Given all the money
backers have pledged to Kickstarter
projects, and all the cool things that have been subsequently produced, I think it's safe to call Kickstarter a successful business model option for anyone looking to produce something. That said, it's still just an option, and it isn't going to be successful in every case. That doesn't mean a "failed" project hasn't produced valuable information, results and lessons
to the those that put the project together, of course. At the very least, Kickstarter is a great way to connect a producer with fans and potential fans, a hallmark of what we talk about at Techdirt.
One ex-NFL player, Hunter Hillenmeyer, is now looking to extend the concept of connecting with backers on Kickstarter to help connect gamers with their favorite athletes to compete online in their favorite video games
. The app, called OverDog, is still in very early beta and the project hasn't been fully funded yet, but Hillenmeyer was nice enough to give me some background in an email exchange that I thought would provide some nice insight on how the people, who put these projects together, plan for them, and how they view Kickstarter over all. I mentioned first to Hillenmeyer that we talk a great deal about connecting with fans as part of a business model and asked to get his thoughts on what role that plays with OverDog.
OverDog is taking a very simple premise, connecting athletes who love video games with fans who love video games, and flipping that dynamic on its head. Twitter is popular for, amongst other reasons, the fact that it allows immediate and sustained interaction between celebrities and fans, while the celebrity still keeps that arms-length privacy. OverDog is building an experience that gives fans the chance to do something they love with athletes who share that same interest, video games. That both fans and athletes would be excited about this seems so obvious I was honestly surprised to discover that nothing like OverDog already existed.
The concept behind the app aside, I was curious as to how he viewed Kickstarter overall. I did a Kickstarter once and I went into it thinking that unless it was fully funded, the project was a failure. I've since decided that this line of thinking was myopic and it seems Hillenmeyer agrees.
We look at Kickstarter more as marketing than fundraising. We will still deploy a product in April even if we don't hit our funding goal. Our goal is to attract enough users through Kickstarter that we can take that dedicated community of soon-to-be users and give them exclusive access to our athletes during beta. We want them to be our test market, with unprecedented access to athletes, to test, to provide feedback, and ultimately, to help build a better final product to launch in the fall.
This isn't a new concept, either. I've discussed
before how Kickstarter shouldn't be solely viewed as a way to get money directly from backers for a project, but it can also be viewed as an incredibly valuable tool for market research and consumer feedback. This may be doubly important in this instance, since the app really needs to serve to different kinds of users, the athletes and their fans. There's going to be some concern on the part of athletes about abusive users, but this is apparently being kept in mind as design for the app and how it's used moves forward.
It's interesting to note that the app will be free as well, and player vs. player within the community will be included as a feature. The subscription is what gets you access to the famous athletes, however, since that partnership and accessibility is a valuable, scarce asset. It seems like an approach made with Cwf+RtB
in mind. The rewards in the Kickstarter project are varied enough that fans of specific sports should find something to choose from. I was a bit skeptical on how Hillenmeyer would be able to deliver so many athlete connections to so many fans, but talks with the athletes around the country have apparently gone well.
We certainly don't want to be presumptuous about athlete involvement, but luckily, we have deep relationships in every major sport. We can deliver on everything in that rewards section. Players associations like the NFLPA, MLBPA, and MLSPA have been instrumental in helping OverDog communicate with and attract the right athletes from the right teams to our platform. This will only get easier when we finally have a product for them to see and touch and use come April.
We'll have to wait and see what comes of the Kickstarter project, which has less than two weeks to go. Regardless, it seems sports fans will be able to test the app for themselves in a month or so, connecting with their favorite athletes to play video games.