Interview with the Most Prolific Game Backer on Kickstarter

6 September 2013 | 22 Comments

During my Kickstarter campaign for Viticulture, I was able to individually thank each backer for their pledge within a few hours of receiving the pledge. I would click on their backer profile, read about where they were from and other projects they had backed, and then I’d write them a thank you message based on the information I learned about them.

I encountered a few backers who had pledged to quite a few projects, but one stood out because he had backed so many more projects than anyone else I encountered. At the time, Miles Matton had backed around 300 projects. That was a year ago (September ’12).

I interview lots of project creators on this blog, but it recently occurred to me that it might be helpful for other project creators to know what a backer thinks about Kickstarter. And not just any backer, but someone who has backed hundreds and hundreds of project. Miles came to mind instantly, and when I reached out to him, he graciously accepted my offer to interview him.

I’ve really been looking forward to posting this, and I hope you enjoy Miles’ insights. Also, just in case this occurs to anyone, do not use this as an excuse to spam Miles with requests to back your project. Miles is doing us project creators a favor by responding to these questions, so let’s show him the same respect in return.

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1. The first project you ever backed was White Elephant: The Card game back in July of 2011. How did you discover Kickstarter? 

I’m not entirely certain, but I think I first found out about it from the game review site dicehateme.com or maybe from the Alien Frontiers game. (More on that in question 3)

2. As of September ’13, you have backed 695 projects on Kickstarter. What makes you keep coming back for more? Do you think you’ll someday reach a maximum? 

I keep finding out about more interesting projects, a lot of time from updates of the projects I backed before, or the new projects of people & companies I backed before. I don’t think I’ll ever hit a point that I don’t _want_ to back more, but you never know what may happen (work troubles, new expenses & such could always make it hard for me to back as much as I’d like; actually, a bit of that has already happened, a few months ago I moved closer to where I work but it’s much higher rent at my new place so I’ve been cutting back on what/how much I support).

3. A lot of the projects you’ve backed are games. Have you been able to play all of the games you backed? Of those that you’ve played, what are your 3 favorite Kickstarted games? 

No, unfortunately my “eyes are larger than my stomach” when it comes to games. I’ve played less than half of the ones that I’ve gotten so far.

alien frontiersMy favorite game is probably the one that got me going on board games in general, but I did not back it on kickstarter at first. I bought Alien Frontiers after it had been kickstarted & made available to the public (I think from amazon) and it had a sticker on it about “dicehateme.com game of the year” so I checked out that site and found out that the game had been made possible because of this kickstarter site (or it could have been from something I’d read about the game before that, when I was check it out, not entirely certain) and that backers there had gotten special cards for the game (luckily I’m not too bad of a completionist, didn’t have to go out & track down those “missing” cards for the game).

Anyhow, the other two of my most favorite are probably Sentinels of the Multiverse and Flash Point Fire Rescue, both ones that I’d actually missed the initial kickstarter for but have backed the expansions they’ve come out with at a level where I’d get the base game. And all three are ones I’ve played at my work’s company game nights (at least once each I believe), although I really like trying out new games so they haven’t been played too many times.

4. You’ve also backed projects in nearly every Kickstarter category. Do you look at Kickstarter every day for interesting projects, or do you have other ways of discovering non-game projects? 

I sometimes like looking through the “Ending Soon” category (a couple of times I actually looked through as far as it goes, 7-8 days of projects I think it was) and that has lead to backing some things that I’d never go searching out for (the one music project that I’ve backed–Space Folk Album–comes to mind, and was quite likely one I found looking at that list).

But far more often I find out about a project by it being mentioned in another project’s update, which is likely to be for something of a similar project, but it’s not always (like the Maelorum / Darkraven Fantasy Soundscapes cross-promotion).

5. Given the number of projects you’ve followed, in your opinion what are the top things that every Kickstarter creator should do? 

  1. shroudCommunicate with your backers, early & often, before funding & after, _especially_ if something has gone wrong (even if it’s just a minor thing). I’ve seen comments in a lot of differently managed campaigns & the main thread between ones where the backers turned hostile vs being encouraging is the amount and openness of the creator’s updates.
  2. Once funded I think a project needs good stretch goals to give people a reason to keep spreading the word, or another incentive like Shroud of the Avatar’s latest post-kickstarter promotion (update #36, The “Double Down on Community” Mission), a referral program (“Recruit Your Friends and Become a Duke!”) just for their kickstarter backers who bring in pre-order pledgers to their website (if you want to you could stick in my email address, kickstarter@milesmatton.com, for people who like what they see there).

6. What are some of the things a Kickstarter creator can do to NOT get your pledge or get you to cancel? 

For video games (which is a quite a few of those in my “Games” category) it would be to not have support for my OS (I use a linux distro called Gentoo, but if they have any sort of linux support I should be able to get a game to run on it). For board games, I only back if I think there’s something special about the game, whether that’s in the mechanics, theme, or components, there has to be some twist I haven’t seen done quite that way before.

7. Looking back over the last 2 years on Kickstarter, what are a few of the projects you enjoyed the most and why? 

  • order of the stickI really liked the Order of the Stick comic reprint project, Rich Burlew, the creator of the comic, really knows how to speak to his audience (hint: it had a lot to do with comics :D ) and had good stretch goals to keep the momentum going and do it without busting his budget. I can’t even think of another project that came close to how well he did.
  • But some honorable mentions might be Dan Smith, whose first project barely made half of his goal, but he really kept in contact with his backers throughout and did a tiny print of the base game for a few of us after it failed, then launched another project for it and the expansions that got funded (& hit a few stretch goals). Dan’s another one that knows how really communicate; it was rare for more than 1 or 2 comments to go by on any post without some sort of response from him (I’m sure that’s much easier to do with only 100 or so backers rather than tens of thousands, but still impressive) and he really kept his backers in the loop of every step of the process.
  • And Dave Howell who made the awesome PennyGems and more recently the Gamer’s Storage Bags also comes to mind as someone one who really kept his backers informed of what was happening, even when it was bad news after bad news, and once he even did a “Non-update” when he didn’t really have any new info (he was still waiting on hearing back from his manufacturer) and just wanted us to know that he was still on top of it.

8. I don’t see many games on your list from big publishers using Kickstarter as a pre-order system. Is that accurate? If so, what is it about those projects that doesn’t compel you to back them? 

I don’t have anything against those sorts of projects, just haven’t seen any that I wanted what they were offering.

9. Do you have anything else you’d like to say to creators or backers?

For backers: don’t back as many projects as I have, not unless you don’t mind skimming most of the updates or have a lot of free time (right now I’m over 9 days & 200 updates behind on mine).

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Thanks so much for your time and insights, Miles!

22 Comments on “Interview with the Most Prolific Game Backer on Kickstarter

  1. It’s the serial Kickstarter backers and the community of serial backers are what really separate Kickstarter from all the rest, including IGG. IGG is trying to build the community, but it’s just not there yet.

  2. gamesandgrub – I personally consider that any pledge shows support to the project. Higher backer numbers give the project a perceived popularity that will draw in other backers. I think Miles is being very generous.

  3. @gamesandgrub
    1 – I make a decent living doing computer programming, and up until very recently (the last few months) I had fairly low living costs and not much for other expenses, so could spend $1k or so a month without busting my budget. And remember I’ve been backing for over 2 years :)
    2 – For board games I almost never back for less than $10 (always enough to get the game, or expansion if I already have the game, and sometimes more, especially if they have tiers for getting their other games at a discount), in other categories it’s probably pretty even odds though.

  4. Just noticed the title of the article and sorry, no, I am not the _most_ prolific (I’ve seen people who’ve had thousands they’ve backed). Just most prolific backer that backed Viticulture.

    1. Miles–I’ve heard of a few backers who have backed thousands of projects, but not with a game focus, and they only pledge a dollar or two per project. Of course, I don’t have the data to truly say that you’re the most prolific game backer, but unless someone steps up to claim the throne, I’m sticking with you! :)

  5. I have recently been interacted with a fellow backer in comments for Kings Forge and The Best Damn Game Coins who has 774 games on Kickstarter. One of the quotes in his bio is:”It is amazing a dollar from a complete stranger can complete another’s dream” and then he linked to another fellow who felt the same way from Australia. (I’ll withhold his name as I don’t have his email to ask for his permission to post here)

    While I personally haven’t backed that many campaigns since 2010, it meant an awful lot to me when I was finally able to back a project that completed my full wheel of the different topics. It took me over two years, but looking through the other categories made for some of my better experiences on Kickstrarter. I went in with low expectations and found plenty of surprises when I broke out of just backing games. I recommend serious Kickstarter fans think about making the complete wheel a goal for themselves. I enjoyed the journey.

    1. Chris–Thanks for sharing. That’s awesome that the fellow backer you mentioned has contributed to so many projects, even at the $1 level.

      I also appreciate the idea of looking beyond games on Kickstarter. You can learn a ton by looking at other projects and supporting them–lots of cool stuff on Kickstarter. I recently backed a bag of salt on Kickstarter, and I can’t wait to try it!

  6. I’d like to second miles’ compliments of Dan Smith, I was not involved with Kickstarter at the time of his first “King of Crime” campaign, but I was very involved with his follow-up campaign. His dedication to his game and his backers, his willingness to accept criticism in the desire to make his game better and his determination to take a stand when changes weren’t necessary or when requests would not be feasible were all qualities I found to be very admirable. I think I emailed Dan more than 100 times over the course of his campaign, from start to delivery, and he always responded promptly and genuinely seemed to care (even though I worried I was being bothersome). Even though Dan’s campaign was not one of the huge one’s that drew a lot of attention, I think that he really did a lot of things right that Kickstarter creator’s would do well to take note of. Besides the things I’ve already mentioned, Dan had a backer who noticed some mis-alignment with the printing on the backs of some of his cards, the backer must have messaged Dan directly as there wasn’t mention first in the comments, but Dan took it upon himself to: write an update including a photo that the backer must have sent in, address the situation, ultimately take responsibility for the issue and offer a solution to those who would need it. Dan’s “King of Crime” was one of my first Kickstarter campaigns to back and was the first to deliver a physical product, being a part of that campaign was a real joy and has had a huge impact for my continuing enjoyment/fascination with Kickstarter. To top it all off, the game is great! it’s become a standby that my friends and I play frequently.

  7. Wow. I am humbled by Miles and Chad for their very kind words. I have always kept my backers close to my project and my heart, for without them, my card game would still be on my computer. I kept everything transparent, when I knew anything-good or bad-I made sure everyone knew about it. They trusted me with their support and I did not want them to regret it. I promised to do another KS campaign for the expansions that we didn’t reach, and I hope to get that online before the year’s end. (Life, sometimes, has it’s complications that keep us from what we want to do…)
    My campaigns were incredible learning experiences and I will continue to be a part of the KS community, as a backer and producer.

    1. Dan–I wasn’t aware of your campaigns in the past, but I’ll most certainly be following them in the future! It sounds like the praise is well deserved. Thanks for what you’ve done for your backers.

  8. Hi. I’m happen to be producing a documentary on serial Kickstarter (or any crowdfunding site, for that matter)backers.

    Miles Matton: If you are interested in giving us an on-camera interview regarding your Kickstarter fascination, feel free to contact us at grandfenwickprod@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you.

  9. Hi Jamey,

    Thanks a lot for bringing this awesome opportunity.

    On the item 5 above, Miles Matton mention a way to recruit backers and reward the recruiters. Have seen this done on board games? Have you thought about that? Would you recommend that? Recruit a backer and gain the expansion? Not sure how to feel about that. Also, how can you keep track of who recruited who???

    Thanks again for your precious time,

    Best,

    Jose

    1. Jose: Thanks for bringing that to my attention–it’s been a while since I posted this!

      While I think organic recruiting is more consistent and more powerful, if you budget correctly, methods like this aren’t going to hurt a project. I recall seeing a few board game projects try something similar (their names aren’t coming to mind, though).

      It looks like this project figured out who the recruiters were by asking people at a certain pledge level who referred them to the project on the post-project survey. It seems like (a) most people wouldn’t answer that question or (b) if a lot of people answer it, it would be a lot of work for the creator to sort through. Plus, you’d have to deal with all the people who recruited someone (or thought they recruited someone) but didn’t actually get the bonus because no one mentioned their info on the survey.

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