Connecting Athletes With Fans Via Video Games... And Via Crowdfunding

from the so-i-can-flagrant-foul-dwight-howard? dept

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.


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    jameshogg (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 4:41pm

    Evidence.

    I would hate to make the argument about how Crowdfunding can replace Copyright seem like an unfalsifiable position by talking about how it is okay for projects to fail as well as succeed, or how it is justified for Kickstarter to push the working projects to the front page while hiding the unsuccessful ones. But it is important to bear in mind that any publisher is going to take on successful and failed projects, as well as deliberately advertising the best ones while not talking much about the failed. When put in this context, the argument gains strength.

    Copyright is MUCH more unfalsifiable, because believers have never been able to demonstrate what evidence would prove Copyright wrong. In the world of science, unfalsifiable assumptions are always the weakest ones: like the religious believer who will defend the unfalsifiable claim of God and his cruel torture of humanity by shrugging off all the criticism in saying "God works in mysterious ways" - it sets itself up to never be proved wrong just like Copyright, which should make us all suspicious.

    If Copyright claims to be the only way to fund creators, it should face the evidence that contradicts the claim, and in this case ticket-based admission ala crowdfunding is the evidence and lots of it. Ticket-based admission has survived for centuries, proven to be a primary source of income for those involved, and Crowdfunding is a powerful form of it. And if Crowdfunding claims to be the BEST way, i.e. acknowledging other ways, it must demonstrate so and also demonstrate that it is necessary to compromise liberties in order to do so... which I doubt it can do.

    It is a claim like any other and must be treated as such.

     

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      jameshogg (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 4:45pm

      Re: Evidence.

      Correction: Sentence should be "And if Copyright claims to be the BEST way, i.e. acknowledging other ways, it must demonstrate so and also demonstrate that it is necessary to compromise liberties in order to do so... which I doubt it can do."

      Not that Crowdfunding itself is not up for skeptical criticism as well :). The only difference between my opponents and I is that as a believer in the Dialectic and scientific inquiry I welcome criticism and do not resort to logical fallacies.

      I will happily answer any challenge put towards me in regards to Crowdfunding being a substitute to Copyright. Happily. I would love to be proved wrong.

       

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        Greevar (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 8:49pm

        Re: Re: Evidence.

        Well, crowdfunding is completely voluntary and each project must stand on its own merits because this is a business model, not a legal privilege. The author is protected by way of only producing content after payment is assured. It gauges public interest without a large initial risk. It encourages the building of relationships between author and audience, but also establishes reputation as the currency that buys you future support. The crowdfunding model has one core requirement: you must convince your patrons that you are worth paying for and after that, you only have to prove it. The only risk is being ignored, it's up to you to make people want it. If they don't, it's no major loss.

        Copyright, however, is not a business model. It is a legal privilege that supports and mandates a particular business model. The business model it supports most commonly is the type which an author does their labor first and then tries to sell that labor to recoup their investment. The trouble being that once a copy is released, there's really no way to prevent others from simply making copies and distributing them, bypassing the entire business model. You actually have two fronts to face: getting people interested in buying and convincing them not to make copies instead of buying them.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 2:30am

          Re: Re: Re: Evidence.

          Creators have always relied on 'fans' paying for their art, as it is often available legally for free, libraries, radio, TV, borrow a friends copy etc. Further without these free means of trying out their art, they would sell far less as people only buy blind occasionally.

           

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          jameshogg (profile), Mar 19th, 2013 @ 2:55am

          Re: Re: Re: Evidence.

          I often try to distinguish between business models and economic models. Business models come about as a result of how you best utilise the laws as they are, while I would say economic models are the actual laws that create an economy. I therefore often say that crowdfunding is an alternative economic model to Copyright in order to hammer home the essential idea that there is another way to solve the so-called "free-rider" problem that my opponents like to talk about.

          Assuming, of course, that the free-rider problem can be solved by Copyright anyway, considering how people still borrow DVDs and watch them without paying, as well as pirate. But since people pay regardless of being able to get it for free, it has to be said that there must be something else at force which is making people pay other than Copyright.

           

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            Greevar (profile), Mar 19th, 2013 @ 8:12am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Evidence.

            The problem with the free-rider issue is that they consider it a problem at all. They only see free-riders as a problem because they still cling to the idea that every copy should be generating profit for them. If it doesn't, it's considered a loss. If you instead view the free-riders as part of your marketing strategy, then every copy shared is another prospective customer and it lifts the veil of obscurity.

            Free-riders are not a problem, they are an opportunity. If you follow the crowdfunding model and ask for the full cost of a project up front, then it's a non-issue to give away copies of the resulting works. You already got paid and the resulting copies promote you to potential customers. For the free-riders, all they get are the copies, while the people who invested in you in the first place get more in return. They get benefits you provide only to those that pay you.

             

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