18 October 2018 | 59 Comments
Let’s pretend for a day that I decided to launch a new project on Kickstarter for the first time in 3+ years. Here’s how I’d do it.
(For context of why I’m even writing about this hypothetical situation, please read Tuesday’s article.)
I’ll start with the core project specs, then I’ll delve into how I would address the reasons I stopped using Kickstarter as a creator in the first place. Other creators are welcome to emulate what I describe below, but please keep in mind that these decisions are based specifically on what I think would work best for Stonemaier Games.
Core Project Specs
- Preview: I would start talking about the game informally 1-2 months in advance. For the week preceding the launch, as discussed here, I would have 1-2 ads (BGG/Facebook) and 1 preview. I would consider doing something like what Tang Garden did (for each e-mail collected before the campaign, they planted a tree).
- Type of Game: The type of game that would make me reconsider Kickstarter would be an expensive game, one that would retail at $80-$100, if not more. Kickstarter would allow me to discount the game (but still have strong margins) to create a strong, wide user base in the hopes of enabling a long tail for the game, like what happened with Scythe.
- Base Game: The base game would be 100% complete and ready for production, perhaps with the non-printed components already in production. While the Kickstarter project would be funding the manufacturing for the base game, it would not be part of the additive process during the campaign. We would emphasize through the “what’s in the box” image that the base game is fully robust and complete, offering a great value on its own. This impacts several other decisions further on this list, including the next one.
- Reviewers: I would have our manufacturer make multiple pre-production copies of the game to use as review copies. This enables potential backers to see exactly what the final game will look like.
- Project Page: I would stick pretty closely to the tried-and-true method for project page content, though I would try to keep it as succinct and visual as possible. Given how long we’ve been off of Kickstarter, I would not assume backers know who Stonemaier Games is.
- Video: I would contract Josh McDowell to create the project video in the vein of the trailers he’s created for our other recent games, like this one. They’re all about 60 seconds long.
- Funding Goal: I would base the funding goal on printing a minimum print run of the base game. So, around $20-$25k.
- 24-Hour Goal: I’m on the fence about this. I love global improvements that inspire people to back on Day 1, though I also know there are other ways to excite and engage backers from the beginning of a campaign.
- Stretch Goals: As I mentioned above, the base game would be set in stone, so the creative ownership backers would have for the project would stem from the stretch goals. I’d use the Root method: All stretch goals are included for free in all core reward levels, and they would be compiled to form an expansion for the game. There would be no exclusives, just early and free access to the expansion content. I think I would reveal stretch goals as they’re met, knowing that we might race through them and simply run out of them (which I’m totally fine with–I’d rather do that than negatively impact the schedule and budget). I would, however, be very hesitant to put a game on Kickstarter if I didn’t have stretch goals–if I’m not stretching, I’d rather just make the game up front.
- Rewards: I’m on the fence about having a $1 reward. While I still love the core reasons for it, I wouldn’t want to convey to backers that there will be a pledge manager after the campaign. After that, I would have two reward levels (we’ll assume this is an $80 MSRP game + potentially $25 in stretch goals for these numbers): A $69 unlimited reward and a $75 first-printing reward limited to 10,000 individually numbered games (those would be the games that are already in production, so they would be shipped several months earlier than the $69 second batch). One risk about this strategy is that I’m sure I’d hear from batch 2 backers when batch 1 backers start to receive their rewards, asking me why their game hasn’t been shipped yet.
- Shipping Costs: I lean strongly towards including the core shipping cost (US/CA/UK) in the price of the rewards so create “free” shipping, with the difference added automatically for backers in other regions. I want to avoid the sticker shock of clicking on a $69 reward that a backer has managed to justify to their wallet, only to be presented with an $82 actual price. The only tricky part of this is that our Stonemaier Champion program offers free US shipping (discounted international). So I would need to find a way to refund Champions later.
- Retailers: I would let retailers pledge for 1-2 cases from the second batch (the $69 reward, but at a retailer discount). Beyond that, the game would enter wide distribution in the third printing (or maybe an extension of the third-printing? I want to make sure non-backers can get the game at the same time that backers are the most excited about it. At the same time, I want to avoid the situation where backers see the game at their local retailer before they’ve even gotten their copy).
- Duration and Timeframe: I would launch on a Monday afternoon (there’s a glut of Tuesday launches). The project would be between 10 and 14 days long. That’s plenty of time for our current audience to back the project and for new folks to discover it. Because we’ll have already started production on the first 10,000 units, we would target a first-printing delivery date 4 months later, followed by the second second 2-3 months later.
- Pledge Manager: The project as planned is streamlined enough to not warrant the need for a pledge manager (I’d use Kickstarter’s built-in survey). Nor would I want to encourage potential backers to wait until after the campaign to pledge. Instead, if someone discovers the project post-campaign, they’ll be redirected to our website, where they can pre-order the game (and, optionally, the expansion that we built during the campaign with stretch goals) at a smaller discount.
- Project Updates: I would post every 2 days during the campaign and once every 1-2 weeks post-campaign.
- Kickstarter Live: This wasn’t an option back when I was on Kickstarter, but it looks awesome. I’d want to host these every other day (on the non-update days).
- Fulfillment: I would use OTX to freight ship to several fulfillment centers worldwide: VFI (Asia), Starlit Citadel (Canada), Aetherworks (Australia/NZ), and Spiral Galaxy (Europe). The US games would go directly to the warehouse we share with Greater Than Games, and they would handle US fulfillment (unless they aren’t available at the time, at which point we would work with Fulfillrite, Quartermaster Logistics, or Funagain).
- Money-Back Guarantee: I’ve had a money-back guarantee on all of my other projects, so I don’t see a reason not to include it here. I think the impact is probably minimal, so I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, but it’s important to me that early adopters know that they can cancel at any time.
Overcoming Past Concerns
You can read in detail why I stopped using Kickstarter as a creator, but I’ll recap below and talk about how I would address these concerns:
- Fulfillment Risk: I think it may be impossible to ensure that all fulfillment companies will do everything perfectly. I think the split-batch system I’m proposing would help mitigate the risk a little bit, though. If a fulfillment center really messes up the first batch, we’ll simply use someone else for the second batch.
- Time/Emotional Toll: As you can tell from the timelines described above, I’m trying to condense everything as much as possible. I think that’ll help quite a bit. I also might hire someone during and after the campaign to represent Stonemaier in the comments and private KS messages. I’d still run the campaign and be active in the discussion, but I’ve seen how much it helps to have other people moderating our Facebook groups, and I think the same would apply here.
- Human Nature: I experienced an unfortunate side of human nature during the Scythe fulfillment process that surprised and disheartened me. I don’t know how to fix humans, so this is another area where I would probably need the boost of a helper.
- Retailer/Distributor Relationships: This is tricky, because I’ve spent the last 3 years investing heavily in our relationships with retailers and distributors. Our long-term success hinges on them. I think I would have a frank conversation with them prior to launch in which I would emphasize the impact that Scythe’s Kickstarter had on forming a really solid foundation for the game, propelling it and its expansions/accessories to monumental profits for retailers and distributors, far exceeding the original campaign. I know that Scythe is an anomaly, but the game I would choose for a Kickstarter campaign would have similar potential. [Update: I polled the retailers on our list, and the results are split between retailers who would actually like us to return to Kickstarter and those who wouldn’t like it.]
I think that’s it! That’s how I’d run a project if I ever returned to Kickstarter. I’m certainly open to feedback, though. What do you think about these methods? What areas are you curious about that I didn’t mention?
If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content!