Gaming

Gloomhaven publisher transitions to Backerkit after Kickstarter’s blockchain push

Cephalofair Games has raised more than $17 million in crowdfunding since 2015

For many years now, Backerkit has been the trusted back-end for crowdfunding projects, handling shipping and organization logistics for Kickstarter campaigns. Now the San Francisco-based company is building its own crowdfunding platform, directly competing with Brooklyn-based crowdfunding giant Kickstarter. Crowdfunding by Backerkit emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday, and one of its first live campaigns will be run by one of its competitor’s biggest success stories: Cephalofair Games, creator of the critically-acclaimed board game Gloomhaven.

Since 2015, Cephalofair Games has raised more than $17.9 million on Kickstarter. Its most recent campaign, for a game called Frosthaven, is the single largest tabletop campaign in Kickstarter’s history, and the fourth most highly funded project on that platform. Cephalofair founder Isaac Childres says he’s had enough of Kickstarter, however, and the straw that broke the camel’s back was Kickstarter’s recent push into blockchain technology.

We didn’t agree” with the decision to court blockchain, Childres wrote in his company’s newsletter on Tuesday. “So we made sure to clarify that our upcoming project would be crowdfunded, but not necessarily be a Kickstarter project. And we started seriously pursuing other options.”

In December 2021, Kickstarter unilaterally announced that it would transition its platform to blockchain technology. The backlash from its community of creators was swift. Kickstarter has since pumped the brakes, slowing but not stopping its transition to a novel protocol built on cryptographic “proof of stake” technology. It’s also in the market for a new chief executive.

“Kickstarter has made clear to us that they want to be at the forefront of a transition to Web3,” Childres wrote, “and Cephalofair Games just isn’t about that. Kickstarter has yet to supply, in the 7 months since they made their announcement, any concrete example of how moving to a blockchain will make crowdfunding better for creators or backers, and pretty much all we have seen in that time from the crypto space is rampant fraud, theft, and financial ruin. We are quite hesitant to move in any way that would associate ourselves with or enable any of that.”

Reached for comment, Kate Bernyk, Kickstarter’s senior director of communications, pointed Polygon to her company’s announcement, also made on Tuesday, that it has finalized the formation of its planned Community Advisory Council. It will be tasked with helping “orient” Kickstarter’s “roadmap for future development,” the announcement stated.

“Creators need to choose the platform that fits them best,” Bernyk added. “Kickstarter is a project-based platform, and we get that what works for one project might be different than another. Our goal is our mission, not market share. We are focused on ensuring our platform best serves the thousands of creators who use it to bring their work to life.”

Backerkit has traditionally handled creators’ post-Kickstarter campaigns, assisting in organizing shipping, add-on products, community management, and all the sorts of bells and whistles that accompany modern board game campaigns. Childres called out this tenacity and flexibility in supporting its clients as a major reason for making the change.

“We knew they were the right people to do this, because they are constantly innovating,” Childres wrote. “They are always paying attention, scrutinizing everything in the crowdfunding space to determine how to make their service as useful and streamlined as possible.”

It’s a sentiment that appears to be reinforced by Backerkit’s own statement of its goals and processes.

“We are continually amazed by the workarounds creators invent to engage with their existing backers and connect with new ones,” Backerkit wrote in its announcement. “Creators deserve a platform that embraces these strategies, encourages explorations, and builds tools that help creators adopt new techniques that prove effective. That’s why we believe in working closely with creators, observing how they work, and listening to their feedback. We aim to ensure that your experience with Crowdfunding by BackerKit will be better every time.”

Crowdfunding by Backerkit will include many more tabletop companies as well. Its landing page includes an upcoming project from Exalted Funeral, Leder Games (Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile), Tuesday Knight Games (Mothership), and Greater Than Games (Sentinels of the Multiverse), among others.

Backerkit is not alone in its pursuit of tabletop crowdfunding dollars. Serial entrepreneur Marcin Świerkot, founder of board game publisher Awaken Realms, recently brought his crowdfunding platform Gamefound out of beta. Its goal this year is 25% of Kickstarter’s tabletop earnings for 2022, or $67.5 million, earned for tabletop campaigns in 2023.

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