25 June 2015
Back in the day, I might have said that there is only one strategy for building backer trust and exposure through third-party reviews: Get as many reviews as possible.
But when I look at crowdfunding projects today, I see a broad spectrum of review strategies, all of them with various merits. Today I’ll outline those strategies and help you pick the one that’s right for you.
1. Get as Many Reviews as Possible
Almost every day when I scroll through my Feedly blogs, I see a new review for Monstrous. Kim has done a fantastic job of getting the game out to reviewers well in advance of launching his project and then staggering the reviews so they didn’t all hit on day one.
This strategy is great because it reaches lots of different audiences as well as gives the same readers repeated exposure to the game (sometimes it takes several reviews for it to click with a potential backer). It’s ideal for prototypes that are relatively inexpensive to produce, like card games.
The only downside is the “paradox of choice” for backers: When they’re faced with 2-3 reviews on your project page, there’s a good chance they’ll click through to a few of them. When they see a wall of reviewers, they might be so daunted that they don’t read any of them. You can help out those backers by doing what Monstrous does: Quote one key sentence from each of those reviewers on the project page.
2. Select and Feature a Small Number of Reviews
This is important to consider if the prototype of your product is expensive to produce. But it’s also a valid strategy to keep things simple for your potential backers. They really only need a few reviews to get a feel for whether or not the game is right for them, and you can still increase your exposure through blog interviews and podcast appearances.
3. Share Detailed Review Blurbs from Playtesters and Other Designers
This is a strategy I’m currently seeing from Hocus and The Gallerist. Neither project has reviews (yet) other than one detailed preview on Hocus. Instead, each project has a section that features quotes from playtesters and other designers.
Paired with a gameplay video, I actually think this approach works almost just as well as strategy #2. Sure, you’re not getting a full review, nor do you benefit from the exposure of reviews hosted elsewhere, but for your primary audience–potential backers who are looking for unbiased assurance that the game is good–these blurbs are fine.
4. Don’t Have Any Reviews
This was actually the inspiration for this post. Recently I’ve seen several very successful projects–Zombicide ($2.2 million), Epic Card Game ($373k)–that have eschewed the idea of reviews altogether.
At first this approach bewildered me a bit, particularly for Epic. Zombicide is very well known at this point. If you haven’t played the previous iterations of the game, there are plenty of reviews for you to check out, and the project page does a good job of highlighting the differences in the new game.
Epic, however, is baffling not so much that it doesn’t have any reviews, but that it’s doing so well despite the lack of reviews. Obviously there’s more than meets the eye–it’s the same creator as the mega hit Star Realms, which automatically establishes a lot of trust.
Despite how discerning backers are (which is a good thing), perhaps it’s possible for a creator or game system to have so much built-up trust that reviews simply aren’t necessary. A few reviews or previews wouldn’t hurt these project, but they probably wouldn’t help as much as an unknown game.
But I can say for sure that these instances are very rare. They apply to the small subset of mega projects, not you or me. And I mean that when I say “me.” Stonemaier Games has built a lot of trust with backers and gamers and I’ve raised over $1.4 million on Kickstarter, but I will absolutely continue to provide at least a few third-party reviews to help backers decide if they’ll like the game.
What do you think about these strategies and examples? Are any of these strategies particularly appealing or unappealing to you as a backer?
If you’re at least a few months away from launching your project and want to find some third-party reviewers, I would recommend looking at similar projects and contacting the reviewers they feature. The more long-term, relationship-based strategy I endorse can be found in these Kickstarter Lessons: KS Lesson #5: Connecting with Bloggers and KS Lesson #27: Bloggers, Podcasters, and Reviewers