If you’re anything like me, then you were nervous when you saw that the next set of Keyforge, Winds of Exchange, would be crowd-funded on Gamefound. My past experience with crowd-funding has been mixed. I have backed over 100 projects on Kickstarter, and another one on Gamefound. Two of the earliest projects that I backed failed to deliver. Thankfully, they were the exception, rather than the rule. Basically every other project that I backed eventually delivered.
However, the more I have thought about it, the less nervous I am about the next set of Keyforge being crowd-funded. Here are some reasons why we should embrace Ghost Galaxy’s decision to use Gamefound.
The recent fire sale at Asmodee was an indication that they misjudged demand for Keyforge and over-printed. Even a very popular set like Mass Mutation had to be cleared out at bargain basement prices (though honestly, they probably could have sold at two dollars a deck and cleared out just as effectively with twice the revenue, but that’s a topic for another time).
As probably the world’s biggest hobby gaming company, Asmodee could eat a loss like that without having too much impact on their bottom line. GG, as a new company, will not have that luxury. They need to have a good idea of what the demand for Keyforge will be. Using Gamefound as a pre-order platform will allow them to get data, and that data will allow them to create appropriate sized print runs. We don’t want another situation like Call of the Archons, where not enough decks are printed, but we also don’t want GG getting stuck with product that they can’t move. We want them to succeed so many more Keyforge sets can be printed.
Keyforge burned a lot of retailers. There are still a lot of game stores stuck with Keyforge product that’s not moving. When Asmodee went ahead and sold off all their decks at one dollar a piece, this only hurt these retailers more. Even with a new owner, many of them are not going to be excited to jump back into Keyforge after previous bad experiences.
Thus, trying to distribute the next set through traditional retail channels might not go well. By using Gamefound, GG will first be able to show that there is real demand for Keyforge before hitting retail channels. This should reassure gaming stores that they are not going to get burned by Keyforge this time like they did the last time, and build confidence.
There has been a lot of talk about how Keyforge can’t do prizing in the same way that a game like Magic can. Magic can hand out promo cards and foil cards, whereas Keyforge decks are pre-built. Thus, Keyforge is stuck with less exciting options like playmats and game tokens.
However, there are ways that Keyforge can work around this. Two of them are things we’ve already seen. Back when Keyforge first came out, GAMA allowed stores to order decks with their name in them. One of our local stores, Crossroad Games, took advantage of this, and so one of the strongest decks in the Maine meta in the COTA era was Crossroad Games’ Burning Champion, which eventually wound up with 19 chains. There were also rumors that a Chinese Vault Tour was going to allow for the creation of custom name decks. This is something that is clearly within GG’s capability, and would be very popular with the player base.
Another custom item that has already been used in the past is alternate art decks. These were done for the Store Leaderboard series of events. Unfortunately, many of the decks featured Worlds Collide Brobnar or Untamed, so they weren’t super-exciting, but that could easily be rectified in a new set.
If Keyforge wanted to copy Magic and use foil cards, or even foil decks, that could be done, too. It would simply have to be done at the deck level and not the card level. People love getting decks as prizes, and getting decks with foil cards would likely be very popular.
So, how does this all relate to Gamefound? Well, a Gamefound campaign is a great opportunity for GG to test the market for what people want as prize support. They could offer custom-named decks, alternate art decks, or foil decks as pledge levels, or even add-ons, and see how the community responds. If they’re popular, then those items could be popular prizes for the future. If they’re not popular, then that’s useful data for GG to know. I suspect they would be pretty popular, though.
As I mentioned earlier, GG is a small company. They probably don’t have the financial resources to deal with all the obligations they inherited from Asmodee right out of the gate. Chief amongst these, of course, is rebuilding the algorithm. Even though SkyJedi was able to make a remarkably functional facsimile of the algorithm in a week, it seems likely that hiring professional programmers to incorporate every aspect of the original algorithm, plus any changes that need to be made, will be expensive. There will also be costs associated with the migration of the Master Vault over to Ghost Galaxy so that deck information is not lost. If we’re lucky, we might even get those MM enhancements in the master vault, though I am not holding my breath on that one. The point is that without funding, Keyforge really will be a dead game, so I am happy to see GG get the funding they need to keep Keyforge going.
#5: Not a Pattern
It’s not unusual for game companies to use Kickstarter or Gamefound or similar platforms to get themselves off the ground, and then go to traditional retail from there. My guess (and it’s only a guess, as I certainly have no insider information) is that we will see GG do the same thing. Once Winds of Exchange gives GG enough capital to print future sets themselves, that’s exactly what they will do. By then, they will have the data they need, they will have rebuilt retailer confidence, they will know what the community wants, and they will have the funding they need. That will allow them to bring Keyforge back to traditional retail channels and hopefully establish a release schedule of a couple sets a year.
I understand the nervousness of the community about crowd-funding. I have certainly been there myself. However, I hope that I have put some minds at ease. Ghost Galaxy using Gamefound is going to be good for the game of Keyforge and help us get this game that we love going again. That, if nothing else, is worth being excited about. As always, if you have a question or comment about this article, or just want to talk Keyforge, I can be found on most Keyforge Discords or on TCO as SecondAct.