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FunForge’s ZNA Kickstarter Cancellation: What Went Wrong?

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FunForge LLC’s Kickstarter campaign for ZNA, which was billed as “The next generation of cooperative survival ZNAcancelledboardgame…” came to an abrupt halt yesterday when Funforge pulled the plug on the project.  Even though the campaign was on its way to doubling the initial funding goal of $80,000, an aura of negativity had built up around the campaign and some backers had started cancelling their pledges.  FunForge blamed three factors for the campaign’s cancellation in their cancellation update: first, that Kickstarter has become a website for pre-orders rather than funding innovative ideas, that they revealed stretch goals too early, and that they had mishandled the campaign. I completely agree with the latter, and while pre-order Kickstarter campaigns are certainly becoming more common, I think it’s shortsighted of FunForge to assign any amount of blame to Kickstarter and the people who frequent it.

I’ll start by saying I have a great deal of respect for FunForge, which makes the failure of this campaign so surprising.  They have some great games on the shelf, including Tokaido, Phantom, and most recently Samurai Spirit.  This is a company not unfamiliar with marketing, and that is no stranger to Kickstarter.  Heck, I found their Tokaido collectors edition campaign phenomenal, and am anxiously awaiting my fully painted set.  So, what went wrong?

In short, ZNA was simply a disingenuous campaign, and that led to its demise.  The campaign itself looked like it was to fund a high quality, cooperative survival boardgame set in a post-apocalyptic world that included lots of great tiles and miniature, which would be produced if funding hit $80,000.  The stretch goal content included some great added minis, tiles, etc., and if it hit $600,000 was going to include a growing iOS application that would enhance the experience of the game and add some really unique and cool interactive features.  For almost $130,000 total, that’s exactly what people funded, and what they expected.  In reality, as is now clear from FunForge’s cancellation update, the campaign was to fund the board game AND the application; the two were a package deal even though the campaign itself approached the application as a stretch goal that wouldn’t make an appearance until funding surpassed over 6 times the original amount asked for.

I’ll be the first to say the application is a sweet idea, and I could see it adding a lot to the game experience.  I disagree that, as a stretch goal, people shouldn’t have known about it; if anything it gave the campaign some unique possibilities up against the multitude of Zombie games we’ve seen over the last year.  I also realize that the development of said app is going to cost a lot of money, and I don’t blame FunForge for setting its inclusion at the $600,000 mark.  The problem I have, however, is that FunForge wasn’t honest about what they were trying to accomplish in the first place.  If you’ve got a board game that you don’t want to produce on its own even if you can afford to do it without the app, and instead want to fund the two together, THEN MAKE THAT THE CAMPAIGN GOAL.  Don’t mislead people into thinking they’re getting a new game after the $80,000 mark is hit with the application shown as a question mark somewhere down the funding line, only to cancel the entire thing after your REAL goal of $600,000 isn’t in sight.

I know some campaigns will calculate their costs of production, and then set their campaign goal a bit lower in the hopes that hitting the funding goal sooner in the campaign will generate more interest since people are more willing to back something that looks like it’s already a sure thing.  The difference is that those campaigns don’t undersell by $520,000, and they’re ready to eat the difference if the campaign doesn’t generate enough buzz to get them to the actual cost mark.

In my opinion, FunForge’s big mistake was aiming too high without being up-front about what they were trying to accomplish.  It’s not that Kickstarter is simply an arena now for pre-orders, it’s that campaigns for innovative products should identify themselves as such in order to attract the people who want to back that kind of product.  Who knows if the campaign would have funded anyway if FunForge had just come out and said they needed $600,000 for the development of a game that was truly next-gen in its integration of iOS with tabletop, but I firmly believe everyone and the project would have been better served by doing so.

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Author: bduerksen30

coggaming.net I have an m.a. in history focusing on naval and maritime history in the Atlantic from the seventeenth-early nineteenth centuries. I've worked as a website consultant, and am currently employed as an analyst. I also run the COG Gaming blog for board game reviews, news, and kickstarter highlights. COG Gaming also offers playesting and editing services for new designers, and we're in the process of developing a few titles of our own. Contact me if you're interested in having your game reviewed, previewed, or in one of our other services!

3 thoughts on “FunForge’s ZNA Kickstarter Cancellation: What Went Wrong?

  1. Nail on the head here Ben. Great work. I would have included that December is not the best funding environment, but other than that their handling of what should have been a walk in the park was abysmal. Plenty of games today are including app companions so they had a world of resources to figure out a gameplan before launch. That being said, I don’t think this stains the Funforge name so long as this is the exception. Tokaido was on Tabletop for Pete’s sake.

    • I agree Daniel. One disappointing campaign does not a failed company make. FunForge has produced some great stuff recently and I look forward to seeing their future offerings. More immediately, I can’t wait to get Tokaido’s collectors edition to the table.

  2. Unfortunately, the above example of Funforge not being honest in its ZNA kickstarter campaign is not an exception but appears to be part of a pattern. They are now using the same tactics of deception and denial for the defense of their current homepage flagship board game “Quantum”. They launched this game in 2008 in blatant violation of my 1984 trademark for a board game of that name, but when I alerted them three months ago that they were infringing on my right to that trademark, they did not apologize or offer to correct the problem. Instead, they had a lawyer from a Las Vegas law firm deny their infringement and willfully misrepresent the U.S. law about trademarks to defend their illegal use of that name. Then they tried to bully me into dropping my complaint.

    According to U.S. Trademark law, trademark rights are held by the party who first uses the mark in commerce, not who first files an application for registration with the Patent and Trademark Office. In many cases, the owner of even an unregistered trademark can stop someone from using a confusingly similar trademark in the same market. The trademark is generally the name under which the item is marketed, and confusion is presumed to arise when that name is used by someone else for an item in the same market, such as board games.

    As I had informed the inventor of Funforge’s “Quantum”, I launched my board game “Quantum” in 1984, and it has been sold continuously since 1987 by Kadon Enterprises who offered it in each of their annual catalogs and then on their website http://gamepuzzles.com/histfun.htm ever since that website went online in 1998. Its entry there has always had the “TM” trademark notifier prominently displayed next to its name. Also, my game was featured twice under that “Quantum” name among Games Magazine’s 100 best games of the year, in 1984 and 1985. It further received several glowing reviews under that name in 1986 and 1998, as posted on the series of pages that begins at http://recoveredscience.com/quantumreviews1.htm. It has sold steadily over all these years through word-of-mouth — not in spectacular quantities but with a solid following of enthusiasts. All this documents without any ambiguity that I did use and maintain the “Quantum” mark in commerce long before
    Funforge launched their game with the same name. (By the way, I would be delighted if you wanted to review my “Quantum” game and would like to send you a free copy if you are interested.)

    Yet, Funforge’s lawyer tries to tell me that “you cannot claim exclusive rights in “Quantum” standing alone across all types of board games”, and that “the stark contrast in packaging and advertising material alone” is sufficient to rule out any confusion for a potential buyer. Since this lawyer is listed as a trademark specialist in the law firm that employs him, it seems implausible that he could be so unfamiliar with the above U.S. definition of trademark ownership. The only rational conclusion is that he intentionally misrepresented the legal situation. To document his bad faith and bullying, I posted at http://recoveredscience.com/FunforgeQuantumDispute.htm his letter of May 13 to me and above it my reply to him of May 21 to which he has so far not reacted.

    Moreover, just as Funforge tried to blame Kickstarter for having mishandled their ZNA funding campaign although the mishandling was clearly Funforge’s own fault, their lawyer threatened me that I should “refrain from making any further baseless insinuations to anyone that Funforge’s Quantum infringes on any of [my] legal rights” — as if I was the violator in this case. I suggest that their additional mishandling of their trademark infringement with “Quantum” now stains the Funforge name. If they were in Kindergarten, their report card would read “does not play well with others”, and it appears that they brought this same selfish attitude to the playground for grownups.

    I am now pondering whether to launch an anti-bullying Kickstarter campaign to defend my trademark against
    Funforge’s arrogant theft, with the expected proceeds of royalties and statutory damages to be shared with the
    investors in the upfront legal costs. I would appreciate any advice or referral to an expert campaign consultant that you or your readers can provide. Thank you in advance for your help.

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