Elden Ring board game maker seals Kickstarter exclusivity deal in wake of mass redundancies

Elden Ring and Dark Souls board game developer Steamforged Games has signed a four-game exclusivity partnership with Kickstarter – two months after a mass redundancy at the UK-based company.

Steamforged told nearly 20 employees in March that they would be made redundant, Dicebreaker reported earlier this week, citing an anonymous former worker.

Ex-Steamforged copywriter Dylan Wilby, another member of the group who was made redundant, has since taken to Reddit in the wake of the Kickstarter deal news to call out his former company’s behaviour.

He said, “We logged in on a Monday morning and were told to join an urgent meeting. They told us we were ‘at risk’ of redundancy, and then the moment the meeting ended we were kicked from our emails, shared drives, and messaging platforms like Slack.

“We were given no redundancy pay at all, and no support whatsoever. I could go on and on about this awful company but I’ll spare you all the rant. Don’t give them any of your money. All they care about is getting rich.”

The redundancies came a year after Steamforged had hired about 20 new employees to work across its slate of Kickstarted offerings, including Elden Ring and Monster Hunter World board games and Dark Souls RPG – a product so full of mistakes and rules oversights that the company offered unhappy buyers corrected reprints of the 500-page rulebook.

Steamforged did not respond to questions from BoardGameWire about the redundancies, but did provide Dicebreaker with a statement.

It said, “SFG can confirm a restructure of business operations was recently completed and that, as a result, some employees sadly had to leave the business by reason of redundancy. SFG will be making no further comment on this confidential and now-completed process.

“Following the restructure, we’ve continued to grow and develop Steamforged with the acquisition of Altar Quest from Blacklist Games (May 2, 2023); the delivery of the Monster Hunter World: The Board Game Kickstarter to more than 20,000 backers worldwide; and the appointment of Krystal Kennedy as Head of Marketing (May 3, 2023), who is entrusted with establishing and developing our brand presence, and championing further growth of Steamforged for our customers and community

“At Steamforged, we are committed to our team and have been awarded the Investors in People Silver Award (2022). We support Steamforged employees in their physical and mental wellbeing, both through private healthcare and the training and introduction of mental health first aiders; a programme introduced in light of the challenging times of recent years.

“The core of Steamforged remains unchanged. Our mission has always been to create games for gamers and provide people with exceptional experiences. The changes made within the company allow us to further deliver on this mission.”

Steamforged struck instant success with its first Kickstarter campaign in 2016, raising more than £3.7m to create and publish Dark Souls: The Board Game.

Despite its soaring crowdfunding success, the game has garnered a rather lukewarm 6.5 rating on BoardGameGeek, with critics calling out elements including its poorly-designed rulebook, limited gameplay and the grindy nature of combat.

Monster Hunter World: The Board Game, for which Steamforged raised £3.4m on Kickstarter last year, has proved more popular with players, and currently holds a BoardGameGeek rating of 8.1.

Steamforged’s follow up, Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game, launched onto Kickstarter yesterday and almost immediately reached its £150,000 funding goal.

The crowdfund had reached more than £680,000 as of this morning, with 13 more days to go.

That game marks the first of the four Steamforged offerings covered by the Kickstarter exclusivity deal, which will also see the pair “collaborating on educational content for emerging games creators as a way to support the next generation of tabletop publishers”.

A statement from Steamforged co-founder and CEO Rich Loxam said, “Kickstarter has been key to the making of Steamforged and is a big part of how we’ve gotten where we are today.

“We believe it’s the best platform for creators to bring their ideas to life and reach their audience. It’s an incredible way to build passionate communities, and it provides a fantastic space where those communities can engage with us directly and even influence the final game.”

Kickstarter chief strategy officer Jon Leland added, “There’s a common misconception that creators need to ‘graduate’ from Kickstarter but, especially in the tabletop industry, that isn’t the case.

“This partnership with one of our biggest tabletop games publishers is a testament to the fact that Kickstarter can be part of an ongoing business model that works beyond initial success.

“This is one example of how we hope to continue finding impactful and creative ways to deepen our relationships with creators of all sizes, across all categories.”

The statement added that the 30,000 first-time backers Steamforged brought to Kickstarter have since made an additional 230,000 pledges, totalling more than $18.5m, to more than 30,000 other campaigns on the crowdfunding platform.

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