh the risks! Apart from the masses and masses of less-expensive-than-retail product it is a good thing to be able to help some game or miniatures line you care about come into existence, knowing that it could not have happened without your help!
Also, Kickstarter leads to acute cases of the *NEW!* and *SHINY!* syndrome! It sparkles! Shut up and take my money already!
The Crowdfunding Controversy! (Simplified Version)
Not everyone agrees that Kickstarter is a good thing. Kickstarter.com started out as a way for budding artists and creative souls to get money to make their artsy project a reality but it quickly established itself as a platform for more established companies to get their commercial projects made, marketed and launched.
Some see such creators as cheating or undeserving while taking food out of the mouths of the struggling artist. Others see this as taking pre-orders and raking in the cash through direct sales!
This has caused a great deal of resentment with certain parties who say things like “company x has enough money and does not need to kickstarter to get things made” and more than a few distributors and retail shops have seen this as cutting them out of the money loop, leading to impromptu boycotts of said companies.
The usual defense is that the larger projects increase the amount of backers which lets said new backers discover the struggling artists’ projects and in turn back them. This actually puts food into the mouth of the artists and that without this funding, these games and minis would never have been made.
Or if they were made, they would only exist in small, stunted versions with far less options, rules and miniatures made for them. Also, You need to evolve to survive, Dinosaurs!
These things are certainly not entirely clear cut and this is a discussion (…flame war?) for another time and place. We will not go into this here. No. Don’t even start! Not listening! LALALALALALALALA! So there.
Next time…Kickstarterers! Beware the Mutant, the Heretic and the Xenos! Or, what should I consider before deciding on whether to pledge?
Part One: What Is Kickstarter & How Does It Work?
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"When you pledge you take a risk..."
"The sad fact of the matter is that the true legal standings of backers are yet to be established in cases where the creator has run a scam or otherwise failed to deliver..."