Kickstarter Lesson #142: Selling Existing Inventory

9 March 2015 | 28 Comments

In the last 2 weeks of my Kickstarter campaign for Between Two Cities, a few people have asked the same question: “Why isn’t there a reward level that includes your other games? Other projects do that.”

It is true that other projects sell existing inventory as part of campaigns to create something new. But should they?

Kickstarter’s Rules

There are lots of crowdfunding websites, but let’s focus on one of the three tenets listed in Kickstarter’s rulesProjects must create something to share with others.

Does that mean Kickstarter prohibits selling existing inventory? No. But it does speak to the spirit of Kickstarter–it’s a platform for creating new things, not selling stuff you already have in stock. Kickstarter has said very specifically that it’s not a store.

Clarity, Confusion, and Focus

When I create a Kickstarter project, one of my primary goals is to make everything as clear as possible to reduce any confusion. When you add existing inventory to a project–especially for an old product that isn’t directly related to the new product–you increase the potential for confusion.

photo 5For example, on my Euphoria project, I decided to add reward levels for Viticulture. But a lot of people had no idea what Viticulture was. Is it related to Euphoria? Is Euphoria a better game if you have Viticulture? To me the answer was clear–they’re completely separate games–but that may not be clear to someone who doesn’t know our product line.

Also, adding an unrelated product distracts from the core element of the project. When I sought funding for Euphoria, it should have been my sole focus–every element of the rewards, the project page, project updates, and conversations in the comments should have been about Euphoria. But sometimes it took second stage to Viticulture. As I wrote in Euphoria’s project postmortem, I considered that to be a big mistake.

Funding Goal and Stretch Goals

You also have to consider the impact that selling inventory through Kickstarter has on the overall funding goal. Your funding goal and stretch goals are based on manufacturing and shipping the new thing you’re trying create, right?

So if some of the funds you’re raising have nothing to do with manufacturing and shipping the new thing, they dilute the funding goal. It may look like you’ve raised $50,000 for your gelato machine, but really $10,000 of that is for the infrared ice cream scooper you already have in stock. So it’s tough to calculate how your economies of scale are being improved, which impacts stretch goals.

Logistics

Selling currently inventory as part of reward levels can also cause some logistical issues. From a backer perspective, they’re happy to have you consolidate the ice cream scooper with the gelato machine–that means they only have to pay shipping fees once for both of them.

But you have 500 scoopers in your US warehouse, and the gelato machine won’t be manufactured for another 6-8 months. So what do you do? Do you earmark the scoopers you sell through Kickstarter, committing to let them sit in your warehouse for the next 6-8 months? If you do, then every gelato machine that comes with a scooper must be shipped to your US warehouse (instead of directly to fulfillment centers in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, etc), driving up shipping costs and customs fees for all of those backers.

Alternatively, you can not consolidate shipping fees and send out the products separately, but then you have a whole array of shipping costs that are likely very different that the shipping fees for the gelato machine. Plus, say you have 300 scoopers in the US, 100 in Canada, and 100 in Europe–you’d have to create three separate pledge levels with limited quantities for each of them, completely diluting your reward sidebar.

It Has a Negative Impact on Retail and Distribution

When we recently announced that we were working on a Euphoria expansion to go on Kickstarter in 2016, several people asked me if it would include an option to get Euphoria (even though Euphoria’s second printing is being released this week). I got the same question about the Treasure Chest even though it’s in stock around the world right now.

These are not unreasonable people. The problem is that they’ve been conditioned by some Kickstarter creators to expect the best deal on games–on existing inventory–on unrelated future Kickstarter campaigns. So instead of buying the thing that’s currently in stock at their local game stores, they’re waiting for the company’s next Kickstarter campaign.

I don’t think it’s a problem for companies to offer special deals on existing inventory. You have to sell stuff to stay in business. But do you really think retailers and distributors are going to continue to work with you if you’re undercutting them by selling your existing inventory at deep discounts during every Kickstarter campaign you run?

***

As you can probably tell, I don’t advocate selling existing inventory as part of Kickstarter rewards or add-ons. It’s not in the spirit of Kickstarter, it creates confusion and detracts from your core focus, it dilutes the funding goal and stretch goals, and it creates a number of logistical issues.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a section at the bottom of your project page about your other products with links to places backers can buy them. Not only does this give people a way to buy your in-stock products without diluting the funding goal, but it also helps to inform them about the type of company you’re running.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this in the comments.

28 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #142: Selling Existing Inventory

  1. Obviously if it’s related content I think it should go in the campaign. For instance, my introduction to viticulture was through the Tuscany kickstarter. Without being able to buy Tuscany and viticulture together, I might not have done so at all (although I’d have backed you by sheer virtue of you being a St. Louisan).

    1. Jason: Viticulture wasn’t existing inventory–we were sold out well before the Tuscany campaign.

      For the many reasons listed above, I don’t think existing inventory has a place on Kickstarter even if it’s related to the core product. If you’d like to debunk the points above, I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

      1. I’d just kind of assumed it was existing inventory because of how far apart the deliveries were. There’s nothing to debunk here. I’m saying that personally, if I had to go to two different places to buy the expansion and the original, I probably wouldn’t do it. Just my two cents.

        1. Sure, the campaign ended in April, and we delivered Viticulture in September. If it has been in stock, it would have been delivered in April. Like, we currently have the Treasure Chest in stock at Amazon, so someone who sees it on the Between Two Cities Kickstarter campaign can buy it in about 3 clicks with free shipping and have it at their door in 2 days. All of the logistical issues I present above are avoided by that simple solution. :)

  2. I like the fact you want to look out for Retailers, and consider them in your posts / thoughts! You’re upfront about your wanting to work with retailers on your Kickstarter campaign – Telling them to contact you if they want to pledge – Which is great. Helps take some of the sting off if there’s exclusives or specials only during the kickstarter that the average user might miss or not get. I was very pleased to see the collectors edition of Viti/Tusc at my favorite online seller in Canada! ( Even though I did back through your KS. ) I did ask if he could get the Treasure box in, but that appears to be a StoneMaier exclusive – WHICH, hey – at least people can get it after the KS is over if they want.

    1. Jon: We do try to offer limited-edition items during Kickstarter campaigns (I think they’re compelling for individual backers and retailer backers), but we don’t do Kickstarter exclusives. The Collector’s Edition you saw at your favorite online seller was part of a Kickstarter pledge by that retailer. :)

      1. My favourite online seller too~
        But yeah, I basically agree with your reasons not to do unrelated add-ons. It’s convenient for the backer, I suppose, but from a business sense, it makes perfect sense for you too.

  3. I recently passed on a Kickstarter from Queen games, which is unusual for me. I love their products, and I’ve been pleased with everything I’ve gotten from them. The Kickstarter was for a new game, Game A, which looked great, but it came packaged with Game B, which was an older title I already had. There was no option to just get Game A, and the games were completely unrelated. It was frustrating, and I passed.

    Now, as a backer, I personally like it when companies offer older titles as optional add-ons, but I think you’re absolutely right about diluting campaigns with information about older titles. The campaign should be about the new Game A, and if other older titles are offered as add-ons, then a link with more information should suffice.

    Thank you about the information regarding stretch goals and logistics. I wouldn’t have thought of that. Really appreciate these articles.

    Loren

      1. Queen does weird Kickstarters. Some of them have a completely unrelated game (that I will generally have not heard of) as a funding reward. If I wanted the game, sure it’d (maybe) be a deal, but if I didn’t, then it would feel like they just forced me to pay extra even if it’s a “deal” in theory.

        Still, I thought every Queen KS (except Thebes package) had a funding level for just the new game. Weird.

        1. Oh. That IS really weird. Yeah, they probably printed too much Edo. Of course, well, since they throw in a free game every KS on funding, I guess they print too much of a lot of games…

  4. Jamie, I’d like to get your input. Our upcoming campaign is going to be to fun a package redesign and additional content to an existing game. After playing the game for last 4 years, we have received a ton of input and have so many ideas to make it better and appeal to a broader audience. We plan on, however, awarding some of our backers an autographed copy of one of the remaining first editions that will be one of many rewards at a certain level. Thoughts?

    1. Marcie: Thanks for your question. So it sounds like you currently have some versions of the game in stock (autographed), and it’s similar to the game you’re Kickstarting, but not exactly the same? That’s a good question. My first thought is: Will backers want the first edition when the second edition is going to be better? If the answer is no, I wouldn’t do anything with those copies (they’ll cause more confusion than they’re worth). If the answer is yes, you could put them on the project page as I’ve done for Between Two Cities, as they’re going to require a different type of shipping than the new games you’re making (see the Logistics section above).

      There might be a big of a gray area for something like this, so any other details you can provide would be helpful. How many units do you have left? Are you shipping all games from the same facility or from worldwide fulfillment centers? Is there anything else you could do with the first-edition copies (like send them to reviewers)? etc.

      1. Thank you so much for the reply Jamey (and sorry for the misspelling of your name. Argh!). The second edition will be the same game, but new and different content. So, if people get both, then they will have double the content which will expand the whole game. And with this game, the more the content (different cards), the better the game! I believe it’s a marketing issue within the campaign as we have other very cool additions to the backer reward packages. As we figure out shipping costs, I was also thinking (from the backer’s point of view) that perhaps we could offer shipping that first edition game to someone of the backer’s choice as a gift. While we do have a few pallets remaining, all of the games are in the same facility and I feel this can be managed. We just need to make sure it makes sense money wise. We have been reviewed by a few people, but it’s been a good while. That is a great suggestion to look into as it’s never too late for a review! And, as I think about it, the timing might be perfect to go along with the new edition. Thank you Jamey! I get so much from your blog and am grateful for your lessons.

        1. Marcie: Thanks for those details. It sounds like you have a few different options there, and it wouldn’t hurt to implement several of them. Given that the current game doubles the utility of the new game, if you can work it out logistically, I think it might work to have it as part of a reward level.

          My main word of caution is to avoid confusion. Backers are going to have a lot of questions about the old versus the new version. Some backers might want only the old version since it’s available now–they don’t have to wait. If you sell out of the old version, other backers might continue to ask for me (who wouldn’t want to double the content of the game?) So whatever you do, I would recommend running it by the Facebook Tabletop Kickstarter group, as they will help you iron out any of those confusing elements before you launch. Good luck!

  5. That’s a great point, Mr. Stegmaier. At first, I wanted to argue for offering existing inventory as an add-on, but then I saw the big picture you were painting. While it may feel convenient for the backer, if you’ve established your business properly, then it’s an unnecessary hassle for you (the creator). I’d also like to add that it simply looks unprofessional – like the Chinese restaurant that also sells shoes, jewelry, and purses. Is the current business so poor that you have to find sketchy alternative revenue streams? No. Act like an adult and commit.

    1. Derik: I agree, it’s a tough balance, because backers do like it, and in general I try to do the best thing for our backers. So a big part of it for me does come down to the spirit of crowdfunding: Are we here to create something new together, or are we here to sell you stuff that you could buy right now at this moment? I choose the former.

  6. I agree that Kickstarter is not a store. However, I find it interesting that many people use Kickstarter as a way of launching a product that can eventually be sold in stores, especially if they want to run a batch of 1000 in order to take advantage of economies of scale.

    1. Sheldon: How so? That seems like the optimal use of Kickstarter to me. It lets you determine if there is enough interest in a product and raise the funds to create the minimum print run of it, and if the product has life in retail afterwards, that’s great!

  7. What about the updated recruit cards for Euphoria? Would you consider including those in the upcoming Euphoria expansion? I think you should because:
    A) they’re not currently in your inventory
    B) it won’t hurt retail sales, since it’s not available at retail
    C) they were only available as a violation of your own policy–they were included with the Treasure Chest. Meaning that I could back the original Euphoria (I did) and the Euphoria expansion (I will) and still not have all the components of Euphoria.

    I do understand they are currently in stock at BGG. But I’d hope they’d also be included in the expansion :)
    Ryan

    1. Ryan: Thanks for sharing your perspective, but those updated recruits definitely won’t be included in the expansion. We printed a ton of them to include for free in the Treasure Chest and then a ton more for BGG, which everyone has access to now. Also, the expansion won’t be released until fall ’16 at the earliest–I wouldn’t want anyone to wait that long just to get the updated cards.

      I’ll be clear on the expansion page that the cards won’t be included so people like you know to get them from BGG now. Thanks!

  8. Jamey: Great points on this topic. From our first Kickstarter we have been left with about 300 games. We sell 1 or 2 here or there on Amazon. Do you have any possible solutions or know of any businesses that help people post Kickstarter to move excess inventory?

Leave a Comment

© 2019 Stonemaier Games