5 Kickstarter Mistakes We Made That You Can Avoid

16 December 2012 | 22 Comments

The game we're currently working on...more about it soon.
The game we’re currently working on…more about it soon.

A week or so after the Viticulture Kickstarter campaign ended, I wrote a few posts with a lot of hard data that can potentially help people with their Kickstarter campaigns. There were a number of factors that contributed to the success of Viticulture (as well as others that I will soon discuss on the blog).

But even on our successful project, we also made several key mistakes that didn’t doom the project but perhaps impeded some funding. Today I’m going to reveal those mistakes so that you can avoid them when you’re putting together your Kickstarter campaign.

1. The video didn’t describe the product well enough. There’s nothing wrong with a little whimsy, and it was on theme. I heard from way more people who enjoyed the video than those who didn’t. However, my intent was misguided, as I thought a silly video would capture Kickstarter’s attention and get the project featured as a staff pick. Rather than focus on what I thought Kickstarter’s staff might like, I should have focused on what might be useful to potential backers. If I could do it again, I would script the video so that it focuses much more on what makes the game good and unique. I’ve watched hundreds of Kickstarter videos by this point, and the best videos are those that (a) show me what’s cool about the project (b) make me like and want to support the creator. I’ll do that better next time…but I’ll keep some of the whimsy too.

2. Not enough of the game art and graphic design was completed when the project launched. Honestly, this could have doomed us. In hindsight, I’m not quite sure why it didn’t, but I’m thankful it didn’t. Hands down, the best money you can spend on your project before you launch is on the art and graphic design. You can have a great book or game or product, but if it doesn’t look great, it will probably fail. Because we had no idea if Viticulture would succeed on Kickstarter, we hedged our bets and only had the game board art and graphic design done before the launch (and since then we completely revamped both the art and the graphic design to make it better). The money you spend on good art and graphic design is absolutely worth it, and it could be the difference between your project failing or succeeding.

3. The graphics on the project page detracted from the project instead of adding to it. Early on, the project page looked pretty bad. The writing was solid, but the graphics looked really unprofessional. “Unprofessional” is okay–that’s kind of the point of Kickstarter, that most project creators are passionate amateurs–but “really unprofessional” is not. Get your graphic designer to help you with your project page–he or she will be able to add touches of brilliance that you simply don’t know how to do.

4. Figure out 90% of what you can offer before the campaign begins–not 40%. Viticulture was a learning experience for us. We didn’t know what our backers wanted (especially in terms of add-ons and upgrades), and we didn’t even know everything that we could offer from the game production side of things (i.e., double sided boards, upgraded coins, etc). Granted, in any good Kickstarter campaign, a project creator needs to listen and respond to the ideas generated by backers during the campaign. That’s where the 10% comes in. But the other 90%? Figure it out before the campaign. When you think you have it all figured it out, go back and research 20 more Kickstarter campaigns and talk to your printer and have more people look at your project preview page. Because honestly, I thought I had it all figured out before the campaign after extensive research, and I only knew about 40% of what we could offer and how to price it. It will always be a work in progress, but the more you can design your campaign before the campaign, the better experience it’s going to be for everyone. The best example I can offer here is customized backer art on the cards. It simply didn’t occur to me that people would pay for this. So I ended up making it an add-on, which worked out for the most part, but I know that some backers felt left out because they didn’t know that was going to be offered. We’ll do better next time.

5. We didn’t have any third-party reviews before we launched. Although backers can often get a good impression of the project from the project page, as Kickstarter gets more and more crowded, the projects that stand out will be those that have positive third-party reviews. We had a ton of people review Viticulture during the campaign, which was awesome. But we really should have had reviews on BGG before the campaign, and we should have had the game in the hands of bloggers before the campaign as well (and ask them to review the game at different stages of the campaign–stagger them if you can). Part of it even just comes down to time. You will be extremely busy during your Kickstarter campaign–I spent between 60 and 70 hours a week on it–and you can alleviate some of that pressure and have more time for your backers (and for sleep) if you send out review copies before the campaign begins.

What do you think? Are there aspects of the Viticulture campaign that turned you off from the project? I’m open to any constructive feedback.

22 Comments on “5 Kickstarter Mistakes We Made That You Can Avoid

  1. I thought you did a good job on the project all in all. I think perhaps you are making the perfect the enemy of the good here… how much did you raise again? :)

    The video was not geared to your audience though, I agree with that one. As to the rest – minor mistakes. I think that putting peoples names on the coins as a reward level prevented you from a really awesome stretch goal. That would definitely qualify as a mistake in my book, but hardly a major one. Excessive updating at times also qualifies, but we have discussed that.

    You ran an “A” project – I’m sure your next one will be even better.

    1. Ha ha…thanks David. There’s always room for improvement!

      Yeah, if I had properly considered the metal coins and researched how they worked, we could have done some cool things with that. I hope to remedy that in the expansion set.

      I appreciate the coaching early on about the excessive updating–I’ll maintain that two updates a week and one a day in the final 5 days is a reasonable number (we might differ slightly on that). I’ve seen a number of projects that don’t update often at all during the campaign, and I always wonder if their project creators have checked out for a while. And at the end of the project, I’ve seen a number of projects go by without a single update at the end of the week, which I think is a huge mistake for backers who might have backed at a low level but wanted a reminder near the end to potentially upgrade their pledge.

    2. I pretty much agree with the line about making the perfect the enemy of the good.

      The Viticulture Kickstarter has been the most well run Kickstarter campaign I’ve seen so far, and I’ve backed 23 and seen a lot more.

      I didn’t feel that you sent out updates too often, but then again I was more involved with this Kickstarter, than with any other, so perhaps I was interested in more updates than I would otherwise have been.

      1. Thanks Morten–I appreciate your kind words. I guess I’m always looking for a way to improve, especially given that these campaigns don’t just affect me–they affect hundreds of other people, hopefully in a positive way.

        1. That’s a noble goal, and one you should keep pursuing :-) But do consider that David is right: Trying to do something perfectly can either paralyze you or make your progress so slow that you only achieve a fraction of what you would have been capable of if you had settled for great ;-)

          1. That’s a good point. As you’ll see on this blog over the next month or so, I’ll discuss plenty of things that I think we did right, so I wanted to balance it out a bit from the beginning. :)

  2. Why, why, why didn’t I find you six months ago?? :) I have read from today (Jan 22) down, and am so glad I found you. I think you did a brilliant job with your campaign, and I learned a thing or two here. Thanks so much for posting these!

  3. Jamey, I agree with the comments above, stellar job on the campaign! its unfortunate I found it so late. Have a big question. It appears from your Kickstarter page that you had an incredible amount of backers at the lowers reward level, and not many at the higher reward level. Also, you had many more actual levels of rewards than I have seen in many other projects before. I think you hinted at this your post (or maybe you discuss this even more in another post) but what was your reasoning for so many lower reward levels and why do you think there were no bites on your higher reward levels?

    1. Josh–Which reward levels in particular are you looking at? Most of the higher reward levels were limited to a small number of people, and they all sold out. There was one level specifically geared towards backers not in the US, Canada, or the EU. Few people chose that level because they joined group buys instead.

  4. Thank you for all the great info here and on your other videos and posts. Now lets if I can turn that knowledge into success on my own small project. For the sake of all of us just starting out in board/card game crowdfunding, please keep this up.

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