Kickstarter Lesson #8: Reward Levels

3 February 2013 | 89 Comments

I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time. As I’ve said on a few other “lessons,” these are the opinions of one Kickstarter creator. The best way for you to figure out your reward levels is to study similar (and successful) projects on Kickstarter and know your costs through and through. Create a spreadsheet so you can easily compare reward level prices and number of backers.

Again, I’m going to focus on board game Kickstarter projects, but there are a few points I’d like to make for ANY Kickstarter project:

  1. Kickstarter is NOT a store: Kickstarter has been abundantly clear on this. It’s a place for people to make their passion projects a reality, and the people who support them get something in return. I used the term “pre-order” on the Viticulture project page to be succinct, but really the term isn’t accurate. People backed my board game dream project–they didn’t pre-order a game. To me, this idea that Kickstarter is not a store means that you should not charge store prices for the “product” you’re putting on Kickstarter. It’s up to you how low you want to go, but it should be lower than retail. Otherwise many people will wait to buy it when it comes out in stores. (For a great write-up about this, check out this blog entry by Stonemaier Games advisory board member and project creator David Winchester.)
  2. Kickstarter is NOT a charity: This is the second reason that you should not charge retail pricing–or higher–for any “products” you’re putting on Kickstarter. This is probably the number one thing I see project creators do wrong. They treat Kickstarter like a platform for charity. Just because people are supporting your dreams doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t offer them fair value for their support.
  3. Include a $1 pledge level: Not $2. Not $5. $1. $1 is very easy to spend, and here’s what you get from it: Backers who pledge to this reward level get your project updates in their inbox from then on, so you get to engage them and show them the type of project creator you are. The hope is that they’ll like what they see, and later on they’ll increase their pledge to get a copy of your creation. I also saw some backers who were part of group buys back the $1 level just to show their individual support. Have some fun with your reward at this level–we had a blast with Viticulture’s $1 level. [Update: This may not be as important as it was in 2013.) Here’s a longer article about the $1 reward.
  4. Urgency is important: This is something I’ve come to believe the more I study Kickstarter. You need to give potential backers as many reasons as possible to back the project NOW, not later. You might only get one chance to engage them as part of your dream, so if they think, “Oh, I’ll just come back later,” there’s a decent chance they’ll never return. The good news for backers is that if they support your project and they later decide it’s not for them, it’s totally fine–they can cancel their pledge anytime during the campaign (we let people cancel their pledge after the campaign as a show of goodwill). Give people a reason to back the project NOW instead of later.
  5. Structure your pricing so shipping and add-ons aren’t confusing for you: This is just an accounting note. For Viticulture, I had a $59 reward level and a $79 reward level, and international shipping was a $20 add-on. So I had a bunch of $79 pledges come through, and it was impossible to know from the subject line of the backer alert e-mail if it was a $79-level pledge or a $59-level + international shipping pledge.  It’s a tiny thing, but it’ll make your life a little easier.
  6. Don’t have too many reward levels: Yeah, I shouldn’t be talking after having so many reward levels on Viticulture. It’s a learning process, folks. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory that too many reward levels is confusing for backers–rather, I think the way you write reward levels is what separates the confusing projects from the non-confusing ones. I think 3 reward levels is the sweet spot, +/- 1. [This opinion is updated.]
  7. Give backers something NOW: Many of us who have backed multiple Kickstarter projects are used to waiting a long time to get our rewards. It’s just the name of the game–things take a while to be manufactured. However, there are some people that want something now, and that’s okay. Give those people a reward level that appeals to them. For Viticulture, that meant that we shipped out corkscrews and wine glasses to domestic backers within two weeks of the project ending. Those people will receive their games in May. This won’t work for every project, but if it works for yours, make it happen.

If you follow those guidelines, you’ll be fine. Here are a bunch of other recommendations and topics, mostly for board game projects:

Fleet - Build your fleet and master the high seas! by Gryphon and Eagle Games -- Keith Blume — Kickstarter

  • Early Bird: I worry about turning off backers who arrive to your project after the early bird level is filled up. Consider the following strategy instead. [Update from future Jamey: See the debate here.]
  • Delineate a limited reward from your anchor price at a level that is good for everyone: The classic example of this is on the project Fleet (see image on the right). Fleet has an anchor price of $20 for the base game. That got 16 backers. You could also pledge $23 and get 8 limited edition cards. 6 backers there. Or you could pay $25 and get those limited edition cards, plus a few more Kickstarter exclusive licenses cards. Check out the number of backers there. 946 backers! (For reference, the next pledge level is $45. This is a case of pricing economics where everyone wins. The cost for the creator of Fleet to include those extra cards is next to nothing, but he made a few extra dollars (which probably came in handy–as noted in the previous post, shipping can push you into the red if you’re not careful) from a ton of backers. And the backers win too, because they get a copy of a limited copy of the game at a reasonable price, and they feel like they got a great deal. Everyone wins.
  • Multiple copies at the right price: Have one or two reward levels where people can get extra copies of the game at a discount. If they believe in what you’re doing and are excited about the game, there’s a good chance they’ll want to give a copy to a friend. A great example of this is on the project Ground Floor. The anchor price for this game was $50. Michael Mindes also had a $120 reward level for 3 copies of the game, and 155 people backed at that level. That’s significant–that’s $18,600. Again, it’s a win-win. Backers get extra copies of the game at a discount, and you get the funds you need to make the project a reality. [Update from future Jamey: I don’t ascribe to this as much as I used to. I’d rather just find the lowest possible price I can offer to backers and offer everyone that price, no matter how many copies they get, with the exception being big bulk orders.]
  • Incorporate backers into the game as long as it doesn’t delay the project: Kickstarter is a way for people to make your passion projects a reality. Backers are there from the very beginning, forming the foundation of something big for you. Finding a way to incorporate them into the game is a great way to turn that foundation into a legacy. I think the two best ways to do this in a game are to include a backer’s name on a copy of a card in every copy of the game (I really like the way Mars Needs Mechanics did this in the flavor text of their cards, albeit at a ridiculously high price) and to include artistic renditions of backers on the cards. If you have a game with people on the cards and you’re putting the game on Kickstarter, there’s really no excuse that those people shouldn’t be your backers. And don’t charge $250 for that perk.  You have to pay the artist regardless of whether or not he or she is using a photo of one of your backers as inspiration. That doesn’t mean that some people won’t pay $250, and if your artist charges that much…well, you might want to find a more reasonable artist for 3-inch drawings. I think the very most you’d want to charge for this perk would be $100 more than the price of the game (so, $150 for a $50 game). Go as low as you can–this is such a cool way to include the backers in the future of your game! [Update from future Jamey: There are other dark sides to custom art–I probably won’t offer that option again.]
  • Multiple rewards: One thing that Kickstarter doesn’t do particularly well (or at all, really) is to allow backers to pledge to more than one reward level. So what if you have two very different reward levels that the same person might want to pledge to? (This happened with Viticulture.) There’s not much you can do, but there is something your backers can do: They can create additional Kickstarter accounts. It’s a little annoying, but it’s not hard to do. Your job as a project creator is to make sure backers know about that option, probably in the FAQ on your project page.

This is a monster post–sorry about that. I hope it was helpful. What are some of the best reward levels you’ve seen on a Kickstarter project?

Up Next: Kickstarter Lesson #9: Timing and Length

Leave a Comment

89 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #8: Reward Levels

  1. Hey Jamey, how would you accommodate for a project for 7 different enamel pins.
    Is there any way of ensuring each pin reaches its MOQ?

      1. Thanks for the quick reply! Yea it does seem to be a good question, just without many answers.
        I’ll do that thanks and ask John, seems fairly similar distributing wise!

  2. Hi Jamey,

    “Delineate a limited reward from your anchor price at a level that is good for everyone: The classic example of this is on the project Fleet (see image on the right). Fleet has an anchor price of $20 for the base game. That got 16 backers. You could also pledge $23 and get 8 limited edition cards. 6 backers there. Or you could pay $25 and get those limited edition cards, plus a few more Kickstarter exclusive licenses cards. Check out the number of backers there. 946 backers! (For reference, the next pledge level is $45.”

    When I read this, my thoughts are going: Is this worth the Effort? Not just make the $25 and the $45 Pledge. The $20 and $23 seems possibly like a lot of trouble, would you need to pay extra for an extra treatment packaging? extra barcodes, sending 11 $20 pledges to the USA Warehouse and 5 to the Europe one, and 5 $23 Pledges to US and 1 to europe, maybe getting one sent to the wrong backer resulting in frustration?

    Thank you for all the great posts Jamey!

    1. Klemens: I agree that the Fleet method is a bit outdated. I do still very much like the idea of the premium option, though: 1 option for the core game, and 1 option for a deluxe/premium version.

  3. Hi! I’ve read a bunch of your articles on KS, clarified a lot for me, and I’ve probably avoided some mistakes:-) Thanks! I’m doing a print run of a drawing I’ve got good feedback on, with the MAKE 100 kickstarter drive. And I’ve tweaked reward levels back and forth. Ive always got more options in my head so its hard to limit down to the 2-4 you suggest. Currently this is my idea. Do you think this makes sense? I include my headline and blurb for some context.

    Headline: Linescapes: Limited Edition Print + Meticulously Crafted Custom Portraits.

    Blurb:First and ONLY print run of 50 limited edition prints and custom made portraits of your favourite artist or loved one e.g. The style is born from my dream of letting go and to touch upon the simple yet complex of the universe. Time-consuming conscious detail and the pens journey of randomness and faith. Thousands of lines of Indian ink, on highest quality paper. Delivered signed, numbered (prints) and with Certificate of Authenticity.

    I just want ot helo out a bit $1
    A3, open edition unsigned. $30
    70×100 limited edition (capped at 40) signed, numbered, COA, Giclee print $150
    Gold remarqued 70×100 limited edition (capped at 10), signed, numbered, COA, giclee print $250

    The original $700 (only 1)

    Custom portraits
    A3 $200
    50×70 $350
    70×100 $500

    1. Thanks for sharing! On the surface, yes, this looks fine. However, I’m not your target audience. I would highly recommend talking to some people in your target audience to see if the prices are in line with what they would pay.

  4. Thanks Damian! I’m glad you’re finding this blog to be helpful. :)

    a. I’m now on the fence about $1 rewards, though I still lean towards my original opinion, which is described in detail here:

    b. Rewards and reward levels are the same thing. 12 is way too many. Stay focused on a few awesome, appealing rewards–any more than 7 rewards is going to be confusing and overwhelming for backers.

  5. Hey, Jamie! First of all, I want to THANK YOU for this entire blog, and the amount of knowledge and time you’ve put into it. I’ve printed (almost) every article and each night before I sleep I read a couple. It’s been months of preparation for my 1st campaign! So, thank you very much.

    Now, my 2 questions:

    a) You say “Include a $1 pledge level”… but you wrote this 6 years ago, I don’t know if then KS had the option it has now, that you can pledge $1 (and $0,10 if you want) even when there’s no $1 reward. Nowadays, a $1 reward with no actual reward (only a “thank you”), is not pointless?

    b) You say “I think 3 reward levels is the sweet spot, +/- 1”. Maybe “rewards levels” are not the same thing as “rewards”, or I’m missing something… Because every project I analyse has at least 12 different rewards, up to 30! I’m not planning more than 15. But only 3? :/

    Thank you again. Cheers from Buenos Aires.

  6. Jamey! I have absolutely loved this post and it has been extremely helpful! I was very intrigued by the Extravagant rewards level but cant seem to wrap my mind around an option that would be fitting. Can you give any examples of other projects that have done something similar?

  7. Great post Jamey! Had a followup question on the add on extra copy at the same price in a level i.e. for Scythe pledge #2 “Add up to 2 more copies at $59 each”.

    Question – Who does the math here? Would that be a KS tool or the person making the pledge? Does the pledge’r add shipping value (say 3x for 3 if there is a shipping cost mainly for international – as US shipping as generally factored in)?

    Another side effect, for e.g. if the person does the pledge and he mistakenly pledge $167 for 3 (should be $177), do the admin need to find that out and correct it in a private correspondence?

    The point we are making is does the “math” calculation and properly accounting for shipping (if there is non-zero shipping for US and international) make it confusing for do the “add up to x more copies at $yy each” add-on OR do you use a automated tool to cover this. Thanks!

    1. CoderBunnyz: Good question. The backer does the math. It would be great if Kickstarter automated add-ons, but they currently don’t do that. The only automation they provide is the shipping fee.

      The vast majority of backers take care of the math without a problem. I use a spreadsheet after the project to sort through pledges and make sure people didn’t overpay or underpay. Some creators use third-party pledge managers for this purpose.

  8. Hi Jamey, great to see you at Geekway! I read your book, and this blog entry on how to construct an effective project page, and, so far so good… but, after receiving feedback on my KS page…. i’m realizing that EVERYONE has an opinion, haha. Can you clear up these four quandaries and give me your best recommendation on each?

    1. SEPARATE TIER FOR RETAILERS?: In my $1 pledge, I invite retailers to choose the $1 level and contact me for retail packages (like you did at one point)…… but, some say that I should CREATE a separate tier at which retailers can acquire multiple copies of the game… Shouldn’t bulk order pricing be handled privately?
    2. NUMBER OF REWARDS?: Your blog says 5-7 with 7 being the “sweet spot.” Some folks are freaking out that there are that many and suggesting I should just have 2-3 rewards and roll ALL my other rewards into stretch goals. What’s the most effective way of divvying up the goodies? (Currently, I just have 3 expansions as stretch goals)
    3. EU FRIENDLY BEFORE RESULTS?: Folks keep asking me whether I’m EU Friendly.(I’ve read your post on this)…. Backer Kit told me to say, “Based on sufficient geographic interest, we will ship games in bulk to fulfillment centers around the world to reduce customs fees & VAT and to keep shipping prices low.” But, that’s not EXACTLY EU friendly… it’s more of “I hope to be,” right? If so, I can’t exactly use the EU friendly logo can i? What am I missing?
    4. EXPANSIONS AS STRETCH GOALS?: My stretch goals will unleash 3 different expansions, each with its own unique box. I’m being told that this will be a nightmare to fulfill as I’m creating new boxes instead of just adding pieces to the game. (The boxes form a mural, and this is part of the art and appeal…but…. Am I biting off too much here?)

    1. Mark: These are great questions! I’ll address them one by one. These are my opinions, not definitive answers.

      1. Yes, I think bulk order pricing should be handled privately for retailers.
      2. I’ll revise my number, because I think 3-5 is the new recommended range. I had 5 on Scythe, and it felt like a lot. Ideally it would be $1, core reward, then premium version of core reward.
      3. If you insist that BackerKit ship in bulk to the EU before sending individual shipments, you can call it EU friendly. Usually you have control over that kind of thing–it sounds like the missing element is control.
      4. I wouldn’t call it a nightmare, but you’re probably adding significant expenses that you could save by not printing the boxes at all and avoiding the pick-and-pack fees. Plus, even though I appreciate the aesthetic you’re aiming for, most people just want to combine the expansions into the core game box after they open them anyway–people value shelf space.

  9. Thks Jamey!
    How simple does that sound…but I didn’t quite get it…
    What worries me is that if I were to have those other games via stretch goals, I would have to be extra careful because every stretch goal that is unlocked will give a new game to the backers and if I am increasing backers, I can be blown off in costs if not well calculated…
    I had thought of this possibility at first, but it scares me to not do my numbers correctly because of so many variables that could go wrong.
    Well, there is something I didn’t know and that is that I can add reward levels DURING the campaign.

    By the way, this is why it gets tricky:
    I would have two core rewards, which are a limited ALLREADY printed first edition, in which we will put a very small amount for immediate delivery. We are calling this reward level the FOUNDERS limited edition which I hope will be appealing to backers that want to have it soon. But we would also have a second edition for future delivery, as is the norm in Kickstarter projects…so I still wouldn’t know how to do the Kickstarter within the Kickstarter.

    And why would you not encourage me to run separate Kickstarter projects for every game? What are the set backs you see in that?

    I hope I have been able to explain what troubles me…
    So grateful for your time!

    Please, give me a bit more light…


    Matt from Holiplay Games

    1. Matt: I’m actually not suggesting that you use stretch goals to give away a new game for free. My comment said that stretch goals would simply open new reward levels, and backers could upgrade their pledge if they want to.

      You’re not allowed to sell existing inventory through Kickstarter. They rarely enforce that rule, but I wanted to make you aware of it.

      I didn’t encourage you to run multiple campaigns because you said in your previous comment that you don’t want to do that.

  10. Matt: Thanks for your question! So you’re trying to Kickstart a series of related games, but you need to reach certain thresholds before you can unlock some of those games. That sounds like a good fit for stretch goals. Like, if you start with 3 games, when you reach a certain funding level, open a new reward level for the 4th game. Just build in enough buffer so if you lose some funding at the end, you can still make all of the games you unlocked.

  11. Hi Jamey!

    I need to ask you some specific questions regarding Kickstarter rewards.

    The issue is that I’m trying to think of a way to do a Kickstarter WITHIN a Kickstarter project.

    I know, the first thing you would say is to do different Kickstarter projects for each one but the context of our Kickstarter has to do precisely about been able to the whole 8 games series.
    We have already done a limited edition print of two of the games that involve Math. But there are more games that are developed but not yet printed.

    So what I wanted to ask you if that is possible or if has been done before.

    So here is the thing…I want to have for two specific reward levels, in between the other reward levels, that would need a minimum amount of pledges in order for that reward level to be activated.

    My fear is that, since those pledges would go towards the funding goal, if at the end of the campaign, that minimum amount of pledges are not achieved, it could slump or even make the funding goal fail.

    I would appreciate so much your insight on this.

    I sent you the main video link we would be using for the campaign before but I’ll send it again just in case you want to check it out once more so you can have better understanding of the other games and how they are a complement towards having THE SET and not necessarily products that should be managed in different Kickstarter projects.

    Here’s the link!


    Matt from Holiplay Games

  12. Didn’t get to that post you mentioned yet, sorry (I’m trying to read the post as displayed in the chronological list) but I will as soon as possible, thanks!

  13. alcostas: Good question. There are a few ways to do this, some of which are explained in detail in my posts about add-ons. Basically, you have two options: Print and package different versions of the same game with all of the variations customized inside each box OR print one standard version of the game and a bunch of external add-ons for your fulfillment center to pack together and ship to backers.

    Both have pros and cons. Overall it’s much simpler to just offer 2 or 3 versions of the game, with each one having a box that clearly differentiates each version. It’s cheaper to ship when the fulfillment company isn’t grabbing 6 different add ons from different cartons (and reduces human error), and it’s a lot less hassle for you as you’re sorting through all the backer data. The downside is that you can’t just print, say, 50 special editions. Usually there’s a minimum of 1000 units for every component. However, that really depends on the manufacturer–check with them.

  14. As I was reading the post, useful as always, a question about shipping pops up:

    How do you customize the sending of special copies of a game with rewards as extra cards or unique components that you need to add over the standard game?

    I though that maybe the manufacturer (or even Amazon itself in case you are using it) would do it, but it seems quite tricky and inefficient to me.

  15. Gino: This is a great question–thanks for asking it. I’ll try to address it in a blog entry soon, but for now I’ll do my best to answer it here.

    Yours is a bit of a unique situation because it sounds like the budget doesn’t offer much flexibility at all. If you decide to proceed, your team will need to personally commit to covering the added costs even if you just barely reach your funding goal.

    As for the the various methods of accomplishing the goals you describe in your comment, I think you have a few options. The first is simply to add new rewards to the existing limited reward level. Perhaps you could check if this is still possible–Kickstarter may no longer allow this. The upside to that is you don’t clutter your reward sidebar. The downside is that it may be a turnoff to the backers who felt super special to get in on those rewards, and now they might feel incrementally less special. I think if you message them with an explanation before you do it, it’ll be fine.

    Alternatively, you could do as you suggest and create a new reward level. If you make it cost more than the original reward level, it might feel like an early bird to people who discovered it “late”–now they have to pay more than the backers at the original level. But if you make it the same price, the effect I described in the previous paragraph could happen (though again, if you message those backers first, I don’t think it will be a problem).

    So overall I think my recommendation is to offer the same reward at the same price, ideally by adding more slots to the existing reward level so you don’t clutter and confuse the reward sidebar. This will involve a potential personal expense from you or your team if you barely reach your funding goal, but it will also increase your chances of reaching and exceeding that goal.

  16. Hi Jamey, have you ever encountered a problem regarding only just reaching the funding goal when adding additional pledge levels after a campaign has gone live?

    We’re about to add some additional pledges to our campaign because our Custom Art pledges sold out straight away. We totalled up the cost to produce additional cards (think like Custom Promos for backers) and it was more expensive than the original cost of the custom artwork pledges that would get people into the game itself.

    We didn’t want to raise the price any higher so we were just going to add the new pledge levels at cost. However, we soon realised that if we did that and sold all them we’d actually be putting ourselves in a really bad situation.

    Each of our original pledges has had their costs factored into our total funding goal, but adding these new pledges adds additional costs to the project, but we can’t raise the funding goal of the campaign.

    So by only breaking even on these new pledges we would cover the cost of the pledge itself, but the cost of the whole project would increase and our funding goal wouldn’t.

    If we only just reached our funding goal we would then actually be under-funded by the cost of the new pledge levels.

    It seems like the only way to avoid this would be to add a margin of ‘profit’ that matches the cost of the new pledge, to offset the additional cost added to the campaign budget. Is there a better solution without risking being under budget even though you reach your funding goal?

  17. Thanks for that. I set our pledges that the more you spend the better the reward is. Just like in shopping when you buy more you generraly get a bigger discount. I.e £100 will reward 2 games, where as £75 only one.

  18. Jay: Thanks for your question. I think the vast majority of backers want the core product, not extra goodies. I’d recommend cutting out the extra goodies and focusing on giving backers the core product at a compelling cost and fair shipping fees.

  19. Good post, how would people feel about not receiving a game with free EU dleivery until they pledged £75? But receiving extra, extra goodies such a unique T-shirt, calendar and poster, along with the person names in the rule book?

  20. Rene: Thanks for sharing your opinion, though I actually recommend something slightly different to project creators, in that I think backers stay engaged the best if you send post-campaign updates when something important or exciting is happening (whether it’s good or bad), when you have new information, or when you need backers’ help with a decision. If, however, several weeks have passed where nothing really is happening (particularly when a product is in production), creators should post an update to reassure backers that things are still moving forward.

    This blog entry is about reward levels, not project updates, but if you’d like to comment further, here are my KS Lessons on that topic:

  21. One thing I prefer: send an update EVERY week. It keeps your funders informd. Guessing the status of manufactering and thus delivery is not my favorite.

  22. Love your games and your blog. On the multiple rewards topic – multiple accounts doesn’t seem like the right solution to me, but maybe there’s no way around it. Multi-rewards has been killing Last Starfleet which is live now but not where I want it at this point. I’m trying to restructure rewards for a probable relaunch but I still have some limited# and other unlimited# rewards. I got on it too late this first try, but I’m having backers that want a limited# reward choose one of the limited# rewards (email me if they want two different things that are limited# – Then I manually adjust available quantity on the other limited# rewards they wanted). They have to add $ to their original back for add-on game expansions or copies of the core game. I guess I could just say that each backer can only have 1 of the limited# rewards and then add the “include extra $ for copies of the game or add-ons” text to all the levels. I could ditch most of the differing quantity back levels and any mention of “limited vs. unlimited.” Still, it doesn’t feel right. Backers can only get one way-cool limited reward and they have to “come back” to add $ when we reach a stretch goal unlocking another expansion. Any ideas about unlocking add-ons that require additional $? Or, the problem with only one limited reward per backer?

    P.S. – Dear KS – How hard is a multi-select button?! Seriously! :/

    You rock, man! Cheers, ~Sam

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sam. I agree that this is an area that could improve with a little coding. But for now we’re stuck with patchwork solutions. I try to address it by keeping pledge levels really simple and having a few add-ons, but even after putting instructions on the page for how to do add-ons, I still get a ton of questions about them. That solution works fine with limited reward levels, and you can continue to add new add-ons throughout the project as you wish.

      1. Yeah, I can’t wait until they fix that! I’m going with the approach of asking backers to add $ for expansions or multiple copies – not elegant, but I want everyone coming back to vote on changes anyway. In case anyone wants multiple limited rewards, I added instructions in FAQ to email me and I’ll manually update available quantities. Just thought I ‘d follow up on where I landed. Thanks!

  23. Hi Jamey,

    Just started building up my project in KS.

    I know that you used what you call a “bulk buy level”, where you offer several games in a single package. Great idea.

    But now I see what KS writes in its guidelines:

    IMPORTANT: As of September 20, 2012, projects in the Hardware and Product Design categories are prohibited from offering multiple quantities of a single reward. Projects in these categories can only offer one reward per pledge, with the exception of rewards that truly function as a set (e.g., salt and pepper shakers or building blocks). Offering a reward as a single quantity AND a set is not permitted.

    How do both things (your bulk buy level & KS multiple quantities guidelines) go hand in hand?

    Thank you very much,

    1. Hi Roy: Sure, good question. Note that the guidelines specifically mention “Hardware and Product Design” categories. This rule doesn’t apply to any of the other categories on Kickstarter (games, music, dance, etc). Thanks!

  24. Right, that’s true that many early backers will be people who know you (if you treat them well!) And your friends don’t need a special bonus to get them to back. The concern about adding a physical component is that if anyone else finds out about it later, they’re going to to want it too. :)

  25. My goal is to incentivice my fanbase to not procrastinate their contribution so we get the buzz in the first days. From my experience most early backers are friends anyway, so I guess there won’t be so many early backers who receive a bonus they didn’t know of.

  26. Good point. So I guess it should be some tangible non-digital bonus that I can’t give everyone for free and communicate this bonus only in the personal emails I send out to my followers (and perhaps on my website). Some other early followers may then be surprised to get a bonus they didnt hear of but I guess that is good :)
    And late backers will hardly notice anything, so no envy ;)

    1. Well, it all depends on your goal. Is your goal to attract backers to your project right away? Or is your goal to reward early backers without them knowing they’re going to be rewarded?

  27. On one hand it’s a clever idea–you’re rewarding early backers without punishing future backers. On the other, giving people access to a digital file costs you nothing, so you’re going to have non-early bird backers ask why you can’t just send it to them too, and you’re going to awkwardly have to say no and that they should have discovered your project faster. :)

    Now, you might be suggesting that you don’t advertise the digital book at all, which is fine, but then you lose the promotional incentive to get people to back early.

  28. I understand the reasons why you don’t like to limit a reward based on time. For someone with a smaller fanbase than you it is not so likely though that custom art will sell so fast and give your campaign an early boost. So I had the idea to simply offer the first 100 backers who order the game (no matter which of the game rewards) a bonus like a digital artbook of the game or sth like that. This way you may give most people who intend to back a reason to do so now, but people who come in late are not so much confronted with their missed opportunity as it does not appear in the list of rewards.
    What do you think about it?

  29. Hey Jamey,

    I follow your very valuable lessons for a while now as I plan a crowdfunding campaign on startnext for my own strategy game “Green Deal”.

    In this lesson you wrote:
    “Scarcity is important: This is something I’ve come to believe the more I study Kickstarter. You need to give potential backers as many reasons as possible to back the project NOW, not later.”

    In your current and outstandingly successful Tuscany Kickstarter, you did not use any limited rewards for the lower tiers. Did you change your mind or what were your reasons for doing so?

    Thank you for your help and greetings from Berlin/Germany,

    1. Juma: Indeed, I’ve changed my philosophy on early bird rewards over time. I think it’s important to have some special limited pledge levels that need to be limited (like for custom art), but limiting a standard pledge level based on time isn’t something I like. The entire concept of a Kickstarter campaign is that you have a limited amount of time to get the product.

      Now, I saw that as someone who has created several Kickstarter campaigns at this point. For a new project creator, you might need to do some things differently to get that initial boost. I think there are more effective ways to do that than early bird levels, but a well-conceived early bird level on your first project isn’t going to hurt your brand in the long term.

  30. We’re getting ready to start a project for a homebrew supply and instruction store (beer, wine, mead, cider, soda). I’d love to use your $1 video toast idea. Do you mind?

      1. Yeah, I was thinking I may play on the wording a little bit, depending on the amount of backers. Maybe we take turns – that way it’s still “a sip” for each backer, just not a sip from each of us. Spread it out a little!

  31. I agree with everything you’ve said to this point, except… KickStarter is VERY MUCH a store. You give me $35, I give you a game. Money, product, store. It doesn’t matter what KickStarter “says.” FWIW, the IRS and all of the state governments are taxing it like a store as well.

  32. Awesome post. I find myself referring to this lesson over-and-over again. What do you think about (prototype copy) reward levels, where backers can get a copy of the game as soon as it is ready? I have seen this a few times especially when the project launches close to the holidays.

    1. Jeffrey–Sure, I’ve seen this work well. The only slight problem I see with it is that the work and/or expense you put in those prototypes will be greatly disproportional to the work you put into every other copy of the game, and in the end it’s just a prototype, not the real deal. So just make sure you know what you’re getting into when you create a reward level like that.

  33. It’s interesting that it’s so noticeable that backers are coming and going–usually I think that’s hard to notice.

    Near the end of a project, I think it’s pretty typical for a few people who made impulse decisions early on to pull back their early-bird bids. But usually they get filled right away–it’s very odd that 5-10 would be open. I think that might reflect on the quality of the project itself.

    Byzantio used a new method that I haven’t seen before (I didn’t even know you could close an active reward level). I think that’s pretty clever. But overall, I think early-bird bids are for first-time creators. Once you have an audience, you don’t need gimmicks to get them to back from day one. There are more compelling ways to encourage backers to back right away.

    1. The thing is, it’s *very* noticeable to have filled limited slots go unfilled and remain there for long. Specially for the EB levels, which are among the first levels in the pledge structure.

      In this case, more than the quality of the product, it’s probably a matter of the way the campaign is structured – as it stands now, 410 out of 447 backers are getting early bird price one way or another, because there are 250 EB slots (245 filled) plus a ton of bundles which offer the product at EB price – only 37 backers are getting the game at the ‘regular’ level price, which seems like a weird result all things considered.

      Perhaps it’s an unintended consequence of the amount of bundles offered – I think they have been incrementing the number of possible combinations during the campaign. Bundles are essentially added games, but they are managing it via pledge levels instead of as addons – so when an early bird moves his/her pledge up to a bundle, it frees the EB spot.

      Things seem to be picking up today, and I hope the project has a strong finish – the offering is really nice.

      1. Indeed, it is very noticeable when those earlier bird levels aren’t full. In a project like the one you’re describing, sometimes it’s tough to get backers to consider unlimited levels given the sheer amount of discounted levels. You don’t want to feel like you’re getting a bad deal.

        Could you e-mail me a link to this project? I’d like to take a look at what you’re describing.

    2. Also – the first project I saw that closed a pledge level was Pebble. But that’s because they realized that they would not be able to deliver as good a product for backers in time if they kept allowing people to pledge for more watches ;)

  34. I’m backing a project right now in which I’m seeing a quite high rate of attrition. Each day, new backers come but others go, so the final number of backers has barely changed in the last week or so. Besides being annoying to watch ($28K! oh, it’s $27,900 again. $28K! oh, its $27,900 again), I have realized that a significant amount of the ‘deserters’ are people in the early bird slots.

    I wonder whether this is a factor to consider – by having particularly juicy early bird levels, you might encourage some people to jump on the bandwagon as early birds not because they are particularly excited to participate in your project, but just to “reserve a seat” – just to have them fail to follow through in the end. Which is essentially contrary to what early birds slots hope to achieve.

    Of course, the project I’m talking about is a quite special case because of the way it’s structured – most backers are either early birds or getting early bird price in a bundle, and the regular, non-early bird level is rather lightly filled. But it’s not great to look at a project in the final days and see 5-10 early bird slots still open, or ~ 5 times as many early birds than backers at the regular level. It makes the project look stagnant.

    I quite liked what Byzantio did – they had a time-limited EB slot (they capped it a few days into the campaign instead of having a set number of slots), and I think that whenever there were a few EB slots open they capped them again so that EB spots were generally not available after the date passed.

  35. This is a great post! I’m a backer of several projects, and I think you’ve nailed why I’ve pledged my support. For each campaign I supported, they created a sense of, “I’ve got to back this now, or I’ll be missing out”–either because of exclusives (usually bling) or because of discounts.

      1. I do feel slighted if I’m late to the party. I’ve backed a few campaigns that had them, but only because I got in on the early bird level myself (in one case because I snapped up someone else’s dropped early bird), not afterward. I understand why they’re popular, but they’re a turn-off for me. Even if the game is a great deal otherwise, it’s hard to kick the feeling that there was an even better deal to be had if I were in the right place at the right time. I realize this isn’t in the generous spirit of supporting someone’s dream, but if I’m honest, it’s borne out in how I back.

        1. Sure, I completely understand, and that’s really good feedback. I’m definitely leaning heavily against doing an early bird reward level (but I want to find a way to reward early backers).

    1. Great post!

      I’m gearing up for my first kickstarter for my new card game, and I see many kickstarter campaigns having success with offering a base game and then offering an expanded version of the game with extra cards for slightly more money as mentioned above.

      When talking to our printing company, though (we’re planning to use Print Ninja), they’ve said that these two versions of the game would be treated as entirely separate products and would both have 500 unit order minimums. It would seem that literally printing an “expansion pack” with its own box (rather than just including the extra cards in the original game box) would not be cost-effective either.

      How do other kickstarters handle this? Do they truly produce a literal standalone expansion pack and hand-bundle this with the base game? Or is there a better way to approach printing two slightly different versions of the game? Thanks!

      1. Chris: Thanks for your question. I think it’s a bit unusual that Print Ninja would separate the two as if they’re different products even though there’s a lot of overlap between the two. Most manufacturers make each of the components per your request, and then they assemble them per your request (separate operations).

      2. Hello Jamey,

        We are a group of 1st time game makers making a football board game so all this info is amazing.
        We have been unsure over this same point as to how it works at manufacturing when you have 3 pledge levels, so essentially 3 slightly different versions of the game but a MOQ of 1500 from your manufacturer. Have you found that manufacturers will be willing to produce 3 slightly different versions of the game to make-up the 1500 total?
        For us, 3 versions would be something like:
        Basic version: 2 generic teams
        Ultimate: 6 teams + powercards
        Deluxe: 12 teams + powercards + legend players.
        And if they are willing to do 3 versions, at what point are these versions packaged up? At the manufacturer or at the fulfillment using pick and pack?

        1. One option we were also looking at was to just tier up the versions of the game via stretch goals so that every backer gets the same and reduce confusion/risk of wrong orders at manufacturing and fulfillment…
          I.e. Pledge of £30 gets you the Basic game.
          But if the stretch goal of say +25% is reached then everyone gets the Ultimate game (6 teams + powercards)
          If stretch goal of say +50% is reached everyone gets the Deluxe game (12 teams + powercards + legend players).
          As first time creators we are keen to keep it as simple as possible and avoid confusion. What do you think of the idea of increasing what is in the game for everyone just by stretch goals?

          1. Thanks for your questions, Mark. The key is that each component produced–no matter how it’s used–must have a quantity equal to order greater than 1000.

            I’d suggest reading my posts about stretch goals, but yes, what you’ve described here is a viable method for offering everyone the same thing if the project overfunds. I’d also recommend reading about the “Root” method described here:

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