Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Masks of Nyartathotep" Meltdown, Part Deux

Over the Christmas holiday I had a chance to get together with some old gaming friends and the subject of the disastrous "Masks of Nyarlathotep" prop set came up.   Just out of curiosity, has anyone actually run the numbers for the project?  As in taken a crack at figuring out just how much it would have cost to do everything that was promised?  I've Googled around a bit, but couldn't find anything along those lines.

I know that of the $74,000 total 8%, $5920, went to Kickstarter and Amazon for their fees.  An additional .20 is charged for each pledge.  With 507 backers that's $101.  The total loss to processing is $6021.  That leaves $67,979.

Casually comparing the packages that were promised with what it would cost to print those items, as well as ship them from the printers, seems to show there was going to be trouble from the start.  From personal experience I can say that print shipping charges can be a huge hidden expense.  All those nifty little items have to be packed in reinforced cardboard printer's boxes to prevent damage, and that extra weight adds up fast. 

Another thing working against the project was the number of backers.  500 is one of the break points for most discount printers, with 1000 the next tier.  With 500 backers you have to make allowances for losses and damage, forcing you to go with 1000.

Two of the extras caught my eye as being unrealistic to produce.  The "Fog Spawn Larvae" would have been a huge undertaking, requiring a major effort for a garage caster.  The custom slides would also have been a huge expense.

The more I look at it the more it appears Mr. Patey was caught in a trap of promising too much without taking into account actual production costs and the ever escalating shipping cost of all those goodies.


Raven said...

He would have benefited from your financial advice starting out, it's clear.

So he had a roach-motel dilemma, one you can check into but not out of. Having made the unwise promises and accepted the money — but with Kickstarter having already skimmed its cream off the top of the milk, so to speak — simply refunding every penny was no longer an option, since he had not received every penny. At most he could have refunded the percentage he himself got, which might not have satisfied the backers.


Could he have told Kickstarter of his inability, and had them disgorge their share back to the backers as well as refunding his own? (I don't know the terms.)

Jeff V. said...

Which just goes to prove that you should do your research and planning before the Kickstarter ever begins -- which Patey implied he had done.

Per his statement of "Risks and Challenges:"

"At this point, there is very little in the way of risks or challenges. The props themselves have all been designed, and thoroughly prototyped. I have already found suitable printers for any objects I will be outsourcing.

The only foreseeable problems would be due to high demand. However, in the event that the workload overwhelms my production capabilities, I will simply bring on an assistant."

Seems to me that "assistant" never showed up. (I note also, in passing, that the more complex physical props didn't have anything like 507 copies required -- he needed 153 passport stamps, 109 custom Keeper Screens, 44 Bluestone Cthulhu statues, 51 Masks of Hayama, and at least 26 (but based on the numbers above, probably not more than 50) Eyes of Light and Darkness.) Which is not to say you aren't completely correct about miscalculating the funds required (especially for his stretch goals -- you should ALWAYS pre-plan your stretch goals, even if you're going to proclaim during the campaign that you "just thought of them"), and he may very well have found his mouth making promises his checkbook couldn't keep.

Propnomicon said...

@ Raven

I wish I could claim I was some kind of logistics genius, but the danger of shipping creep is something I had to learn about the hard way.

Kickstarter can't get involved in any failed projects, other than shutting down ones that are demonstrable frauds.

@ Jeff V.

I think you've hit the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

The sad part was many of us who were local offered to help. I have a friend who is a commercial printer and estimator willing to volunteer time with shipping/logistics. Everyone reached out to him to encourage and any request for additional resources or support would, in my opinion, been favourably received in the main. Moreover, it appears Ben has his own contacts in commercial printing thereby providibg another independent resources to draw upon.

I was one of Ben's biggest supporters and subscribed to the theory that he was overwhelmed until very recently. I now think that the move that took place in August may have drawn upon resources he needed to complete shipping or that the products were damaged, lost, excetera. Now, frankly I don't care. I extended my hand time and again and I was in a unique position to help him. You can't care more than someone else about what matters. Now he will reap the whirlwind. Sadly, most likely no one will win in the end.

Unknown said...

As Chaosium showed, getting caught out by shipping costs and stretch goals is not limited to individual garage craftspeople.