8 Unique Elements of Recent Crowdfunding Projects

16 February 2015 | 39 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).

2015-02-16_12191. Entropy: use of Facebook’s new “Shop Now” feature, generosity of information

There’s a lot to be impressed with on the Entropy project page–if you want to learn how to feature card art on a project page, look no further than Entropy.

The element that intrigues me the most, though, isn’t on the project page. It’s on the company’s Facebook page, where they’ve activated a new FB feature that allows you to link directly to a website of your choice at the top of the page. I think this could be a huge asset for creators both during and after the campaign.

Allen Chang, one of the creators of Entropy, recently posted an update on his previous project that shares some really helpful statistics. I’d highly recommend checking it out. The comment below from Allen really resonates with me:

“Alistair and I didn’t just want to design and publish a game. Kickstarter is a unique platform that allows us to share our love and passion for games with a community of like-minded folks that are willing to give creators a chance. We wanted to leverage the platform for what it’s meant for and fully embrace the spirit of grassroots crowdfunding.”

aether2. Aether Magic: seeking input from backers

Aether Magic is a beautifully illustrated game from Happy Mitten Games, who have been more intentional than any other creator I’ve seen about building up a wealth of content leading into the campaign. They had a good first day, but they saw a big drop in pledges on day 2. They impressed me by responded to this decrease (which was more than the typical day 2 drop) by posting a vulnerable update to ask backers if there was something inherently wrong with the project. It takes a lot of guts to do this, especially so early in the project, but it shows that they truly value backer feedback and want to make the project (and product) as good as it can be.

dream3. Project Dreamscape: sharing information about the designers

In a complete coincidence, just as I was about to write this paragraph, the creator of Project Dreamscape (Ben Haskett) sent me a message to thank me for my pledge. I really can’t emphasize enough the power of individual outreach to backers–it goes a long way.

What I was going to write about Project Dreamscape is that I like how Ben featured the designers on the project page. There have been plenty of tabletop game campaigns where the project creator is not the game designer, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a project feature the designers better than this one. Ben tells the story of how he met the designers, describes the evolution of the game, features a photo of them, and lists links to the “designer diaries.” As a backer, I feel directly connected to the entire story of the game now.

dice4. Halfsies Dice: backers vote to decide new dice color combinations

John Wrot, creator of The King’s Armory and crowdfunding innovator, is back with a campaign for beautiful dice. There’s a lot to like about the project, but my favorite part is that backers have the power to vote on new color combinations for the dice. I think that’s a cool way to involve backers in the creation of the product.

5. Trickerion: offering more roles if funding goal is reached in 1 week

trickerionTrickerion, one of the hottest games on Kickstarter right now, got off to a fast start for many reasons: evocative art, positive reviews, tons of components at a great price, etc.

Note that early bird rewards are missing from that list…yet another reminder that there are much more powerful and welcoming ways to get early support on a project (even for first-time creators like the people behind Trickerion).

On Trickerion, if the project was successfully funded in the first week, every copy of the game would get 4 new roles (twice the number as the original). This provided a huge incentive for people to back now instead of later and to share the project with friends.

6. Exploding Kittens: building an audience, offering an on-brand reward

Luke at Across the Board Games says it better in this post than I will, but I’ll summarize here: Matthew Inman has done a fantastic job of building an audience through his web comic The Oatmeal, and that audience was there for him on launch day. And not as an act of charity–he offered that audience a physical product that would appeal to their sense of humor. If you build an audience over time and eventually offer them something on-brand through a crowdfunding campaign, there is a very good chance the audience will show their support for you.

7. Conan and Ghostbusters: leveraging an IP

Taking a well-known brand and turning it into a game (or other product) can have a big impact on a campaign. The Conan or Ghostbusters games could have been generic games about barbarians and ghost hunters, but the creators licensed the IPs instead. In doing so, they exponentially appealed to the crossover audiences (people who like Conan and/or people who like games), causing the projects to go big. Also, miniatures.

8. Tiny Epic Galaxies: charging a shipping fee to US backers

Michael Co made a bold move on his recently funded Tiny Epic Galaxies campaign–he charged a shipping fee to US backers. It’s only $2, but Michael didn’t wrap it into the cost of the game as many would have done.

I really admire this approach because I think US backers (including myself) have some trouble distinguishing the true value of the reward because shipping is included in the price. If a $50 MSRP game has a $49 reward price, it’s not very appealing to backers because it looks like it’s so close to the MSRP. But really there’s about $10 for shipping built into that price.

Granted, from the backer perspective, what matters to them is the amount of money they’re paying out of pocket. Thus it’s still important for creators to establish appealing price points (among all the other things they can do to make a project exciting). But I think it helps to show backers exactly where their money is going by separating shipping from the reward cost in some way–not necessarily the way Michael did it (I’m not as bold as him, though Michael did tell me that US backers were completely accepting of the shipping fee), but in some way.

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Which of these innovative Kickstarter concepts resonates the most with you?

39 Comments on “8 Unique Elements of Recent Crowdfunding Projects

  1. I really enjoy when backers get to vote on game elements like the dice. That really makes you part of the project more than just financially. As a backer I don’t really like Early Bird pledges and Pledge this amount and we’ll add stuff to a game that should have already been in there. From a creator stand point I see the benefit, but just feels kind of dirty ha ha.

    I really enjoy the Exploding Kittens campaign for being the epitome of the spirit of KS. A product goes through the development process, an audience is found through work and creativity and pledges are for the product. Really nice.

  2. Always proud when I can impress you. ; )

    I really like the TEG US-shipping idea too. It’s a tough thing to risk as US backers (I for one am guilty) love seeing the “free shipping” thing. When you go to pledge you find yourself getting over your sense-of-entitlement to free shipping. : P
    Michael is a great guy and certainly an innovator as well.

    @Royce – We like the opportunity to offer the Early Bird this time around, as it really asks people to be brave in this campaign as they’re pledging for something that’s not all that available yet. They’re taking a risk for a reward. – Also keeps things interesting for both parties. And we’re happy to reward those brave souls with free dice for doing so. Our margins on that tier are the lowest of the campaign. That’s why it’s actually limited.

    Anywho, great ideas here. For me, anytime you can get backers involved, I’m in. I might take a 2nd look at Aether Magic now.

    John

        1. Thanks for sharing, Adam. I’m conflicted about that. While I think it’s a clever way to increase exposure for the game, I wonder if it takes away a little bit from putting the project in the hands of the backers (opposed to the general public). I’m torn on it, because I don’t like to exclude people, but for certain decisions related to the project, I feel like the input that’s most important is that of the people who are invested in the project.

  3. From the perspective of an international backer, seeing a shipping fee for US backers makes me feel like the creator actually cares about the rest of the world. When US is free shipping and international costs a bunch, it feels like the creator really only wants US backers, and is just offering it internationally begrudgingly.

    1. Interesting you feel that way. I’m an international backer and don’t have a problem with it, particularly since most highlight that the cost includes US shipping and we pay extra. Many projects now though add shipping fees post-KS. I guess it’s one of those hit and miss things. The biggest problem I see for international shipping is when the fee is massive – $80 for Conan for example, where many people back out or drop to a $1 pledge just to get updates.

    2. I agree. Looking at Aether Magic as an example;
      US – Free Shipping.
      Australia – $40 game + $33 shipping + exchange rate = $94AU puts it out of my price range unless the game is .

      When Jamey is able to do it so well for games much larger and heavier, why can’t other publishers also follow suit?

    3. There is another more subtle reason for including a US shipping fee; if you are shipping product internationally (as opposed to doing Jamie’s beloved fulfillment :) ) it clearly establishes the product value as a bit lower. In some situations where shipping fees are not subject to taxes/duties, this can reduce or eliminate customs fees.

      For example, if it gets your product price under CAN$20, you can ship to Canada with no fear of customs costs.

      I’ve been working up a spreadsheet to do these calculations, you can find it here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yzIn7CBLTfy-fUsUSEnLsZb-vqzIZb2tGtC47yNaJIk/edit?usp=sharing

      1. Interesting point re customs as well as it seems to differ so much between countries and continents! In Australia we are lucky to have a $1000 limit before customs kicks in.

    1. Jason: I agree–Michael chose wisely with $2. I think going up to $5 would be feasible. The problem, though, is the more you decrease the built-in subsidy, the more the ratio between game and shipping fee for international backers changes. For example:

      $50 MSRP, $45 reward on KS, $10 shipping built in. a backer in Australia pays a $12 shipping fee.

      compare to:

      $50 MSRP, $40 reward on KS, $5 shipping built in, a backer in Australia pays a $17 shipping fee.

      That’s not super drastic given the cost of the game, but on a game that costs $20-$25, the effect might be more pronounced.

    1. That’s nice to hear! I always appreciate when creators mention my blog in their Risks & Challenges section, and as a backer it shows me that they’ve done their research (not that my blog is the only blog about crowdfunding, but it certainly isn’t hard to miss on Google).

      1. You two make me wanna mention you as well. I take for granted that people know I’ve read your blog if I’ve endeavored to write one also… : P – I feel like you can tell when you see a project page though… who’s read up, and who hasn’t.

    2. That’s interesting to read. Sometimes I see Tabletop Games projects which have interesting potential but clearly have some major problems. Often I’ll send a private PM with a few comments, along with a link to Jamey’s Kickstarter Lessons.

    3. Trickerion looks like a really exciting project (A thematic Euro with an unusual theme and uses an interesting variant of worker placement – That hits about three of my boxes… Actually the same three that Euphoria hit…), plus the fact they not only read it but clearly learnt lessons from it (e.g. No kickstarter exlusives outside of, I think, the cloth bag component storage stretchgoal, that they’re using what appears to be the Stonemaier fulfillment methodology, etc) from this blog helped indicate that they at least knew what they were doing on paper even if they didn’t currently have any sort of track record.

      Plus they’ve incorporated some of the feedback they got from the Rhado runthrough into the rules, both to reduce the downtime on the player abilities expansion, and increase the likelihood of linking in a two player game, which is a very good sign for me that they have a good sense of flexibility. Getting a lot of positive vibes from it.

      No red flags, some parts of it that are exciting to me, evidence that they’re going into the production process with their eyes wide open, evidence that they clearly know how to respond to external feedback in constructive ways, etc. Yeah, I wound up backing it.

  4. I think the best element of the Exploding Kitten’s KS was their stretch goal achievement system. People like stretch goals. People LOVE achievements. They’re not only fun and addicting, but it turned something that is standard in KS into a game. Plus, most of the achievements involved a lot of social media sharing. I was blown away (despite having no desire to back the game!)

    1. Aaron: I’m glad you pointed that out. I had overlooked it because it kind of seemed like they were making up for not planning for stretch goals going into the project–a lot of it seemed like on-the-fly work at the beginning. But that’s not a bad thing! It’s good to be flexible on Kickstarter.

      So yeah, after you wrote this, I took a closer look at that system, and it’s actually rather clever. People do love achievements, and a lot of them are very much in the spirit of The Oatmeal and the game. I wonder if they could translate to a game with a more serious tone to it.

  5. Taking a look back here after a great 1st day, it’s funny that you posted the image for “Pink Lemonade” and “Banana Dice”. They’re both amazing dice and really fun in the videos… but they’re dying in the Survey. haha. Were these your subtle vote, Jamey?

  6. Ummmmm Conan yeah. I loved Conan growing up and this one has … awesome miniatures…… can’t resist…… lots of of stretch goals…. no look away…. JUST TAKE MY MONEY!! The facebook button was also really interesting. This blog always has really great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

      1. There has to be a benefit when you pay so much for international shipping to these destinations! Good to see those other countries in the list.

  7. Jamey,

    “Seeking input from Backers” and in our case, potential Backers weeks in advance is one that certainly resonates with me. We had reached out to the broad community of players of the particular game for which we were designing our pieces and asked them the kind of material and durability they required in their game pieces; asked for ideas regarding the artistic designs; and in our second Kickstarter, we actually had a poll to determine if we would opt for scenes from the 1930s or the original 7 Wonders of the World.

    The great thing about polling a gaming community is that those who have an opinion aren’t shy to share it…and those who don’t say anything, well, as we say in the military “silence is consent.” So, we were off and running with our ideas and we maintained regular feedback and correspondence with nearly all of our Backers (communication, I believe, is the most important aspect of running a project). Because of the success we had, I’ve actually played games with our Backers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Trieste, Italy! How’s that for Backer commitment.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  8. TEG was a no-brainer back for me. All their stuff has been really good, and on time, and he’s never burned folks on stretch goals. The only thing I did was do a quick read through to make sure I liked the theme.

    The fact he was charging for US shipping didn’t even register with me until later.

  9. Maybe a solution to your conflicted feelings over polling the general BGG community rather than just backers would be for some polls being for backers only while others being for the general public? That both includes more people on polls where it makes more sense to be inclusive, and allows you to hone in on what backers feel for those certain decisions where backers input is most important.

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