Is Now an Okay Time to Launch a Kickstarter Campaign?

26 March 2020 | 30 Comments

Before I jump into the topic of today’s article, I’d like to share the big news that Charterstone Digital releases today! This full-AI app from Acram Digital is available on iOS and Steam (and Android later today), and you can play against the app or against other humans. It’s been really neat to see my village-building worker-placement legacy game come to life in digital form.

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Last week I read an interesting article from Nick Bentley at Underdog Games about their decision to continue with their planned launch of Trekking the World despite data indicating that Kickstarter campaigns have seen a significant funding decrease during the coronavirus crisis.

If you’ve been planning a Kickstarter launch for the near future, you might be considering a delay as well…or not. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Large and established versus small and new: Cephalofair Games, the publisher of Gloomhaven, is proceeding to launch Frosthaven on March 31, and it’s going to be very successful. They have a huge following, a great track record, and excellent marketing reach. If you don’t share those characteristics, your success potential on Kickstarter right now is probably in question.
  • Joy of utility versus joy of togetherness: Especially in this difficult time, I think people are buying things that bring them joy when they stay at home. This doesn’t bode well for Kickstarter–if I need entertainment now, I’ll buy something I can receive in a few days, not in 8-12 months. However, the experience of participating in a crowdfunding campaign–particularly one that is engaging and community-focused–can also provide people a feel of togetherness that they might be missing right now.
  • Pleasure versus necessities: Many Kickstarted products are things we want but not things we need. Put yourself in other peoples’ shoes: In a time of crisis, are they thinking about wants or needs? As I mentioned above, I think we’re valuing distractions right now, but we’re budgeting for necessities.
  • Cash flow: A successful Kickstarter campaign can provide a big boost to a company’s cash flow. As Chad from Boardgametables.com said in his recent enewsletter, “New products are a big chunk of our income. It’s how we pay our bills and pay our employees.” If that’s the case for you too, you might consider proceeding with a Kickstarter now even though it could attract more backers later.
  • Today’s certainty versus tomorrow’s uncertainty: While it may not be ideal, you know where you stand today. But tomorrow? A week from now? Next month? A lot could change. Nick mentions this in his article, saying, “We expect the economy to be tough for a long time, and possibly get worse.” That said, there is hope for the future. We can beat this pandemic and emerge much stronger, at which point your project may be far more successful–but are you willing to wait?

Is now an okay time to launch a Kickstarter campaign? There so are many factors and variables that I don’t have a universal answer for everyone. If you see an opportunity to thrive now and bring joy to people, go for it. If not, maybe postpone your campaign, focusing for now on improving your product and building community.

What do you think? As backers and creators, are you viewing Kickstarter through a different lens during the coronavirus crisis?

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Leave a Comment

30 Comments on “Is Now an Okay Time to Launch a Kickstarter Campaign?

  1. I am planning to launch my campaign in couple of months. I would like to add up more ideas to my campaign after the lessons we learned during Covid-19.
    I think this time would be more difficult. However, I would like to carry out this challenge and carry out the campaign rather than giving up and slow down.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jamey for this blog and the useful information available for every creator.

    Good luck for every creator. and Be safe.

  2. In my experience cooperating in industry (automotive and aeronautic sector mostly) whenever there is a significant -in this case, a major- shift in organization, factories tend to close/expand/relocate/switch technology. This exclude the mini factories that produce a significant part of our tabletop hobby – they simple pop and dissapear in record time, china only.

    This said, projects that are not in mass production at least today (april 2020) can be subject to significant changes in suppliers (factories) as well as major time shifts (say, wait for 90 days to find a new supplier)

    These can all be directly or indirectly allocated into costs, which in turn are direct risks: FOR THE BACKERS.

    This may be “an OK” time to launch a project for the creators. But it is the worst time for backers. There is too much risk involved and no reward at all: all you cold get is your pre-ordered game.

    I say this because in this times you may put money in investments, or savings, etc.. they all have their risks, but also potential gains that could benefit you in long term.

    The role of a Backer in kickstarter during this crisis is solely to take away financial risks for creators, bluntly said.

    I am sure many backers will be hurt by this seeing for example how they blindly set a record with Frosthaven, and even CMON’s (company under scrutiny) Ankh. There is a single digit percentage fail rate in KS.. with this crisis it will only grow.

    To close think about this: if factories around the world are now emerging and swiftwly changing into mask producing.. who is to say what they would do in a sustained national emergengy? What other urgent needs may we face this same year?.

    Don’t back any kickstarter today.

  3. Hey,
    I think trekking the world and Frosthaven will be fine. Theylook solid. I dont back many KS games. Ankh is a weird one. Game looks great, campaign is good, but no gameplay videos and a financial company crisis. I think itveas a poor choice. Many have not backed CMON or are only backing at $1. This is a big deal because they should have waited and delivered everything else first. The time machine is still open for Rising Sun, etc…, but why back a “failing” company with more money? The situation matters.
    Cheers, Neil

  4. Thanks for starting the conversation about this Jamey. We’ve recently launched a campaign -Excavation Earth – and wanted to report back in case any of the info here is helpful to others. We dropped on the 6th of April, had an ok but slow first day, compared to our previous projects. We decided to launch despite the current difficult times for various reasons:

    a) We don’t know how long the current situation and its economic effects will last. When things do recuperate we expected a lot of other creators to be launching the campaigns they delayed – which creates its own set of challenges.
    b) We have another Kickstarter planned for Autumn and we wanted to avoid crashing into that if the wait was too long.
    c) We are not sure if Essen will happen or not but we needed to launch now if we were to have games ready for it if it does.
    d) While we have reserves to get by, being a small studio we are limited to how much we can adjust our financial plans.

    The campaign is going fairly slowly. We raised 30K in the first 24 hours and just 7K in the second day. That is between 3 and 5.5 times less than our other campaigns. We were doing a fair bit of marketing before with various previews, funny videos and our own social media (3K followers per channel) going for a solid 2 months. We also had 700 followers on the preview page before launch.

    The other odd thing we’re seeing at the moment is the number of followers. We usually have twice as many followers as we have backers by the end of the campaign. Right now we have 3800 followers to the 600 backers. We have never seen that sort of ratio before. We’re not sure what it means :).

    There’s still 3 weeks to go, of course, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t gutted by this. Even in the current climate we hoped for around double where we are now. There are always many factors that influence such outcomes, of course, and we’re still trying to process the current situation. It could be simply that the game is not resonating with backers, or the now more limited pool of funds has been largely committed – it’s hard to know.

    Anyway, I hope this data is helpful for other creators out there going through the thorny decision of launching or not in these trying times.

    1. Thank you for sharing this! That’s very interesting about the huge number of followers compared to backers–I wonder if more people are taking the “wait and see” approach, given that they don’t know what the next few weeks in their lives will look like.

  5. Jamey-

    We have been working on our game for the past 3 years. We have studied the information you provide on crowdfunding, read your book, read a number of other books on crowdfunding, and have followed our business plan fairly closely. Our schedule had us releasing on April 1st (based on a number of different statistics indicating advantage on certain days of the week or month). We actually have a list of all of the requirements you and others have decided are essential elements of a Kickstarter campaign and we have ticked every one of those boxes.

    What we didn’t foresee was a global pandemic. After much debate about the possible pros and cons of releasing, we decided to go ahead and release our game in spite of the COVID-19 and have been rewarded with a “failure to launch”. We are only 9 days in but it is obvious we have either A- Done something wrong, B- Produced a bad game, C-Released a game during a Global Pandemic.

    To address item B above- we have gone out to professional reviewers and had them give us their opinions on the game. Every review came back positive with the reviewers identifying the cool artwork and the game play innovations in the system. I’m sure it is a combination of A & C but I don’t know which or both. Some games have funded successfully during this time however so I don’t believe it is only that we are in the middle of a health crisis.

    We also had the bad luck to release on the same day as Frosthaven… not sure if this affects other projects or not.

    We knew this was a possibility from the start but it still stings a bit when you hear that “your baby is ugly”.

    We would sure appreciate any help or advice you and your readers could give us about what we are possibly doing wrong.

    Cybermancy- Virtual arena on Kickstarter
    http://www.seeforevergames.com to view the game site.

    Thanks in advance.

    WCox

    1. Woodward: Thanks for your note, and I’m sorry that that confluence of various factors resulted in a failed launch. Please know that a lack of funding isn’t a knock on how hard you worked on this game–you put a lot of time, energy, and creativity into this, and you should be proud of it.

      As for why it isn’t funding, there are so many different reasons it could be. How big was your crowd for the game before launch? That is, how many people knew about the game and were excited about it?

      1. Jamey- we had 121 followers on our Facebook page, 150 + on our Instagram page… we paid attention to what you had written about bringing friends and family… although we didn’t have as many as we intended as our public play testing was cut short due to social distancing. We have 12 fully functional prototypes and had teams of folks going out there and to make that final push in the game stores, a few local conventions, and with our various gaming groups. Just bad timing I suppose. We would like your reader’s opinion on the game though… and perhaps the kickstarter project page. Did we miss something obvious that we are too close to see?

        1. Thanks! Though in the modern age, those are very small numbers. You really need to show up with an excited crowd–not just a small group–to make an impact on Kickstarter.

          As for the page itself, at a quick glance I see a number of things I wouldn’t have done:

          –I wouldn’t have called it “virtual arena”. That gives the impression that it’s a digital game.

          –I wouldn’t have called my own game “exciting”. That’s for players to decide, not me.

          –I wouldn’t have put a clown on my primary image. Clowns are creepy!

          –I wouldn’t have started the page with a big image that tells me nothing about the game followed by a wall of text.

          –I wouldn’t have Kickstarter exclusives.

          –I wouldn’t have launched so close to Frosthaven. That isn’t bad luck–everyone knew when Frosthaven was launching.

          I could go on, but you’re probably seeing a pattern here.

          I’d suggest reading this and focusing on learning what current backers would like you to change in a reboot: https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-50-how-to-reboot-an-unsuccessful-kickstarter-project/

          Good luck!

  6. Hi Jamey,

    Thanks for this post. I haven’t seen too much out there regarding this topic, so it was refreshing to hear your perspective. It is interesting to reflect on your point regarding the “Joy of utility versus joy of togetherness”. Probably the vast majority of Kickstarters are looking at 8+ months out to deliver an actual product. However, the handful of creators that were able to do much of the heavy lifting for their product pre-launch might be able to capitalize on both utility and togetherness if they can deliver in a shorter window (perhaps 2 months?).

    Out of curiosity, what is the fastest turn around for a funded Kickstarter to delivered project you’ve seen?

    1. Thanks Walter! There have been some campaigns where the creator has already produced the product and is simply accepting preorders for it, but (in my opinion) that really isn’t what Kickstarter is for, as you’re not actually using it to create anything if the thing you’re making has already been created.

      So for the vast majority of projects where mass manufacturing is required, you’re looking at a minimum of 6 months (4 for manufacturing, 1 for freight shipping, and 1 for fulfillment), and that’s if all pre-production is 100% complete on the day the project ends.

      1. Completely fair point Jamey. I agree that Kickstarter should be used to help creators CREATE the dream that would otherwise not exist. And 6 months is a long time to wait for an item…it might even feel longer with all of the shelter in place going on!

  7. Hey Jamey did you have any idea when charterstone will be on Android? In the article, which was written on March 26th, it says “later today”. However, it’s March 30th and it is still not out yet. I’m in no rush to get it and I’m not trying to complain I just want to know when it’ll be out!

    Thanks!

    1. Hi William! I’m not part of the development team for Charterstone Digital, but they tell me that the Android app approval system is dramatically slowed down due to the coronavirus. So all they can do is wait. It’s up to the Android approval system when it’s released now.

      1. Yeah that definitely makes sense, stinks but makes sense. Thank you so much for the quick reply Joe. Have a wonderful day and stay safe.

    2. William: I’m not the developer, but in Acram Digital’s e-newsletter on Thursday they said this:

      “Yesterday, we have announced the release of Charterstone: Digital Edition on iOS, Steam and Android, but as many of you have noticed, it’s still not available for purchase on Google Play.

      We are aware of this fact and appologize. Unfrotunately, there is nothing more we can do, but wait patiently. Due to the current global pandemic, Google has announced that the app approval process will take longer than usual. We do not know how long.

      Note, that if you add it to your wishlist, you will be notified by Google immediately upon the game’s release.

      For more immediate announcements follow us on twitter @acramdigital or join the Charterstone: Digital Edition Official Facebook group, where we will keep you updated and answer any and all questions.

      We ask for your understanding and we thank you for your patience.”

      1. Thank you for the quick response Jamey! Sorry to bother you with a silly question, but I appreciate you getting back. Stay safe!

  8. Good point about today’s certainty vs. tomorrow’s uncertainty.

    As Nick has mentioned, I’ve had some conversations and have also hear that Kickstarter is not seeing any major deviation from last year at this time.

    One argument is that if you run a campaign now and fail to fund, you can always re-launch later when things might be better. That’s always an option, regardless.

    I am planning my own Kickstarter campaign for later this year but don’t have a date set. Given the current situation, I’m debating when the best time might be. I’m optimistic that things will get better, but they will first likely get worse. It will be interesting to see the effects on Kickstarter campaigns the longer this continues.

  9. Hi Everyone, I’m the Nick Bentley in question. In the last couple of days I’ve received conflicting data about how projects are doing on Kickstarter.

    On the one hand: talking to other creators and KS marketing people, I’m hearing ROI on marketing efforts are much lower. That’s consistent with what we see with our own campaign, compared to the 4 previous campaigns I’ve run (though note of course the game itself and the offers of the campaign can have a huge effect on this, and it’s hard to separate those effects from more general trends in backer behavior).

    In addition, if you look at the most-funded live tabletop game projects right now, their totals are way lower than what you usually see: https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/advanced?state=live&category_id=34&sort=most_funded&seed=2487436&page=1

    (Usually the top campaigns are in the millions, and right not the top campaign hasn’t even broken $500k)

    But I have two bits of data that contradict this story:

    1. I spoke with a KS data analyst who says he’s not seeing this stuff in KS’s internal data. He says overall conversion data is about what it always is.

    2. This company that tracks campaign stats isn’t seeing it in their data either: https://www.biggercake.com/blog/coronavirus-and-kickstarter-in-depth-risk-analysis/ (the article at the link is useful reading for anyone deciding to run or delay a campaign.

    The only way I can think to reconcile these conflicting signals: tabletop game projects are way down, BUT some other product categories in KS are commensurately up, to keep the average funding and conversion rates steady in aggregate. If that’s not the explanation, then I have no idea.

    For my part, I remain happy we launched when we did. I do believe we’re raising 30-50% less than we would under normal circumstances, but our prediction that we’re headed for a very deep and prolonged downturn that causes people to forego highly discretionary purchases like Kickstarter games appears more sound with each passing day.

  10. I’ve been running our 5th metal coins campaign during the crisis, the campaign started on March 10th.
    Our first 48 hours were even better than our last year’s metal coins campaign but since day 4 we have seen a big decline in funding, while seeing a lot of people pledging for $1 or asking to be notified (which makes total sense since they are waiting to see how their situation will evolve before committing).
    I understand that a KS campaign for game accessories is not what people are mostly looking for and had a few loyal customers cancelling telling me that they wanted to save money and order later. I think as long as people stay in quarantine and wages are uncertain this will only go worse.
    On the other hand I am optimistic for my business seeing so many people in the industry keep on helping each other. Sharing resources and supporting our friends is the way to get out of this and I’m happy once again to see this happening in the Tabletop Industry.
    Stay safe :)

  11. I wouldn’t do a KS right now in this financial climate. I took a huge hit on my crypto investments. People want liquidity and hence the markets went down. Give it 30 days and see where we are.

  12. I think it would be very difficult for a Kickstarter to do well in the current climate. Even with a good reputation behind you, the current situation is unprecedented. Too many unpredictable factors come into play. If personal finances are low should they even consider an investment. But on the other hand it’s important to have something to look forward to and supporting a company at a difficult time, if at all possible, is a good thing, especially if it’s your personal passion. What is interesting is that I read comments about people getting Monopoly out. A dirty word to a number of people who have delved passed the simplicity and imbalance of a game which would be about crushing your opponents over a 3hr duration only for them to make a comeback. Either way, take away the world and board games come to the forefront of people’s minds. Being challenged in the smallest of environments. This is where bonds are formed and their is a unity of fun which takes away the misery.
    My point being, this is a great opportunity to reintroduce people to board games and show them how much they have come on. I love rules. I love learning them. I love teaching them. I think every company should have their gateway game. Mine was Ticket to Ride and Catan. So even though Kickstarters May have to take a back seat. It is still a good opportunity to convert the masses.

  13. I was planning on launching my Kickstarter on May 5th. I’m hoping the coming weeks will give a lot more insight into what to expect in the coming future. We’ve been testing our supply chain with pre-production units which we were planning on supplying to influencers for honest reviews and feedback. Our supply chain seems to be ok to move forward without a hitch, though now I’m hoping that the uncertainty in the economy will change before May 5th. Our Kickstarter is for fabricators, woodworkers, makers and similar who mostly work in somewhat isolation.

    May 5th may be shortly after the government direct payments hitting the economy which could be a decent time to launch too.

    I believe the biggest factors effecting a launch is what your demographic consists of and what type of Kickstarter you’re launching.

    Looking back at the Coolest Cooler its obviously important to launch when people want your product more than when you can deliver it to them so that they have it went they want it.

    I could see pros and cons for Board games for instance during this time. Normal board game groups can’t meet up during social distancing, but many people are stuck at home looking for something to do and of course board games are a perfect solution to that. Perhaps fewer play board games such as 2-player games would be great for right now.

    With the maker industry providing medical masks and stuff for the response to Covid-19 and more people having more time to work in their DIY garages, I’m curious if more people will want more fabrication tooling that’s related to that.

    While social distancing will definitely affect many potential Kickstarters, I imagine a lot of people have a sudden desire for something to make up for their lost experiences of going out with friends. Obviously the economic slow down may also effect Kickstarters a lot, though backers also typically make up a very small portion of the total market consisting of early adopters which means that perhaps they will not be as effected as products that have full market adoption.

    Regardless it will be interesting to watch what happens in the coming weeks.

    1. With the economy being what it is, and what it is becoming, pledging to as many Kickstarters as I have in the past (a moderate few, but I’m sure not nearly as many as some) isn’t the wisest choice for my family. I’ve saved my pennies so I’m likely in a better position than many, but that’s one reason I’m in that better position.

      Everyone should support some Kickstarters that they will get joy out of and will enjoy following their progress (e.g., I like Awaken Realms as just one example).

      Our economy will be back with a vengeance when everyone can get back to work.

      Everyone stay safe and healthy and I’d like everyone for practicing social distancing and for those under ‘stay at home lock down’ (I’m one of you) as I’m one of the vulnerable ones.

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