A few days ago, we launched our Kickstarter campaign for TsunamiCon 2015, and it’s starting off rather nicely. We have a long way to go if we’re going to fund this convention, and this is in many ways the most critical stage of our planning process. So it kind of threw me yesterday when one of our backers mentioned that there were a lot of local gamers last year who felt that Kickstarter was an inappropriate venue for funding a gaming convention. I’d like to take a moment to address that idea.
Why Kickstarter? The first thing you need to understand is that I’ve been thinking about running a convention for years. What started as a small group of like-minded gamers with our Prismatic Tsunami forums (now lost to antiquity and Russian spambots) has slowly blossomed into a global community tied together through our podcasting network, our periodicals, and our enthusiasm for gaming. About a year after we launched the Metagamers Anonymous podcast, we decided to start hosting local GameDay events in our home city of Wichita, and we started building connections with the local gamer population. TsunamiCon was a no-brainer.
But the truth is, conventions are extraordinarily expensive to run, and none of us are independently wealthy. We really wanted to put together something special for our community – something big enough to incite even some of our fanbase from across the nation to make the trip to Wichita to game with us – but we had no startup capital. That was when I started looking at Kickstarter, and I quickly found that several new conventions had popped us across the Midwest by virtue of successful crowdfunding campaigns.
If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it started as a way to permit creative projects – like games, books, electronic innovations, and clever inventions of all sorts – to reach out to potential customers and secure a means to fund their efforts. Without a middleman. As a musician, I loved the idea of being able to pre-sell an album I hadn’t yet recorded so that I could at least afford to make my art into something tangible that I could share, without having to secure a record contract and lose most of my money to the corporation behind it. More importantly, as any musician who has ever perused a record contract can tell you, you instantly end up signing over much of your creative control to the investors.
Which is exactly what we didn’t want to do with TsunamiCon.
Using Kickstarter to fund an event is a perfect fit. It allows us to pre-sell tickets and use the money for funding, rather than having to come up with thousands of dollars on our own. It gives us a powerful medium for connecting with fans and giving them the opportunity to really show their support. We use the reward system to provide access to convention swag (again, collecting the funds to actually have the swag made!) and VIP opportunities at the con, as well as provide accessibility to would-be vendors and advertisers. And better yet, the Kickstarter website provides us with tools that help us reach a broader audience, unbound by our social media connections. Anyone looking for a gaming convention or even just browsing the website (which, believe it or not, a lot of people do) can find us and immediately elect to get involved, and there’s even a social connection between account holders who choose to follow each other’s activities that immediately alerts your friends via email when you back our project.
As you can see, it’s a win-win.
In short, if you’re a gamer who feels like conventions should only be run by people who have the cash (who are often largely interested in obtaining more cash), I offer you in turn a chance to help fund a convention from the ground up and add your voice and ideas to the mix. We listen to you – not a team of investors – because you’re the ones who control our fate. Without your patronage, there is no TsunamiCon.
Sure… we hope to one day make enough money at one of our cons to pay it forward and no longer require crowdfunding, but for that we need to grow our convention into a much bigger event with more attendees. Understand that a lot of cons that aren’t even as big as ours frequently fail after just a year or two because the organizers aren’t making enough money to cover their costs and often end up with bad debt. Nobody likes that arrangement, and by funding it ahead of time we can be confident that our event is paid for. And at this point, we’re spending pretty much every dollar to make the convention bigger and better.
And by the way… Kickstarter is easier than ever to use. It takes 30 seconds to make a new account, and you provide your credit card information when you pledge your support, then you’re charged on the last day of the campaign if it funds. Which also means there’s no risk, because you aren’t charged a thing if we don’t make enough money to fund a convention.
So help us out. Pledge if you can. It gets you your ticket early, and the prices won’t get any lower. Your money contributes directly to the success of the convention, not to line anybody’s pocket. There’s no downside. And if you can’t contribute now, at least help us spread the word. Let your gamer friends know what’s happening, because TsunamiCon 2014 was an amazing experience, and we’re jonesin’ to do it again.
I look forward to seeing you at the con!