6 Insights from Recent Crowdfunding Campaigns

12 May 2016 | 23 Comments

In this series, I highlight some of the interesting choices made by current crowdfunders regarding their project’s reward levels, stretch goals, and overall campaign design (the projects themselves, not the content or product). This isn’t an endorsement or promotion.

Campaign Trail

Projects don’t always reach their funding goal the first time. That was the case the first time Campaign Trail by Cosmic Wombat Games appeared on Kickstarter. It’s rare for me to see a project creator not only be so receptive to feedback from his/her backers as Jeff Cornelius was, but also be willing to take the time, effort, and expense to act on that feedback. He worked with graphic designer Christian Strain to complete a full visual overhaul of the game as detailed in this blog post, among other revisions to the product and project, and the results are telling: They’ve already exceeded their original funding amount after only about a week.



Plaid Hat Games recently launched their pre-order for SeaFall. For $79.95 plus shipping, you get the game and 100 metal coins. The metal coins are only included for free in the pre-ordered game; otherwise they’re available separately for $39.95.

Considering that SeaFall is also available from online game stores for about $52, this is an interesting strategy. Plaid Hat is giving people a distinct incentive to pre-order directly from them. It’s intriguing to me that it’s the only option. You can’t pre-order from Plaid Hat without the coins, which is very different than many Kickstarter projects where there is a core reward and then a premium reward for $10-$20 more.

Pass the Buck

Last year, St. Louis’ Carol Mertz ran a Kickstarter for her card game, Pass the Buck. A few days ago she wrote an extremely detailed postmortem about the project from start to finish, and it’s definitely worth reading. There are a lot of takeaways in her post, and one highlight is that Carol hosted a “pick-up-and-drink-up” meetup at her favorite local bar to allow local backers to pick up their rewards. This saved her the shipping cost for over 40 rewards and gave her the chance to thank backers in person. I think this is a great way to fulfill rewards if you have a lot of local backers.

Dark Souls

3110dbfa0ae9a2c1f20ea4b7fe1981fe_originalThe Dark Souls Kickstarter introduced a new icon I’ve never seen before: the retail-friendly icon. It’s more than just an icon, though. Here’s what the Dark Souls KS page says about “Retailer Bonus Unlocks”:

“We have built into the Kickstarter several additional retailer bonus unlocks that once unlocked (via the number of retail backers in the campaign) will provide ‘Add-On’ purchases available only at retail and not purchasable during the Kickstarter by backers. These will not be limited runs but a general release available to all customers upon launch of the game in shops.”

I completely understand the desire to forge strong relationships with retailers, though it seems that something like this could alienate non-retail backers. With 524 retail backers and nearly 23,000 total backers, apparently people are fine with it.


The TerraTiles project successfully funded over a year ago, but the recent development is that Heath and his team have put together a series of videos showing how the fulfilled US orders by hand. This isn’t a fulfillment method I recommend, but Heath talks a little about why they chose to do that at at 2:40 in this video. In that same video at 5:00, he shows a clever trick to use when creating packing labels to minimize the need to cross-reference when packing boxes.



Seisei from the doosh/off Kickstarter project recently reached out to me to share a detailed workplan she had created using my Kickstarter Lessons and other things she learned while preparing for her campaign. She kindly made it public so you can access it and export a copy for your own project. It’s basically a long checklist of all the things you should do while preparing for a project, dating back to 6 months before you launch. You can enter your projected start date at the top of the page, and all of the other dates will automatically to tell you what you need to do day-to-day. Thanks Seisei!


These projects represent a small sliver of unique crowdfunding innovations. Feel free to add your thoughts about these projects or others in the comments!

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23 Comments on “6 Insights from Recent Crowdfunding Campaigns

  1. Hi everyone and hello Jamey!

    I’m preparing the launch of my very first Kickstarter, a hero building game.

    It’s only 5 years in the making (I’m a very detailed oriented individual!). The last year of my time has been spent building up our community and I’m proud to say we are gaining momentum.

    While we have (and will likely gain more) fans of the game that are not local, many people in our community are located in the same geograpghic region.

    My question is about offering a pledge level that takes shipment out of the equation and offers a pickup option. I’m envisioning this option tied to an event where we play the game, celebrate it’s success and physically hand out those games to our backers.

    Have you thought of how something like this would work, maybe some of the pros/cons? Thank you in advance!


    1. Thanks Jonathan! Congrats on the progress of your project. I’ll try to write more in detail on this subject in a devoted answer soon, but my overall impression (both from my experience doing this on Viticulture and from hearing about other people who have done it) is that it’s something to consider and offer when you’re getting close to shipping rewards, not up front as part of the project. The reason I say this is that it’ll streamline your reward sidebar (instead of having a reward level for local pickup and a reward level for the vast majority of backers) and I think it’ll cause you less hassle as you coordinate people who chose the wrong level or who decide later they can’t pick it up.

      Instead, when you’re getting close to fulfillment, if it’s convenient for you to get the games for local backers (if you’re using a fulfillment center, that may not be the case), you can email local folks on your backer list to offer them that option. You can offer them a shipping refund.

      This will reduce the number of people who say they want local pickup but actually end up requiring you to ship or hand deliver it. However, no matter what, you’re still going to have some of those people. It’s for that reason (among others eluded to above) that I don’t offer local pickup.

  2. Here’s one more to the current or next possible list: “This War Of Mine: The Board Game”. Before the Kickstarter launched, they hold their first community voting which decided what stretchgoal would be unlocked: https://scontent-arn2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/t31.0-8/13063103_457106121151075_8562446854339598160_o.jpg
    Later a vote was held between companion animal: dog vs cat. Dog won.
    And currently there is a tough decision between which expansion to make a future stretchgoal.
    This method really fits with the spirit of the video game.

    1. Nakano: Thanks for sharing! That’s cool that they sought votes for the stretch goal before the project even launched, and that they kept that spirit of participation alive during the campaign.

      1. It looks like the voting got more serious as the loser expansion (46% of votes) became a paid add-on – not having an option to unlock it later as a free stretchgoal. Particularly because some backers suggested this. Future voting will have fresh items to choose from.

  3. […] Crowdfunding Insights As part of his ongoing series on “interesting choices made by current crowdfunders regarding their project’s reward levels, stretch goals, and overall campaign design (the projects themselves, not the content or product),” Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games discusses insights gleaned from recent crowdfunding campaigns. […]

  4. The background image is mesmerizing! I hope this game does a crowdspeaking campaign so I can help support them on social media.

  5. I’m with Travis but from the oppposite angle. As a retailer, if I’m going to tie up cash for the long and uncertain KS period, I want to be able to provide all the goodies as soon as the KS fulfils: I see the retail options as being inferior, and didn’t back for that reason.

    1. That’s really interesting. What part did you see as inferior?

      Was it that the stretch goals only come with the first 6 copies or something else?

      How do you feel about the retailer specific add-ons?

  6. All this reads are very interesting to me. I happen to have a little notebook where I write any useful insight about other projects and Carol’s post was very useful for it. I also have a roadmap or checklist of things I need to do for my campaign but I’ll never achive Sensei’s organization, that workplan is great! Thanks Jamey for the blog post as always!

  7. I should have actually written the ‘really only because’ as ‘most likely because’.

    It looks like it will be a fun game, and Steamforged has a good reputation based on Guild Ball, so I have no doubt that they can deliver a good quality game.

    1. Travis: Great point. I succumbed to the fallacy of success there–just because something is successful doesn’t mean everyone involved is 100% happy with it (not to mention those who have chosen not to support it for that reason).

      1. I could also be in the vast, vocal minority as well. It does feel different to me than many other campaigns that I see as ‘customer first’, which is how I feel about the campaigns that you have run.

        The cancelation and re-launch of the Darkest Night: Second Edition KS is another great example of a company coming across entirely as ‘customer first.’

  8. I wouldn’t say that people are necessarily ‘fine’ with the retail only stuff in Dark Souls. The reason it is such a success is actually in spite of that fact, and really only because Dark Souls is such an incredibly popular video game IP.

    I have read a TON of negative feedback about the retail-only stuff from backers, potential backers and people who decided not to back because of it.

    For me personally it was an extreme turn-off. Many Kickstarters offer retailers package deals already, but offering them exclusive content feels, in a way, anti-consumer.

    1. I agree that it’s a turnoff. Especially if, like me, you live in a country where retailers are few and usually not up to date on this kind of stuff.

      Once I realize that some people are playing with a slightly better or slightly enhanced game it kinda ruins it for me.

      It’s a shame that all the bad habits of the current video game industry are happening in the board game industry: Pre-order bonuses, exlcusive dlc based on where you buy it.

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