Patreon and me

This is something I've just posted to Patreon. I'm reposting it here for two reasons:

- former patrons of mine might still hang up here and be interested in reading;

- as a conversation starter, for discussing the impact of Patreon policy changes on story-gamers, and perhaps viable alternatives.
Dear patrons,

from time to time I get to meet some of you in person, and of course a question you always ask is: is your Patreon page still active? Will you release any more games? “Yes, eventually” is my usual answer.

Over the last couple years – besides working odd-jobs and the general uncertainty about my future – I’ve been designing and in-house playtesting several role-playing games. However, I haven’t written down much of those (not counting my madman-like scribbled notes) except for an Italian-language Game Chef entry and a larp scenario found in Crescendo Giocoso (both co-authored with Barbara).

As of now, a bunch of juicy new content – including English-language content – is actually very close to readable shape. I wouldn’t call any of that a “finished” game, though, hence it doesn’t qualify as potential paid content under the current wording of my Patreon page. Over the last several months, I’d thought up a plan to restructure the campaign in order for you to get that content at last – and for me to get a bit of your money. However, as I was almost ready to deploy those changes, Patreon hit us all with big changes of their own that sent me back to the drawing board!

In October, the company suddenly pulled the rug from under the feet of a number of their customers – content creators depending on Patreon patrons for their income (here’s the open letter I co-signed with so many others, and links to articles telling the full story). While I’m not one of the creators impacted, the incident made me wary of how Patreon conducts their business (i.e. like most other business entities I know of, sadly) and I chose to bid my time while watching for new developments. This month, they announced a new pricing scheme – which they’re disingenuously trying to sell us as “more money to the creators”: as you’ve probably noticed already, everybody is appalled and a lot of people are quitting Patreon altogether.

[Breakdown of boring accounting issues starts here – feel free to ignore:]

Under the old pricing scheme, I used to get a variable percentage of X (your pledge), minus sunken costs due to currency exchange between EUR and USD and actually moving money from a PayPal account to a real bank account. Under the new scheme, I get a fixed percentage of X (minus all of the above) while you pay X+2.9%+$0.35. While the change from variable to fixed percentage would actually be beneficial to content creators (more predictable income) and the partial shift in who pays Patreon’s cut (creator or patron) would substantially be irrelevant in the long run (although a terrible PR move)… it’s the fixed +$0.35 per pledge that really hurts. It hurts small pledges so much it changes the big picture completely: you now end up paying $0.49 surcharge to give me $0.95 (a very significant cost), and that’s before VAT, currency exchange rates, etc. for those of us who aren’t based in the USA (while VAT isn’t Patreon’s fault – and I do believe taxation per se is ultimately beneficial to society – it feels grossly misplaced when the whole purpose of this model was to establish “patronage” as something different from a customer-seller relationship). How much sense does it make for someone based in Italy (as I am, as well as about a half of my patrons) to spend close to $2 a month to gift a favorite artist under $1?

[end of boring accounting aside]

Being myself a patron to several creators, and following many more, my mailbox is currently being flooded with their reactions. I’m studying those, looking for emerging trends of response to the new pricing scheme, evaluating what might work for me – and you. But I’ve also started investigating alternatives to Patreon.

Thus, in the immediate future, I might restructure my existing campaign or I might scrap it all and start anew somewhere else. Either way, you’ll be the first to know.

Meanwhile, should you opt even pull your pledge (which is purely notional at the moment – you’ll get advance warning before and if I start billing you again) I recommend you keep following me, so I can reach you with news. Alternatively, would you like to stop using Patreon altogether, I suggest you e-mail me at raffaele.manzo@gmail.com and drop a line – so I can add you to an address list of people I’m to notify of my next move whatever it is.

Lots of love to you all,

Rafu

Comments

  • Thank you for this breakdown. Interesting business.
  • Meanwhile... Patreon backpedaled, and said they're sorry for the mess.
    However, their announcements imply some change will come, if not the exact scheme proposed last week. This is still not the best time to restructure a Patreon campaign, as nobody can tell how exactly the website will work two months from now.
  • I'm currently pledging to someone on Patreon. Since I'm giving a larger amount per month and without currency conversion, the change doesn't affect me so much.

    However, it's clear that Patreon should not have made this change retroactive, and certainly should have done a public consultation first.

    I guess we'll see what happens

    --Jonathan
  • The latest news is: they haven't made the announced change.
    Obviously, the outcry throughout their user base convinced them otherwise. My guess is they noticed a much bigger number of users dropping their pledges and/or quitting altogether than they had anticipated, resulting in a loss for them even under the new scheme (as most if not all the creators I support or follow reported losing patrons after the announcements, it's not hard to imagine this was a widespread phenomenon).

    However, the wording of their announcement to us creators (clients) strongly implies they're going to make some significant change soon enough - they just need to cook up a new plan. It's apparent something there's "wrong" with their current business model that they need to "fix" to achieve whatever their current objectives are (be it going public, selling to a bigger company or just bringing in new investors).
  • Rafu, you're likely right about their motives. It's rare for a start-up to thrive on its own, they almost always have to be acquired for the owners to get their payoff.
  • Quite notably, Avery Alder - who was as far as I know the first indie-RPG designer to open up shop on Patreon (IIRC it's from her I learned of Patreon at all) - is now quitting the platform. She's replaced it with a quarterly subscription managed through Gumroad, The Goblin Friendship Club.

    It looks like there are a number of alternatives to Patreon for setting up a fixed monthly subscription model (aggregation of processing fees was the main draw Patreon had, I think; most creators I've been following reported being underwhelmed with Patreon's "social" features). I believe one can even set up such a thing as a straight up PayPal feature (I know PayPal come with their own problems, on the ethical side, but Patreon too use PayPal as their money processor). I'm wondering how to set up something like their "per creation" subscription, though, without using Patreon.
  • I know that there must be something too simplistic about this, but why not just email a Paypal payment link/form/button/whatever to your subscribers every time you create something and it's time to pay? They'd get it into their mailboxes, ready to pay, and just like Patreon, continuing status as a supporter is contingent on actually following through on the promise to pay. What would be different from Patreon, aside from name recognition? You could automate the email routine on your side easily enough with the mailing list workflow of your choice.
  • @Eero_Tuovinen that's exactly the kind of practical alternatives I'm looking for.
Sign In or Register to comment.