Is the Rising Number of $1 Backers a Problem? (KS Lesson #256)

26 November 2018 | 60 Comments

Recently there were two very successful board game Kickstarter projects that shared something else in common: They both had a significant number of $1 backers:

Now, that’s just two projects out of many Kickstarters. Also, this is a specific subset of projects that offer $1 reward levels from which backers can expand to include full rewards at the same price during the pledge manager. But I think it’s worth discussing.

The Good

A few years ago, I wrote about why I believed a $1 reward level was a positive for any project. While I stand by the reasons mentioned on that post, I’ve wavered on the necessity of an actual $1 level, as Kickstarter now presents backers with a “make a pledge without a reward” option right at the top of the sidebar.

Here are some specific reasons why the $1 level pledge-manager access reward is good for creators and backers:

  • Thanks to Kickstarter’s “follow” feature, every pledge–including $1 pledge–has the potential of significantly increasing the exposure to a project.
  • It’s better than not backing at all, as backers may end up upgrading their rewards during the pledge manager. If they do, you avoid the Kickstarter fees.
  • The $1 pledge includes backers who might otherwise feel excluded. There are a variety of reasons why a backer may be intrigued by a project but not ready to commit: They might be waiting to see if certain stretch goals are reached, they may not have the funds at the time (this may be seasonal), or they may be overwhelmed by the amount of information available.
  • Some projects don’t tell you the shipping fees during the project, leaving a lot of uncertainty for backers. If they pledge $1, they can wait to see if they can afford shipping before committing to a large expense.

The Bad

There are a few reasons why these numbers might raise a red flag for creators:

  • A big reason why creators use Kickstarter is that they need the funds to make the product. For Tidal Blades, for example, if those 2,137 backers had paid for the core reward plus shipping ($71 total), that would be an additional $151k up front for Druid City Games to put towards bringing the game to life. And yes, to be fair, the $782k they raised is more than enough to make tens of thousands of copies of the game. But what happens if the percentage of $1 backers increases to 30%? 50%?
  • There is the possibility that animosity may arise between $1 and full-pledge backers, as it’s the full backers who are directly and significantly contributing to achieving stretch goals. While stretch goals are largely a marketing tool to keep backers engaged, excited, and motivated to upgrade and share, backers are still entitled to their feelings, and some may feel frustrated that they’re carrying the weight while $1 backers get the same thing at the same price later.
  • Backers at the $1 level create a certain level of uncertainty for the creator when it comes to the order quantity. At a certain point–hopefully soon after the project ends–they need to lock in a quantity with the manufacturer and start making the product. This can be addressed by launching the pledge manager soon after the campaign ends, though it could still lead to backers being disappointed if they wait too long and no more copies are available.

Is It a Problem?

I’m sure people will have different opinions about this, and you’re welcome to respectfully express them in the comments. In my opinion, based on what I mentioned above, I do not consider this increase in $1 backers to be a significant problem…yet. At a certain point, there is a tipping point where the lack of direct benefits of $1 backers outweighs the indirect benefits. That tipping point depends on the project and the timing of the pledge manager.

Some Solutions

For those who consider this an issue, creators have some options to choose from:

  • Stop offering the $1 pledge manager reward. This isn’t as drastic as you may think. For example, Scythe had a $1 reward to address the above reasons, but Scythe didn’t have a pledge manager. If you wanted to get the special versions of Scythe at the Kickstarter prices, you had to participate as a full backer during the campaign.
  • Adjust stretch goals in the final 48 hours based on the number of $1 pledges. If projects are missing out on stretch goals but they’re confident a certain number of $1 backers will upgrade later, they can adjust a few of the stretch goals late in the project based on projections.
  • Increase the price in the pledge manager as compared to the Kickstarter. For backers specifically, I don’t think a drastic price increase is necessary, but even a small increase will (a) motivate more backers to make a decision during the project, (b) make full backers feel valued, and (c) not alienate backers who need to make a decision during the pledge manager. They key, of course, is to clearly communicate this increase during the campaign.
  • Increase the cost of the pledge-manager reward. This is the solution I discussed on this recent post, which was specifically addressing the perception by some people that a Kickstarter pledge is a 0% interest loan. I proposed a reward level of $9, though it could be $5. However, I do think there is a significant psychological gap between a $1 pledge and even a $5 pledge. If I believe in a project, even if I’m unsure I want the reward, a $1 pledge is a no-brainer. $5? Logically it’s not that big of a difference, but it feels a lot higher, and I’m not sure I’d act the same way if that was my option.
  • Offer something to full backers for free that $1 backers and late pledgers must pay for. As long as this is clearly communicated, this has some merit. Again, it’s similar to what I did for Scythe–if you pledged during the project, you got the promos for free. If you pre-ordered it afterwards, you had to pay for the promos. I think this may feel weird to $1 backers who have been taught to the expect that they get the same thing as all other backers at the same price. I even ran into this for Scythe a number of times despite the top of the project page being VERY clear about it:

Your Thoughts?

This is a nuanced topic, and I’d love to hear your respectfully worded thoughts about it. Also, if you have any data to share, I’d love to hear what percentage of $1 pledge manager backers actually upgrade their reward later.

Thanks to JB Howell and Alex Goldsmith for sharing their thoughts on this topic!

If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content!

60 Comments on “Is the Rising Number of $1 Backers a Problem? (KS Lesson #256)

  1. I’ve used the $1 reward a few times for games that I don’t have enough money for when the campaign is ending in order to increase my pledge when the pledge manager opens in order to get the game.

  2. I back at $1 often to get updates, and b/c I want to throw my support to a creator. Sometimes I convert during the campaign to a full pledge, sometimes after, and sometimes never. The $1 backer not sharing the load of funding the game and getting to stretch goals, etc… resonated with me. However, the $1 backer has the potential to bring in a higher margin return if they convert with a pledge manager as you aren’t paying the crowdfunding site fees. That seems like a good thing for a company. Always great content but I really liked this one. Thanks.

  3. Some campaigns are an insta-back where I am all-in (the type of backer most creators like to see), and others where I feel the need to be watchful. I once pledged at a $5 lower level reward (PNP) then upgraded later, but not all campaigns offer that option. My reason for doing so, however, was the same as the $1 pledge — to follow the campaign and get updates, so I would not miss the push at the end in case I decided to back.

    If Kickstarter had a true follow option that creators could use to enable non-backers to receive updates and follow the campaign (and hopefully back later), perhaps that would solve the perceived problem for creators. If that option already exists (perhaps the option Jamey mentioned, “make a pledge without a reward”), it’s never been clear to me where that is located or how to use it, or if it can be changed once selected, and whether I would receive updates. Maybe I have just become accustomed to the $1 option.

    I never realized that $1 backers could later get the same benefits. I have late-backed before (when I have missed a campaign) and have always paid more for the product, and never felt that was unfair. I always thought that creators looked at the total raised rather than the number of backers.

  4. Great points Jamie! I’m curious, is it common for campaigns to forgo the Pledge Manager? I can see how from a production standpoint it can be difficult to forecast production, especially as the “$1” pledges increase in proportion, but is removing the Pledge Manager feature seen as too harsh?

    1. Gary: I’m not sure exactly how many projects do or don’t use pledge managers–maybe 50/50? May I ask why you think it’s harsh? Backers have plenty of time during the campaign to figure out what they want. I think a pledge manager can really help when there are lots of options and add-ons, but if it’s a pretty simple pledge, I feel like my opportunity to pledge at that price is during the campaign.

  5. Something else in the good you are missing. If backers pledge $1 on Kickstarter and upgrade to the full pledge level in the pledge manager, that’s extra money for the creator. They get to bypass Kickstarter’s fee on those backers.

    1. Unless I’m missing something, it’s not as large as perceived unless you have your own proprietary pledge manager.

      As a creator you’re still paying the credit card fee % and any 3rd party pledge manager takes a portion of what is raised.

  6. We recently completed a campaign that had 3,327 backers. We went back and forth about offering the $1 pledge, and after choosing to offer, 196 backers opted into it, or 6%. That number of course fluctuated over the course of the campaign. After the campaign ended, we launched our Backerkit store, where we were offering a significant number of add-ons and even a pre-order to a reprint of an out of print game, and 38% of our $1 backers have increased their pledge. Not saying anything one way or another about this percentage, just noting it.

    What I will comment on is the vocal nature of $1 backers. We want to provide a level of transparency and offering backers a way to access the comments gives them a connection to creators to ask the burning questions they have. On top of that, increased foot traffic in comments is one of the barometers for increasing on the popularity track of Kickstarter. However, comments, as you well know take an enormous amount of time. And we found that this became an excuse for us to answer questions repeatedly instead of encouraging backers to use the resources we had put hours into creating beforehand to address these specific questions. And time is a valuable commodity.

    1. Thanks for sharing that hard data, Jennifer–38% is great! I agree with you that a creator’s time is a precious commodity. Do you think that $1 backers ask more questions (or even cause more trouble) than other backers?

      1. It certainly seemed that way sometimes, but I don’t have the numbers. I think its more of a portion of time spent answering those questions and the resulting amount of revenue gained based on that time, which of course is very hard data to acquire.

    2. Very interesting to hear about the comments section. As a manager, one thing I have learned is that you give more voice to the people driving the results you want, whether that is business targets, community ethos, or anything else you are pushing towards. Without the ability to sift through who is contributing vs. those just watching, your time becomes democratized, which is not necessarily a good thing.

      1. Totally agree here, Duncan. Happy people make happy people. It would be interesting if, when posting a comment, you had to click on a category…like “stretch goals” or “general” or “shipping”…before you left your comment. When backers clicked into the comments section, they could find the category they intended to comment on and might even be more inclined to read through other comments or questions and answers first before commenting. For creators, this would also provide a way to leverage time spent in the comments. LIke I might prioritize people with questions in the pledge level section and be sure to respond to all of them quickly, but in the general comments section I might only visit once per day and not necessarily comment. I’m sure this has the potential to remove the true community feeling of the comments section…I don’t know. What do you think?

  7. If I’m interested in a project, I essentially pay $1 for the information, and only if the project allows late pledges (without or without the $1).

    The reason is because I late pledged to the Zombicide: Green Horde project, and I was rarely notified about anything. While most information is available in the Kickstarter Updates section, I had to remember to check it frequently, especially since we made the decision to move after the addresses were locked down.

    I realized that $1 isn’t much to pay for info, and if I was interested in the project, anyway, I could at least throw in a little to help them along.

    Since I started doing this, however, many projects have started collecting shipping costs in the pledge manager. So if you want a full reward, you’re going to have to pay in the pledge manager either way. The $1 seems trivial, then I can pay the rest all at once instead of two significant payments.

  8. Maybe part of the answer lies in whether the creator considers the backers as “investors” or “customers.” If they consider them “investors” then there is no upper limit to the $1 pledge, and it is absolutely fine to limit that to a, “Thank you, you get to watch (maybe participate) in the project updates, but wait for a retail release.” They went for the low risk/low reward option, and that was their choice, so there is no need to add extra stress on the creator, and no need to turn down that $900-2100 extra investment.

    On the other hand, if the backers are considered “customers” (which is probably the case on a lot of these kickstarters that seem to be preorder storefronts), then maybe only include pledge levels that represent fair, if discounted, prices for the goods. In this case, there is probably no number of $1 pledges that is ok, especially if it stresses the creator/business with regards to how you match up supply with an uncertain demand. After all, isn’t part of the point of kickstarter to “gauge demand”?

  9. Time of Legends Joan of Arc offered a special bonus for those who backed the base game during the campaign. $1 backers could add product in the pledge manager but could not access the super exclusives. They did amazing on both the initial is as well as the late pledges.

    1. The Super Exclusives is why I didn’t end up backing Joan of Arc, if it was just a price increase like there doing with ReichBusters: Projekt Vril I most likely would have.

  10. An interesting example of your last suggestion Jamie: Vindication offered backers who were full during the campaign a bonus mini. It served no gameplay function, just an upgrade over a paper token for an aspect of one of the expansions.

    People were losing their minds in the forums once people started receiving their games. Now, it was communicated very clearly on the KS page, but I would say the backerkit (I think?) verbiage could have been a little clearer that you wouldn’t receive it, at a minimum.

    So the trouble is, if you aren’t absolutely perfect in your verbiage, you’re going to run into exactly that type of situation more and more, and then it generates bad will instead of good will. Now, the publisher (Orange Nebula) have handled it very well in my mind after the fact. They’ve owned up that maybe they didn’t word it the clearest and apologized profusely, but because they only ordered enough to cover the original backer group, their hands were tied and couldn’t do a make-good if they wanted to/felt it appropriate.

    I was pretty disappointed to see the backlash on them for this, to be honest. I was one of the late backers who didn’t get the exclusive mini, and to me, that was fine. I didn’t see the game on KS, found it late, and so I wasn’t able to make the game happen. I have no issue with people who full back during the project to bring it to life, getting something extra. Unfortunately, i think the current climate is filled with a lot of entitled people who create a lot of bad will.

    1. Thanks for sharing that example, Mike. One thing I’ve found is that even if you are perfectly clear with your wording (as a creator), a certain percentage of backers won’t read it, and a certain percentage of them will, as you said, lose their minds. So it’s hard to find a winning situation.

    2. I’ve late pledged Vindication and opening my box and seeing the empty slot where the extra mini would go was a pain. At first I thought I was missing a mini and when I read about it being exclusive to pledger I felt like I missed out. Definately not a good experience for me, it’s not a logical issue, I understand the mini has no effect on the game but, it still doesn’t feel good when I see that empty slot. :-(

  11. This article is allot better than the Reavers update which focused mainly on the problems of $1 pledges but not the benefits. But then, Greyfox could’ve just done direct retail for that game, so they were just effectively using KS as a pre-order. In this case, I don’t see a problem with the % of $1 backers as it has no effect on Greyfox.

    I think at the end of the day you have to take the good with the bad on KS. That has always been true for those backing. People have limited funds, wait to see what the post-campaign support is like, want to find out shipping, etc. If it really annoyed them, they can always use pledge manager funds towards stretch goals, or look at those options you have given, or just get rid of it altogether..

    1. I’m always careful to throw around the term “pre-order.” A pre-order, in my opinion, is when you’ve already set the manufacturing quantity and have started production, meaning nothing can be added to the product. If those conditions aren’t true (if the quantity is in flux and the product can change and evolve), that fits solidly into the “crowfunding” category.

  12. I back a fair number of projects for $1 . Usually because I want to show my support, but don’t have the budget for a full pledge for each game I want to support, or it’s not a game for me, but the designer or the publisher has earned my support . Also, the comments section that gets opened to me as a $1 backer allows me to be involved even if I can’t do a full pledge.

    To be honest, I’m not sure if that has value to a creator. Early in a campaign, momentum is key, but is it the dollar amount, the percentage, or the number of backers that gets noticed?

    1. That’s a great question, Phong. Early in the project, I would say that funding is by far the most important factor–the project is more inviting to backers if it has funded or overfunded. Perhaps that’s another reason to add a 24-hour reward to all backers if you fund or overfund that day.

  13. I think increasing the cost of the pledge in the manager is a good option – it’s like giving every full pledge an early bird discount. Even if it goes from, say, $64 to $68, it still shows full backers value while not overtly distressing purple that have to wait for the pledge manager due to budgeting.

  14. Also noticed the trend. What are creators thoughts on the $1 impact on the smaller projects. James and company certainly were well ahead of the production minimums but other projects with 40% $1 backers falling short or barely funding and not hitting many stretch goals is becomming a less and less rare. The market is so full of options it appears we have a consumer mindset that says ill back it for a buck and if it makes it, i will consider upping in pledgemanager, if it does not, no skin off my back. This lack of pulling the trigger mindset has cost several campains their funding and others from funding to a level enticing enough to have a solid quality product retailers want. I feel bad for the quashed dreams. There is a saying the best games are yet to be made…. Well this trend is leading to many games we shall never know.

  15. I use the $1 backer level if i want the updates or if i’m part of a group pledge but still want my feedback heard equally to others. The pledge manager pledges don’t achieve stretch goals but add an additional profit margin for producer especially once they avoid the costly KS fees.

  16. I disagree with your suggestions because they don’t seem to recognize the very diverse ways that people use $1 pledges. Here’s some actual ways I’ve used $1 pledges:

    1. To spread out costs when too many kickstarters are released at once or when I have other expenses & I can’t afford to back all the ones I want – if you increase the cost on someone backing $1 because they need to spread out the expense, they probably just won’t back
    2. To get news either when I’m part of a group pledge, when I am unsure about the game but want to get future reviews and information, or when I see there’s no real benefit to backing but I do plan to buy the game in retail
    3. When there’s unanswered questions that would change my decision to back or not to back – for example, if there’s no information about shipping costs, or some major components have not been completed yet, or I haven’t seen any sort of playthrough.
    4. When I know that the campaign will take a very long time to deliver. A good example is Seize the Bean. It was a long campaign to begin with, but I saw the huge amount of incomplete art assets and stretch goals that were largely unplanned, so I knew it’d take even longer than the original estimate. I didn’t want to pay years in advance. Case and point: it’s past the original delivery date, but the pledge manager is open. I’d never have backed at all otherwise.
    5. When I don’t trust the creator and want to see some of their post-KS communication before I decide whether it’s safe to back the project

    As you can tell, in a lot of these scenarios, there’s nothing that could possibly push me to back immediately. Either I can’t afford it, or I’ve already backed it in a group, or there are some unresolved issues that make me reluctant to back. I wouldn’t appreciate someone trying to manipulate me with FOMO to back. And honestly? Every time I backed in a FOMO way, I’ve cancelled the pledge before the end of the KS. I’ve never yet regretted missing out.

  17. Very Good and Valid points to consider.

    I’ve $1 backed projects that looked like they would have a pledge manager, only to find out that I needed to buy the full game for the add-ons or pledge in full during the campaign, so I missed out.

    This November I backed 8 games for $1 on day 1, so I could ensure I’d be able to choose which game I was going to full pledge to, and which I would watch and wait, as pledging $200 a game x 8 games is way above what I could afford.

    Games which I was ‘likely’ to back, but was unsure of, I wanted to hear from, but if I accidentally forgot to cancel wouldn’t like to have backed until they hit a stretch goal (which I’ve done more than once)

    What I’d like to see, as a backer, and potential creator in the future, is the $1 backers are listed as such in the forums for the creator. there are often abusive people in the forums, or people making claims, as a creator I’d rather know if that backer is a $1 backer for forum access or a full pledge.

    I’d consider all of your points Jamey, $1 backing for forum and KS updates, $10 pledge to unlock the pledge manager with a 5% increase in price in the pledge manager and a non game specific bonus for first X backers, not pledge manager backers, but full backers that get me to my minimum goal. these people are the ones that brought my project to fund, everyone else is riding the wave of success. Anyone is going to invest in a success, its the ones who invest before its successful that deserve to be rewarded.

  18. I personally like the pledge level. The biggest benefit is keeping potential backers in the loop with updates, if KS ever makes that a clickable option it loses some value. “IF” you are going to allow late backers at the same price you may as well have the $1 level, again the email reminders from updates help generate hype.

    Honestly, idI have the level even if you don’t allow any upgrades to the pledge or late backers and just list it on the reward level.

    There have been many projects I was considering and either didn’t have the funds at the time or wasn’t completely sold on. Due to finances I’ve only upgraded about 30% of them.

  19. You made a great point Jamey. I will actually go with your idea on my next KS! What kind of reward would you propose for the $5-$9 tier reward? Would a poster of the board game be enough?

    1. Sean: The $5 or $9 reward would probably just be for pledge manager access. That way those backers have more skin in the game. You could also offer the PnP at that level. Definitely nothing you need to ship.

  20. The one time I backed for a buck was for the recent Cthulhu game from CMON, which I was on the fence about – on the one hand, c’mon, this is Eric Lang, and two, I loves me up some HP Lovecraft, but on the other hand, there are LOTS of Lovecraft-inspired games out there, really good ones too, and I have a significant investment in Mansions of Madness 2e as it is. On top of that, I had over a half dozen kickstarted games in the hopper at the time.

    But at the same time, I didn’t want to cast aside this project, so I pledged my buck to follow along, with the idea being that I would increase my pledge to get the game if it was revealed that the game brought enough new things to the table to make it worth my while. It would take a lot, as I think entry level for this game was over USD $100.

    Ultimately, the game didn’t capture my interest enough to drop the benjamin on it, but in my case, I didn’t feel bad about the $1 pledge, because the KS was already fully funded by the time I was even able to make my pledge!

    In the end, I think that 1$ pledge level is a useful tool for folks who wind up in situations like this.

  21. I’m not really sure we’ve established that $1 pledges are in any way a problem yet. Kickstarter is new and all the realities of how it works are still novel in people’s minds, which causes a lot of questioning and confusion that really won’t go anywhere. A bit like when you’re a child and you still notice all the odd things about the world and wonder why they have to work that way. But eventually you come to learn that 90% of those things work the way they work because that’s what makes sense given the constraints of reality.

    The real problem I’ve seen so far on Kickstarter is so few game makers understand what business they’re in: sales. $1 pledges are a market reality for this new sales medium, and what they provide is the chance to make more sales to consumers by getting them to make a small investment. And as the comments show, there are a lot of reasons they might make that small investment instead of a full pledge. And as any one who follows KS closely can tell you, attempts to “strong arm” extra money out of the consumer before they’re sold for their own reasons have not proven successful. Mythic’s “Super Exclusives” with Joan of Arc didn’t drive that project to new heights, wasn’t adopted by other companies, and was dropped by Mythic themselves. Not to mention it emotionally disincentives customers from buying the game in the pledge manager. And the same can be said for every other method I’ve seen.

    Game makers just need to remember what their true goal is, which is sell their game. They aren’t entitled to anyone’s money, and it’s very important not to let petulance over not yet making a sale to a consumer who is only pledging $1 get in the way of that goal.

  22. I actually built my past campaigns around the $1 pledge level. Since my product (personalized poems) were cheap to produce and ship, and my funding goals were anywhere between $1 and $150, this worked well for me.

    I also found that people were quickly willing to throw $5 if it was a good deal better value than the $1 pledge.

    However, this doesnt work at scale. I will in fact not likely be putting in a $1 pledge level for my next project since I will be aiming to sell a whole book rather than just singular poems. This means my funding goal will be $250-$500. I will still be offering a $5 or maybe even a $3 option, but I dont think I’ll be putting the $1 option in front of the backers myself. After all, they can always choose to pledge $1 for no reward if they really just want to follow along.

    The flip side of this is that about 90% of my own pledges are made at the $1 level and that I personally love it when I get any form of reward. So I’m being a total hypocrite lol.

  23. I recently launched a Kickstarter and was unaware that people commonly backed at the $1 level in order to gain access to the pledge manager after the campaign.
    When I didn’t have a pledge manager, there were a couple people left disappointed. Thankfully it was a very small campaign, so it was just a couple people, and I offered them the opportunity to use Paypal, but it could have been a real problem if there were a larger number of $1 backers.
    As someone who is making games just to put something joyous into the world (rather than running a business), I’m operating on very small margins, so that uncertainty could be a problem.

  24. Good points, in this article and the older linked one. I do however disagree that the $1 pledges “create a certain level of uncertainty for the creator” – at least in a meaningful way. Every campaign has a certain number of backers that drop out at the end because they changed their minds, or they weren’t really serious anyway, but pledged only to follow along, planning on dropping out unless something dramatic changed their minds.

    I think the $1 pledge gives creators a more accurate view of how many backers are “committed” and how many are “on the fence”, which ultimately gives them a better estimation of the ultimate number of backers, as well as funding.

    This is, IMO, a net good in a situation where underestimating demand is almost always preferable to overestimating it (as long as they are closing the pledge manager far enough in advance of needing production numbers to make a difference).

    I have always liked the idea of “slacker backer” pledge differentials, which is like your suggestion of increasing backerkit prices over campaign prices. Such a policy would have to be very clearly spelled out in the campaign and the pledge tier though. I think it’s a fair method to encourage people that are very close to pulling the trigger to do it before the campaign closes.

    1. Dan: I see what you’re saying. I was talking about after the project, not during the project, in terms of the uncertainty. Especially if you’re ready to start producing the product right away.

  25. Another interesting article.
    One reason I like $1 pledge levels is the easy access to be able to ask questions of the creator when you are not sure, after all if you then forget to cancel it, or circumstances conspire against you and you can’t cancel in time, it is only $1.
    As for options for during the pledge manager stage, how about as a starter making it clear the $1 might get you into the pledge manager but it will not carry through as credit like a full pledge would, only a small thing but might go some way to soothing the feelings of those that jump in for the full amount to start with?

  26. I frequently back at the $1 level, with or without a late pledge option. If I like a game or creator—for me it’s a small, painless way to help out their campaign—even if I don’t end up upgrading my pledge during the campaign or after with the pledge manager. I never considered the possibility that it could cause the creator or the campaign issues with expectations.

  27. On the other hand Jamey, what are your thoughts on ENCOURAGING the $1 pledge — could it be useful in the case of a creator with a following, who doesn’t need to worry as much about meeting the funding goal, or for a creator who can (as some people complain about) afford to print without the crowdfunding, as a way to utilize the marketing reach of Kickstarter without having to pay as much in fees?

    Perhaps the funding goal would be lower, and overall funding numbers would be lower, but what if a creator basically said “pledge $1 and upgrade in the pledge manager based on the reward you want?”

    I don’t actually think this is a good idea, and I don’t recommend anybody do it, but I think it’s an interesting question to ask, as it pokes at a sort of potential exploit in the crowdfunding “rules” (there’s the developer in me talking…)

  28. The people are losing the meaning of the Kickstarter, all backs from $1 to $100 helped the project. You should not judge the people will for back $1, it is so much personal.

    The main complain about it is the between full and $1 backer, and for me it is so ridiculous, are you backing the project to it come to life and help the company, or for strech goals and forcing other people to do the same?

    Reaver of Midgar didn’t have ANY full gameplay until very end of the project, the level of uncertain was high.

    We cannot forget that exist backers from another countries and they money could has less value than dollar.

    Leave it as it is! Unfortunately, none of the solutions presented here take the personal wish in the account.

  29. Interesting article, Jamey. I’ve funded a bunch of games on Kickstarter (Scythe was my 2nd game ever, after Fief 1429) and recently received their “Superbacker” badge and I’ve been thinking a lot about it as a platform lately.

    It has definitely evolved from “the real point and spirit” of Kickstarter, imo, into a more commercial hype site that I don’t necessarily think is bad. A lot of board games are released through KS now and it gives me an easy overview and access of the new and hot in one place.

    I do however also sometimes feel like I’m “carrying the load”, especially on a slower project when I fully back and others don’t, but in the end I guess it doesn’t really matter as the game is funded. Now if the creator had a bunch of SGs in mind then it does matter – but I do feel like creators make an unneccessary amount of SGs just to make the project more “fun” or whatever. Like they purposefully take out aspects of the game just to put them into SGs, and at that point I again feel like they are “tricking me” and don’t really feel bad a bunch of $1 backers hinder the SG progress.

    But a big plus (imo) with $1 backers is the visiblility of the project. I know I (and I can only assume others do to?) browse table top games on Kickstarter by the amount of backers and not by the amount of funding. Yes a lot of funds is good but it doesn’t necessairly imply a lot of backers as not all games are priced equally. A game with 400 backers that raises $70 000 (let’s say a mini heavy game) and another game can have 1000 backers raise $50 000. But to me personally 400 people interested in a game – meh, might not be that interesting. 1000 people interested in a game – let me check this out.

    Depending on the amount of projects on Kickstarter at the time of my search I might not really notice the $50 000 game as it’s so low on the “amount raised” list, but on the “amount of backers” list it might be placed much higher.

    So I think $1 backers add to the total amount of backers which in return give you an easy overview of what is catching people’s attention and makes the game much more noticeable for others that haven’t yet found the project. I know I don’t have time to sit on KS all day every day and browse every new game that comes out, and I’m sure others also discover new KS projects through the search function.

  30. For me the need of the 1$ pledge is just to be able to pay with paypal later, this is let me be able to avoid my monthly card limit, and most of the time drive me to all in.
    I think that the best way to balance the pledge is the difference in offering; basically I am investing money in the project of someone (I would love to think that is just to help people, but is just to have a better product or be the first to have it), this means that as an investor I want something more than “normal” people in exchange of the fact that I give you the money before see even a real product. The problem in my opinion is that the strategy of the goals lead to more frustration than satisfaction, so in my opinion a shorter campaign with fixed object would be better, for people who did a full pladge I can give 2 addon for free, 1$ pledge will have just 1 and the people getting at retail will have to pay for everything, so we will delete also the kickstarter exclusive drama….

  31. Really interesting read folks, great comments and thoughts. As a regular KS backer, you get to see all types of campaigns and boy, do they keep on coming. The rate of new KS Projects firing up in incredible. Some on top of one another, some ending and starting at the same time, some ending at the same time as some other pledge manager deadline. Point of that is to say, whoa. Choices and options are plentiful. Campaigns are becoming increasingly more polished, attractive and exciting. Where does that leave the hobby enthusiast? Pretty stretched to be frank. Who has all this disposable income just waiting to be allocated to yet another incredible KS offering? When the KS bill for the month is bigger than the mortgage….maybe that is another topic entirely. All this to say, I have pledged at 1$ before but isnt my go to pledge. I typically know if I would like to participate, and will do so right out of the gate. There are times however, that the 1$ pledge has enabled me to participate in the campaign, yet defer the payment for a bit longer to squeeze it in. There have been times, as noted in other comments, where shipping costs were an unknown. I have pledged 1$ for just pure donation. Then, there is the wishy washy 1$ pledge. This is where I think that the responsibility to get me off my perch, entice me to see past my wishy washy ambivalence belongs solely to the creator. If there is a disportionate number of 1$ backers, should that not trigger an overview of the sales approach? I dont believe, that 1$ backers need to be maligned in comments, or have additional monetary measure placed on them. Our hobby is at its core, an inclusive one. We invite people to sit around our tables, and share time and make memories. In my view, there are far larger issues on KS than the 1$ pledge, namely the level of negativity, trolling and general terrible behaviour, that makes me cringe to think that these folks are part of the same inclusive hobby as myself, for one. In closing, I view the 1$ pledges like this. I take the long view. The long view is what builds your foundation. Above someone mentioned a 38% conversion from 1$ to pledge. Thats a great number. That is 38% of business you may not have gotten, should you choose to in some way, alienate or restrict the 1$ backers. If you give a backer the opportunity to leverage the 1$ option and then upgrades later, thats a win. They will be happy at the opportunity, they will sell their friends on how amazing the game is and everything is right in the world. Chances are, you just made a repeat customer. If you restrict the ability, make them feel as though even at 1$, their contribution is not as valuable as the next who can afford it, or is fully confident in their pledge, I think we all know how that goes. You get angry people, who feel as though they have been treated as somehow less important and will not rest, until they have satisfied their need to show you, in the comments, on forums, in emails, on facebook on wherever, that they are unsatisfied. Oh, and they wont buy your game. Or your next one, probably not the one after that either. Neither will 3 out of 4 of their closest pals. Taking the long view and building a good foundation, built on inclusion and goodwill fosters growth. Selling me on why I should get off my perch and up my 1$ pledge during the campaign is a sales issue and can certainly be addressed. Sales people can get creative, believe you me. Use that creativity, sell it. The other folks who just cant upgrade, for a multitude of reasons, appreciate this option and I believe it is very short sighted to play petty with this group. My two pennies.

  32. I don’t normally leave comments on things like these, but I just felt like I had to say that I really appreciate all the efforts of you guys that actually design the games and make them available for us. Please don’t stop doing what you’re doing.

    Each campaign is slightly different and needs to be evaluated by backers separately. I always read them carefully before pledging (this includes at least a cursory skimming of comments). It seems obvious that some creators are concerned about the trend for the increasing $1 pledges. Please don’t attack them for their concern, increasing levels of uncertainty for them makes it likely that they will have to increase their margins and possibly less likely to see as many games from them in the future, neither of which would make me happy.

    I also want to say that I have seen comments from people on KS that feel that they should be entitled to be able to use the pledge manager to buy whatever they want from the creator, even if that does not include the game in the current campaign (they were only interested in using the $1 pledge to gain access to the pledge manager to buy copies of previous games, not the game in the current campaign). I was stunned to read several comments like that recently. I love it when I get a chance to get copies of games I may have missed previously, but that’s generally based on the fact that I think the current game looks great so I’m interested in checking out the creator’s earlier works.

    I’m also not a fan of hearing that a benefit of pledging $1 is to get around Kickstarter fees. That just makes it sound like you’re scamming them. It sucks that they take a cut, but they are providing the service that brings all of us together to get these great games with a chance to provide input and actually affect the outcome of the games being created. I never had this level of connection to a project before Kickstarter, there’s value in the service they provide. I would hate to see KS start charging higher rates simply because larger and larger numbers of people are using a loophole to not have to pay them.

    For what it’s worth, I’m a superbacker on KS and have never used the $1 pledge, I’m far from well off, but I’m always either all in behind a project or all out. In the end, I’m OK with whatever you creative types choose to do with YOUR campaigns, I’m just happy that I get to go along for the ride. (Sorry for the wall of text)

  33. I back at the $1 level when I’m on the fence about a project and am hoping that something in the updates sways me into the full backer camp. I assume a creator would rather have me do that as opposed to backing down from a higher pledge if I went the other way.

  34. Hi Jamey. Something I noticed on your article (I apologize to the other commenters, as I have not had the time to read all of them, so forgive me if I’ve covered something some else already has), and the discussion in the Reavers of Midgard updates was that the discussion seems to be focused on whether or not $1 pledgers are good or bad, and, to put it frankly, should kickstarter creators charge “slacker backers” more (either by increasing the minimum pledge amount, increasing prices in the pledgemanager, removing the $1 pledge to incentivize buying in fully, etc)?

    While more nebulous, I think a more interesting question is WHY these backers are choosing to only put in $1 for those particular campaigns. Because $1 backers are, in my opinion, a symptom of other “problems” that haven’t been discussed. One common reason given by $1 backers is that there are so many projects that they can’t afford to go all in right at the start, and choose to space out their expenditures. However, I think that this brings about a question worth considering: If these backers can’t afford to back project A, because there are too many interesting projects, that must mean that they DID fully back project B or C.

    So I think the really interesting question is how did the $1 backer decide which of those to back, and which of those to “save for later”

    One thing to note is that in the two examples you gave, where $1 backers constitute over 15% of the total backers, the price of the games are over $50. Other examples are Cloudspire, Mythic Battles Pantheon, Reichbusters (still ongoing), Mezo, and Eclipse. Not all of these have a literal $1 pledge option, but adding up the numbers, we can see that in all of these cases, there are backers that did not pledge for a reward tier. However, smaller projects, I’ve noticed tend not to have as many $1 backers. A recent example is the Hero Realms Journey’s kickstarter.

    I can only speak as a backer, but whenever I only back for $1, it’s because I’m not convinced by the campaign; after reading the campaign page, I’ve not been convinced to part with $50+ dollars. If campaigns start having to do away with $1 pledges, I think I’d just not back, and likely not buy the retail edition (assuming there’s a difference). There are so many good games out now, that I’m ok with completely missing a game.Because I’d rather miss a game, then enjoy a game, and realize that I’d have to pay double or triple the costs for a better version just because I missed a 2-3 week window months or years ago. Because component upgrades can really impact the accessibility of the game (https://meeplelikeus.co.uk/terraforming-mars-2016-accessibility-teardown/) and gameplay additions that aren’t easily proxied result in not having access to the full game experience…

    1. Lily: That’s a keen observation about the reward prices for those projects. I would bet that the percentage of $1 reward backers is much lower for projects that have core rewards priced between $20 and $40.

  35. I work an industry were the company requires a 25% “warranty” rate added on to the products sold. Often this can be done between 1-3 bucks per item. .

    Two thoughts on this, I think the idea of adding sales is good, a few years ago another game Orleans added a second game, Bottle Cap vikings in the box for like 2 bucks more something to which 82% of backers did.

    From a strictly business standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to offer a $1 pledge, but it does make sense to add total sales dollars.

    The second thing I was thinking of is making other pledges available from small to large something like a collectable item, large statue added onto the base game for say 70 extra bucks or a shirt for around 20 or even the opportunity to buy stickers, key chain lanyards and such. Items which are limited and could be done by third party sellers and drop shippers. This way both the distant kick starter observer and the super backer could feel like they are purchasing something of value.

    Collectables are free advertisement as well, shirts, lanyards are public conversation pieces that can ship with in a couple of days of the project ending date.

    Finding ways to engage as many people as possible is the ultimate goal.

  36. Hi Jamey,

    I’ve backed 2 games so far, and used the $1 backing twice (I think there was a $1 pledge, but now that I think of it, I think $1 backing with no pledge is enough to get updates and rights to comment). I wasn’t really a $1 backer in the end, though.

    The first was Monumental. Admittedly, I didn’t like the crowd of fanboys in the comments repeatedly thanking Funforge for making them feel so excited. And I didn’t like how Funforge was essentially not replying to critical questions in the comments. But mostly, I found that the choice of components in the initial version (without all the SGs) was more about minis and good looks than about helping with the learnability and playability. I didn’t feel like taking part in unlocking SGs going in that good-look direction and wanted to see how the game would end up being. In the end I backed before the closure of the campaign though.

    The second was Hero Realms: Lost Village expansion. Again, I first backed $1 to get updates while I’d get the time to think. But it was quickly clear for me that I’d buy in the end, and so I backed at my final level a few days later. Well before the end of the campaign.

    So, in both case, I think I use $1 as a wait-and-see option. Time to think. And get the updates/reminders. But I KS-backed in the end.

    As you say, it’s not clear there is a systematic problem with the existence of (the possibility for) $1 pledges. It’s up to creators to see if the possibility would work for them.

  37. Hello Jamey,

    hope I am not too late to the party ;) Really liked your article and especially liked your possible solutions.

    Speaking as someone, who is relatively new to KS (under 10 projects so far. Started in April this year, and it is getting more and more >.< ) Maybe you won´t mind me sharing my experience so far.

    In the first few games I backed fully, because I was really convinced how good those would be, and I had a personal interest, after all, those 3 were IPs I liked (Street Fighter, Binding of Isaac, Horizon Zero Dawn)

    Later down the line I pledged only 1$ for the first time into Tidal Blades, because at that point in time I already backed into Belfort and thus my budget for the month was spent. Nevertheless I wished to be able to pay the sum for TB at a later point in time, and also participate in the comments. I am usually one of those commenters, who try to help people out, and if some repeating questions are asked, I am usually hurrying along to answer those (Not sure how much creators care for us blabbermouths XD )

    Not long ago I was one of those 1$ Pledgers for Reavers. I chose to pledge only 1$ because I also planned to back Dungeon Universalis (1$) as well as Sleeve King and Assassins Creed. The reason why I gave my full support for Sleeve King and AC over the other two, was because Sleeve King is due to be shipped next month. And unlike Reavers (which I am still on the fence about) or Dungeon Universalis (also on the fence, but liked the concept so far), Assassins Creed gave me clear incentive to pledge the full sum of the tier, because everyone who does so, gets a very big Tower "Mini" which would otherwise cost 39$ .

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