Tabletop Features
How One Project Shaped Gaming's Use of Crowdfunding

Matt Morgan | 16 Jul 2014 13:15
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Pay Dirt Cover

In the years since Alien Frontiers first appeared, David Mackenzie may have learned that catching lightning in a bottle is no easy task to repeat. However, all parties involved seem to have weathered the storm, and David has a message for gamers: "I just want to make sure people know that Clever Mojo Games is not dead." And he's right. David quickly rattled off four recently-funded games that the publishing label will be delivering this year (King's Forge, Princes of the Dragon Throne, Monsters & Maidens, and Magnum Opus), as well as two upcoming games that will soon be seeking funding.

While Game Salute has had no shortage of successfully-funded games (they've been involved to various degrees in a whopping 150+ titles), the company also seems to have turned a corner in addressing the legitimate criticisms cast towards many of these projects. Yarrington and his crew have been proactive in addressing complaints, and have remained involved across all community channels. The company has gone so far as to write an in-depth look at the production of a typical board game, highlighting risk areas along the way in the form of die rolls, and concluding with a line-by-line status of every Game Salute project.

To prevent further bad blood, Game Salute is also revisiting its use of crowdfunding. Yarrington laid out those plans, explaining that "we're starting to tone that back a bit by just delivering a lot of the campaigns that were done in the past and then only focusing on the bigger projects. That's just a virtue of becoming a bigger company. We can't spend as much time on little projects."

There's also an added dose of realism, as the expansions for another Game Salute title, Nothing Personal, were crowdfunded with an advertised 17-month lead time. This caused complaints from a new angle, but according to Yarrington, this is his company being as up front as possible with its customers, even if it discourages them from participating in the campaign. Game Salute is maturing at the same time as Clever Mojo Games is attempting to get itself back into the limelight. It's a combination that just might work, and Yarrington expects the company's slate of games to be back on schedule by this year's Gen Con.

Following the success of Alien Frontiers, designer Tory Niemann also went through some of his own struggles, as most of his follow-on design work too closely resembled Alien Frontiers. That distance was finally achieved when Niemann worked some new mechanics into the gold mining-themed Pay Dirt, but Clever Mojo Games was unable to take on another project. Instead, Tory reached out to another friend who had recently launched a publishing business, and Patrick Nickell of Crash Games signed Pay Dirt. Much like Clever Mojo, though, Tory's name is only recently back at the forefront of gaming, as Pay Dirt's publication was encumbered by a slew of artwork issues. Only recently, Pay Dirt's development was completed, and it brought in $45,000 on Kickstarter, putting the game on pace for an October 2014 release.

The Alien Frontiers story continues this summer as well, with the Alien Frontiers: Outer Belt expansion edging closer to release. Most of the credit for Alien Frontiers: Outer Belt goes to a Clever Mojo playtester by the name of Randall Bart, who first created the expansion back in 2010, but Tory Niemann did originally consult on the project. Niemann recently shared some of his thoughts on the expansion, explaining that "It's got some really fun concepts to it. It doesn't change the core game experience in the same way that Factions does, but it adds another thing that's interesting to be doing along with everything else that's going on in the game." As Clever Mojo prepares to move on to its next chapter, Game Salute is using Outer Belt as an opportunity to do the same, forgoing the usual Kickstarter funding in favor of traditional pre-orders, which opened earlier this month.

Kickstarter has become many things to many people, but four years ago, it was just a way for two guys to get a great board game into player's homes. Since then, game crowdfunding has ballooned into a $100M+ annual industry, where through Kickstarter alone last year, tabletop gaming raised $52.1M alongside $45.3M raised for video games. Now, an entire segment of the tabletop industry has sprung up around crowdfunding, with publishers such as Tasty Minstrel Games, Dice Hate Me Games, and Crash Games carrying the banner. They and many others were directly influenced by the success of one game: Alien Frontiers. If you haven't played it yet, you should. After all, it's more than just a great game, it's an important part of tabletop gaming history.

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