Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why I Hate Stealth Kickstarters

Again this comes up, so again I find myself thinking about it and this time I think that I have to work out my thoughts in a post. I know that people are going to argue about this, fair enough. Everyone is entitled to their opinions on these matters, even when they disagree with me.

You're probably wondering what this "stealth Kickstarter" that I'm so upset about actually is. As a matter of fact I've already had my wording "attacked" by having someone say that these things aren't being hidden, so they can't be stealth. I use the term stealth in this regard to describe introducing a secondary project (whether as a stretch goal or as a pledge level) into a primary project (the project that is being Kickstarted). The first time this happened (and caused me to not back a project) was with Frog God Games and their Kickstarter for a new edition of their Swords & Wizardry Complete rules. They had a pledge level that allowed backers to purchase a monster book unrelated to actual project. The second time that I noticed this was with Robin Laws' Kickstarter for Hillfolk added a stretch goal that when reached would release the Gumshoe system under and open license of some sort. Just as a note, Hillfolk isn't a Gumshoe game.

I get that this is a marketing ploy to pull another demographic into paying for a project. Is it legal, by the standards of Kickstarter's guidelines? I'm not entirely sure, but I'm not a lawyer or a legal expert. I just know what I know from reading the guidelines on the Kickstarter site. I have decided to send a request for clarification on this point to Kickstarter, so hopefully I will hear something back. If that happens, I will update this post accordingly.

Some would say that I am using this as a justification as a reason to not back projects that I wasn't planning on backing already. That's not the case. I get that a lot of people aren't interested in the principals of how they spend their money. I'm not one of those people.

This quote comes directly from Kickstarter's guidelines page. After the quote I am going to use, what may seem to some to be tortured logic to get to a point.
A project has a clear goal, like making an album, a book, or a work of art. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be produced by it. A project is not open-ended. Starting a business, for example, does not qualify as a project.

One of the problems that I have with stretch goals (and I have more than one problem, but that is likely for another blog post) is that I think they turn a discrete project into something open ended. I know, tortuous logic, but it is part of the problem that I have with the process. Also, stretch goals tend to turn more into swag than what I think they should be...making the project stronger/faster/better. If a project makes more money than what the project manager needs then that additional money should go into making the project better, whether that is via more/better art, high page count, additional material from other creators. I do not think that it should go to doing things that are unrelated (like releasing other systems under an open license). Yes, I know that people are going to disagree with me, but I don't care.