Kickstarter is not a meritocracy

This article was an interesting read for a stream of invective.

“ Kickstarter is not a meritocracy. It isn’t the best ideas or most innovative products that succeed but often the sparkliest turds that float to the top.” It’s no surprise that’s the banner quote. But I feel it’s a bit if a misunderstanding about how most things work. It’s not just KS that does that. Arguably there’s plenty of games as good as or better than Catan, but it took off so there’s that.

An entertaining read and I’ve no doubt that company was crap for them to work at but I won’t stop backing Kickstarters.

Also any guesses or knows of which company is the company in question?


I saw that article and really wanted to know. But, I guess, the author wrote it anonymously so as to warn about all companies whose primary revenue is via Kickstarter.

Still… I really want to know.


Why would it be a meritocracy? The vast majority of projects on Kickstarter don’t have a finished product for you to demo, so you cannot judge them on actual quality.

And there isn’t a sifter going through and objectively ranking ideas, it’s what people see and think is cool. Which might be actually cool, might just be marketed well, might just have gotten the luck of the draw in terms of exposure, or might just have a lot of miniatures for cheap not that I’m bitter definitely not why would you say that.

That said, I’ve backed literally hundreds of things on Kickstarter, and I’ve received most of them, and the ones I have had a chance to read or play or whatever have 95+% of the time been what I wanted from them and good experiences overall, and most of my top favorite games, almost all of the ones I consider genuinely special, are Kickstarter games. :man_shrugging:


I’ve bought turkey’s from a shop as well as kickstarter, same for excellent games.

I think KS has allowed some games that are exceptional and would never have come out from a traditional publisher to hit. Gloomhaven comes instantly to my mind. I’m sure many of us could name others. I’ll happily take some misses to find those odd ball gems. Risk Legacy and Dominion were also wildly innovative and came out from traditional publishers.

The whole of the article just seems to miss diagnose stuff. Sure the job was crap, but WeWork stories sound very similar and didn’t start with a KS campaign or involve board games. :man_shrugging:

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I think it all just goes back to a classic problem: the person who is good at <endeavor> is not necessarily good at operating a company to produce/oversee <endeavor>.


And vice versa. If you can keep the money rolling in without keeping your promises, you’re still making money.


That’s always been the case tbh. Bose and Beats are overpriced headphones. At least with board games they are subject to a wide variety of taste on their consumers.

The clue would be UKGE. The problem with this is that UKGE in 2019 was large enough to be one of the big BG events.

Also, it sounds suspiciously run on a “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” system, which some companies allegedly run on: Game 4 is launched to pay for the loss from Game 3 and so on.

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I think this is one reason why I’m concerned about big money moving into boardgames: when it moved into video games it took a long time for small non-AAA games to colonise the space the big stuff had left behind. Writers were talking about the “death of the midlist” in the 1990s: a publisher driven by accountants would rather back the few megasellers (and instantly drop anyone who isn’t a megaseller) than have a large list all of which sells reasonably well. I know that my taste in boardgames isn’t the sort that makes the most money, so I’d like them to stay diverse enough that the sort of game I like still gets produced.


Don’t lump my beloved Bose in with Beats. :cry: They’re overpriced for two very different reasons :sweat_smile:


Someone gave me what I think is a clue of which publisher it was (apparently it was very blatant and questionable at UKGE in terms of size of booth versus perceived size of publisher), but I couldn’t get it :disappointed:

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So did I, so did I.

One recent comment, I heard somewhere, is that the existence of Kickstarter enables some creators to get out from under the moloch that Asmodee is becoming (did you know they removed the page that showed which companies are part of them or whom they cooperate with from their german site? It can now only be accessed through the internet archive… funny that. I pulled a screenshot even if it is not quite accurate because it only gives the 2018 status)

A flashy Kickstarter campaign is sure to attract a lot of customers. Having ads in the right places, hyping yourself into the hotness… marketing can sell a bad game. And so many reviewers make a living from paid previews…

All in all that whole thing sounded like the typical tech startup to me. All the same tropes apply.


In almost every field, there are bad businesses out there who scrape on by with poor practice because they never quite face the consequences of their actions. Especially in industries with a large equity dump which then needs to be properly managed to last the course.

To me, this reads as one of those poor general business problems rather than a boardgame industry-wide/-specific issue.

Working for one dodgy company and then trying to extrapolate that out to the industry at large is like working for Herbalife and then suggesting every retail business is an MSM.

I’m sure the writer didn’t intend it in that way, but the way it’s written(/edited?) is a bit shaky!


Really, this isn’t a Kickstarter issue. It’s a leadership and business management issue. And hardly unique to board games.


I am not convinced that many social systems are meritocracies. Nor that they are at all desirable.

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I’m not inclined to worry about it as long as I’m free to refuse to support things I don’t think are good. Kickstarter has no way of holding a gun to my head.

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