Although I enjoy several board games that began as Kickstarter projects (Apex Theropod, Hostage Negotiator, etc.), I have never actually backed a game on Kickstarter. But Darkest Night has been on my wish list for a while. When I heard that a second edition would be on the way soon, I held off on buying the first edition and waited for the Kickstarter campaign to start.
I have long been suspicious of Kickstarter, in part because my boyfriend has been waiting for Mighty No. 9 for several years now. But Victory Point Games has successfully run campaigns before, and Dawn of the Zeds 3rd ed. ought to be reaching its backers in the near future. I expected the Darkest Night campaign to... well... to have its shit together from day one. Darkest Night is already an established game with a faithful following. How could this possibly go wrong?
On Tuesday afternoon, I backed Darkest Night. I was looking forward to that day in March 2017 when I could rescue a blighted world from the hands of an evil necromancer. Other people seemed excited, too, based on the fact that the project was already half-funded by the time I went to bed that night.
Alas, about 24 hours later, I received an email notifying me that the campaign had been canceled. Wait... what?
Apparently, funding for the project had slowed down, and Victory Point Games had received many complaints from would-be backers. So many, in fact, that they had decided to scrap the Kickstarter campaign entirely and restart it next week.
Based on the threads from BGG and on comments from the Kickstarter page, potential backers of the game were upset about three main things:
1) Pricing. The game itself (especially with the expansions) was a bit expensive. I expected that, honestly. But some of the shipping costs, especially to gamers in Europe, were absurdly high.
2) Miniatures vs. Standees. I did not realize that people were so passionate about this issue. Darkest Night was going to be released with pretty sweet-looking miniatures, but several would-be buyers argued that they would prefer standees. Some believe standees would be cheaper, while others just feel minis are overly trendy right now.
3) Awkward stretch goals. Many of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign entirely focused on people who backed the game with both expansions (not those who only went in for the base game or for the base game plus one expansion). They also exacerbated the minis vs. standees problem. The heroes included in the expansions would not have miniatures unless the stretch goals were met, which means that rather than have a consistent game with all miniatures or all standees, players could be stuck with an ungainly mix of the two.
Victory Point Games clearly expected this project to be funded quickly, perhaps even within the first 24 hours. (I wonder if the Dark Souls board game has created some high expectations.) The fact that Darkest Night slowed down by day two seems to have sent VPG into a tailspin.
I have very mixed feelings about this entire situation. It seems crazy to get $70,000 into a campaign and then scrap it. Could VPG have tweaked the existing campaign? More importantly, why didn't they think this out more thoroughly in the first place? Did they trust in Darkest Night's reputation and get lazy about making the campaign as excellent as possible? I'm glad they are listening to their consumers, but the fact that it had to happen in such dramatic fashion is a turnoff.
I also worry that a botched start has destroyed momentum and prevented us from playing the best possible version of Darkest Night. Will buyers truly respect VPG's decision to restart and open their wallets next week when the campaign goes live again? Or did VPG overreact to the complaints of consumers who ultimately cannot be satisfied?
Hopefully, the campaign will come back better than ever, and we will all get to experience the premium version of Darkest Night. But there is nothing premium about a sloppy start. Although the renewed campaign may override my doubts, my first attempt at backing a game on Kickstarter has been less than impressive.