Amidst other news, like the mighty Sean Fannon moving on from DriveThruRPG (Sean has managed the RPG downloads site since it's beginning, prepared newsletters and fielded many publisher and customer queries personally, so it'll be strange to see him step away from the helm...Good Luck, Sean!) -there's been a change of policy with regards to the use of crowd-sourcing by publishers.
Now, I wasn't really aware that they had a policy on this, but I suddenly feel a little vindicated in the fact that crowd-funding and straight-forward product selling can sometimes appear be at odds with each other. It's also nice to see that OneBookShelf Sites (DTRPG, RPGNow, Wargames Vault et al) recognize that crowdfunding, despite my paranoias, is now playing such an important role for small games publishers.
DriveThruRPG and Crowdfunding
In the past, we have maintained a strict policy regarding publishers who use Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or other such crowdsourcing platforms: No publisher has been allowed to use our tools or infrastructure to distribute news or links about projects being funded and distributed via Kickstarter or similar sites. To put it simply, DriveThruRPG is a business modeled on driving sales through our marketplace, not sending customers elsewhere.However, we also understand the power and appeal of crowdfunding for you, the independent publisher. And while formats may change, crowdfunding is not going away any time soon. With that in mind, we have established a new policy regarding projects funded on Kickstarter and Indiegogo:We welcome publishers who will use Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund their projects, and we will be happy to work with any publishers to handle product fulfillment and distribution via our site, whether in PDF or print. Our publisher tools can easily mail out coupon codes for electronic copies to all or any subset of your backers.For POD fulfillment, we won't charge any fee beyond print and shipping costs: Simply set up your title using our print program (and note that your first title we will prep for you at no additional cost); supply us with the data of what book goes to whom; and we will have the books printed and shipped to your backers.If you have any questions or feedback regarding this topic, please don't hesitate to contact Scott Holden (scott@onebookshelf).
I find it interesting again that they're highlighting the print-on-demand service, which implies to me that they recognize that publishers are partly turning to Kickstarter to fund bulk print runs.
...It keeps occurring to me that if a company like RPGNow/DTRPG could ever bundle Letter sized boxes into the POD mix, many of the dreams of games publishers will be fullfilled, especially in the nostalgia market, where we want our games to all look like D&D Original or Basic Sets (name your artist and style). But I digress....
The point here is that maybe we're all moving at different speeds. Personally, I'm slowly coming around to the idea that crowdsourcing is actually good news for the RPG industry, because this is a niche hobby which relies on word-of-mouth exposure to gain new customers. Kickstarters seem to be a effective way of making people aware of pen and paper games, of unpainted fantasy figures by independent sculptors and so forth - because popular kickstarters quite literally "go viral". Still, I assert that crowd-funding shouldn't always be the first choice whenever anyone has a new idea or a publisher wants to immortalize a product in a special format. Crowdfunding should be one of many options. I can see why it's tempting to go for it first, and I'm still see requests for pleding as a type of ungentlemanly hard-sell - but that is merely my preference. Whether or not crowdfunding hype alienates customers is up to the individual publisher/project leader. I'm now less convinced that kickstarters will wipe out traditional markets, no more than eBay did - in fact I guess that online traders can adapt very quickly to change, if required.
From all of the feedback I'm getting regarding my stance on my being opposed to crowdfunding/sourcing with RPG products (especially where POD will do the job), it seems that backers are extremely discerning about how they pledge and what for, and that the people running projects are even seeking advice on the best ways to be good to their pledgers without falling into traps, such as promising too many handcrafted dice bags as perks (for hypothetical example). -On Facebook I was invited to observe Kickstarter Best Practices and Lessons Learned - which I recommend checking out if you're planning to set up a project, or have experiences you'd like to share with others.
It's admirable that a site like DriveThru is acknowledging the changes in publisher habits. To an onlooker like myself this helps establish crowdfunding is becoming a respectable acceptable part of game publishing. One of my fears was that some parts of the customer base, tradesmen and some publishers would see kickstarters as somehow being "dodgy" or "a way to make a fast buck" or somehow disreputable, or that innocent dreamer/designers were allowing themselves to be seduced into taking part in unforeseen nightmarish production and distribution scenarios. Also, I'll be honest, by not being involved with crowdfunding I'm avoiding the "fatigue" in advance and saving myself a lot of time by sifting through all of the hundreds of zombie board game ideas (I'm guessing, I think a friend recently made a joke about there being so many zombie related projects) - but that's really more about me trying to simplify my life rather than sufficient reason to boycott kickstarters.
In summary, it's good to see a site like DriveThru moving with the times and supporting small publishers with the new realities of crowdfunding, and this helps old fashioned folk like myself learn to trust that crowdfunding isn't actually a harbinger of some sort of apocalypse for consumers. ;) Intriguing ...