Kickstarter Lesson #76: How to Run a Game Expansion Kickstarter Campaign

23 January 2014 | 12 Comments

Note: Most of the Kickstarter Lessons apply to all kinds of projects, but this post specifically applies to tabletop game projects.

With our upcoming Kickstarter campaign for the expansion pack to Viticulture, Tuscany, coming up in mid-March, I’ve been working on the project page for a few weeks now. A lot of the decisions I’m making are a result of other expansion campaigns I’ve followed in the past, so I thought I would formally compile that data and share it here to help other Kickstarter creators.

This is a very specific category: Kickstarter projects for expansions to games that were originally funded on Kickstarter (thanks to Matt Wolfe for brainstorming some projects that fit this category). My research felt a little bit like the case studies I did on reboots of failed Kickstarter projects.

Let’s get right to the data, and we can see what we can learn from each of these projects. You can view the data and even add future projects here.

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Among the Stars: The original game was actually on IndieGoGo, but the data still seems relevant. Two things to note are that they doubled the funding goal for the expansion pack (from $8k to $15k) and the cost of the expansion ($26) was less than half of the cost of the original game ($55).

Pixel Lincoln: This one is fascinating because the original game did so well ($41k), but the expansion tanked ($10k). Perhaps it might have something to do with the expansion ($35) costing more than the original game ($25)?

Eminent Domain: This was one of the first games ever on Kickstarter, and they waited the longest of any of the other campaigns to launch their expansion (2.5 years). I think that’s probably too long, but TMG does a good job of continuing to get their games in the public eye well after the initial hype, so it worked for them.

Zpocalypse: Like Pixel Lincoln, the expansion campaign for Zpocalypse actually raised less ($190k) than the original ($210k). I think that’s an indication that there was either something wrong with the quality of the original game or with the expansion campaign, because the expansion campaign should bring in more people, not less. I can’t speak to the quality of Zpocalypse, but I can say that the reward levels on the expansion page were so confusing that I couldn’t find the one that represented the actual expansion.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: I cheated a little bit on this one, because the original game of Sentinels wasn’t funded on Kickstarter. However, their first expansion campaign, Rook City, feels a little bit like an original KS project because there is a reward level just for the original game. They had an interesting reward level that just involved hard-to-get promos from past versions of Sentinels.

Zombicide: The big boy of the bunch. The original campaign raised $781k, and the follow-up eclipsed $2 million. What’s interesting here is that they actually raised the price–the original game was $75, but both expansions cost $100.

Flash Point: On the original campaign, the game was $35. On the expansion campaign, the expansion was $32, and the game plus the expansion was $100. I don’t quite understand the math, but the result was good: The expansion campaign raised over $177k.

Fleet: The price of the Fleet expansion ($25) was a little higher than the original game ($20). Fleet is a good example of using anchor prices to drive backers towards premium levels.

Dungeon Heroes: As several people in the comments pointed out, this was a really unique expansion campaign because it was launched just 1 month after the original campaign. The original campaign didn’t meet a key stretch goal that a subset of the backers wanted, so Crash Games wisely created a new campaign just for that stretch goal.

Alien Frontiers: This may have been the first game on Kickstarter, period. The game got rave reviews, and they followed it up with an expansion campaign a little over a year later (and then an even bigger 4th edition campaign 2 years after that).

Patterns and Trends

The major trend I notice between all of these expansion campaigns is that the creators appear to have learned some sort of lesson the first time around. For example, all but one of the funding goals increased for the expansion campaigns. Many prices went up as well, almost as if they charged too little the first time around and didn’t want to make the same mistake.

For the most part, all expansion campaigns raised more money and drew more backers than the original campaigns. It makes sense–if you have a game on the market for a year or so, more people will be aware of it and will want a piece of the pie. But I think it’s harder than it looks, because you have to appeal to previous backers and buyers as well as new backers. The previous backers just want the expansion at a great price and full of great stuff, and new backers need the full game and the expansion, which is a much higher barrier to entry.

Lessons

  • Pricing: Price the expansion at a lower price than the original game, and offer the two together at a slight discount.
  • Timing: Launch the expansion campaign about 12-18 months after the original campaign ends. Do not launch the expansion campaign before you deliver the original game (credit to @RMBLees for pointing out that’s what Zpocalypse did).
  • Focus: Keep the focus on the expansion by only offering the original game as part of a combo pack, not by itself. If people just want the original game, they can order it from your website, but ordering it off the Kickstarter by itself will overinflate the funds you need to actually make the expansion.
  • Parity: Don’t assume everyone knows about the original campaign. Make it very easy for them to learn about the original game by linking to reviews, videos, rules, etc.

What do you think? If you followed any of those expansion campaigns, what did you learn from them?

12 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #76: How to Run a Game Expansion Kickstarter Campaign

  1. I know of two more campaigns that you might find interesting. :)

    1. Drunk Quest included a free expansion as a stretch goal. However, after they completed fulfillment of the base game, they realized they didn’t have enough funding so they brought it back to Kickstarter. (Backers from their original campaign didn’t have to contribute to get the expansion, but they included a pledge level at a discounted price for original backers who wanted the new stretch goal extras.)

    2. Dungeon Heroes also offered an expansion with the base game in its original campaign (IIRC it was an optional add-on). Then shortly after it funded (maybe a few weeks or a month), they started a second campaign to upgrade the game components of both the base game and expansion. And it was really successful.

    By the way, how do you account for the over-inflation of funds that occurs when including the base game at all (or any product not part of the campaign), even as a combo? Other than limiting the number of pledge levels available (like you did with Viticulture during the Euphoria campaign)?

    1. Christi: Those are two great examples–thank you for sharing them, especially since both seem to have a unique story behind them.

      Accounting for that overinflation is tough. My approach is this: When I run the KS project for Tuscany, I’m going to be very clear that the campaign is about raising funds for Tuscany, not the second printing of Viticulture. That means that we need to have enough cash on hand to afford the second printing of Viticulture even if we only sell a few hundred copies of it through the Tuscany campaign. That’s one side of the overinflation.

      The other side is the funding for Tuscany itself. I think the key here is to not offer Viticulture by itself through the Tuscany campaign. That way, whenever someone pledges to a reward with Viticulture, I know they’re getting Tuscany too, so the Tuscany numbers are never being undercut. If I didn’t do it that way, I might sell 400 copies of Viticulture by itself and 700 copies of Tuscany to reach our funding goal, but that’s not nearly enough to make the minimum print run of 1500 copies of Tuscany.

  2. Pricing: I think this is very dependent on the nature of the expansion. Zombicide: S2 for example is standalone, hence the same price (They’re both $100 to include stretch goals, the lower 75 is without). Certainly if including the original there should be a discount on the price, equal to or better than what online retailers provide (Going by MSRP isn’t attractive).

    Timing: What you said is about right, but more specifically 6-12 months after the original rewards are delivered. If your delivery is late, the expansion should go back too so people have a time to get used to it and enjoy it, not to mention spread the word about it.

    Focus: I definitely agree the focus should be the expansion. I think ideally you want the original to still be available at retail, as people can buy it during the campaign, then pledge if they like it (I did this with Among the Stars!), but sometimes a part of the expansion kick-starter is to fund a reprint so it’s not possible – In which case I might argue an original game level is ok.

    Parity: I really agree here. I’ve seen a few projects on kickstarter where they go all in about talking up the expansion, and I’ve just walked away not having the faintest clue what the game is about. Even a big fat link to information on it is better than nothing, but video’s/reviews are perfect to give people an idea of the general reception for the game.

    1. Chris: That’s a great point about timing (I actually added a note about that after getting a tweet from someone about Zpocalypse).

      It’s also true that sometimes an expansion campaign is trying to raise money for a reprint (Alien Frontiers did that…in fact, I completely forgot about Alien Frontiers. I’ll add it). I don’t know if that’s the best way to go because it divides your focus and may confuse backers, but it’s not too divergent from the core goal.

  3. I backed ED:E…I missed ED entirely (I didn’t join KS until Ogre…and then went into it big-time)…

    I was thrilled to grab both games. The ED:E KS seemed to go pretty good, plenty of communication, the pledge levels were straightforward and easy to understand.

    I definitely wouldn’t have gone for it if I didn’t feel that I could get the base game at a good price…plus, all the original games were reprints with some fixes, changes, etc.

    I also backed Dungeon Heroes…but didn’t back the follow-on campaign…(I was tight for funds, or I would have). However, it was an interesting way of hitting a stretch goal that was missed by the primary campaign.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, kemn. That’s a great reminder about the importance of price. Once a game has been out for a while, “cult of the new” pricing no longer applies. It looks like most of the examples above took this into account.

  4. Check out DrunkQuest and DrunkQuest 90 Proof Seas. There are two major things to keep in mind, 1. LootCorps offered a free expansion to all backers as a stretch goal in the base KS and 2. if you look at the daily statistics, a shoutout from popular DrunkenMoogle really boosted the campaign midway through. That said, despite the lack of significant shoutout and some backers not feeling required to join in the second campaign, the project did about equally as well as the base game. Might be worth checking out what they did.

    After reading the first comment, I see that it’s already been mentioned, but I don’t feel like pressing ctrl + a, delete. So yeah, it’s here as well :P

  5. I just finished reading your Kickstarter lesson posts, one word… incredible. I have a Kickstarter project launching this month, and have been searching the web for information, ideas, and advice. I haven’t found anything as detailed and informative as yours. I definitely have some work to do.

  6. I dont think more time will change much for me, have been preparing for a # of weeks already. I felt like I had been spinning my wheels for a little while, trying to figure out exactly how to properly do things. Your posts did a great job in clearing a lot of that up.

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