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We've Got the Fear
Convention season is upon us once more. Gencon and Essen are on the horizon and following close behind them are thousands of new releases. Our news feeds will be flooded by tantalising tabletop treasures, but with so many shiny baubles how do we avoid just buying the game that gets the biggest advertising splash, the most shoutouts on social media and the biggest names showing it off?
For years I've said Kickstarter reminds me of eBay, which was bat-shit crazy big when it first came out but became a flea market over time. It's still heavily used and I'm sure KS would love eBay's annual revenues. But I'm starting to think KS is different, more of a boutique store than a flea market. Not-sold-in-retail is a bit of a misnomer, because Kickstarter IS the retail. It's just an exclusive channel. I think they're pulling it off.
But here's the bigger issue for me personally. Influencers, paid or otherwise, can move an entire market with very little effort. This isn't just a boardgaming thing, it happens in stock markets, book sales, food brands, etc., and in many contexts it's illegal because it's such an easy way to bilk money from people. This is outside of Kickstarter's boundaries so they're not to blame. But considering that the products it's selling don't exist yet it's easy for a chosen few people to have an inordinate amount of influence on the market for a particular title. I think as much as anything that's at play here, whether the Influencers are aware of it or not. I've seen it happen in real life on a smaller scale.
I generally buy in the aftermarket so all of this is an academic exercise for me personally. But it's interesting to watch. Kickstarter itself IS a game, so it's the perfect marketplace for reaching out to boardgamers.
It is challenging but doable. I concentrate on the negatives. "How am I going to get rid of this now that the secondary market for games has tanked?" Also I make myself sigh with relief when there's no packages waiting at the door when I get home, and groan when there are, since that means I have to break down boxes and take them to the recycling bin.
I do think Kickstarter isn't doing itself any favours in recent years. The Claustrophobia Kickstarter was a great example of the platform turning itself into a shop and ignoring its own rules. There is nothing to guarantee they wont break their own new set of guidelines. I think Kickstarter is opening itself up for a clever lawyer to prove that it is a store, despite them claiming otherwise, and I wonder when, not if, that will happen.