Kickstarter Lesson #217: There and Back Again

20 February 2017 | 15 Comments

A few days ago, I received notifications from Kickstarter that two of my starred projects were nearing the end of their campaigns. I had discovered these projects weeks ago, and even though I liked how they looked, I decided to click the “Remind Me” button instead of pledging.

When I got the notifications from Kickstarter, I clicked through to the project pages. Both projects were very successful, with plenty of funding, comments, updates, and stretch goals.

That’s when it hit me: I deeply regretted not participating in the journey these campaigns offered. The ups and downs, the moments of creator brilliance, the reveal of new information (backstory, narrative, designer notes), achieving new stretch goals together…by clicking the “Remind Me” button, I missed out on all that.

It’s my fault, of course. I had the choice to support these projects early on, and I didn’t. It’s my loss.

But as I thought more about it, I realized that there are certain things a project can do to invite backers to join the journey. It’s like a map at the beginning of a book–it’s a clear indication of some kind of quest.

Here are a few ideas of ways creators can hint at the allure of the journey ahead:

  • Include cliffhangers in early project updates. Perhaps the biggest parts of the journey are the project updates. That’s how the creator is going to reach the majority of the backers throughout the campaign. I try to post a project update within the first 24 hours of the project launch, and it might not hurt to do it even sooner. This demonstrates to potential backers that you have a story to tell throughout the campaign. Also, in those early updates, I often try to hint at what we’re going to talk about in the next update. Results of this method may vary, but I like to think that it creates anticipation.
  • Include just the right amount of information on the project page and be specific about what’s next. The best project pages don’t include every single detail about the project from Day 1. Rather, they offer the core elements. One approach that I haven’t tried but could work well for this “journey” idea is that in addition to those core elements, you can be very specific about what’s next and when it’s coming. For example, you could have 1 or 2 reviews on the project page on Day 1, and under them you could say “Day 3: New Review from Vom Tasel!” That way backers have enough information to inform their decision, but they can also be excited about what’s coming soon.
  • Ask backers a question via a poll. On both Kickstarter and on this blog, I’ve found that when you give people the opportunity to vote on something, they’re likely to stick around long enough to discover the results. It’s the “Choose Your Own Adventure” type of journey. I think the key is for the polls to be fairly low states, like the story-driven Tournament of the Apocalypse for Euphoria. If the stakes are too high, you run the risk that people might completely disengage or cancel if the results don’t go their way.
  • Position an included must-have component near a sexy stretch goal (with a stated backup plan). The key for this journey concept is you want to inspire backers to be a part of something bigger than themselves to achieve the stretch goal. But sexy stretch goals can be a blessing and a curse. The possibility of reaching them may inspire backers to support the project, but if they’re so amazing that backers can’t imagine the product without them, they may not back at all. My proposed solution is feature the project’s most drool-worthy element that comes standard with the product right next to the sexiest stretch goal. That way you’re reminding backers that they’re getting something awesome if you don’t reach that goal. To take it a step further, you could note that if you haven’t reached that goal by Day X, it will instead become an add-on item for $Y. That way backers can feel confident one way or another that they’ll get it.
  • Assure backers that they haven’t missed out on much. I think the #1 way to do this is to include the current day of the campaign on the main project image. The reason this is necessary is that when I discover a project, it’s really difficult to figure out when the project launched–all Kickstarter tells you on the main campaign page is “X days to go.” That’s why on my campaigns I update the project image once a day to indicate that it’s, say “Day 3 of 18.” That way a potential backer knows right away how much they’ve missed out on.

Do you enjoy the journey of a Kickstarter campaign while it’s live? What can projects do to entice you to join for the journey? Note that this is distinctly different than things projects can do to encourage you to pledge (that’s a much bigger answer). This is specifically about the journey.

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15 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #217: There and Back Again

  1. […] Bragging Rights: Even before the rise of social media, there’s something special about telling your friends, “I was there when….” We’re collectors of experiences, and we like to show them off. The My Favorite Murder hosts didn’t ask people not to take photos–I’m not sure if it was a deliberate decision, but the result was that tons of people were taking photos and posting them to social media in real time. There’s a certain level of pride inherent to Kickstarter–you’re at the foundation of something new. Creators can reinforce this by encouraging participation. […]

  2. I’ve appreciated the narrative style used by NSKN Games across their Exodus and Mistfall campaigns. One can tell their project updates were planned well ahead of the project launch. But they do not come across as boilerplate.

    Each update is designed to take you along on a journey of discovery. They explain the game from a design and function using an inside perspective that is truly engaging. I liken it to the behind the scenes featurettes you get on a blu-ray DVD. Each of the NSKN campaigns have been successful and I believe this refinement of their KS strategy is key to that success.

    Jamey, even though you may not necessarily be a backer of NKSN Games projects are you familiar their project management on KS?

    1. Tim: I think the last NSKN game I backed was the dragon game…I don’t remember the updates for that one, but they may have been in this style. I like the idea of narrative updates and a journey of discovery–thank you for sharing!

  3. Jamey,

    I’m a huge fan of the journey…if the adventure looks exciting. Okay, enough of the metaphors. I’ve Backed a number of projects at the $1 Level simply to stay engaged…and sometimes, depending on the project, that engagement leads me to interacting more and more with the project. The example that best fits is Randy Rathert’s The King’s Abbey. I liked the look of it, and given that it’s spiritual successor, The Pillars of the Earth will most likely stay out of print, this looked to be a great revision of the game. It started with the $1 pledge and within a week or so, I found myself posting in the comments, only to find that there folks I recognized from other campaigns. In short order, I’m having weekly (and admittedly daily) conversations from “friends” around the world, all enjoying the tale that Randy weaved through the campaign (darn, another metaphor!). Anyway, I’m a very discriminating gamer, and that really manifests itself in the games I eventually Back on KS, much less buy on-line or through a FLGS. Thus, the narrative about a particular game must prove compelling for me to follow…and in a few cases, it has done so.


  4. Great tips as always Jamey! I just struggle to plan how to release things as a campaign goes! I’d like to show everything straight away, but I’m aware it’s not the best thing to do. So still quite a lot of room for improvement. Cheers!

  5. How many projects are you backing at the same time? Sometimes those updates are flying fast and frequent and I don’t have the time to keep up with all the things I’m backing/have backed/new creator’s projects that I might want to look at. I love the idea of being part of something from the ground up, but I generally back projects that I trust the creator (s) to follow through on. I wish I had the time to properly engage on each project, but man!

    1. Collin: Yeah, it can be a bit overwhelming with all of the updates, and I unsubscribe to a project’s updates if they’re too frequent or if they’re just not interesting. I use that to filter through them. At any given time, I’m usually backing at least a few live project, and many more projects that haven’t delivered yet.

  6. As I’m gearing up for my eventual campaign, I’ve been pledging $1 from day 1 for a multitude of projects that I’m interested in following. I think it’s an option that a lot of backers forget about, and it’s a great alternative to the “remind me” button.

    It gets you in the door and involved in the conversation. You can see how the creators respond to feedback and interact with their backers. It can give you the confidence to back at a higher pledge at a later time, and the creators will appreciate having that larger backer number even if it’s just a $1 pledge.

    An interesting marketing technique that a friend of mine did was to email all the friends and family who might be interested in supporting him a week before the Kickstarter campaign launched. He asked them for their support, and all he was asking for was a $1 pledge.

    I think it’s important to understand that not every product/campaign is for everyone but you will still have a lot of people who will want to support you in some way. I think pledging $1, $5, or $10 is a great way to say, “I support you and what you’re doing”. The subset of friends I have that play board games is small, but I would hope that all of my friends would be willing to pitch in a $1 for something I’m passionate about.

    Most campaigns I see do have a $1 pledge level, but sometimes it’s easy to gloss over, especially if you’re considering backing at a higher level but are unsure. People forget you can pledge $1 now and then change it to $50 later.

    To answer the question, I find myself wanting to join for the journey because I have a personal connection to the project or the creators. It doesn’t have to be a strong connection. It might be as simple as seeing the game being play tested at my local game store. It might be because they liked one of my tweets and I ended up following them. Or maybe I just don’t have the time or money to play all the amazing games out there but I still want to see how things turn out.

    1. Joseph: Totally, I really like the $1 option, and I really need to do that more often. I must admit that with Kickstarter’s new “follow” feature, every time I back a project, it feels like I’m endorsing it to 2000+ people, which has actually made me more hesitant to back stuff that I’m not 100% sure of. If you’re interested in learning more about the value of the $1 level, here’s my post about it:

      As for the journey, I like what you said about the personal connection. I bet creators can initiate that connection in the way they write the first few lines on their project page–perhaps that will invite strangers into the journey.

      1. Well, that’s an angle I’ve never thought about. I suspect you have a scenario that is one most of us don’t have to consider. I think in the end, you are who you are, and if anything you might be encouraging others to also do $1 pledges. I think it would be great if backers followed that example.

        Also, some publishers, like Daily Magic Games, tweet about games they back all the time. While it is somewhat of an endorsement, I think it’s really cool that they’re willing to engage and participate in the KS community in such a way.

  7. I have to say that cliffhangers and things like “coming soon” walkthroughs and reviews are more likely to pass on a campaign than back it.

    I generally look at Kickstarters day one, and if it doesn’t have the info I’d need (how to play the game, with demonstrations, in video form), I’ll move on and never look back. Of course, there are exceptions when I love the theme or art or the game just seems good anyway. In those cases, I’ll back for $1 and follow along. But I’m not backing as much out of anticipation for the video as I am backing despite the fact that it wasn’t there on the first day.

    One “hook” I’ve noticed in a couple recent projects is that, after backing, I receive a link to test out the game immediately (one in PnP form and one video-game alpha link). Once I’ve taken a look, I almost feel obligated to stick to my pledge (even if it’s just $1). This is in contrast to campaigns that offer free PnPs or downloads straight from the project page. I don’t know if I’m okay with that feeling of obligation these campaigns have created in me, or if it’s a tactic I’d suggest, but it’s worth thinking about.

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