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Holy Exclusivity, Batman!

B. G. Kubacki
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Totally new developments on Kickstarter seem in short supply these days. Apart from an odd project that ends up with a pile of money nobody had expected it to raise, few things make everybody discuss a single game. One of them is still the idea of a Kickstarter exclusive game.

You probably know how we feel about Kickstarter exclusive content for a game that otherwise normally hits your FLGS shelves: we don't like it, and we don't really do it. There’s little that seems to have the power to turn people away from a game so effectively as the knowledge of paying for something that’s been essentially flayed: deprived of some key gameplay features, which you will never be able to get your hands on.

However, a game that is Kickstarter exclusive is a whole different story, and following the discussion that blew up with the launch of Monolith’s Batman, I felt deeply puzzled on more than one occasion. I don’t want to make anyone’s opinion seem irrelevant, but I do want to contest at least some of things I’ve read.

The Kickstarter exclusive game probably (but kind of unofficially) started from Gloomhaven. While you could get the game in some stores, during the second Kickstarter it was rather obvious that most of the copies will be sold and bought as part of the project. Stores were given the opportunity to pledge, but everybody knows that when those wells run dry, new copies won’t be available, unless via another Kickstarter campaign.

Still, the discussion really erupted not with Gloomhaven but with CMON’s Hate: a game that was advertised as something you’ll be able to get your hands on only with Kickstarter, only to intensify when Monolith announced the KS only Batman: Gotham City Chronicles, and then was kept alive as the game went live all through to the time when it closed on a formidable 3.5 million dollars, with much more to come in the pledge manager. Now that the dust has settled, the whole thing warrants another look.

It’s obvious that a Kickstarter exclusive game is paradise for all who like to make a few extra bucks and selling off their pledges after the game is fulfilled, but it’s not what was levelled most heavily against Hate and Batman. It was something much more perplexing: that a game which cannot hold its own on store shelves, should not be Kickstarted at all. Especially a game as lavish and expensive as Batman.

Here’s where I’m a bit lost. Kickstarter has always been a place to go with a great idea, a bit of money, and a lot of hard work to make one’s dream a reality. Creators could transform an idea that was otherwise either impossible or extremely difficult to realize into actual product. That is how the legendary Alien Frontiers came into being all those years ago. That is how many games are still being made.

A product deemed unworthy of attention, too risky or too niche always had a chance to go from an idea to reality thanks to crowdfunding in general, and with a game like Batman – one which aims to provide a lot of content wrapped around a very expensive property – the whole endeavour does not seem very far away from the idea of bringing to life something that could not exist otherwise. The only difference is that it does not start small, does not come from an underdog, and does not suprise everybody with its success.

Finally, there is yet another matter which reared its head while discussing the huge Kickstarter exclusive games, and that is the one of making crowdfunding less accessible to smaller creators with less resources. And that, well, that is a topic for a whole new post.
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