Kickstarter announced Tuesday that it would name board game designer and publisher Jon Ritter-Roderick as its new game director. Ritter-Roderick has been with the company since 2020, serving as senior outreach leader for the table. He is best known for Dragon, the beautifully decorated strategy game. She will be joined by Nicole Amato, who will take on the role of game disclosure lead in her place.
“In 2015 we ran our first game [on Kickstarter]Ritter-Roderick said in an interview with Polygon. “I said, ‘What the hell, why not make this game and see what happens?’ And I made a lot of mistakes, I gave people advice and then slowly over the years my advice got better. And then a job opportunity arose on Kickstarter. It was the only place I was likely to take a full-time job, and I thought, this seems like the right place. Let’s do it.”
Ritter-Roderick said he sees his role at Kickstarter as an ambassador, and during our conversation he reinforced that his most important duty is to open and lead communication with the creators who hope to bring their projects to life.
“My goal on Kickstarter is to pass on the knowledge that I have, and if I don’t have the knowledge, to get people in touch with those who do,” he said. “My hope is to make sure people are as informed as humanly possible, and that will help them be as successful as possible.”
Ritter-Roderick takes over during a turbulent time for the crowdfunding giant. Kickstarter sparked controversy in 2021 when former CEO Aziz Hasan noted that the company would be moving towards blockchain technology. The company has slowed but not stopped that transition, leading to numerous high-profile departures from the platform, including Cephalophair Games, publishers of the hit board game. Gloom Haven. We asked Ritter-Roderick if he was interested in trying to convince desktop creators that controversial web3 technology would benefit them. He said no.
“I don’t think my role is anything to convince the industry [about blockchain],” he said. “I think I’m here to be an advocate for the industry. So I know that Kickstarter and I are just dedicated to making the platform better for creators to use. [can] bring your projects to life. Precisely how that’s going to happen, I don’t know, because that’s a long way off. But I think communication should only be clear and concise from Kickstarter when it happens.”
Before any transition to blockchain, Ritter-Roderick said it is more important that the Kickstarter platform meets the needs of creators. Its most important added value, he said, is simply the audience it is able to reach. Creators are free to engage with that audience in any way they see fit, even if that means offering pre-orders on Kickstarter and handling fulfillment through another platform. That is the strategy employed recently by Wyrmwood. His Modular Gaming Table made nearly $9 million via Kickstarter in 2020. His latest campaign doesn’t offer any kind of merchandise. Instead, the company is using the Kickstarter outreach to sell places online to purchase its next product, a game master display, which it will sell on Backerkit.
“People have to do what’s best for them,” Ritter-Roderick said. “There’s definitely value in the bigger campaign on Kickstarter: more exposure, more up-type, more articles talking about it. […] Do you want more exposure? A lot of people like Wyrmwood say, ‘No, we don’t need it. We don’t want it. It’s okay. […] It is our tool and they can use it however they want.”
Ritter-Roderick also noted that he is not paid on commission and that the company’s results mean very little to him professionally. The same is true, he said, of Kickstarter in general, which, unlike other companies in the crowdfunding space, is a public benefit corporation. Doing the public good is written in the fundamental principles of the company.
“As a PBC, we can focus more on that life-giving aspect and less on maximizing profits,” Ritter-Roderick said. “We are not a publisher. […] Our charter is about making these projects come to life. It is not about maximizing profits. So taking the knowledge that I’ve had before, and then making sure that people still know that I’m the same person. I’m still that creator who started on Kickstarter and is incredibly grateful to be here for a lot of reasons, and then I can pass that on to like the next generation of creators.”
Ritter-Roderick also said that he sees board games, including board games and role-playing games, continuing to be a core element of Kickstarter’s business. The category currently accounts for more than 30% of the company’s annual crowdfunding revenue.
“I think people discard [tabletop] games a little early,” he said. “And I think one thing that I really hope that in the next three or five years people will recognize is that board games are very present in the entertainment industry, as much as video games, movies and television. And I think [that with] With the next release of the D&D movie, people will start to see the transition from board games to movies and back again.”