Well, for starters, “failure” is a very relative term when dealing with Kickstarter projects. Nothing is ever truly a failure if you learn from it. And while you might have spent some elbow grease in managing as far as dedicating your time and energy, not getting funded doesn’t necessarily mean everything you’ve already done is for naught. After all, it’s conceivably better to realize your project, as it stands, wasn’t going to be a success out of the gate without having to mortgage and lose your house for the lesson. It also gives you a chance to look at how your product was set up, why it wasn’t received and how it can be changed or improved. A non-funded Kickstarter is just that, a single Kickstarter. You can tweak and try again and each time learning more and more until eventually the stars align and the project is a success. Although, it should be stated that if you just repost your same project 3 or more times and are not getting the backers, it should definitely be time to go back to the drawing board and consider what you’re doing and why.
So let’s take a look at this project in a post mortem that will allow us to consider everything from two perspectives. First, we’ll look at the project itself. We’ll ask how it could be refined, how well was it presented, how far along it was in production before launch (As this can play a significant role in people’s interests). Second, we’ll dissect the Kickstarter campaign itself and determine what was done right and what could be improved upon in the next go round.
To clarify, Play With This Too (PWTT) is the name of the company producing this product. The company was founded by Rik Alverez and has Aaron Archer on board as well. Both are heavy hitters who worked very closely with the Transformers line for Hasbro. Archer was in charge of the brand for over a decade. The group also includes many freelancers who’ve been involved in one way or another in the Transformers brand, including Trent Troop. Troop has already had one successful Kickstarter of his own for his BMOG accessories – Transformable weapons that can be reconfigured to become different kinds of weapons or even robots and robotic animals. You can view the entire roster here.
The first project PWTT intended to launch was called The Lost Protectors. In essence, it’s designed as a companion line of toys, characters and accessories to allow them to be integrated into other popular mainstream lines such as Transformers and Masters of The Universe. This is similar to the so-called third party toys produced by overseas companies such as FansProject that skirt trademark and copyright of existing characters and designs by creating their own generically named themed characters and accessories meant to be displayed or played with alongside the official first party Transformers toys. The big difference here is that PWTT is an American based company as well as comprised of people who actually designed and engineered the first party Transformers toys.
This is a double edged sword. On the one hand you’ve got a group of designers who really know what they’re doing. They’ve been in this business and they know what works and what doesn’t. Knowing that they have been on the official design teams can lend credibility to their ability to pull this project off. On the other hand, there is fog of grey area involved that questions the legality and ethics of using your skills and trade secrets learned at one company and then using that knowledge to skirt the same trademark and copyright areas that the foreign third party producers have become well known for.
PWTT isn’t the first company of toy professionals to pull this off, however. Boss Fight Studios did a similar line last year of complimentary characters but did so without referring to other current toy lines — the Greek Mythology theme and characters are their own unique spin on these public domain stories. Boss Fight, comprised of toy professionals who worked on lines such as Transformers and GI Joe. In fact did quite ell with their own Kickstarter Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S. They received a massive $412,270 dollars. Well above their funding goal of $75,000 dollars.
PWTT was priming to duplicate Boss Fight’s success with a similar concept but taken in a completely different direction. Rather than focus on the interplayability of the core line, as Boss Fight did with their Greek Mythology series, they sought to expand that and created interplayability among all related science fiction and fantasy lines, particularly at the 6 inch scale. This would mean their toys would be able to be dropped into any play pattern and on any display by blending in while being distinct. This idea had a lot of following and a lot of enthusiasm early on. So what went wrong? I’ve been following this project since its announcement and this is what I’ve found.
One of the earliest indications of where the project was going is entwined with the original character samples we saw. The start of this project was promoting some designs and sketches that were very clearly homages to the 1980’s Pretender subline of the Transformers series. The names, the designs, the colors and functions are a little too spot-on-the-nose. This threw up some red flags with those following the projects. Certainly it’s okay to be inspired by other lines and other characters, but when the first three of four concepts released are almost completely identical, it starts to bring into question the ability to truly create and stand out with your own concepts and designs. The first character to be introduced was Astroblast. The comparison pics to the Astroblast character and Hasbro’s Cloudburst character are striking. Even the flagship character of the Kickstarter was based heavily on an existing Pretender design.
Desolator and Skullgrin
Astroblast and Cloudburst
Again, it’s not as though there aren’t already plenty of toy lines out there with their own easter eggs or homages to things that have inspired the creators. But when it is the only kind of characters presented, this can definitely lead to questions as to how original the future offerings will be. In that vein, even the company name and logo are from something else. The name being a tribute to a local toy store called Play With This located in Willingboro, NJ. The company logo itself is actually the head of a character from the 1960’s through 1970’s toy line “Major Matt Mason” produced by Mattel. (Source).