Petersen Games is keeping your money and not producing what you paid for while they seek even more money elsewhere.
The most recent Cthulhu Wars campaign has turned into a bit of a debacle. It was, of course, originally slated for delivery in June of 2020, but the pandemic ended that idea. The concern for many backers wasn't that it simply got slowed down by pandemic restrictions for worker safety or entangled in shipping delays like so many other projects, but that production hadn't even begun. After all, CMON's campaign for Eric Lang's Ankh: Gods of Egypt was initiated one year after Cthulhu Wars and is now delivering around the world. Reassurances were provided for Cthulhu Wars backers in March of 2021 of impending pictures of production. These never appeared. Then a reassurance was given that production would be completed and shipping would absolutely begin as of July 31, 2021. As of July 12, Sandy clarified in the latest update linked above that production still hadn't even started but not for the reasons that many had been speculating about. Apparently, so many orders have come in from regular retail distributors that Petersen Games is now trying to raise capital to fill all of those orders, since it would put the company on much firmer economic footing.
That's a nice idea in these uncertain times. But it also means that Kickstarter backers' interest-free loans have now been extended without their consent so that Petersen can make even more money from distributors whom, of course, weren't even part of the original campaign. The efforts that created this extension have apparently been taking place for months and backers are only now learning that it may be even longer until they get what was promised to them; not because of the pandemic or the incredible logistical hurdles that every company is currently experiencing, but because Petersen Games wants to make more money.
Now, that's a laudable goal. Every company wants to make more money. But it rings hollow here because Petersen has already leveraged a lot of money at zero cost to the company. This is the working fallacy of Kickstarter in the last few years. Originally created as a way for individuals and small companies to get something printed that they couldn't otherwise raise the capital for, it's now being exercised as a marketing tool and a way for larger firms to simply avoid many of the normal costs of doing business. Certainly, capital is harder to come by, post-2008. But that doesn't mean that perfectly viable companies with 8 years of uninterrupted success can't do business the old-fashioned way by getting a loan, producing a product, and then assuming the risk of that product sitting in warehouses, pending orders from distributors or customers via PG's own website. Given that Cthulhu Wars routinely sells out, said risk would seem to be both minimal and a sure sign to any lender that Petersen is worth their assumption of risk by providing them with money.
But if these companies know there's a ready horde of customers willing to give them interest-free loans without terms (e.g. which can be changed at the whim of the recipient), then they're certainly going to take advantage of it. It's not like Petersen can't raise capital. The production and distribution of, for example, Cthulhu Wars: Duels through normal processes (capital investment, production, retail distribution) while the Cthulhu Wars campaign has been repeatedly extended is a pretty bald-faced admission of that. Other examples of normal business are still plentiful within the board game marketplace. Jim Felli, of Devious Weasel, raised the money and produced Cosmic Frog using those regular practices. Cosmic Frog is, I believe, in the midst of its third print run and has been sold direct from Jim and via regular retail. Certainly, despite his past successes with Zimby Mojo and Duhr: The Lesser Houses, no one is going to argue that Devious Weasel has a larger presence in the market than Petersen Games or that it should be easier for Jim to get a loan than it would be for Sandy.
Petersen's argument is that they're trying to do all of the production in one fell swoop for cost control reasons. In other words, it's cheaper for them to print 20,000 copies right now than it would be to print the 5000 that they owe the Kickstarter backers and then go back and print another 15,000 for the distributor orders that came in later. That, again, is understandable. But it's also not the backers' problem and it only highlights the criticism that Kickstarter has become more of a marketing platform and a way around the cost of doing business than it is a crowdfunding site. It's also a way for the loanee to dictate terms to the loaners. Ordinarily, you wouldn't be holding out on your capital source because the longer you held out, the more interest you'd be paying, which is a cost that most would like to avoid if they can help it. In really dire scenarios, holding out might also mean that the lender gets skittish and decides to call in the loan. Kickstarter backers have neither the pressure of that interest nor the ability to pull the plug. They're just along for the ride and have no recourse even if they never receive what they've paid for (outside of pursuing what would then nominally be a bankrupt entity in court. Good luck with that.)
A few people have argued in Petersen's defense that Kickstarter is a "pre-ordering" platform. That's not correct. Actual pre-orders from a manufacturer or distributor are for a product that is actually in production and normally only happen a month or two before actual release and distribution of that product. It's now been 27(!) months since the campaign for Cthulhu Wars was initiated and 13 months since the original planned release date and production has not even begun because, again, Petersen Games wants to hold on to the backers' interest-free and termless loan so that they can make more money from someone(s) else. So, this is the state of the board game world. I am a backer of this latest campaign for a few of the expansions that were perpetually out of print. I am not dying to have those items in my hand as I have plenty of other games to play and the proffered intent of this latest delay is indeed to prevent that scenario of things regularly being unavailable. But Sandy's personal guarantee to the backers in the above statement is an interesting footnote to this whole thing because his word is the only thing that current backers have to rely on, even as he uses it as a way to try to ameliorate the fact that the backers are seemingly beneath the notice of the Outer Gods.