In one of Paul Beakley’s #INDIEGAMEaDAY2016  posts, Dan Maruschak made a comment in which he said:

I have no idea is this is true or just me projecting, but I think that while Kickstarter has been good at lubricating financial transactions it means that the hype cycle doesn’t reach crescendo when the games are in an actual playable state so the games get less play than they would have with a more conventional publishing model.

This has been rattling around my head since I read it, as it feels true to me — though I have no data to draw on except my own experiences. I definitely feel the most fired up when a project I care about is launching, and ebbs only a tiny bit as it closes on funding and/or stretch goals are hit.

But after that? When the product finally delivers — possibly years later? I’m pretty much all: “Oh, hey, I remember that.”

It could simply be that I’m too conditioned to Western consumerism, and thus I enjoy the purchasing more than that actual owning. It also could be that I just get so little time to play that most games I back just sit on a shelf, waiting to be read.

Still, I think there’s something to Dan’s observation.

32 thoughts on “In one of Paul Beakley’s #INDIEGAMEaDAY2016  posts, Dan Maruschak made a comment in which he said:

  1. Yeah, I think that’s about right. And by the time a game drops, especially the ones that have long post-KS development cycles, my magpie-brain has already moved on to the new-new-hotness.

    When Blades in the Dark was funding, we played the heck out of the first few drafts of the playtest kit. Now, when it’s presumably getting close to actually appearing in its final form, I’m thinking about other things.

    It would be like if movie trailers came out a year and a half before the movie, but then were nowhere to be seen the week of the release date.

  2. Blades in the Dark was funding, we played the heck out of the first few drafts of the playtest kit. Now, when it’s presumably getting close to actually appearing in its final form, I’m thinking about other things. It would be like if movie trailers came out a year and a half before the movie, but then were nowhere to be seen the week of the release date.]]>

  3. Adam D  FWIW, same thing happened to me regarding Blades. The hype at the time of the Kickstarter was very high. Played a bunch of the first iterations. Now my enthusiasm for the final product has waned a lot.

    I have no idea if there’ll be a huge amount of people rearing to play it when the final form drops.

  4. Divided on this. I could see it being true, but it also feels pretty speculative.

    Like, a thing I wonder is, how much of the “played the early draft version of it” is what we’re seeing? Like, if Adam D and Eloy Cintron had done Blades through the normal chain — would they have played more? Or would they have played the same amount, just with more book behind it? Or would they never have played because it was just some shit someone was talking about on a forum?

    I think about this with Urban Shadows sometimes. As I’ve played a metric fuckton of that game. But much of it (most?) was before the final book came out. But there’s no way I would have played more of it if I’d had to wait for the book. So, to me, that one feels less like “hype drop” and more like “maybe I don’t actually need a whole book to play a game if your play materials are good enough and I know your engine already.”

    I also wonder how much of it is just a more visible form of the standard expectation cycle? Like you get so hyped about Dogs in the Vineyard when Judd is talking about it on the Forge and then when you actually get it, maybe it takes you a year to actually play. Between “hyped by my dreams and hopes” and “have actual product, faced with limitation of actual time” there’s always a gap. Perhaps this just makes us more aware of it?

    Still… I don’t feel this is entirely without base. I’d also say Kickstartering most games probably does feed fads and trends in a way — seeing what other games are drawing in money and attention in a visible, put a dollar figure that’s public on it way lets everyone know which games sell.

    (It doesn’t actually, but it lets people think they know.)

  5. Happened to me every single time. I don’t back a lot of KS because every single time, when it arrived, I was underwhelmed and not satisfied. This even when the finished product was on time, exactly as promised and objectively good.  And I know that if I had received it the day I pledged, I would have been totally satisfied (sadly, I  can’t say the same for some of the KS I backed, but that’s not the issue here)
    Enthusiasm ride a wave, and I can’t sustain it so long. The way the KS model works, you get the social pressure, the pumping of the expectations, the excitement, months before you get the item. And when it arrive… nobody talks about it anymore. We don’t like to admit how much out own enthusiasm depends on being reflected on the others around us, but it does. Often when I get the item I have no desire to play it anymore.

    Compare to the old indie model: I heard about a game, usually from a post on the forge or storygames. I did read about it, usually from the playtesting stage. Talks increased when playtests got good results, until people were waiting for the game. That was published (in the best scenario) exactly at the peak of expectations, when everybody wanted to play it
    It had its own problems (the fads, the “darling of the months”), that were caused by TOO MUCH enthusiasm probably. But it made people excited.

    I buy a lot less games these days.

  6. yeah, Brand Robins  is right. My statement is totally anecdotal and does not take into account my own biases/habits/etc.

    1. I DO have Gamers ADD, and it’s usually accentuated around very focused games (like Blades, or DitV) where you do one specific thing. After a couple of sessions, it starts to feel repetitive to me, so I tend to change to something else. I played 9 sessions of DitV and I don’t think I’m going back to it until at least a couple of years have gone by…

    2. I avoid beta testing videogames like the plague. If I play something out, I have to put it down and wait a while for it to catch my interest again. We’re talking >6-9 months at least. I did get some 6 sessions of BitD beta testing… ADD, I tell you.

    3. I probably wouldn’t have picked up the game in the first place if there hadn’t been hype about it. I saw people linking it on G+ for a while when the kickstarter went live, but it was a couple of weeks later, when I heard Sage LaTorra and Adam Blinkinsop describing and praising it on their podcast that I looked into it. I was hooked by love of the source material which inspired it.

    4. Had I picked it up as a finished product, would I have played it more? Dunno, but the more I think about it, Blades deals with some of my favorite fantasy novel material, and draws from some of my favorite sources: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, the Vlad Taltos books, and the Locke Lamora books, as well as some Thieves’ World. I think I WILL wait for the final product to drop and then take it for a spin. Heck, just reading what has changed should prove interesting enough.

    So, is there a Kickstarter hype-drop effect? Maybe. I’ve had the feeling Mark describes on games that I backed and never touched again even after the final product dropped. Jury’s still out on that one.

  7. 6-9 months at least. I did get some 6 sessions of BitD beta testing… ADD, I tell you. 3. I probably wouldn’t have picked up the game in the first place if there hadn’t been hype about it. I saw people linking it on G+ for a while when the kickstarter went live, but it was a couple of weeks later, when I heard Sage LaTorra and Adam Blinkinsop describing and praising it on their podcast that I looked into it. I was hooked by love of the source material which inspired it. 4. Had I picked it up as a finished product, would I have played it more? Dunno, but the more I think about it, Blades deals with some of my favorite fantasy novel material, and draws from some of my favorite sources: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, the Vlad Taltos books, and the Locke Lamora books, as well as some Thieves’ World. I think I WILL wait for the final product to drop and then take it for a spin. Heck, just reading what has changed should prove interesting enough. So, is there a Kickstarter hype-drop effect? Maybe. I’ve had the feeling Mark describes on games that I backed and never touched again even after the final product dropped. Jury’s still out on that one.]]>

  8. Moreno Roncucci “social pressure”, yes! The hype, the time-limit of the funding campaign, and seeing the KS campaign shares in my feed enacts a kind of FOMO-based pressure that I never remember feeling back in the day.

    And all of that evaporates by the time the actual game ships. The exceptions have been so rare — Dungeon World is the biggest indie example I can think of. But I remember that getting lots of hype before the KS, and KS was pretty new back then.

  9. This is unfortunate but doesn’t seem at all strange. RPGs are a big time commitment from a group, so hype is really valuable at creating the multi-person interest necessary for a small, new game to displace the familiar incumbents at a table.

  10. Eh. I lived through the 80s and 90s and can say there was plenty that didn’t get enough play and still hit those shelves.

    All I’m really seeing is the same thing that was emphasized early 2000s on the Forge: Make sure you have the game almost completely designed before you worry about publishing and selling it. (Look up discussions around “ashcan editions” for some things folks were trying to do to get enough playtesting going before a finished product. Also, a couple of folks tried pre-orders…and that had a lot of the same issues/benefits that Kickstarter had.)

    The big difference is that Kickstarter’s set up encourages people to sell their idea on the most optimistic plans, with too many not-well-researched bonus goals, and no real system to actually make you have to deliver on any product, much less a good product.

    On the consumer side, the hypetrain is layered: 1) the basic idea always sounds good, the actual details of the delivered thing might not, 2) “Because I see so many other people have supported this, I know there’s a player base I could reach and play with, if I buy this game.” 3) “I’m going to be one of the cool kids who gets the new thing when it first comes out!”