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The $1 Pandemic

Tonight we'll dive into a new phenomenon that has drawn some increasing levels of attention in the wonderful magical world of crowdfunding: the $1 token that some companies incentivize you to grant them, so you can get "insider" info prior to the launch (or rather, prior they get re-posted in BGG an hour later) and get some trinket bonus during the campaign, like a mini-expansion that no one would have cared about if it hadn't been there, but suddenly every one craves for now that it's being offered.


Image from BGG


Rumor has it that it all started with the Kickstarter for Botany, a game I know very little about, except Hana devoted her first rules post to it, which reminds me that I miss her posts. But that's not the point. All of a sudden, like curious sprouts of a new invasive herbaceous species, it was all over the place.


I'll tell you three things about this issue. First, why some people are upset about it. Second, why I am not upset about it. And third, because I have the compulsion to be grumpy once in a while, why I am upset about people.


Image from BGG


People are against this practice because a) if you miss out prior to the launch, you don't get the mini-expansion for "free" and you have to pay for it, and b) it is a predatory marketing technique. With respect to a), this looks to me more or less like an Early Bird, and although I've never been a fan, I'm not especially upset about them as well (since I often cancel/re-pledge, losing the early bird bonus made the canceling of a pledge more definitive for me, so it actually helped).


As for the predatory marketing technique, I have to agree with the detractors of the $1 marketing device. The idea is to exploit the "sunk cost fallacy": since you poured a dollar into the game already, you don't want to lose it and you are more likely to back. Except, in this case, you base your first decision on pure hype, since at the time the $1 pre-campaign thing is paid, there is usually not enough information around to make a lucid choice. It certainly belongs to an ongoing tendency, like, for instance, setting the pledge manager access pledge at $5 instead of $1, and we may easily picture how it may get worse if kept unchecked ("pay $10 now that the game looks so cool to get a $40 expansion for free during the campaign when you'll know it sucks!"). And, as fools who are too easily parted with our money for board games that often end up not played that much, I can understand why we may want things not to get worse and why we may feel the need to stop that with a pre-emptive protest.



Image from BGG


Why don't I disagree with this technique, then? Well, small and independent creators have repeatedly said that this was actually a very helpful tool for them to accurately gauge interest in a game prior to the launch and avoid an early crash (it takes more effort to "follow" by giving a dollar than by clicking on a button, so it's more reliable). It allows them to gather more info, henceforth to set pledge prices and their funding goal accordingly, and so on.


Besides, I see this $1 as a token of support - entirely unrelated to the pledge. I value diversity in the board gaming scene and I like to see games that look attractive. As a result, I gave a $1 token for the upcoming Kinfire: Council. I enjoy what they do, and even though the game doesn't interest me, I was happy to add to the tip jar, to show that I support what they are doing and what they are bringing to board gaming. I would have given a $1 for Boarquest: Tales of Liria as well if they had asked so. But this is my perspective on this, and I also enjoy backing campaigns for a dollar from time to time. I do understand why people may have a different take on this affair.


Source: Stonemaier Games website


Now, we arrive at the grumpy part. A very cool-looking game has just been announced by Stonemaier Games called Vantage. It's a rogue-like game of space exploration featuring over a thousand cards, that plays in 90 minutes, and where you start on a random landing point, and then explore and build a feel of the world session after session so that you may dive increasingly deeper into the planet's secrets. I won't lie: I'm a tad excited about this prospect, and I sure want to know more. I may buy a Stonemaier Games at some point in the future, it would seem. Yet the future remains far off still, as the game won't come before 2025.


But wait. There is more. If you can't wait and just want to unleash your overabundance of enthusiasm into some compulsive purchase, we may just have the right tidbit in store for you: metal coins for the game!


Source: Stonemaier Games website



Don't they look alluringly pretty thanks to their intriguingly futuristic aesthetic? Also, there is a limited stock of them, so better get them before FOMO gets you! And you will save a nice amount of dollars by ordering now rather than after the stock gets depleted and refilled again. A no-brainer for sure. And some people think as much:


From the BGG forums of Vantage

(by the way, Jason Brown, if you read this post, you have my greetings! I enjoy your contributions to BGG a lot!)



So, what do we have here? All the predatory marketing tactics condensed in a flavorful combo: price anchoring (you save 25% of the price!!!), FOMO inducement (only 100+ left!!!), and sunk cost fallacy. We know nothing about the game but a picture and an advertising blurb, and yet we are asked to put $15 in it already to order a component upgrade... for a game that will not come out before at least another year.


Image from BGG


So here we are: people complain about a $1 token to express interest in a game before its launch and that acts as an alternative to early bird bonus, they create geeklists to pillory these games, they boycott them, they get vocal about it... and why not! But if Stonemaier does this to the next level and ten more, the community celebrates this, throws Geek Gold at the face of Stegmaier, applauds those who get the metal coins, and no one dares raise a critical voice.


So, it all sounds a bit hypocritical to me. Indie publishers are accused of scamming people, but successful ones are just lauded for doing the same thing on a larger scale. I'm not against selling these metal coins - if your fans are rabid, give them something to gnaw. But I'm very much against this imbalance of power.

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11 opmerkingen


Derek
Derek
27 apr.

I'm very excited about Vantage. But most likely passing on the metal coins.

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Cadet Stimpy
Cadet Stimpy
27 apr.

😄 You're right, JW. There is a lot to be grumpy about. I suspect that when you're my age you'll be even grumpier. LOL!


How do you say 'grumpy' in Dutch?

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Cadet Stimpy
Cadet Stimpy
02 mei
Reageren op

It's always nice to have friends that buy you gifts! Would you mind posting a picture of your favorite shirt so far? You don't need to be wearing it, but that would be more interesting. 🙂


P.S. My friends don't buy me physical gifts, but they occasionally help me post bail.

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JW
JW
26 apr.

Oh, and I paid $1 for Botany in advance, then didn't back it. I've skipped early bird discounts for games because I needed to look into a game, then later payed full price and thought it was worth it. I've bought games in retail that had been cheaper during crowdfunding. I've bought games on the second hand market that had been cheaper in retail. Never, once, did I feel robbed.


There's nothing wrong with pre-order discounts. There's nothing wrong with handing out discounts to newsletter subscribers.


And there is also absolutely nothing wrong with paying full price for a game you think is worth it, while ignoring or boycotting all devious marketing techniques.

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JW
JW
26 apr.

So funny! I had started on a draft for a Grumpy post on this subject, called "I'll Buy That for a Dollar!" Yours, of course, is way better written and thought-out than mine would have been. 👍🏻

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Cadet Stimpy
Cadet Stimpy
27 apr.
Reageren op

Z, you're analytical? Who woulda thought? LOL!

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