Mythic Games launched a Kickstarter for a board game version of Darkest Dungeon in October 2020, and it was immediately, massively successful. It surpassed $1 million in backing in one day—more than tripling its initial $300,000 goal—and finishing with more than $5.6 million in total. Despite that remarkable achievement, creator Mythic Games now says that it’s facing a serious financial shortfall, and is asking backers for more money.
The problem is that material costs have gone up, and shipping costs have gone way up, by an average of 600%, according to Mythic. The cause, of course, is two-fold: The Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mythic tried to ride it out, saying that it (along with most other “professional market players”) assumed the situation was temporary because of the sudden resumption of shipping from China after a long halt forced by the pandemic. But instead of peaking, manufacturing and shipping costs continued to rise through 2021 and 2022, “to amounts we never imagined possible.”
“Today, the shipping costs to get these games to you are $3.1M, which is $1.4M more than the $1.7 million paid by backers,” Mythic said in a Kickstarter update. “On top of that, there was an additional $350,000 in manufacturing costs due to the increase in oil and raw materials. That’s a total of $1.75 million in additional costs to be paid.”
Mythic said that it’s been eating the rising costs on releases over the past couple of years, including its most recent release, Anastyr, another big Kickstarter success. But that’s apparently no longer an option: “In order to ensure the sustainability of Mythic Games to deliver our outstanding games and to allow our teams to continue to develop games with passion and commitment, we have had to make the decision to no longer absorb all of the additional costs.”
The studio also shared a chart illustrating how sharply shipping costs have risen:
Mythic said it will pay for half of the shortfall on the Darkest Dungeon board game, with assistance from original Darkest Dungeon creator Red Hook Studios, but that still leaves $875,000 for backers to cover. They’re being asked to pony up flat amounts based on what they ordered, rather than where they’re located: Someone who backed just the core set is asked to pay an extra $18, for instance, while someone who backed the core set, the Crimson Court expansion, and the Darkest Organizer will be asked for $29.
Shipments are being organized into two waves: Wave 1, including English-only core sets, the Crimson Court expansion, and most of the add-ons, is printed and ready to go, while content for wave 2, which will include remaining English add-ons and all non-English versions of the game, is expected to begin printing in early 2023.
Most backers, unsurprisingly, are not happy with the situation. While some have expressed understanding—the world has changed quite a lot over the past couple of years, after all—the majority don’t seem inclined toward forgiveness. Some question Mythic’s honesty about the cost increase, while others question the ethics—and legality—of Mythic arbitrarily raising the price of a product they’ve already paid for.
“We have already paid for shipping and since then we have come to an agreement and now you are daylight robbing us for more money,” one backer wrote in the Kickstarter comments. “Think this is called extortion. I can understand that prices have gone up and that shipping has increased but it’s really the company’s problem to solve without any more backer money.”
The reaction is similar in the DarkestDungeon_TBG subreddit. “In every other business I can think of, financial risk is owned by the company providing the product/service,” redditor Doc_Serious wrote. “That risk is balanced against the potential for financial reward of bringing your product/service to market. Most of the time this balance works in favour of the company providing the product or service, but sometimes it does not. I don’t understand why the additional cost should be my problem. Everyone is hurting at the moment.”
Of course, there are also plenty of inquiries about (and demands for) refunds, but because Mythic has already paid for and completed the first wave of products, automatic refunds are no longer an option. Instead, backers who want their money returned can contact Mythic customer service “and we will do our best depending on individual circumstances and our own financial situation.”
Unfortunately for frustrated supporters, there’s likely not much they can do to compel refunds or force Mythic to ship the game at the previously-agreed rate. Kickstarter’s rules say the “fundamental obligation” of campaigns is to finish their projects, address backer concerns, and deliver rewards, but, responsibility for assessing and accepting the risk ultimately lies with backers.
“Backers must understand that Kickstarter is not a store,” Kickstarter’s policy on creator obligations states. “When you back a project on Kickstarter, you’re helping create something new—not pre-ordering something that already exists. As Kickstarter does not offer refunds, we encourage backers to investigate the project idea first, to vet the creator thoroughly, and to assess the inherent risk of the project for themselves before making a pledge.”
It’s a tough spot to be in. I sympathize with Mythic’s plight: Nearly 29,000 people backed the Darkest Dungeon board game, and that is a lot of boxes to ship globally at a time when the cost of literally everything is going up. But I’ve also backed more than a dozen Kickstarters myself over the years, and I have no doubt that I would be irked—at the very least—if I was suddenly told that I’d have to pay more to receive the product I was promised—and that the money I’d already paid was forfeit if I didn’t.
I’ve reached out to Mythic Games and Darkest Dungeon creator Red Hook Studios for more information on the status of the Kickstarter, and whether the request for extra funding will be reversed, and will update if I receive a reply.