Hype, cost and loyalty

I’m fairly new to board gaming but I’ve noticed a tendency for certain games to generate hype before or shortly after release. These get glowing reviews, but then after a while the negative reviews roll in. Examples that spring to mind are Gloomhaven, Terraforming Mars and Scythe. Personally I’d rather wait a while, let the price fall and wait for a more balanced response from users. Thoughts?

On BGG I also read an interesting debate on what was better Gloomhaven or Kingdom Death:Monster. Most people had voted slighted in Favour of Gloomhaven but in the comments people were more vociferous in support of Kingdom Death. Gloomhaven is retailing between £100-£130 and KDM about five times this! I’m interested in your thoughts on the physcology of loyalty based on investing heavily in something.

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That’s a great question.

It’s interesting to me that all of those examples were massive kickstarter campaigns. Kickstarter has a lot of potential for small or medium developers/publishers to get their game out there, but it’s got some inherent problems For example, in order to get enough people interested you have to have a really solid game and be able to hype it to the hilt.

Then you’ve got the problem of stretch goals; people expect you to have a plan if you exceed your funding, and the easiest thing to do is to put in higher quality components and flashier bit and bobs. People often in a few Kickstarter exclusives. The problem here is that one of these things guarantee the game is going to be any better. And kickstarter exclusives can feel like punishing people who want to buy your game after the kickstarter is finished but either didn’t know about it beforehand or didn’t have the cash at the time. Worse, a lot of kickstarter games aren’t readily available at retail.

The vociferous part is intriguing too - people feel invested in a game. If someone has seen the early promise of a kickstarter and thrown a bunch of money at it, they’re much more likely to stand up for it. Lots of fantastic reviwes flood in - People are fiercely loyal of Kingdom Death, but once you remove the vast amount of minis and cards, I’m not really sure that the game stands up. (I should point out this is from the outside, I’ve not played it). So the next wave of players come in and feel cheated - it’s an ok game, not the most wonderful game ever. And then they lash out in reviews. Kingdom Death goes from the greatest game ever to an interesting but flawed game to everything that’s wrong with board games.

There’s a few ways around this as a consumer - avoid Kickstarter unless (a) you know the game really well, (b) you really trust this developer and © you can afford to throw money at it only to find out it doesn’t work well as a game. Find reviewers you really trust - the kind of people that can like or dislike a game and you instantly know how you’ll feel about it.

As a developer, be really transparent with your potential backers and avoid the temptation to use stretch goals to make the game flashier and stuff it with minis. Make the game better and add more depth to it.

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I must admit I’ve never played any of the games listed and I think the consensus is that they are generally decent games but not nearly as good as the this ‘will be the best game ever’ hype that came along with them. For me, there are just so many good games out there that I can avoid kick-starter and choose widely praised games.

Good point about hype being a product of kickstarter and how the backing model works. Absolutely agree with looking at kickstarter and feeling cheated as different extras are not included or often because the game can be a lot cheaper. Kickstarter is generally a wonderful thing for giving people a chance and I guess students on the course may intend to use it as a launch platform.

I almost feel that Kickstarter has been a victim of its own success - it can be a wonderful thing for new designers, but it’s also easy to make promises that you suddenly realize you can’t deliver on. It’s easier for larger, established companies to use kickstarter well, but it can leave a bad taste in the players’ mouth - why is this large, successful publisher using this indie crowdfunding model?

When looking at why people are excited about a game, I find it most useful to figure out what’s exciting them about it and then look at if that’s relevant to me. I’ve no particular interest in Kindgom Death Monster, because the things that excite the game’s big fans aren’t things I really care about. Same with Exploding Kittens or Cards Against Humanity. On the other hand, I’ve raved about games like Catacombs and Escape the Curse of Temple, brought them to the table and seen the games fall flat.

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That’s happened a few times to me with MTG, thought they’d love the game. I think if I’d stripped some of the complexity / card types out it would have been an easier and more competitive learning experience.

Very likely. Of course, no game is for everyone, so it might be that either the theme or the core mechanic just won’t work for someone.

I think one thing to keep in mind with the above games, in particular, is without Kickstarter they likely would not exist today due to the costs involved with creating the game. Big boxes on shelves is not a model that works well in retail stores. Lots of little boxes that take up less space is where the profit lies (Magic and X-Wing are great examples).

For KDM. The base game is around $400USD, however for the full experience with all game play expansions will set you back over a few thousand dollars (the gamer’s bundle was $1650). Investing that much money into anything will make people, well, invested. I personally liked the idea of the game play, but was not interested in the theme or willing to invest in the full experience.

I definitely agree that the stretch goal creep can be massive with Kickstarter games, however I think another problem at the moment is projects are put up at a value that only makes sense if the project smashes the goal rather than funding at 100% to unlock pre-planned stretch goals. It rings hollow when you look at the project.

Overall, I think Kickstarter has been good for the board game industry. Love or hate it; it has allowed some companies like CMON to have an effective pre-order system with savings to the customers (A CMON Kickstarter pledge plus shipping is cheaper than the retail version of the core game in Australia). Large scale games like Gloomhaven, The Edge: Dawnfall, Middara, Folklore: Affliction, KDM and Sine Tempore that would have been difficult to get publisher backing due to game scale and complexity are being funded. This is increasing the number of RPGs in a box available for those interested in a game with a story outside of PC games.

As for hype. It definitely happens and if you look at Stonemaier games blog you can see why the good projects try to hype their games (PS. I am glad this was mentioned in the group discussion, I have been getting a lot out of it). The slot a game sits at on BGG on the hotness list has a fairly direct link with games smashing Kickstarter funding goals. From a backer perspective it is worth taking a step back and evaluating the project on the information and not the hype. Keep in mind that you need to wait a while for the hype to die down when big games are released as well before you will get a well rounded review. This is because again the higher on the BGG hotness list the more likely backers can sell their pledges for profit.

At the end of the day Kickstarter is a risk of investment based on whether you believe the creator can live up to your expectations. The bonus for board games is most will have rules to read through so you can get a good idea if the underlying mechanics work. Several will have print and play or TTS scenarios. Personally I have been burned and pleasantly surprised by the projects I have received.

In my opinion the biggest benefit to backing projects that fit your personal niche is it is more likely another project will be created in the future that you may find interesting. You are effectively voting with your wallet and saying there is a market available for a specific theme, mechanic or style of game.

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Loyalty is a very important thing in any relations. When I wrote my term paper on that last summer, i was reading this this resource to get different points of view. And it concerns not only personal relations but also business. I think that if everyone follows this ‘rule’, there will not be so many misunderstandings and conflict issues.