28 August 2013
A few days ago I explored whether or not you should cancel or finish a struggling Kickstarter project. Regardless of your decision, if you decide to reboot your project on a future date, you’re probably wondering what you need to do to increase your chances of success.
This is an interesting topic for me to broach for several reasons. First, I haven’t ever rebooted a project. I’ve consulted on rebooted projects, but I haven’t done it myself. So I knew this would require some research. I get excited about spreasheets, and I hope you find the data on the bottom of this lesson to be useful.
Second, at a quick glance, reboots are very project-specific. Sure, I would hope that project creators looking to reboot would read over my Kickstarter Lessons to re-evaluate their project. That’s all general advice that hopefully will help. But each project creator who is working on a reboot has very different needs.
I was recently chatting with Emil Larsen, the creator of a game called Burning Suns, about rebooting projects. Emil launched Burning Suns in March 2013, and he didn’t quite reach his funding goal. So he spent the next 4 months honing his game and his project, and he recently relaunched. In just a few days he surpassed his original funding amount, and he’s well on his way to overfunding. You can see the rebooted Burning Suns project here.
I asked Emil if he could share the top 3 things that every rebooted project creator should know, and he wrote the following (I paraphrased in a few places):
1. Ask and Analyze
I believe one of the dangers with a failed Kickstarter is that you’d be jumping to conclusions. Because how can you fail, when there’s an almost 50% success rate on board game projects?
If you fail, you should go directly to the market (backers) and ask why!
- Ask them what made them cancel their pledge
- What would make them pledge again and so on.
Whenever I had a backer that cancelled or didn’t pledge in the first place, I asked myself (and then the person) – WHY? Dig out the main problems with your campaign by analyzing these answers thoroughly.
Analyze the numbers on the dashboard, and on Kicktraq, analyze your bitly link data (or similar). You’ll often find answers to the activity and effectiveness of your campaign there.
2. Devaluation Isn’t the Solution
I have a feeling many failed projects are remapped in a hurry and launched based on these assumptions:
- “Our goal was too high, lets lower it”
- “The price of our pledges were too high, lets lower them”
Just because you didn’t hit your goal, doesn’t mean you should smack your budget down, lower your prices on everything and put your company at risk. It’s easy to just chop off a zero here and there, but it’s also an severe risk to take!
Here’s some of my suggestions for alternatives.
- Keep the price and instead bring more value to the product, that doesn’t cost you extra. Maybe some digital stuff?
- Lower your main pledge level, but increase the budget (keep it realistic and serious).
Raise the budget and include more content, don’t settle for half (I believe many backers have burned money on half projects, that only just reached their goal).
In general I think project creators are jeopardizing their own chances of success when they treat Kickstarter as a “economical gimmick” and not a business model and including the financial aspects of a production.
3. Nurture Your Previous Supporters by Sharing Your New Project Preview Page with Them
At first I was a bit disheartened by the fact that I had to create the project from scratch again (you can’t just copy the original project page). Didn’t I just spend 1½ months on this sucker, and now I have to start completely over?
I now realize how important it was for me to start over! It gave me a great opportunity to rethink every word, every comma, every piece of art, not to mention the order of all of the elements on the project page.
Once your project page is ready, share it with your previous backers (and new resources)! Here’s what you should do:
- Make sure to put “subscribe to newsletter” link on the preview page–that way people who get the sneak preview can have a way to be notified when the page goes live.
- Share your preview with everyone. This feedback is probably some of the most invaluable feedback you can ever get for your campaign.
While you’re sharing your page, make sure to regularly talk to your former backers, keep them in the loop, and let them help you wherever they can.
Thanks Emil! His advice applies to any rebooted project. However, I want to explore his second point after we look at the data from other rebooted board game projects.
I explored 9 different projects that went through a reboot and were successful the second time around (I included Burning Suns, which is currently funding but has already exceeded the original amount it raised). BGG user Matt Wolfe, who maintains this ongoing list of tabletop Kickstarter projects, helped me remember a few of these projects. Thanks Matt!
You can click on the screenshot below to embiggen it, or you can click here to go to the live Google doc. You can add the data for other rebooted projects here to help other project creators.
Here are my overall takeaways from this data. These are things you should do to increase the chances of success of your rebooted project:
- Don’t Wait Too Long: Almost across the board, these projects rebooted within 4 months of the original project’s launch date. That’s a fast turnaround. All of these projects had backers the first time around, and they didn’t want backers to forget about them. As Emil said, nurture those backers and then give them what they want within a few months.
- Decrease Your Funding Goal: This contradicts part of Emil’s second point. I agree with Emil that you should take a close look at your budget to determine how much you actually need to raise. However, if you lower your funding goal, not only do you inherently have a better chance of raising that much money, but you also get to factor in the excitement backers feel when they’re part of an overfunded project. Just make sure that you have the resources to cover the difference if you don’t end up making what you actually need to manufacture the game. Jeff Cornelius, the creator of the Stones of Fate project, made a great observation about the funding goal: From the backer’s perspective, the funding goal needs to match the type of project. He had a goal of $19k for a light strategy card game, and it was perceived as too high. Aim for $8-$12k for a small card game, $15-$25k for a medium-weight strategy game, and $35-$50k for a heavy miniatures game.
- Decrease the Cost of the Core Reward: Most of these projects decreased the cost of the core reward. As Emil said, only do what you can actually afford. But if you can lower the barrier to entry, you’re going to get more backers and raise more funds overall. Jeff Cornelius also made the great point here that you need reward levels at several different key price points. He heard the backers say they wanted a special $30 or $40 reward level (his core reward level was $20). I experienced something similar with Euphoria–backers wanted a way to upgrade their pledge and receive something of value in return, so I added a $59 reward level (the core level was $49).
- Display Rules, Reviews, and Final Art Samples from Day 1: Although some of these projects had polished project pages, a number of them were missing key elements that can inspire confidence in backers. Make sure all the core elements of a great project page are there from Day 1.
- Reduce Confusion: As you can see on the bottom row of the data, I tried to find some of the intangible elements of each project that were fixed in the reboot. One common element I found was a reduction in confusion. Many of these original projects were either confusing from the start or became more confusing as reward levels and backer suggestions were incorporated during the project. If you have backer suggestions that fundamentally change the way your project is structured, cancel your project and start over from scratch to avoid any confusion.
There’s one other point I need to make before I wrap this up: Many unsuccessful board game Kickstarter projects I see have subpar art and graphic design. The problem is, when you’re a project creator, you see your art and design through rose-colored glasses. It’s very, very hard for you to recognize your own subpar art and design. You can get backer feedback, but your backers are the ones who aren’t bothered by your subpar art and design–they’re not the ones you’re worried about. You should be worried about the thousands upon thousands of backers who looked at your project and thought it looked like unicorn crap (even though there might be a great game underneath).
So here’s what you need to do before you reboot (and ideally before you launch in the first place): Ask someone who doesn’t give a damn about your feelings what they think about your art and design. In fact, readers, if you have an eye for great art and design and you’re willing to tell people their art and design sucks, post your BGG name in the comments below. I’m telling you, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and trouble if you hear it up front and can invest in a proper artist and designer before you launch or reboot.
Despite all those general points, Emil’s first point is probably the most important: Listen to your backers. They’re a savvy lot, and they’ll tell you most of what you need to know to improve your project for a successful reboot. Good luck!