18 March 2013 | 24 Comments
The terms for our money back guarantee are as follows: If you pledge to support Viticulture on Kickstarter and you decide the game isn’t for you within one month of receiving it, you may return it to us for a full refund. Although we’ll be curious, we won’t ask for any explanation or reason for the return. The one-month limit is there simply because almost all games will eventually overstay their welcome; this gives backers a reason to play the game right away (hopefully multiple times before making a final judgment) and then making an informed choice about returning it if it’s not for them.
Why would we do this? Aren’t we afraid of hordes of backers returning used games to us, causing me to live on the streets in a cardboard house made out of Viticulture boxes?
- Trust: Kickstarter is all about trust. As a backer, you’re entrusting your hard-earned money to someone you don’t know to create something you’ve never seen in person and deliver it to you as promised at some distant point in the future. It’s such a fragile thing, that trust. With a money-back guarantee, a creator is putting all the pressure on himself to deliver a fantastic product, and in doing so, he’s offering trust to backers. “Trust me to make this amazing,” a project creator says, “because if I don’t, you can simply return it.”
- Barriers to Entry: Whenever you think about buying something, you’re faced with some barriers to entry: Cost, time, effort, image. We’re always faced with reasons not to buy something (or pledge to receive a reward, in this case). As the creator/seller, the more barriers I can remove, the better. In this case, I’m removing the barrier of cost. A backer looked at Viticulture and thought, “I might like that, but it costs $49, and I might not even like it.” With a money-back guarantee, there is no “but.” You’ve removed the risk of losing money on something a backer might not like. Thus studies suggest that sales (pledges) increase significantly as a result of the guarantee.
- Kickstarter Exclusive: There is an endless debate raging about Kickstarter exclusives. Most backers I talk to love exclusives, but some prefer exclusives that are separate from gameplay (e.g., an alternative art box) while others prefer gameplay exclusives (e.g., a special set of cards). The money-back guarantee is separate from both of those categories–it’s something special you can give only to Kickstarter backers that they are sure to appreciate.
Although I’ve listed two reasons there, trust is by far and away the focal point. Project creators do all sorts of things to establish trust: They get third-party reviews of their product, they show photos of the product, they demonstrate their ability to make the product based on their background, they keep backers in the loop through consistent and transparent communication.
All of those are great ways to establish trust. But I must admit I’m surprised more creators haven’t offered a money-back guarantee. I think I know the reason, though, because I felt it back in August when I put it on Viticulture’s project page and I feel it now as I’m preparing to ship out 1300 games to backers: fear.
We’re afraid that people won’t like what we made. We’re afraid that people will take advantage of the offer. We’re afraid of losing money we don’t have due to returns.
All of those are valid fears. Like I said, I feel those fears. But I say, use those fears to drive you to do better and be better. Use that fear of rejection to make something beautiful, something that people cherish, something the brings people together to game. Use that fear of abuse to create true and genuine connections with backers. Use that financial fear to make find the proper contacts in your industry so your product can have a life after Kickstarter.
Use that fear not only to help your backers trust you, but also to help you trust yourself.
And let me be clear: Like most project creators who use Kickstarter to jumpstart a new project, I don’t have a well of money waiting to send refunds out to backers. Quite the opposite, really. But I believe that the number of backers who supported Viticulture partially due to the money-back guarantee (perhaps it was a tipping point) is far greater than the number of backers who will return the game.
We’ll see how it works out for Viticulture, and I’ll be sure to let you know. For now, let me know how you’ve seen project creators establish trust with backers. What’s effective or ineffective from your perspective?