18 February 2016
Today I have three stories about adding new reward levels to a project while the campaign is live. They’re cautionary tales; ideally, the reward levels are finalized before the project launches. But sometimes new opportunities arise or backer feedback results in a great new idea for a reward level. If that happens, consider the following.
The Tale of Adding an Unlimited Reward Level Instead of Add-Ons
A few weeks into my Kickstarter campaign for Euphoria, some backers started asking if they could buy extra dice. A few days later, other backers began asking if they could purchase alternate-art recruit cards (we already had the art).
I wasn’t prepared for either of these requests. I hadn’t heard from any preview-page proofreaders that some backers would want those things. I didn’t want to complicate my fulfillment system with add-ons. And I had carefully calibrated and budgeted the reward levels for months leading up to launch, so I was hesitant to change something so significant mid-stream.
After considering my options, talking to my manufacturer, and sending out a survey to backers to see if we had enough interest to justify printing the cards, I announced that I would be adding a new pledge level at $59 that included the $49 version of the game plus a set of extra dice and alternate-art recruit cards.
I waited with bated breath to see how backers responded to the new reward level. There was a legitimate risk to this decision: My manufacturer’s minimum for any printed component is 1000 units, so simply by adding the new level, we were committed to making 1000 supreme boxes and 1000 sets of alternate-art recruit cards (even if only a few backers supported that level!).
I was also risking human error while adding the new reward level. I spend months carefully crafting the wording of pledge levels before the campaign begins, and I was trying to add a new level on the fly during the project. As soon as 1 person backs a level, you can’t change or remove it. (This was in 2013, before Kickstarter allowed creators to choose different shipping costs for every country, which adds a huge opportunity for human error.)
Fortunately, by the time the project ended, 1,794 backers had either pledged or upgraded their pledge to the $59 level. It all worked out.
The Tale of Adding Limited Reward Levels
Recently, one of the creators of Ghostel (Gino Brancazio), asked me a question about adding limited reward levels in the comments of my KS lesson about reward levels. Ghostel has a few custom-art reward levels, and Gino had realized during the project that he had room to add more. What’s the best way to do that?
I actually had something similar to this happen with my original Viticulture campaign and Euphoria. It’s tricky, but fortunately you have a few options:
- Add new rewards slots to the existing limited pledge level. This is the one way you can edit a reward level (specifically a limited reward level) during a campaign. The upside to that is you don’t clutter your reward sidebar. The downside is that it may be a turnoff to the first backers who felt super special to get in on those rewards, and now they might feel incrementally less special. I recommend sending a group message through Kickstarter to the original backers at that level before adding new slots to let them know how much you appreciate them.
- Add a new pledge level at the same price. This has the same downside as the first option, as well as the downsides as the first tale (human error). Also, for this and the other options, there’s an issue of timing. If backers are really eager to get the new reward level, only the lucky few who happen to be awake and online when you release it will be able to get it. Also, adding new reward levels can clutter your reward sidebar, confusing new backers.
- Add a new pledge level at a higher price. This addresses the issue of respecting the original backers at the limited pledge level (though it retains the other downsides from #2). However, it might feel like an early bird reward to people who discovered it “late”–now they have to pay more than the backers at the original level even though they’re a backer like everyone else.
Of those three options, my recommendation is#1: Offer the same reward at the same price, ideally by adding more slots to the existing reward level so you don’t clutter and confuse the reward sidebar.
The Tale of Adding More Early Bird Reward Levels
Isaac Childress (Forge War, Gloomhaven) knows I’m a huge fan, so hopefully he won’t mind me using his project as an example. Also, I should mention that I’m heavily biased against early bird rewards, both subjectively and objectively.
When Isaac launched Forge War on Kickstarter in June 2014, the project featured an early bird reward level ($54 instead of the regular price of $59) that would remain open until the project successfully funded. Isaac didn’t know, though, that prominent board game reviewer Rahdo would call Forge War “Easily the best game of the year” in his pre-production review. The number of backers skyrocketed, and the project reached its goal on day 2.
That’s when Isaac released the following update: “The problem is that I don’t feel that the majority of the board gaming community has even had a chance to know about the game yet. And if they have, they may not have had time to make an informed decision….” He goes on to say that he wanted to give “potential backers a full 4 days to discover the project, see if they like it and back it.”
So he created a new early bird level for the next few days, which ended up attracting another 369 backers.
I talked to Isaac about this decision in an interview with him around that time. My perspective is this: If decide you must have an early-bird reward level, at the very least, respect the artificial scarcity you’ve created. Don’t add more.
Adding more early bird slots will make the original early bird backers feel marginally less special, decrease the sense of urgency from new backers (who might think you’ll continue to add more slots at your whim), and reveals the truth behind the carefully constructed fantasy that you can only offer X number of backers the reward at Y price.
There they are, three cautionary tales of adding new pledge levels to an active project. I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences about these situations, whether it’s from the perspective of a backer or a creator.