Kickstarter Lesson #14: The Value of Add-Ons

24 February 2013 | 24 Comments

glassesMidway through my Viticulture Kickstarter campaign, a backer e-mailed me and asked why I didn’t have any add-ons. “I want more stuff!” he wrote.

“More stuff” didn’t even occur to me because “stuff” often equates to “clutter” to me. I see a lot of projects that offer buttons or t-shirts or coffee mugs…hey, maybe some people like that stuff. But I don’t need more stuff. I just want the game.

However, one of the keys to a successful Kickstarter creator is being able to put yourself in the shoes of your backers. Some backers want more stuff, so you should give them an opportunity to get that stuff and support you in the process.

Also, I did learn one key benefit to add-ons in the waning hours of the Kickstarter campaign. We had the $65,000 stretch goal in sight, and so existing backers started adding more stuff to their pledge to help us get there. And we did.

Here are a few things to consider when you’re planning your add-ons:


Of course cost is a factor, but the real key to consider is that you need to buy in bulk. If you order 3 coffee mugs, it’s going to be really expensive per unit. If you order 100, not so much. But there’s no guarantee when you launch the add-on that you’ll reach that bulk threshold. My recommendation is that you budget for the minimum bulk threshold either way. If you don’t reach it, you have a bunch of cool promo items to give away at conventions.

Also make sure you factor in the cost of mailing all the add-ons when you determine the pricing. You’ll most likely need to ship them separately from the main product you’re making, so it could double shipping costs (this is really important when you’re looking at international shipping). Also include shipping materials.


(from the Kickstarter Lesson on reward levels) Structure your pricing so shipping and add-ons aren’t confusing for you. This is just an accounting note. For Viticulture, I had a $59 reward level and a $79 reward level, and international shipping was a $20 add-on. So I had a bunch of $79 pledges come through, and it was impossible to know from the subject line of the backer alert e-mail if it was a $79-level pledge or a $59-level + international shipping pledge.  It’s a tiny thing, but it’ll make your life a little easier.


Depending on the type of add-on, you might have to pack and ship many of them yourself–that’s a lot of work, and it increases the shipping cost. You would think it takes no time at all to send out ten small boxes, but you have to assemble those boxes, wrap the add-on in plastic, tape up the box, create the packing slip, put the packing slip on the box, take the boxes down to your car, drive to the post office, unload the boxes, and mail the boxes. It’s a lot more work than you think.

So just be careful about how and when you offer your add-ons. One strategy might be to wait until the final 48 hours to encourage backer to increase their pledge. That seems to be the key time anyway. Maybe expand it to the final week so that you give all backers a chance to act.

Types of Add-Ons

The one no-brainer is you should let backers add on more copies of the core reward (with an upper limit determined by the number of copies that can fit into a single carton so you don’t end up paying extravagant shipping fees). The cost for each additional copy can be the same as the cost of the original reward–so, a $40 reward for a game would let backers add on a few additional copies for $40 each.

Some tabletop game projects use add-ons as a way of upgrading components and adding new characters. This can result in higher funding (and it can keep the core reward price down, which is good), but it can also have the opposite effect: Many gamers are completionists–they want everything or nothing, so if they’re facing the prospect of an ongoing stream of add-ons, they might not back the project at all.

Then there’s all the other “stuff” you can offer. Add stuff that contributes to the overall experience of your project. For Viticulture, a wine-making board game, that meant that we added corkscrews and wine glasses (although I would not recommend shipping glass). If you’re trying to figure out something that works for your project, post a comment below and we’ll brainstorm.

Addendum (post-Euphoria): For my Euphoria project, I decided to update my philosophy on add-ons such that I would not include any physical add-ons other than those that my manufacturer could include in the game box. Thus the inconvenience is a slight one of having boxes with different bar codes rather than a major one of having to ship a ton of items by hand.

Up Next: Kickstarter Lesson #15: Finishing Touches: FAQ and Preview

Also Read: External Add-Ons

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24 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #14: The Value of Add-Ons

  1. Hi Jamey,

    lets said we have a game for 2-5 player. Lets said they want to start the project in the kickstarter with 4 player. Then they make a pledge for 5th player to add to the game.
    Do you think there will be gamers who are completionists–they want everything or nothing, by this move, and what is your advice?
    Thank you

    1. Ahmad: I think it’s a good idea in principle (to either have a 5th player as a different reward level or a stretch goal, but in practice I’ve never seen backers respond well to it. So I wouldn’t recommend using player count for either of those purposes.

      1. So, if the game had 5 different tribes, you won’t advice to make the 5th tribe in the pledge…
        If so, what do you think think backers like to have in the pledge??

        1. That’s correct. As for what backers have in their pledge, that’s up to you! :) If you need ideas, look at my articles about reward levels (and stretch goals), and look at what other projects are doing.

  2. Hi Jamey, I am looking at offering a “deluxe” version of my game on Kickstarter. My question is; how much more did it cost you to do two different version of the game? And with that said, was it worth it to do a deluxe version, or just offer the deluxe components as an add on?

    1. Randy: Thanks for your question. I highly recommend having a deluxe option instead of doing the same thing via add-ons–check out my Kickstarter Lesson about the “premium option.” The cost will vary widely based on your components. I’d recommend getting a quote from your manufacturer.

  3. Hi Jamey, just enjoying and appreciating all your advice here as I set up my Kickstarter. One thing I have searched a lot to find and not been able to, is how do you actually add the add-ons into your project? I have all my rewards levels sorted, I have done my basics, my story, the bio and all the sections for the new project. I can’t see add ons anywhere amongst these pages. IS this something that only becomes available once your project is live? Or am I missing something? Thanks in advance!

  4. Hi Jamey – Thanks for yet another great article. I’m setting up a project and I don’t understand how add-ons work. Do entirely new rewards need to be created for each add-on? Or is there a way for a contributor to add $20 in addition to a reward, which they’d do based on reading about the add-on on your page. (I don’t recall seeing this while contributing to projects but am trying to guess how it works.) Thanks a ton!

    1. Thanks Susie! So, technically an “add-on” is something backers will add to their pledge in addition to their reward level. To do so, they select the pledge level, change the $ total to include the add-on item, and then tell you exactly what they’re getting on the post-project survey.

      This can be a bit of a hassle and somewhat confusing, so you can also incorporate add-on items into the reward levels. That way backers don’t need to change the $ amount or report anything unique on the post-project survey. For example:

      $20: pizza stone
      $30: pizza stone + pizza cutter

      Then, separately, backers could add additional pizza cutters to any reward for $10 each as an add-on.

  5. I’m about to launch a campaign for a website I’ve just launched, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m doing for perks, (super hero magnets, an old school 8 bit coloring book, limited edition prints of classic video game characters) but I’m trying to come up with ideas for add-ons that aren’t generic. Thoughts?

    I love your site and really appreciate the time you’ve taken in providing good information to help others succeed. Thanks

    1. Jeremy–Those sound like good ideas! Although I can say from an organizational standpoint that you’re better off including those items in the reward levels than as add ons if you can help it.

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