Is Now an Okay Time to Launch a Kickstarter Campaign?

26 March 2020 | 17 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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17 Comments on “Is Now an Okay Time to Launch a Kickstarter Campaign?

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 :)

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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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