Mythic Games, one of the most successful crowdfunding-focused board game publishers of all time, is fighting for its survival after rising prices left it struggling under the weight of its expensive to produce, miniatures-heavy projects.
The company, which launched in 2015, quickly made a name for itself as one of the tabletop industry’s highest-grossing Kickstarter specialists, scoring millions of dollars across campaigns including HEL: The Last Saga, Time of Legends: Joan of Arc and Solomon Kane.
But its greatest crowdfunding success – a tabletop adaptation of the Darkest Dungeon video game which raised more than $5.6m from over 28,000 supporters – also looks set to go down as the company’s biggest failure, after rising prices and high inflation left a multimillion-dollar hole in its finances.
By the summer of 2022, Mythic had already subsidised more than $1.2m of unexpected costs associated with shipping and general price rises since the Covid crisis of two years earlier – but further chaos caused by the Ukraine war across raw materials and shipping costs left the company on the hook for an extra $1.75m for the first wave of the Darkest Dungeon campaign alone.
Mythic took the unprecedented step of telling backers they would have to commit more money if they wanted to receive their game at all – between $18 and $69 each for ‘Wave 1’, comprising the English version of the core set, an expansion and several add-ons, on top of the $100 to $330 plus shipping they had already spent on the original crowdfunding campaign.
That contribution would make up about 50% of the extra costs, with Mythic saying it would provide another $775,000 and Darkest Dungeon video game developer Red Hook agreeing to commit $100,000.
More than 80% of backers duly paid up in order to get Wave 1, and were told that if they were also expecting projects in Wave 2 – several more expansions, add-ons, and the full-range localised into six other languages – they would not have to make any further payments.
But Mythic has now gone back on that commitment, with Wave 1 backers being asked for another $13 to receive each of the Wave 2 expansions they are expecting, with even more added on top for shipping. Some backers have seen their total extra bill across both waves reach more than $380 – around double their original pledge.
Additionally, backers expecting full editions in non-English languages have already had that trimmed down to receiving English versions of the game plus “language packs” to replace rulebooks, cards and tiles – and will have to pay an extra $29 to $122 plus shipping on top of their original pledges to receive their products.
That also assumes enough total demand for each language pack. Mythic said in an October 11 update that the French version had reached 63% of its minimum order quantity target, with German on 23% and Spanish on 18%. It seems increasingly unlikely Italian, Polish, and Chinese language versions will make their way into the hands of backers.
The chaos currently engulfing the Darkest Dungeon campaign also extends to Mythic’s Kickstarter for 6: Siege, a tabletop adaptation of the Ubisoft video game Rainbow Six: Siege.
Mythic presented backers of that game with a similar ultimatum earlier this year – contribute up to an extra $249 depending on pledge level, or do not receive the game.
The company also has several other Kickstarters outstanding, including Hel and Anastyr, but those projects have all been placed on hold after Darkest Dungeon and 6: Siege are out of the door.
Unsurprisingly, Mythic has suffered a heavy backlash from its Kickstarter backers over the repeat requests to pay extra for their games, with accusations of everything from Ponzi schemes, ransoming and general mismanagement being levelled at the company.
Mythic, for its part, says it is determined to deliver its outstanding projects, and has taken a string of cost cutting measures over the past year in order to continue getting their games to backers.
Company co-founder Leonidas Vesperini told BoardGameWire Mythic has slashed its staff numbers by 60%, with the vast majority of the less than a dozen employees remaining being largely outsourced.
The company has also heavily cut its portfolio of games through sales of IP to other publishers, in order to focus on Darkest Dungeon, Hel and Anastyr – while Vesperini and fellow co-founder Benoit Vogt have not paid themselves a salary from Mythic since the beginning of 2023.
Those decisions have seen the firm slash its operating costs by 80% – a situation which leaves it unable to develop or launch new projects, but that it hopes will allow it to complete the Kickstarters for which it has already raised capital.
When BoardGameWire asked if Darkest Dungeon had been offered as a Kickstarter at too low a price, even before the global financial problems, Vesperini said, “At the time of the Darkest Dungeon Kickstarter campaign, we couldn’t imagine that costs would explode everywhere.
“Who could have predicted the war in Ukraine and the inflationary crisis that followed? What’s more, we were in an extremely competitive market back then, which meant that we had to match our competitors’ offers as closely as possible.
“As soon as we became aware of these inflationary risks, we raised the prices of our games. But that didn’t solve the problem of games that were already funded and had yet to be shipped, and we had a lot of them.
“If it hadn’t been for the increases related to the COVID crisis and the war in Ukraine, we would have been able to maintain those prices for Darkest Dungeon and deliver without asking for donations.”
Vesperini also said the company had been looking for distributors for some of its other projects, but would not be drawn on how those negotiations had progressed.
He said, “We are actively seeking solutions for all of our undelivered projects, and that the solutions will not necessarily always be the same.”
When asked which game Mythic would focus on after completing Darkest Dungeon, and whether those backers would be asked for extra commitments, Vesperini said, “We’ll move on to Rise of the Necromancers, probably in November. It’s too early at this point to announce the solution we have in mind or to give any numbers, as all of our human resources are currently dedicated to Darkest Dungeon.”