Kickstarter Lesson #40: Should You Offer the Kickstarter-Exclusive Version of Your Product After the Campaign?

21 July 2013 | 22 Comments

I never quite finished the  “After Your Kickstarter Project Ends” section of the Kickstarter Lessons page, so here’s one of those entries.

The last few hours of my Euphoria campaign were a wild ride. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I think we raised something like $20,000 in the last 3 hours.

A lot of those funds were from new backers. But not all of them. Several thousand dollars came from existing backers who kept increasing their pledges for more games, better games, or even nothing at all because they wanted to be a part of something larger than themselves. They wanted to reach the stretch goal very few people thought we could reach, the $300k stretch goal.

People made sacrifices, and in the end, we met that goal, added a ton of value to the game, and finished the funding at $309,495.

Those sacrifices really moved me. People were pledging their hard-earned money even though they didn’t know we were going to reach the $300k stretch goal. It was a gamble on their part.

However, as soon as the project ended–you’ll have this happen if you successfully funded a project–people started contacting me asking if they could still get the Kickstarter version of the game. They pointed out that they were only a day or two late–no big deal, right?

But it is kind of a big deal because of all those other people who made sacrifices to push the project to the limit during the campaign. It’s much easier if you can just step in after everyone else has made the hard choices and get the same thing they got. If everyone did that, Kickstarter would stop working.

So I decided to draw a hard line with Euphoria out of respect for my backers. If you missed the campaign, you missed out on the Kickstarter version of the game. The retail version of Euphoria will still be awesome, so you can always get that. Or you can get the full Kickstarter version from Miniature Market–they were a very generous backer of the campaign (during the campaign, just like any other backer).

The tough part about this is that I know what it’s like to miss out on a campaign. I get it. It sucks. But I try to monitor my own entitlement. Just because something exists doesn’t mean I’m entitled to it.

The other tough part about this is dealing with extra Kickstarter copies after delivery to backers. You’ll order more than you need so you can make up for damaged and lost copies. But what happens when you have extra games sitting around like we did with the Kickstarter-exclusive copies of Viticulture? Here’s what I did, and I feel like this was the right thing to do:

  1. I told the original Viticulture backers that I had extra games. I asked for their blessing to sell the additional games via charity auctions and through the Euphoria campaign (which, after all, was still a Kickstarter campaign, so the “Kickstarter exclusive” version of Viticulture could technically be sold on that platform). I also gave them the opportunity to buy extra copies of the game before I did anything else with them.
  2. I put a limited number up for sale on the Euphoria campaign. Although I think this was technically fair for me to do, I didn’t like the way it panned out. The demand was too high, and the supply of available games was too low.
  3. I still had a few extra copies when all the dust cleared, so I made them available via a charity auction. I felt much better about doing this. I was helping a good cause and giving people the chance to pay what they wanted for the game instead of being the fastest to click on the reward on Kickstarter.

Overall, I feel like the combination of the hard line I drew for Euphoria and the measures I took with the extra copies of Viticulture were the right thing to do. What do you think? Have you ever seen a campaign continue to offer the Kickstarter-exclusive version of the game after the campaign was over? How did that resonate with you?

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22 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #40: Should You Offer the Kickstarter-Exclusive Version of Your Product After the Campaign?

  1. I know that leaving a comment on this page is digging up an old old post, but I have my own idea on this, so I felt like contributing (my own KS campaign starts in April, and on my to-do list is “Finish Reading KS Lessons”. Almost there!).

    For my KS campaign, I am denoting that many of the new things that are unlocked through this campaign will be included in this print run, not necessarily making them exclusive to Kickstarter, but saying that this print run will be unique. Subsequent prints will not include those particular extras. That way I have the freedom to distribute extra stock, but people should still feel like they are getting something special.

    1. Paul: That’s one way to do it. I would caution you a little bit about going that route, though, because what if you discover other reasons later to publish that content, whether it’s in the game, a promo item, or part of an expansion? One way to do it would be to say that the content won’t be included in the base game in the future, meaning that if people want to get it, they have to buy it separately (or in the expansion). Another way to think about it is that you are giving backers something special because (a) you’re going to try to make something awesome for them and (b) you don’t know if you’ll ever get to print more copies. This could be it.

      Here’s more on the topic:

      1. That’s completely fair. At the current moment, a couple of my unlockables are exclusive to the print run, a couple are not exclusive. Hopefully that strikes the right balance of giving people a strong reason to back now with not screwing me later.

        Thank you for taking the time to respond!

  2. Something I’m not sure you addressed specifically is whether or not you allowed backers to add-on an additional copy or two of the KS edition after the project ended (say, in the days/weeks following the campaign). Do you think KS backers should be allowed this privilege or would this be disrespectful to the backers who added-on while the campaign was on-going?

    1. Dennis: Thanks for your question. For Tuscany, I allowed backers to continue to add-on items at the KS prices for a few weeks after the campaign, and I even allowed non-backers to pre-order the KS items for a premium price at that point too (I was completely transparent about that to backers during the campaign). I did that for Tuscany because we weren’t placing the order right away after the campaign. Based on the feedback I got, the way we did it was respectful to backers.

      1. Hi Jamey! Great info here, thank you for sharing! How were you able to allow Backers to continue adding on after the campaign? I just ended a campaign and a few Backers missed out on add-on rewards and the survey would allow me to offer this option. I want to follow guidelines on KS, but I also want to make sure my Backers are rewarded. Thank you!

        1. Ava: Thanks for your question. There are a few different methods, with the easiest being PayPal. You provide backers your PayPal e-mail address and let them update their pledges.

          My way is that I created a hidden page on my blog and put ShopLocket widgets on it for add-on items on that page.

          I should note that I’ve actually stopped doing this as of my Treasure Chest campaign. When the campaign ended, the price went up for everyone. That was my way of treating the Kickstarter campaign like one big early bird reward.

  3. […] Before I delve into this topic, please note that I’m specifically talking about the retail version of your product, not the Kickstarter version (in case there is a difference). Your stance on selling Kickstarter versions of your product post-campaign may be different than ours–we only sell the retail version starting on the day after the campaign ends. You can read about that here. […]

  4. Rapier–Thanks for your thoughts. I agree for the most part, but I think the key is that the project creator clearly defines what he or she means by “exclusive.” If you tell your backers that the Kickstarter campaign is the only way to get something, unless you get consensus from the backers later to break that promise, I think it could hurt your brand and your reputation in the long run if you go against it. But if you clearly say (perhaps in the FAQ) that “exclusive” means that you may consider publishing the exclusive components in a future version of the game, but not for at least X amount of time, then backers can make an informed decision based on that information.

  5. Hi Jamey, I’ve just found your site and have appreciated the many insights you’ve shared.

    I admit, having Kickstarter only exclusives is definitely something that has tipped my hand into backing a project. There are many risks involved in being a backer (the recent issue with The Doom that came to Atlantic City being a major one) so I think it nice to offer something to people who helped you at the very start.

    There’s also a certain level of pride knowing that you have something only available in the very first editions of a game. So even when you’ve shared the game with all your friends and they’ve picked up a version of the game retail because they’ve loved it so much, well, you still have your KS exclusives to set yourself apart =)

    I do agree that KS exclusives that affect gameplay might be something to steer away from, otherwise there is the slight risk that people may be put off purchasing your game in the future if they aren’t able to get the absolute ‘full’ version.

    1. Hi Cat, thanks for your thoughts. I completely agree about that sense of pride and ownership–I think there’s an intrinsic connection to the project that is different than purchasing something off the shelf at a store.

      I think many gamers are completionists–they don’t want part of the game, they want the full game. So if you have Kickstarter exclusives that affect gameplay, as you say, some people are never going to buy the retail version of the game.

      1. Hi I just found your website (searching for opinions on Kickstarter in general).

        I’d like to reiterate the impact of having KS exclusive game components. I don’t know many people that mind not getting exclusive sculpts or art, but I think at various conventions in the UK I’ve met at least a hundred people in the last two years that have turned down retail versions of games because kick-starter elements meant the game would never be “complete”.

        I’m talking about things like extra characters or special board sections here.

        That said I think it’s about designing the kickstarter rewards correctly. If you guarantee that something will never be available again then you should honour that. On the other hand, the whole concept of “Exclusive” has been watered down in most industries and personally I think boardgame kickstarters should be the same.

        Computer game “exclusives” seem to mean 6 months or a year before other platforms will have that game. Newspaper exclusives mean only the first paper to carry the story (since after first reporting it becomes public domain anyway).

        I feel that the attitude of the kickstarter board game crowd that exclusives have to be exclusive forever is actually very selfish and short-sighted compared to the value that Kickstarter could be giving.

        Whenever I have backed a kickstarter project and gotten exclusives I always say they should be available to everyone in say a future expansion option. Possibly at a greater cost (say, the KS character expansion pack – more expensively priced than the backers got it for). I don’t really care about the greater cost myself because I only back projects I want and don’t care about what other people have, but I know that others would feel less annoyed if they at least got the stuff for cheaper.

        The model I proposed above is exactly how all “pre-order exclusive” type content works for any computer game these days.

  6. For me it’s totally ok to offer it afterwards. And I’d appreciate if it was done for me.

    I don’t really care for the exclusiveness, what I care for is about the product I get for the price paid. Also these kinds of games are mass-produced by design anyway.

    As for if Kickstarter had existed anyway or not for the purpose of turning something you like into reality it would still be the only option to back it. Now Kickstarter is more of a pre-order and huge advertising platform and market of extras for your new product and I can’t say I see much benefit at all for me as costumer for all of that so if that was lost I wouldn’t mind.

    1. Johan–Thanks for your counterpoint. I think for me (and many other small companies and individuals), Kickstarter is far from a pre-order system. It is a financial necessity, and an important way to engage a greater community that forms during a campaign. Although I value anyone who purchases our games at any time, it’s the original Kickstarter backers who make it possible for the game to exist in the first place. So it’s my way of honoring and respecting those backers by keeping Kickstarter exclusives to Kickstarter.

  7. In the Dungeon Roll campaign, TMG had a clear disclaimer regarding those ‘KS exclusive’ things – they would never be offered outside Kickstarter, but they *could* be offered in Kickstarters others than the ‘main’ one. Something similar to what you did with the “Viticulture KS” levels in Euphoria, but stated upfront. I do think that it’s fair game, but I guess it’s better to say it openly and avoid the risk of annoying some of your original backers.

    I personally liked the way you handled the Viticulture copies in the Euphoria campaign, and come your next “full game” KS I would be perfectly OK as an Euphoria backer with you doing the same (ie. offering a limited number of KS copies of Euphoria as part of a reward level). Having said that, offering only retail copies and auctioning off the KS copies for charity does seem like a better idea. Euphoria is very well suited to it, since the KS copies add a lot of ‘cool’ factor without having any difference in gameplay (whereas in VC the KS copy included the Arboriculture expansion, so you could argue that you get more ‘play’ out of the KS copy).

    I’d say that the number of retail VC copies in the Euphoria campaign was about right – demand was brisk, but I think that mostly everyone who wanted a copy (and was vocal about it) got one by being patient enough to wait for a spot to open. The number of KS copies was very limited, of course, but that’s not because of any fault of your own. :)

    I’d recommend you don’t abandon the idea of including other (retail) games in pledge levels for future Kickstarters, though. You’re likely to attract some new folks in every new KS, and when they find out about your previous games they will probably want them. :) And if VC is any indication, your KS will come in the impasse between the first and the second edition, so it will be a convenient way to get a copy. It surely was with Viticulture for me, and it would have been very difficult to find a copy by any other means where I live.

    1. andvaranaut–I like that Dungeon Roll had the foresight to say that up front. That was smart of TMG.

      As for offering retail versions of other games during new campaigns, I’ll definitely make sure we have enough in stock to sell through our website. I agree that the Kickstarter campaign gives good exposure to past games.

      1. Well, I’m quite biased by my own experience, but I specially benefitted by buying VC as part of the Euphoria KS. I doubt I’d have bought it otherwise, just because there would have been no reasonable way to do so – it’s sold out nearly everywhere, the secondary market only seems to be alive in the USA, and shipping is really expensive (Board Game Extras, the only European recommended seller, used to sell their long-gone copies for $91 with shipping – and shipping + customs from the USA is a potential nightmare).

        So there’s some merit to a KS campaign being a very convenient way to get those games for people who don’t have a local store which happens to have stocked the game. Of course, that hinges on there being enough surplus copies in Amazon Fulfillment for you to be able to offer the games with the same shipping advantages as the rest.

        1. Right, I think the Amazon fulfillment portion of it is key whether or not the extra retail games are on Kickstarter (the KS version of the game is a separate matter). I’ll have retail copies of Euphoria in the EU and Canada, so shipping will be quite reasonable. I’m hoping to sell out of them before we even begin the Viticulture expansion campaign.

  8. I like the way you draw the hard line for KS copies. Backers deserve something special, either discounts or Goodies. A more common (or flexible) way is put the KS stretch rewards for sale (on BGG store or to retailers) after official release of the game, so that late comers can still get KS-like version but with a higher price.

  9. I think you have the right philosophy: Kickstarter-exclusive versions of games should be exactly that. Selling more of them to non-backers between the time the campaign ends and the time the order is placed with the manufacturer (thus being able to know that they’re already sold) is a bad idea.

    Ordering some extras is a good idea (since some copies can be damaged or lost in transit), and I think the lessons you’ve learned about what to do with those are correct. Offer them to original backers first, then find some kind of charitable use for them. Selling them afterward might make people feel bad about a project creator.

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