Intelligame receives funding from the community via Patreon, but recently the platform made some changes. Let’s talk about those changes and IG’s future.

Back in August I launched a Patreon to help support myself and my work for Intelligame. I’d been working on Intelligame for nearly two years at that point with no consistent revenue stream: no ads, no sponsors, just money out of my own pocket. When members in the community asked how they could contribute financially, I didn’t really say much. I didn’t feel comfortable accepting money for doing something I’d done for so long for free. Eventually, with some cajoling and some financial pressures of my own, I opened the page.

I didn’t think people would respond…but many of you did. Patreon’s not a mint, but that money has helped me pay some bills, put gas in my car and whatnot. Even when I’ve slipped up on getting patron rewards out or making updates, many of you have stuck around… that means a lot. Up until a couple of days ago, Patreon’s really had nothing but positive associations for me. Then news of their processing model change showed up, and now things have become a bit complicated.

Patreon changes their payment processing

A couple days ago, Patreon sent an email out to creators about changes in their payment processing model. They promised that creators would see 95% of their pledged money, which felt like a big deal! Originally, when patrons made a pledge, Patreon would pull processing fees and whatnot out on the back-end. I never had a clear sense of how much they were taking or for what, but it was the cost of using the service.

It wasn’t until I started writing this note that I actually checked how much I received each month. The site provides a clear chart of pledged income each month and the percentage I’d take. For me, it was usually just over 90%. A 5% take-home increase equated to roughly an extra $8/month for IG at its original level.

This change comes by charging the processing fee on the front end to patrons instead of the back. A 2.9% + $0.35 fee comes with each pledge now, and, attempting to anticipate dissatisfaction, Patreon included this in their email:

I didn’t think much of this initially, but once I got questions in the Intelligame Discord and read up on some points on Twitter, I realized the implications of this change ran deeper than I’d previously thought. It’s essentially creating a flat tax, a regressive fee structure that proportionally hits those on the lower financial ends the hardest. Natalie Luhrs does some number crunching here, but the core of the matter is that Patreon ends up taking more money too. Maybe this wouldn’t have been so inflammatory if the change were written as a necessity for Patreon’s operations. Unfortunately, that’s not how the change was communicated.


The effects of the change

This change hits particularly hard for those people out there giving small amounts of money to multiple creators: a $1 pledge turns into a $1.38 transaction. This adds up for folks who are supporting 10, 15, 20+ people on Patreon this way. I don’t have any data to know how many people support that many creators, but there are stories out there of creators who’ve lost patron pledges as a result of the changes, or the outrage generated by the changes. Intelligame is no exception to that.

As of this writing, IG’s lost more in pledges from account deletions than it would have taken home in the processing fee increase. Currently, I’m lucky enough to have other employment that takes care of my needs and IG’s. This may not be the same for other Patreon creators.

Internet rage has barreled forward, with multiple people expressing their discontent. But regardless of the hit Patreon may or may not take, some of the biggest losers are small creators and their communities. there’s pressure on those same creators to take a sort of moral stance. Many patrons are speaking out by canceling their pledges or deleting their accounts; this hits Patreon, but it also damages the communities they were funding.

Many smaller creators come from marginalized backgrounds and use that money to create works and communities people may not find elsewhere. This could pressure those creators to spend less time focusing on their projects, which I would hope is not the intended consequence. Still, in Intelligame’s case, this at least provides a moment for pause and reflection.

Intelligame’s goals for the future

After using Patreon for the last few months, there are two goals I’d like to push towards moving forward:

  • More equity in sponsorship and participation opportunities. Folks who have less capital shouldn’t by default have less access to content or opportunities. Though people have enjoyed taking advantage of things like the voice chat for IG Game Club, putting those opportunities behind paywalls can be a type of gatekeeping.
  • More transparency/accountability with IG’s funding and progress. I’ve declared goals for Patreon based on the amount of money it takes in, and I haven’t been consistent about meeting those goals. I want to make sure that I (and the site) lives up to the expectations we’ve set forth.

All this is to say that I’ll be re-evaluating Patreon and Intelligame’s business model as a whole in the coming weeks. Starting in January of 2018, IG will overhaul its funding system. Whether this will come from changes in Patreon structure, utilization of a new platform, or something else entirely, I’m not sure. But I’ll make sure the community has plenty of notice before the changes go into effect.

If you have any input on this, feel free to leave a comment, or you can message me on Twitter or Facebook. In the meantime, I thank you for all the support you’ve given thus far, financially or otherwise. You folks make Intelligame what it is.