Kickstarter Lesson #200: We Are Collectors

30 September 2016 | 21 Comments

I had the good fortune of having dinner a few night ago with Scott Morris of Passport Games while he was in St. Louis for business. You may know him as Tox from his YouTube channel, Crits Happen.

Scott had a lot of great stories and wisdom to share, but there’s something he said that I instantly identified as a great concept to write about for the 200th Kickstarter Lesson:

“Publishers often think they’re selling games to gamers, but that’s actually not true,” Scott said. “Most people who buy hobby games are collectors.”

I would take this a step further and say that most backers are collectors too. Let’s talk about this.

Are You a Collector?

I think almost every person is either one or both of the following, even if they don’t realize it:

  • You collect things.
  • You collect experiences.

If you’re a gamer like me, you probably have a big shelf of games, and you’ve played maybe half of them (obviously that’s a broad generalization). If you love books as much as I do, you probably have a number of books you haven’t read and a number of books you’ve read once and will never read again. Or maybe you like to have the latest gadget even if you don’t use it very often. And so on.

Or maybe you collect experiences. I play a lot of board games exactly once, and after I do, I feel like I’ve checked something important off an imaginary list. I like trying new restaurants or traveling to new places, even if I’m highly unlikely to return. Even as a Kickstarter backer, I’m collecting the experience of backing a bunch of different projects (193 and counting), even though I actively engage in a small percentage of them.

What Does This Mean for Crowdfunding?

I’ll start off by saying what it doesn’t mean. Knowing that many backers are collector’s doesn’t mean that your only job as a creators is to put together something that looks cool on a shelf, regardless of how fun or functional it is. It also doesn’t mean that you run a buzzworthy campaign but you stop communicating after it’s over.

Rather, it means that creators are in a position to offer backers the best of both worlds. You can engage backers during and after the campaign, making them feel like they’re part of something special, and then you can produce something that looks great and functions well.

How to Appeal to Collectors

I’m not going to go into detail here about how to create a good experience for Kickstarter backers, because that’s pretty much this entire blog. Instead, here are a few thoughts and ideas about things to consider when designing the product so it appeals to the collector in each of us.

  • img_5666visual appeal: This goes beyond good art and design that enhance your shelf. It’s also about the experience of opening the reward for the first time. The very first project I backed on Kickstarter–a novella–arrived in this static shield packaging. It was a small touch, but it made the experience special, and I’ve kept it ever since.
  • special editions: While I don’t think a project needs to offer special/collector’s editions of the product, it’s certainly a good time to make them, particularly if you leverage the concept of the premium option.
  • must-have component: I remember when I first saw the special tuckbox in Heroes and Tricks–instantly I wanted it, just for the sake of having it. I’ve had this experience a number of times, and I bet you have too. It’s because we’re collectors, and we want unique, beautiful things that we can show off. I’ve written about this in detail here.

Note that Kickstarter exclusives (things you can only get if you’re a backer, then never again) aren’t on this list. The misconception may be that collectors want KS exclusives. However, when’s the last time you looked at your shelf with pride and though, “Man, I’m really happy that I’m 1 of only 2000 people who have this exclusive miniature.” I think it’s exceptionally rare that a backer feels more satisfied as a collector purely because they know most other people won’t have it.

That’s a short list of ideas; I’m sure you’ll have some other good ones to add in the comments.


I love the idea of embracing ourselves as collectors, both as creators and as backers. There’s a certain freedom in looking at your bookshelves with pride instead of shame or your photo album with bewilderment. These are the things and experiences that make us who we are, and I appreciate crowdfunding for exposing me to such a wide variety of interesting projects.

What makes you proud to own or experience something? What makes you excited to share it with friends?

Also read: This great interview on Geekdad with Kickstarter employee Luke Crane.

Leave a Comment

21 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #200: We Are Collectors

  1. Its a totally personal thing but I actually break off, mentally, the parts of my boardgame collection that I “collect” from the ones that I want to enjoy or play. For example, I’m collecting the Spiel Des Jahres winners, just to have them and I consider them separate from the fact that I want, for example, Machi Koro Legacy. I don’t necessarily expect an experience from getting Auf Achse that I really want to remember, but I will find slotting it onto my shelf satisfying.

  2. Jamey,

    By all accounts, my game collection is quite small as I remain a discriminating gamer. However, my shelves, containing more than 2,500 titles, speaks more to my collection of books. Despite the number of tomes, my real passion is collecting “experiences.” As a History major, and lover of travel, I want to experience the places I’ve read about either in the U.S. or abroad. With my time in the service, coupled with a girlfriend who shares the same sense of adventure, I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited 35 States and two dozen countries. I love immersing myself in the culture…from the food, the language, and customs. These “collections” become memories, and these memories become wonderful oral histories…my history.


  3. […] Design collector’s editions (any project from Chris Morey): On almost every one of Morey’s campaigns, he offers a really beautiful hardcover collector’s edition of the book. Kickstarter is fantastic for beautiful, expensive rewards, because they can’t be produced at scale (especially since they usually have a niche audience). Many backers might prefer the digital version of your book, but it’s wise to appeal to collectors. […]

  4. I’m defiantly a collector and quality components get me almost every time. Although I find that other things I collect relate back to my childhood – toys from old shows/movies I watched or games that I played. Reigniting experiences I use to have or in other words nostalgia. Besides reprinting older games, do you think there are ways board games can reproduce this experiences?

    1. That’s a good question. I think components can play a big role in the nostalgia effect, whether it’s the art (see all games with pixelated art) or components that hearken back to classic games.

  5. Hi Jamie, some valuable comments. I know you say that you dont rate K.S. exclusives, but isnt that exactly what the scythe collectors version is, ie with each numbered game box? That said, i have no information as to if you sell those separate from k.s. (i may well buy one if you do!)

    1. Mark: Sure, there are a few key things that differentiate the Scythe Collector’s Edition from a KS exclusive.

      1. We don’t call it an exclusive, so we can sell it after Kickstarter if we want. This is absolutely crucial, because odds are, even if you make a limited print run of a product, you’re going to end up with extras. If you call it a KS exclusive, you cannot sell those extra copies (creators do this all the time, but if they do, it’s a misuse of the term “KS exclusive”).

      2. Everything inside the box is eligible to be made and sold in the future in any form we want (which we’re doing). Will we make the foil/numbered boxes again? Probably not–that seems like it would go against the spirit of a “collector’s edition”. But it’s not related to exclusivity.

      3. There’s a big difference between a limited print run and a KS exclusive. A KS exclusive if something you sell on Kickstarter and never again. A limited print run is something that is, as it says, limited. When you’re done selling them, you don’t have any more to sell. You can still make more if you want, but you probably won’t.

  6. I have been involved in collecting board games over the past few years, mainly with the advent of Kickstarters. It is leaning more towards “addiction” now, to a certain degree. I do spend a lot of time playing with a few different gaming groups, which also makes it a very social hobby for me. Prior to board games, I was into collecting & playing RPG’s, and that is still my first love.

    I got to meet Scott when I demo’d for Passport Game Studios at Gen Con. Cool guy!

  7. There’s so much truth to this, some of which I’m doing and I don’t even know. I feel guilty owning many games I haven’t played yet, to the point of trying to get through “that pile” before it gets any bigger. What this post reveals is that collecting is really part of the fun and that’s just fine. Trying to burn through “that pile” has really been feeling more like a chore than fun. I think I need to reevaluate what I’m trying to get out of the hobby – a great collection that I’m proud of, and a great set of experiences playing some of it. It’s hard to resist that urge to check one off the list, but now I hope I’ll be doing it for the right reasons.

    1. Craig: I’m in the same boat. As I started writing this entry, I didn’t really think of myself as a collector, but the more I wrote, the more I identified with it.

      “What this post reveals is that collecting is really part of the fun and that’s just fine.” I totally agree. I like the sentiment that it’s okay to have games you’ve never played, just like it’s fine to have experiences you’ll never repeat (or even lists of places you’ll never go)–it’s still fun to think about the possibilities and to associate memories with everything we collect.

  8. 1. Thrilled to hear your excitement about Heroes and Tricks!

    2. This thread reminds me of all of the backers who ask about sleeving and room for sleeves. I still believe this represents a minority of backers, but clearly these backers feel their ability to be “collectors” is undermined and that it is part of what KS is about.

  9. Can I add “People” to the list?

    For a guy that doesn’t have enough time to play games, or get out too often (Wife, Baby, & Business take the super-majority of time), meeting new people (like the gamer-guy at the UPS store today, HI RICK!) and making new friends from all walks of life in the most random of places… that’s what moves me.

    Friends, new sons & daughters adopted through my work, brothers and sisters through church, gamer friends through conventions, associates through email communications and blogs, and the host of people I get to call ‘friend’ through my Kickstarters…

    …For me it’s what makes the world go round.

  10. Great read Jamey! I love board games because they are things that I can collect that help me collect great memories. One of the biggest things that help me decided if I am going to back a board game project is if it looks like something that I will be able to have fun playing with the various people in my life.

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