Why Rick Priestley’s Kickstarter Will Fail

Beyond the Gates of Antares

I tried to wean myself off excessive Kickstarter blogging. And yet, I have to write a short one on this, as it goes straight to the heart of the “What-is-Kickstarter-and-what-is-it-not” controversy, which I previously tackled in my  ‘Kickstarter is Entertainment‘ article.

Rick PriestleySummary: Rick Priestley’s ‘Beyond the Gates of Antares’ Kickstarter seeks to create an “authentic” grass-root, crowd-funded game-making experience. Doing so, it plays to the romanticized illusion of what Kickstarter claims to be, and not what it truly is. Ultimately, it asks too much from the backers and offers not enough ‘fun’ in return.

#1 – What Is ‘Beyond the Gates of Antares’?

It was hard to miss, but if you did, ‘Beyond the Gates of Antares’ is a recent Kickstarter project for a sci-fi skirmish miniatures game, spearheaded by celebrity game-designer Rick Priestley of Warhammer 40K fame.

Rick Priestley has been attached to a few games on Kickstarter, such as Fanticide, but this one seems to be genuinely “his game”. Rick Priestley is definitely on the record with ‘Gates of Antares’ (or GoA) being the game (paraphrasing) “he always wanted to make“.

So – the point I’m trying to make here is you shouldn’t read into the fact that I’ve worked on lots of projects is any indication that GoA is some here today gone tomorrow affair. Yes I have undertaken some historical projects for Warlord – I thought I might as well – I was unable to work on what GW considered ‘competing’ projects for a period after I left. That was a contractual issue I couldn’t do anything about.

I see GoA as practically my last chance to do something I actually own – I don’t own 40K although I invented it – and I receive no royalties or payments on account of any of the things I created for GW - from games such as WH and 40K to ‘IP’ such as the Imperium, Space Marines, and so on. With GoA I intend to retain the copyrights as would the author of any work of fiction – for example – and from that I hope to manage an income that will support myself and my wife over the next twenty years [...].

So – no – I don’t intend to give up on it! Sure we might expand the universe with other games – all of which will roll in to the real-time online metagame – but this one is for keeps.

Rick Priestley via Dakkadakka

If you are looking for a more complete run-down, visit Gates of Antares on Kickstarter or read the great interview with Rick Priestley over at TheShellCase.co.uk.

#2 – Three Reasons Why This Kickstarter Will Fail

Everyone can sympathize with Rick Priestley’s efforts, no doubt. And while I haven’t played Fanticide or Bolt Action, everything  I’ve read says these are brilliantly designed games. Rick Priestley’s rule-making-magic has clearly not diminished.

And yet, without major changes, this Kickstarter will fail. That is not the same as me wanting this Kickstarter to fail. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But fail it will. Here are three reasons why.


  • Giving People What They Want

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

― Henry Ford

Gates of Antares pivots on the idea that they want to involve the community in developing the game-world. They have a forum set up, where people can follow and influence the creation of the lore, the game and the miniatures.

It is a noble gesture. But it doesn’t make for a very compelling game-world.

There are similar quotes like the one by Henry Ford above to be found, among others, from Steve Jobs in his biography. Like Ford, Jobs (who eschewed focus-groups and consumer surveys throughout is career) is the archetypal example of business-visionary who made hit-products (as well as a few flops) by not listening to the popular opinion.

On a smaller scale, this applies to board and miniature-games on Kickstarter as well. Kingdom Death claimed the No 1. spot, not by asking people what they wanted, but by unveiling a truly new and unique vision of a world that people didn’t even know they wanted. Others – such as DreadBall – had at least a strong visual and narrative theme.

GoA’s “crowd-development” approach already seems like one big mess. There’s the gritty ‘hard-sci-fi’ faction, a few cat-people thrown in and, above all, lots of jaded 40K drop-outs venting their grievances of what they do not want GoA to be (not what they want it to be).

Fan-input is a great idea, but it needs to launch from a much stronger visual and thematic basis than GoA currently provides. Everyone needs to know the direction it is going to contribute in a productive manner. That kind of vision is missing from Gates of Antares.


  • Too Little, Too Soon
Gates of Antares Kickstarter Hansa

“Hansa” – the first (and so far only) GoA miniature (work-in-progress)

This is where (in my opinion) ‘Beyond the Gates of Antares’ falls for the Kickstarter-hype, rather than its reality.

For one, there is very little finished product to show for GoA. Only one ‘work-in-progress’ green for a miniature. For another, it’s asking for the ‘realistic’ (thus rather steep) funding goal to actually develop a game like that.

This is what people would probably do all the time, if Kickstarter truly was a place to ‘kickstart’ things from the basic idea into reality. But it’s not.

CoolMiniOrNot’s Chern Ann was pretty much spot-on with his “90%-rule” on Wired.com.

Ann believes the key to Kickstarter cash is a modification of the golden rule. “If you wouldn’t pledge on your own project, it’s not ready,” he says. “Projects should be 90 percent complete before launching.” He has turned under-promising and over-delivering into a CMON motto, and he’s gained a huge amount of support.

I know CMON gets some “tough love” for the way they use Kickstarter. But they didn’t invent Kickstarter. They only use it to the best effect. It is worth learning from their success.

And frankly, one green is pretty sparse. There have been one-man-show-basement-kickstarters, such as Imbrian Arts, who turned out a new green every 3 or 4 days. Surely the GoA-team can do at least as much?

In short, GoA ‘kickstarted’ far, far too early. To use Kickstarter successfully, the product needs more polish! Romantic notions of what Kickstarter ‘should be’, and not what it is, will ultimately not part people with their money.


  • This Is Work, Not Entertainment

Most of all, developing a game, a game-world, a fictional universe, etc.. is hard work. The notion by Games of Antares to develop their game with and through the community is admirable. But it’s not gonna sell.

I know there are those self-less idealists out there, that thrive on contributing “real work” to the project they love. Sites like Wikipedia.com (or, as it were, Lexicanum.com) wouldn’t exist without them. Yet these people are hardly a majority.

Moreover, part of the appeal of these sites is that the work put into these sites will later be available for free to anyone (which GoA will obviously not be). Nor do Wikipedia & Co ask you for money for the privilege to work for them.

If they truly want game-design-input for an ultimately commercial product, I’d rather they pay people that contribute, rather than asking them to pay (through Kickstarter) for the privilege of offering their work for free.

At the end of the day, there’s always another Kickstarter-campaign one click away that puts on a genuine good show to entertain the Kickstarter crowd. And that – in my humble opinion – is the least people should expect for their money.

#3 – The Numbers Don’t Lie

Gates of Antares Kickstarter

It’s not going to be enough

To succeed, the Gates of Antares Kickstarter needs to receive nearly £ 5000,- in new pledges every day(!) for the remaining 45 days of the campaign. Or, at the current average backing, about 40 to 50 new backers every single day.

The Campaign is already sitting at slightly over £ 80.000,- in pledges, which is impressive and a testament to the great name and credibility of Rick Priestley.

However, that “credit” is already in the campaign, and the Kickstarter has consistently fallen short of the above minimum-targets for the last week.

I would love to see Rick Priestley’s dream funded. But for that to happen, the GoA team will need to get away from their romantic notion of a crowd-based project that will sell and be profitable without getting down and dirty trying to ‘sell it’ too.

Idealists alone are not going to fund this one.

Z.

Zweischneid

Zweischneid

I am Zweischneid. Wargame Addict. Hopeless painter and founder of Pins of War. I hope you enjoyed this article. Don't forget to share your favourite miniature pictures and wargaming videos at www.pinsofwar.net.
Zweischneid
GW's Latest Teaser Has Bretonnian Minis In It - Still Wood Elves Tough! http://t.co/EKQo1UaIta #wfb #youtube #teaser - 3 days ago
  • http://twitter.com/Blademirage Blademirage

    interesting read, I wonder if this is suffering the same sort of problem that Through the breach did, in which it just got to a point and then barely budged, although TtB got funded but after that didn’t push many stretch goals.
    GoA maybe lucky to get funded, long ways to go yet and a very high minimum goal, it maybe to much of a stretch

    • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid

      I think there are some similarities. Both ‘Through the Breach’ and “GoA’ obviously benefited from a very solid core of “die-hard” fans, who backed the project day 1 or day 2, not least on name recognition (Wyrd/Malifaux and Rick Priestley respectively).

      Both campaigns than also failed to leverage that early “credit” and escalate the campaigns to those “on the fence”.

      Of course, there are more differences than similarities, but I can see a parallel there.

      I think one of the saddest things to witness with the Malifaux-KS was how the initial core of “die-hard” fans turned very bitter and defensive towards criticism of all kinds.

      I hope that doesn’t happen to GoA, because unlike the Wyrd-KS, it would likely mean they won’t get their funding.

  • Cosmic_Seth

    I have to disagree on some of the points. The call that crowd
    thinking projects do not work is simply wrong. There are a lot of
    examples where think-groups have contributed to massive projects.
    Some of them refine, and chooses who can contribute (think tanks,
    this is what got us to the moon) other rely on the public
    (seti-project, or the Amazon’s Mechanical Turk), Wikipedia is a
    great example, and why it works is because it has editors, not because it is free.

    The GoA will not be 100 percent created by the forums. Suggestions
    & ideas will come from the forum, but through the editorial
    process of Dark Space Corp. And remember, only those who support GoA
    through Kickstarter will have access to the developers, not everyone.
    The developers themselves will still create 98% of the fictional
    universe. Player input will determined where story will be headed,
    but those choices are determined by Dark Space Corp. They will not
    let Mr.Spank-erton of the Space Butts be part of the story. The
    public will have controlled access to Dark Space Corp, the fluff, and
    the game. Very much like a republic; People will have a voice, but
    they won’t have the final say.

    The GoA kickstarter has just started. The reason for along
    kickstarter is because they value player input, and wanted us along
    on the ride in developing a game, and to talk to the creators
    themselves. That idea will never be a bad thing, and suggesting that
    it harms the project and does not sell, I think is gravely mistaken.
    Will they be a GW killer? No way, not even close. If you combine
    every non-gw miniature game company from historical to sci-fi, all of
    them together might combined to 30 percent of the market. It will be
    a very long time before anyway takes the crown away from GW.

    They are asking people to support the company and their ideals. To
    get this idea off the pavement, requires them to ask for the
    500,000$. The entire notion of having player input, requires a base
    of players to get the project going. If you ask for 30,000, and only
    have 100 backers, the game won’t fly. The need a large investment in
    both players and resources for this idea to work. They are adding
    updates every other day at this point, and are getting better.

    If you don’t believe that you want a company to go this route,
    don’t pledge. If you do, pledge it is not only for the models, not
    only for the rules, but for the democratic ideals that business
    should listen to the people, and that being idealistic is not a
    fault, but a strength. It is ideals that made this world, not
    cynicism, and a can’t-do, can’t-work attitude, will lead us to
    no-where.

    Gates of Antares will succeed.

    • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid

      Hi

      Thanks for taking the time for such a thorough response. I’ll try to cover some points.

      A) Yes. The Kickstarter has plenty of time left. Which is why I am writing this now (!). And yes, I am a backer. I don’t wanna write a post in 2 months time titled “this is why Gates of Antares failed”. I am writing this now, based on my opinions, observations and (!) dire Kicktraq numbers so that the time remaining might be used.

      B) I don’t expect or want this to take down GW (I love my Space Marines too much). There is room enough for more. But there are ways on “how to get to half a million” on Kickstarter and there are ways on how to fail that. Companies like CMON – to name but one example – have shown how it can be done. This one (unless it changes) will not make that half-million. If you want to succeed.. if you WANT that half-million, than that moral-high-horse needs to die, and die fast, and some serious CMON-style-sales-pitch needs to be added. As said CMON didn’t invent Kickstarter. But they did figure out how it works. Learn from that.

      C) Your last paragraph strikes me (philosophically speaking) a bit paradoxical. You laud the democratic ideal of listening, yet you tell me to shut-up and pledge or to shut-up and not-pledge. True democracy hears all voices, even the cynical. Indeed, if you tune out the critics and listen only to the “yes-crowd”, you’re leaving democracy rather quickly.

      D) Last but not least, nothing would please me more than to be proven wrong. I do hope Gates of Antares succeeds.

      • Cosmic_Seth

        On C: I apologize, I never meant to be taken as ‘shut-up’,
        I was thinking it as more like voting. I never want to be seen
        as telling someone not to say their opinions. A lot of your
        points are valid, and I do hope that the staff of Dark Space
        Corps are reading all these posts and are taking hard steps to
        confront their critics. I am hoping for a lot more from them;
        they are touting a Dec 2013 release date. So I am giving them
        the benefit of the doubt that they will be releasing a lot more
        in the next two weeks. They have to, to sustain their goals. My
        disagreement is that they have to ditch their moral high ground,
        that is the reason why I pledged. Ditching that would make them
        like any other kickstarter….And what would be the point?

        • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid

          The point would be, that they are not “actually” different from other Kickstarter. If you pledged for that reason, you pledged for the wrong one.

          Mantic Games has been “community-testing” their Warpath rules for the better part of 2 years now: http://pinsofwar.com/mantic-games-releases-warpath-2/

          Thon the Game is in “open-Beta” development of their rules for months: http://pinsofwar.com/thon-the-game-beta-testers/

          Other, less “sci-fi” Kickstarters are doing the same. Wrath of Kings, by CMON, which you seem to dislike, have their beta-rules out for community feedback for ages. Wild West Exodus likewise.

          Within the larger frame of developing a full-fledged gaming universe, these guys aren’t doing anything different. They only placed their “Kickstarter” at a different point in the overall process, one that is simply better suited to the “tool” of Kickstarter.

          The moral high ground is not justified, because all (!) games to be developed need to go through all stages (rules design, graphic design, miniature production, etc..). There are simply stages that are more suited to a Kickstarter than others. CMON usually picks the “right” time for the KS, BGoA less so.

          Just because X knows how to use tool A better than Y, doesn’t make Y morally superiour. Quite the opposite, Y would be wise to learn from X.

          They should be like every other Kickstarter, because that is how Kickstarter works. Learn how to use it. Just like you should drive a car like everyone else drives a car. Trying to be “morally superiour” by constantly driving a car .. dunno .. backwards is silly. That’s simply not what the car was build for.

          • Cosmic_Seth

            It is very different from other games
            and other kickstarters. This is a level beyond beta testing or
            community testing. Yes, beta testing for various games has been around for years, but this is working the game from the first layer (alpha testing will you), and continually working on it after is has gone live. The outcome of the story will be determined by the players. It will be a never ending world wide campaign. The only game that I know of like it is Legend of the Five Rings, a card game. They had some hiccups with their process but GoA will use what they have learned. GoA will fully blend both miniature table top and online play, utilizing PC, Smart phones and tablets.

            I never said anything about Wrath of Kings (went to the website, not much there?), I just feel GoA is going beyond beta/community testing. I have beta tested other systems
            but this is first, albeit the first with potential, to have such a
            ‘beta-test’ become the norm, even after the beta testing is
            completed.

            The idea of the point in time is a difficult one. The point, or the ‘moral’ behind Kickstarter is to help kick start projects, and not be a glorified pre-ordering system. If that is what kickstarter is becoming, then I feel the worst for Kickstarter’s whole system. Reason being, only people with cash will be able to get their project going, not those without. I understand that is what kickstarter is becoming, but it doesn’t mean we can’t disagree on the practice.

            The point of Kickstarter is to gather around an idea. GoA’s idea is to have a fully function system that can scale from D&D like RPG all the way to 40k Apocalypse, while having every battle you fight matter, and having a direct hand in changing the story. No other game system today can do that, at least not smoothly.

            They already spent half a year working on this idea for free. If we as a players want something mentioned above, then we have to help them. If we only support those that have
            the funding to make their games 90%, and reach out for that final 10%, the games we get won’t be ground breaking, large scale, or rarely add anything new. That process has started a slew of new miniature games, a lot of them are awesome (Dropzone Commander FTW!), but will any of those be around five years from now?

            I don’t think the car analogy works. I would turn around and say, well, we’re not trying to make the car go backwards, but rather we want it to fly and swim, wouldn’t that be awesome?

            However, with all above said, you’re right on the direction of this kickstarter, the projections on kicktraq are already in the red, but I still have hope.

          • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid

            Alright. Analogies are always tricky.

            If I compared Kickstarter to driving a car, than not to driving a car as recreation (where others would rather fly instead), but driving a car to get from point A to point B, with point A being an empty bank account and point B being a bank account with enough cash to make your dream come true.

            Those “pre-order” Kickstarters you despise so much don’t do em this way because, for some nefarious, mustache-twirling reason they “like” to do pre-order kickstarters or seek to subvert “the true spirit of Kickstarter”.

            They all do it, because they all have dreams of their own. They all need money to make that dream true. And they use Kickstarter as a “mean-to-an-end” in a fashion that has proven (!) to be effective in raising that cash.

            That’s the point. Would you truly willing to give up the true, real, actual goal/dream, which is GoA the Game (not the Kickstarter), only so you can flaunt your moral superiority in running your (failed) Kickstarter?

            Or shouldn’t you just suck it up for 6-8 weeks, do it the way that’s been proven (!) to raise the most cash, and move on to make that dream of yours come true from a full bank account?

          • Cosmic_Seth

            “If I compared Kickstarter to driving a car…with point A being an empty bank account and point B being a bank account with enough cash to make your dream come true.”

            The problem is that, with how kickstarter is now being used, you now need a full bank account at point A to get even more money at point B. The idea of Kickstarter was to help those without any money in their bank, and their ‘car’ was kickstarter. Now that is no longer the expectation. Kickstarter always demandedime, but now you need a loan, and what’s the point with that?

            “Those “pre-order” Kickstarters you despise so much…”

            Again, you are using too strong of a word; I don’t despise them. I feel it hurts people who don’t have access to a lot of cash upfront to get an idea out. People as in, independent artists or newly formed
            companies/partnerships. If the general public gets used to the idea
            that all the work needs to be done before the kickstarter even
            launches; then those groups are doomed.

            I know a lot of people feel that only establish companies with access to capital should use Kickstarter, like Cool-mini-or-not /
            battlefoam, but I want to root for the underdogs, the guys who are
            working out of their basement. Kickstarter is slowly becoming a
            pre-order system, where more pledges = to more stuff (not that the
            projects succeeds). In fact, if those projects fails, they will be
            published regardless.

            “That’s the point…only so you can
            flaunt your moral superiority in running your (failed) Kickstarter?”

            It failed because the public is using it as a pre-order system, which is against the intent (or ideals) of the site. Does it work? Yes. I would like to use kickstarter for various projects, but if I have to pay for them to be finished, it’s going to take years.

            The idea behind kickstarter is to put up an idea, with work (concept art, a chapter or two) and see if people are willing to support it. Then get the money and finish the idea. That notion is being flipped, where the majority of the work is done (the models, the rules, the art, the book) and then put it up to see how many boxes/copies you’re going to sell. Ie, it is being used as another store front. IF that is what kickstarter is becoming, than the idea of why I like kickstarter, helping new ideas gain traction, will be no longer.

            “Or shouldn’t you just suck it up for 6-8 weeks, do it the
            way that’s been proven (!) to raise the most cash…”

            Again, the problem is that to make that version of kickstarter work, most of the design (of models/books/music albums) needed to have been paid for and worked on first. And yes it does work, it fits with our buy-it-now mentality (people are already complaining of kickstarter delays), which means the only ideas that are going to put forth are those that are already have the money and are mainly completed, and the new fresh ideas who really do need the money, will go without and need to find other means.

            “The “reality” of Kickstarter isn’t pretty…”

            I heartily disagree of the term ‘reality’, we can make it ‘real’ or
            not, it’s our collective wish. You seem to have a disposition on high
            ideals, but it is those very ideals that made our nation, our world.
            Slavery was reality, prima-monarchy was reality, not allowed to learn or read, was reality. Those high ideals (or the moral high ground) changed us for the better,we have reached the moon!

            All of that are high minded concepts, but it took a lot of small steps to reach those goals of space and freedom. Just because the ‘reality’ of kickstarter today is now a play thing of already established companies, does not mean I have to accept it, or not fight against it. That’s freedom, and I say lets make that a ‘reality’.

          • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid

            I think it is a fallacy to assume that simple because Kickstarter campaigns should be more than the infancy of a project (as GoA appears to be), that it needs massive loans, etc..

            Kingdom Death was/is a startup by a single 20-something. The difference is, Adam Poots put in the effort. He sold collectors resin miniatures for 3 years (!) just to get to the point where he could run a Kickstarter. He made the industry connections, build up his reputation, had his rough-rules playtested before he launched the kickstarter, and he was rewarded.

            Demanding a certain level of “visible content” doesn’t take automatically default to expensive loans. But it does help separate those truly committed and those simply too lazy or too untalented to put in the proper work. Which, in itself, is a vital indicator to have for a “crowd-sourcing” platform running largely on user-trust.

  • aeria_gloris

    Very good and thoughtful post. I would love to see the project succeed, because I like what I see. But I fear I agree with the points you bring up above. Combine those with the very large psychological barrier of a project with a project with a high funding goal (that it is nowhere near reaching) and the result is about £250 a day for the past days.

    I really do hope they can turn it around or, in the worst case scenario, gain some experience with the medium to try again when the project has matured somewhat.

  • orlando the technicoloured

    While I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, and suspect this won’t hit it’s target I think there are other issues to consider.

    Rick and the other folk involved are not sculptors/artists so they have to hire in that aspect of the business. Because of that to really make a go of this long term they are depending on the game itself taking off in a big way, rather than selling some minis that may well be used in other game systems, that’s fine if selling minis is what you are all about, but Rick wants to sell a world and game.

    They’ve aiming for the Big Bang creation of the whole thing at once which should hopefull give a big enough player base for this to take off, and may actually prefer it to fail rather than only just limp into production with a bare bones rule book, 2 small factions and a few minis, with no online element. If it did that I suspect it would struggle to gain enough traction to really give Rick a long term future anyway as he’d be stuck thinking what new stuff he could add that would also cross sell as Imperial Guard or Tyranids etc.

    He can always re-launch, or if the KS suggests there is enough of a market it may prompt outside investors that the project is worth backing (although Rick etc will need to consider if that will end up with them not owning stuff again), so while faliure is not an option for some KS projects I think it IS a valid end for this one

    • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid

      Well. Obviously there are options for this game beyond this one particular Kickstarter, both in a GoA-Kickstarter 2.0 and a Kickstarter-free route to publication. Not denying that. Just talking about this particular Kickstarter with its particular pitch, which struck me as in-congruent with the way “Kickstarter works”.

      Now, for one, it has some GBP 85.000,- + already. That is not pocket-change and proof that the interest is not insignificant. But the way it is structured simply doesn’t (currently) allow for the kind of “snowball-effect” that really lets other campaigns explode.

      Moreover, I must say that this is supposed to be a miniature(!) battle game. If Rick Priestley simply wanted to launch his GoA-novel or Pen-and-paper RPG or even a GoA-board-game with abstract playing pieces, we’d be in a different boat.

      But all the emphasis on world-building etc., can’t really hide the fact that miniature games are ultimately played with miniatures, which sell on a visual level. There is no game or gaming-world out there that could demand, say, GBP 5,- per plastic/cardboard playing piece on the value of its non-miniature aspects alone.

      The entire business model of a miniature-game pivots on the miniatures, even if other aspects are important too.