An Open Letter to Kickstarter: No More “Or More”

28 September 2013 | 16 Comments

The "or more" definitely wasn't there when I ran the Kickstarter for Euphoria...and yet it's there now.
The “or more” definitely wasn’t there when I ran the Kickstarter for Euphoria…and yet it’s there now.

I sent this message to Kickstarter this afternoon. I’m curious what they’ll say or do, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on my request to them. If you are as concerned about this as I am, I suggest you write a note to Kickstarter about it using their contact form.

Hi, I’m a Kickstarter creator and frequent backer. I recently noticed that reward levels on new projects have the word “or more” after the pledge amount. I’m sure a lot of forethought went into that decision, but I just wanted to add my perspective as a past and future creator about why that’s not a great idea for us creators.

The first reason has to do with car commercials. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of car commercials that end with something like, “Starting at $299/month.” When I hear that, I think, “Sure, it STARTS at $299, but what’s the price for the version of the car that most people want–the version with AC, automatic windows, and not a cassette deck?” When backers see the words “or more” next to a dollar amount on Kickstarter, they’re going to think the same thing: “Okay, it’s $40 for the leather wallet, but what do I have to pay to get the usable version?” Despite the information being right below that dollar amount, the dollar amount and “or more” is so prominent that people are going to have that reflex of, “Okay, that’s the dirt-cheap version–I’m going to need to pony up more money to get the real deal.”

The second reason has to do with frequent Kickstarter users. This is a market-driven issue that hopefully will get better, but the “or more” doesn’t help it. The issue is that backers are frequently asked by project creators to give more. “If everyone gives $5 right now we’ll hit our funding goal.” “If everyone asks just 3 more friends to back the project, we’ll hit our next stretch goal.” And so on. This is all fine in small doses, but it happens a lot, and I think backers tire of it. However, now it looks like creators are asking backers to give more at every pledge level, all the time! And because it’s a new thing, many backers might think that the creator selected that option (they don’t know that it’s standard reward-level text now). So they’re going to look at a project’s reward levels and think, “I haven’t even backed the project yet, and this guy is already asking me for more?” They might not pledge at all as a result.

The last reason has to do with clarity–this applies to people who are new to Kickstarter. Say there’s a project with a $5 bumper sticker and a $25 t-shirt. The lower level says “$5 or more.” I pledge $25 to get the t-shirt. $25 is more than $5, so now I think I’m getting a t-shirt AND a bumper sticker. Says so right there at the top of the pledge level. To you and me this is obviously incorrect, but it’s potentially confusing for new Kickstarter backers. I write a series of Kickstarter Lessons, and the one thing I say time and time again–especially on the pledge levels–is that clarity is SO important. If you confuse someone with your pledge levels, they may not pledge at all. So having a built-in element of confusion is really, really bad for creators and backers.

I have the benefit of time–my next Kickstarter project isn’t scheduled until early 2014. I’ll use Kickstarter even if this problem isn’t solved–I love the platform, and I’m so grateful for everything Kickstarter has done for me. But I hope for the sake of me and other well-meaning creators that you consider removing “or more” and going back to the way it was before.

Thanks for your consideration,

Kickstarter’s response:

Thanks for reaching out and for taking the time to send along your feedback. At Kickstarter we are constantly working to improve the experience for both our backers and creators. The “or more” to us allows backers to not feel as though they can only pledge that amount to a project – but they can pledge whatever they want to pledge to support a project. Oftentimes backers aren’t aware of the fact that they can choose a lower reward tier but pledge more to the project, and we hope this conveys that to them. But community feedback like this is what keeps us motivated, and I’ll be sure to pass your input along to the rest of the team. We’ll definitely discuss the points you’ve brought up here.

It’s a nice response and supports Kickstarter’s efforts to emphasize it’s not a store, but it’s also all about the money. For me (and for many creators), Kickstarter is more about building community than money. Something like this that confuses backers and focuses on “more money” isn’t good for creators or backers.

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16 Comments on “An Open Letter to Kickstarter: No More “Or More”

  1. Never thought of this feature that way, Jamey, but your points really do make a lot of sense – especially the car-buying analogy.

    Fellow Stonemaier Games Blog readers please correct me, but I believe IndieGoGo used to have a pop-up after selecting a pledge amount that would clearly explain “thanks for pledging $X! Remember, you can give more than the pledge amount to show extra support to this project” – which seems like something KS could do to solve the problem. KS gets to incentivize giving more (and more to KS), the creator keeps her perk levels clearly defined, and the backer knows exactly what she is getting at each step. (KS could also mention that backers get Add-on credit upon pledging more than the standard amount!)

    Nonetheless, KS should improve the Backer Report to show “here’s what Person Y chose for her reward and here’s her potential Add-on credit/extra pledge amount” – which would clear up the silly problem of figuring out whether the person who donates $79 actually wants a $49 game with $30 in add-ons or the game + hoodie perk for $79. Unless they’ve done so already and I’m clueless!

    1. Adam–I’ve only backed a few Indiegogo projects and don’t recall that message, but it seems like an elegant solution to the problem. And yeah, if Kickstarter could build add-ons into their interface to help backers and reporting for creators, that would be a HUGE asset.

      1. Hmm, well, OK – I seem to remember it for the Kreyos smartwatch campaign, but who knows :)

        And yes, totally. I’m submitting that to them (in re: add-ons built into interface). If they don’t like it, the KS community may need to start a petition! :D

  2. As a backer, the ‘or more’ allows me to back a project where I don’t necessarily want to get the bumf for a higher level. In particular this applies to performance projects that are unlikely to be seen outside their home nation/town, or projects where I think the idea is cool but the rewards are not my thing. For example, I was cool with Rapid Gambit scribbling my name on a prop that might not be visible. But with Ascend 100, I didn’t want my name in a programme, but I did want to support in principle, so took a lower award, but bolstered to the programme-level award.

    In short, I’ve been impressed with, for instance, Euphoria. I want its creators to flourish and do more cool stuff. But if your next Kickstarter is My Little Pony meets Strictly (Strictly Come Prancing?) I’m unlikely to want a copy. Thus I hope I will have the choice to pledge a tenner in the ‘pledge £1 or more’ slot, otherwise you might get stuck with a quid.

    1. Tom–So…are you saying I also need to ditch my Care Bears project?

      I see what you’re saying about simply giving more money to a project because you believe in the project. I think it’s great that you do that. I’m not sure that “or more” is the best solution for generous people like you, but I definitely appreciate your opinion.

  3. I recall seeing it for a little while (now that you mention it) but couldn’t say when I first noticed it. As an experienced backer I didn’t blink twice as I’m aware that I can buy add-ons or just give more money at the level I have chosen, should I choose to.

    This was partly due to the text they give when you make a pledge (in the pop-up boxes that summarise which pledge level you’ve just chosen and how much you’re pledging) – but this seems to have changed now – they’ve simply shortened it all down to ‘or more’. They should bring this text back too as it did help the first time I ever made a pledge to know that if I pledged at the $5 level but actually typed in $25 I wouldn’t be getting the $25 rewards unless I chose the $25 reward level.

    Very good point on newbies to Ks though and definitely worth bringing the points you make to their table. Well spotted.

    1. Lloyd–That’s a great point about the fact that you not only have to type in the pledge level, but also choose the reward. The “or more” makes that more confusing, in my opinion.

  4. I’m trying to come up with a concise and clear way to say “$5 or up until you reach the next pledge amount” but my vocabulary and possibly the English language is failing me. I do understand what the Kickstarter Interface is trying to achieve, but I also understand the dangers of confusion. A long time ago I saw some street performers that were break dancing and doing flips and cartwheels for a crowd. After their genuinely impressive routine, they passed around a hat and repeated multple times, “Don’t forget 10’s and 20’s,” referring to $10 and $20 bills. The problem was that the break dancer said this really fast and was kind of hard to understand and it sounded kind of like he was only accepting $10 and $20 bills instead of anything that the crowd was willing to donate. I saw several people getting out money to give to them but then look confused and put it away because the message wasn’t clear.

    I think that if Kickstarter wants to make it clear that pledge amounts run into each other, they should just say for example,
    Tier 1: base: $5-24
    Tier 2: deluxe: $25-49
    Tier 3: best thing ever: $49-499
    Tier 4: insanity: $500 or more

    1. I really hope Ks don’t make pledge levels run into each other!

      I think it is a useful feature that you can pledge at $5, get $20 worth of Add-ons but still walk away with the $5 rewards because you haven’t changed your pledge level choice.

      If Ks think it is confusing, perhaps they could create a means to let project creators Name each level Officially as well as assign it a minimum $pledge amount. Then the two things, the Named Pledge Level and the $amount a backer is giving, would be more obvsiously different things.

  5. Excellent letter. I fully agree with both of your reasons and I hope Kickstarter listens. I have already had to address questions on my campaign re: levels NOT being inclusive of lower levels. I would love to see a formal type of “add-on” pledge to help negate some of this confusion. BUT… my guess is KS wants to minimize any comparison to a shopping cart and/or a store model.

    1. Game Wizard–I totally agree about Kickstarter’s intent to make sure people don’t view them as a store. They’re response to my letter (which I posted this morning at the bottom of this blog entry) supports that. But as I replied to them, one of the reasons Kickstarter isn’t a store is because it’s about forming a community around your passion project. The “or more” gets in the way of that, in my opinion, because of the focus on money instead of people and the confusion it may cause, thus turning people away from what could be great engagement.

  6. Awesome as always. I haven’t thought about the last point you make, is this “or more” a new thing on the Kickstarter pledge levels or have it always been there? People just used to type it themselves later?

    Since from the beginning I saw Kickstarter more as a charity service where people asked for money to get going with their project which some may have found interesting enough to help with I’ve never read it as meaning something else than “offer a little extra.”

    But since nowadays it seem to be all about selling your goods I guess that may not be obvious. I also haven’t seen the “if everyone do this and that” but then again I haven’t looked at any projects lately because there’s so many of them and they provide so little value to me as consumer anyway. Most projects ask for a huge shipping fee because they are located in the US, VAT on top of that and all risks with the project goes on me (as in possibly shitty product even if it delivers), I don’t get paid for taking the risk, I rather have to pay more than for a standard game which I can find reviews of. Why buy into that?

    I never thought about “buy extras”, but then again lots of projects offer the add-ons now (and planned stretch goals (and stretch goals offered at whatever level they find out they can get later because it was planned for all along.))

    I totally agree on clarity. I was very interested in Heroes of Normandie but there was so damn many levels with different stuff in them. Also it would help if they was called the same everywhere or if one could even call it “The $150 level will give you” rather than “Captain Sparrow gives you.”

    Also time and interest are limited resources. What was that very large and expensive cthulhu project called? It had like 80+ updates. Am I supposed to read through all those to understand what I get and at what levels? Really? “Pledge over $200 and get”, yeah, that’s fine, but there’s like a shitload of expansions and extra characters, I don’t know what all of them are. (I totally didn’t liked the Xia one either, one single ship as an exclusive for like $30 because people had asked for exclusives even though the game came with 15+ more like 20 minis once funding was finished. Just having it included as a thank you for backers I would be fine with but imho it just made the deal worse rather than better (from a value stand point.)

    There’s a lot of value for everyone in all your Kickstarter related blog posts. Much appreciated. Thanks for all your hard work for free (?) and for the benefit of everyone else :)

    1. Johan–It’s pretty new. I don’t know when I first noticed it, but I think it must have been within the last 2 weeks or so. And those are great examples of the importance of clarity.

      You’re welcome–I do write this blog for free. :)

  7. Interesting. I hadn’t even noticed that until you brought it up. Regarding your last point, the example about the bumper sticker and the t-shirt, you say that the reasoning of backing $25 to get the T-Shirt and the Bumper Sticker also is incorrect, but I think it is a bit more complicated also. My first assumption as a backer: Would the person NOT get both the T-Shirt and the Bumper sticker? Most projects I’ve seen follow a structure that any lower levels are included with the higher levels. Although, as we know, there are times where that’s not the case (for example, the Euphoria Kickstarter with people being included in the game. Obviously the higher tiers didn’t receive that. If that is what you are referring to, then I think the inclusion of “and more” is an even larger problem than you let on. Using the Euphoria example again, if I read “and more” for the tier about being included in the game, I would ABSOLUTELY believe that ANY higher tier should would receive that. Yes, a creator usually says in the description, “Higher Tiers Don’t Receive This” but I think that would cause SERIOUS confusion with the “and more” added on.

    I think having “and more” completely invalidates and disallows the exclusive tier level item (something that is crucial to many Kickstarters), from a backer’s perspective. I completely agree with all your points, I think it’s even more of a problem than you let on. Interested to see how they respond.


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