Kickstarter Lesson #222: How to Be Fair to Backers When You Make a Change

20 March 2017 | 9 Comments

During my Kickstarter campaign for Euphoria, I made a calculated decision to add a new reward level that included extra dice and blank-faced recruit cards. 1794 backers ended up pledging to that reward.

This wasn’t an impulse decision. Rather, it was informed by backers every step of the way, and I let backers know the varies factors I had to consider. You can see a detailed account of the process here.

Recently I read an article on one of my favorite blogs, The Psychology of Video Games, about perceived fairness. The idea is that following certain guidelines can increase the perception of a decision as “fair.” The primary example in the article is how Blizzard changed a character in Overwatch.

The author lists five steps to follow when making a change to your project or product (these are quoted verbatim in bold). I think the Euphoria story works for each of these steps, so I’ll use it as an example for each point.

  1. Give players a chance to voice concerns and participate in the decision-making. I encouraged Euphoria backers to share their ideas in the comments, and when I sensed there were more than a few people with the same request, I launched a poll for all backers.
  2. Be consistent in your application of the changes. All backers had access to the new reward level, not just backers who responded to the poll or those who had already pledged.
  3. Be transparent about why you decided what you did. Before the decision, I wrote a detailed update about the factors I had to consider when adding a new reward. When I added the reward, I wrote another update detailing why I combined the dice and faceless recruits into the same reward, why I chose $59 as the price, etc.
  4. Appear (and in fact be) free from bias toward or against one group of players. This was tough, because I really had to step out of my shoes and put myself in the position of backers who wanted things that I didn’t anticipate. I knew the logistical complications the change would cause, and I didn’t look forward to them. But I made a concerted effort to present the option in a way that was free of bias, and I committed to making the addition if the data supported it.
  5. Offer recourses for bad decisions. The “bad decision” in this case is that I launched a project without the optimal spread of rewards. I was more forgiving with backers who meant to upgrade but forgot until the projected ended.

I really love these steps. One last thing I should mention is that despite this procedure, the decision is yours. You know your project and product better than anyone else, and you’re responsible for making it as good as it can possibly be on budget and on schedule. If you go bankrupt trying to add something that backers voted for, everyone suffers as a result.

Have you seen projects follow a similar procedure when making changes during or after the campaign?

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9 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #222: How to Be Fair to Backers When You Make a Change

  1. John’s Cytosis is running right now ( Genius Games) and people kept asking for EU friendly shipping. Heck, one even suggested the idea of Asia friendly, due to printing in China! The creator calmed down everyone stating that he was willing to,but wauted for responses ,probably from fulfillment centers. I second this, but I wonder what it would happen if for instance there’s a new pledge (because you cannot edit once 1pledged), with cheaper shipping. and the impact to the campaign .For example the stretch goals.

  2. Pretty spot on. When we had to reboot Halfsies Dice The World Tour 2 weeks into a 28 campaign it wasn’t easy – especially since it was already “funded” at the time. There were a group of people that insisted on “free dice” in order to return, and I realized #2 above had to happen if I did that, and so we offered a free dice set to every single returning backer. (ie: 740 of them!) That campaign now has 36 hours left on it, and is doing fairly well. It’s hard to say what’s going to make someone leap with joy, and whats going to be a “Perceived annoyance” over a “Perceived fair decision”. You’ll always have people who simply refuse to return or continue with their pledge. One can only try to do right by their supporters and hope for the best.

    1. John: That was generous of you to offer free dice to the original backers, though it’s unfortunate that backers “insisted” upon it. I always feel better about being generous when it stems from me, not the demands of others.

    2. Halfsies Dice was exactly what I was thinking about reading this post! I don’t spend much time in the comments, so hadn’t seen any demands- I thought it was a good enough deal to have the dice unlocked at the proper price point. (my only complaint about the kickstarter is the Police Box dice not winning :( )

      I’ve seen perceived fairness come up in kickstarters offering early bird specials. “I missed out on this, now I refuse to back the project.” Early bird can also screw up changing things down the road; if you add a new level, how does that mess with my early bird backing?

      1. @Scott – That’s hysterical about Police Box. I’m so sorry. ; ) (Nami Ura – Its twin, is avail on amazon still I think if it makes you feel any better.)
        Your point about the Early Bird is a good one too though. That’s why on the reboot we removed the limitation on the Early Bird also and just left it open the whole campaign. It’s actually pretty much the same offer we made in Halfsies 1.0 that generated $14,000+ in pledges in one day, but this time was taken a bit for granted since it was around from day 1 instead of added later. “Perception” truly is “reality”.

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