5 Recent Kickstarter Projects with Unique Strategies

10 March 2016 | 15 Comments

In this series, I highlight some of the interesting choices current crowdfunders have made regarding their project’s reward levels, stretch goals, and overall campaign design (the projects themselves, not the content or product). This isn’t meant as an endorsement of these projects (these creators did not ask for me to promote their work–I disregard all such requests); rather, I’m looking for unique elements of projects that might inspire other creators to do the same (or do the opposite, in some cases).

The overarching theme in this post is fulfillment, though my focus on the last two projects isn’t fulfillment-related.

Tau Ceti: Planetary Crisis

Outer Limit Games previously tried to fund Tau Ceti on Kickstarter in July 2015, and they didn’t reach their funding goal. It’s clear that they spent a ton of time revising the game and their project for the reboot, and reached their funding goal within 48 hours.

Lots of projects have bundled reward levels that are often used by non-US backers to consolidate shipping costs, but Tau Ceti does something unique: They set up a forum specifically geared towards connecting backers to buy bundles together. This is a fantastic example of how you can use crowdfunding to build community.

Tau Ceti

Saloon Tycoon

Van Ryder Games is doing something really cool with their HUBS concept, which is kind of like what Tau Ceti is doing, but on the back end. Basically, after Van Ryder collects all the survey data for Saloon Tycoon, they’ll look at the addresses to see if any backers are really close to each other. If you told Van Ryder on your survey that you want to opt in to the HUBS concept, they’ll connect you with those nearby backers and just ship to one of you. They’ll then reimburse all of you for the amount you saved.

It’s a very novel concept, though I must admit that it seems like it’ll be a ton of work and coordination for Van Ryder. I applaud them for trying something new, though!

Saloon Tycoon

The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire

James Mathe is making a bold move with his new project–he’s only offering shipping from the US. This might seem limiting, but he’s doing something interesting to still engage backers in other countries who wouldn’t otherwise back the project due to high customs and shipping fees.

Basically, James is suggesting to backers that the game will be widely available to retailers around the world, and that’s a much more cost effective way for non-US fans to get the game. What about the promo card? This is clever: James offers a $9 reward level for backers who want to get the card (and the PnP, which is priced at $5) and later buy the game from a local retailer. That way they get the same thing a full backer would get, including participation in the campaign.

UPDATE: A few days after launching, this project added EU-friendly shipping.


Steam Court

I recently wrote a blog entry about how content creators can be likable. Some of those creators may later decide to also be crowdfunders, and if they’ve built up a fanbase of people who genuinely like them, some of those people are likely to support the campaign.

The folks at Tantrum House are a prime example of this. They’ve been running their YouTube channel for over a year now. They haven’t used this channel to promote themselves–rather, they use it to share their love of games with the world. This is an excellent example of how to build a crowd well in advance of a Kickstarter campaign.

Steam Court

The Offworld Collection

I think it was Jason K who shared this with me. The Offworld Collection, an anthology of written works about video games, did something unique with their stretch goals: “The more money we make, the more money we give back to our authors.”

I’ve only ever seen a few stretch goals that reward the creators instead of the backers, so I’m intrigued by this. I think it works because this is an anthology–the additional funds benefit a wide range of authors instead of the crowdfunders themselves. It’s probably a good motivation for those authors to talk up the project among their fans.

I’m curious how backers of this project perceived it. Were they excited by the idea? Did they like that use of funds, or would they have preferred for a longer book or more illustrations? Did it come across as if the authors were underpaid and needed to be more fairly compensated?

Regardless, it’s certainly unique, and it bypasses pretty much all of the other issues crowdfunders can encounter in regards to stretch goals.



These projects represent a small sliver of all the clever crowdfunding innovations that creators are currently offering. Feel free to add your thoughts about these innovations or others in the comments!

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15 Comments on “5 Recent Kickstarter Projects with Unique Strategies

  1. I’ve seen the Offworld Collection strategy a couple of time in the Comic section of Kickstarter. Sometimes it was a flat rate (+50$/artists) and sometimes it was a page rate increase. I know nothing about comic making so i don’t know if they were initially underpaid but reading the campaign pages, it didn’t feel like it.

  2. An idea I connect from the campaign run in the computer gaming industry that could be a win for backers, content creators, and the company as well, is that the remaining amount could be to allow the content creators to start the drafts or content for the next project, meaning backers could be in for initial feedback on the next project, content creators could work on the next project (and continue to get paid) as their work finishes up in the current project, and the campaign maintains excitement for the current project and beyond. Many times, artists or designers finish much earlier than the manufacturing runs, so this allows less downtime and breaks in their pay. Staying busy and employed is sometimes better than a raise!

  3. The HUBS shipping idea was interesting enough that I did some mapping to see if it was practical for my about-to-ship project (btw, https://batchgeo.com/ is good for small geolocation jobs). I also asked my backers for feedback.

    The consensus was that there would be serious trust issues; how do the backers know they can trust the people who have volunteered to be HUBs? My thinking is that while it wouldn’t work for my projects, it might work for games if the HUBs were trusted locations — like game stores. There might be some marketing/promotional possibilities there.

    1. I like the idea of saying “If you would like I will ship your game to a local game store and refund any money this saves.” Of course you would have to find a local game store that would volunteer to pass them out for you. Not sure how hard it would be to find a store that would volunteer to do this, you would have to convince them that it would be good for them to have people walking into their store. Plus you would have to do all of the work of organizing everyone and finding common locals.

  4. I’m glad that you all like that method, but it still seems a little strange to me. Like, several different freelancers work on all of my projects (most notably, artist and graphic designers). They tell me up front how much they’d like to be paid, and that’s how much I pay them, regardless of funding or overfunding. It just seems odd that a creator would underpay a freelancer and only pay them what their time and talent are actually worth if they reach stretch goals.

    I guess one could say that these creators are paying the fair price up front, and they’re simply paying more if the project does well, which sits better with me (I’ve rewarded our freelancers when a project overachieves).

  5. I was coming on to also mention the RPG printing campaigns I have seen that had stretch goals to pay more to content providers. I didn’t see it as a ploy to get the artists to promote harder, but rather to get closer to a fair price for the work done. With few exceptions (who don’t use KS anyway) content makers get less in RPG publishing because of the smaller amount of money going around in the first place. I don’t blame the publisher for this pricing, as they are making less per project than they would in another field as well.

    Another example of stretch rewards for the creative side are goals added at the very end to send a team member or two on a nice dinner, trip, etc. I’ve seen that added to 3 or 4 of the 50ish projects I’ve backed.

  6. For Tau Ceti it is an interesting concept, but from the comments on the project and the BGG forum, it doesn’t seem to be getting much traction. The 3x copies also has 3 backers at the moment. It would be interesting if there was a way to do this in coordination with stores in countries similar to how you are doing the Moors expansion.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sean. I agree with you, in that this idea hasn’t been getting as much traction as I had hoped it would. I do have a couple retailers who are coordinating and pulling together backers in their area, although I’d love to have a system in place to make this even more convenient for everyone involved.

      I think perhaps the reason I’m not seeing as much traction with this idea, is maybe due to the fact my shipping costs are generally not too high in most areas ($5 to Western EU for example). Do you think there could be any other factors contributing to this?

      I would love to see Kickstarter expand the capabilities of their Community feature, and allow backers to connect with each other via that feature. I think with something like that, we could certainly build upon and encourage more connectivity between our backers.

      1. We employed this strategy for Nemo’s War after receiving initial backlash for backers paying the shipping price. We then took the approach of making it easier for backers to find each other for group pledges, like with Tau Ceti, to share the cost of shipping while getting a bit of a bulk discount (mind you that this was if they bought 6 or more copies of the game). We posted a KS update with a list of BGG threads where backers were organizing group pledge for their respective regions. We linked this growing list to the front of our campaign so newcomers could also find groups to help with shipping.

        We got a few of the group pledges during the campaign but they mostly placed their pledges right at the end, when they had organized as many people as possible. I think this is the trend you’ll get from using this strategy but you do bring up a valid point that your overseas shipping isn’t that high (ours was about $25 to get the game to most European backers). The barrier of organizing a group and getting the games to the right people certainly seems like more work than just paying $5 or even $12 for shipping.

        I would still recommend this strategy! It was fairly well received by our backers and provides a visible mode of action to grow your community. It particularly gave me the warm fuzzies to see them not only organizing getting the game but also making new friends and organizing meeting up with fellow backers to play games!

        1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Grant! I didn’t realize you did this with Nemo’s War, and it’s good to know that you had backers utilize the bundle reward near the end of your campaign. I didn’t think about the fact that it takes time to organize groups, and therefore it makes sense that not as many backers are taking advantage of it early in the campaign.

          I agree that it’s still a great strategy regardless of participation, as it’s something that’s easy to implement, and it has potential to bring your community of backers closer together.

  7. My recollection is that it is usually framed as: Right now we pay their going rate for RPG editing of x per word but if we meet this goal we will pay them what they charge for editing when they are not giving their “I love RPGs” discount.

    I think there’s an expectation that RPG freelancers are paid at the lowest end of the scale. Since that is the expectation an opportunity to redress that feels like a reward.

    Thinking back I’ve also seen RPG kickstarters that had a very high base funding level, and a noted that that high base was because they were refusing to pay bottom dollar for freelancers.

  8. Simon: Thanks for sharing! I appreciate your opinion. So when you see those levels, you don’t think, “Why is the creator underpaying their freelancers?” I’m curious if that’s the impression they give to some people.

  9. Regarding goals that reward the creators, the Ken And Robin Talk About Stuff patreon campaign – https://www.patreon.com/kenandrobin?ty=h – has a few tiers of support that are about getting appropriate pay for the audio engineer of their podcast. I’ve also seen tabletop RPG kick starters where artists, editors and other layout people get paid more at higher funding levels.

    As a potential backer I’ve always wanted those levels to get hit … Specifically so that folks in an industry that can be pretty tight on cash can make a better wage.

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