Pre-Launch Stretch Goals (KS Lesson #273)

5 March 2020 | 12 Comments

Many of the most successful Kickstarter projects start with a strong launch day. Starting strong isn’t a matter of luck or timing; rather, the projects that attract backers on Day 1 are those that have gathered a substantial crowd of potential backers well before that day.

Kickstarter has even made it easy for creators to share a snippet of their project where people can click “notify me,” with the total tally shown on the preview page (like on Frosthaven, below). This can also be done through Backerkit Launch or more manually through MailChimp, like what we did to contribute to the wildfire relief efforts in Australia.

Recently, however, some innovative creators have taken pre-launch signups to a new level. Some, Wonderland’s War and Return to Dark Tower offered early project followers a special component for free if they later back the project. Others, like Monumental (via Ian Blackburn) and Iwari use a plugin called Gleam to generate social media activity and ultimately give away a free copy of the product to a random winner.

My favorite version of this so far is what Thundergryph did for Tang Garden, as they both rewarded early followers (if they later backed the game) and contributed to environmental conservation efforts.

But the innovation doesn’t stop there! As keenly observed by Cody from Gold Nugget Games, a few creators have started creating pre-launch stretch goals. For example, for Tumble Town, Carla from Weird Giraffe Games set a pre-launch goal of 500 followers. If they reached that goal–which was easily visible on their pre-launch Kickstarter page–every backer of the game would receive a free expansion. Cody mentioned that Chad from 25th Century Games did something similar for Jurassic Parts.

I really like this for the same reason I like stretch goals in general: By joining in, each person helps themselves and all other backers. That is, the special rewards aren’t limited to those who sign up. This increases the chances that people might share the project pre-launch (unlike giveaways, which discourage sharing).

Also, by reaching a stretch goal before launch, you trigger the psychological benefits of endowed progress–backers feel like they’re already ahead on Day 1.

I think there’s a limit, though. One pre-launch stretch goal is fine, but I’d worry about adding more, as a potential backer offers a very different value than an actual backer. Even though they’re mostly a marketing tool, I think stretch goals are the most effective when they’re tied–even loosely–to economies of scale.

Of course, I’d love to hear what you think! What pre-launch strategy for attracting potential backers is most appealing to you? What do you think about the idea of a pre-launch stretch goal?

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12 Comments on “Pre-Launch Stretch Goals (KS Lesson #273)

  1. Hi Jamey, I’m not too sure if this would be the best post to comment on, but I will be happy to repost if necessary. I have decided to try my hand at designing my first game during this pandemic, and I have just completed building my second prototype. I have tried to gain play testing feed back by building a Tabletop Simulator copy. I would eventually like to build a crowdfunding campaign, but I want to ensure that I have a completed project that is able to be deliverable to backers as quickly as is possible once the campaign ends.

    I am wondering if creating stretch goals that are centered around backers receiving prototypes, and making the appearance of components better are good areas to focus on?

    1. Thanks for your question, Andrew! Congrats on building your second prototype. Stretch goals are typically designed to benefit all backers through additional and upgraded components. I think backers want the finished, polished product, not a prototype (though they like having access to a print-and-play version of the game–or a digital version on Tabletopia or Tabletop Simulator–from the beginning so they can take it for a spin.

  2. Hi Jamey – thanks for all this great info on Kickstarter! I’m a new game maker about to launch my first kickstarter and your blog has been such an incredible resource help! Our game can be played by kids and I can’t find any good info on what you need to consider if this is the case. I know you now have “My Little Scythe” rated for 8+ while some of your other games are rated 10+ or 13+. Can you please create a blog about creating kid-friendly games?

    1. Thanks Alix! It isn’t a category I know much about, as our motivation wasn’t to make a kid-friendly game (you can see more about the My Little Scythe story here [start at the bottom]: https://stonemaiergames.com/games/my-little-scythe/design-diary/). We selected that age range because we thought it was the most accurate starting age for the game.

      Also, this blog is mostly about crowdfunding, business, and entrepreneurship. If you’re interested in game design, I’d recommend my game design YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/JameyStegmaier

      1. Thanks, Jamey! I should restate. Our game isn’t specifically for kids either. But we’re not sure how to rate it since we think it could be played by kids. So for instance I notice your other products that are for adults have different age ratings (Wingspan 10+ but Viticulture 13+). How did you decide the differences between those? Any insight would be really helpful! Thanks! Alix

  3. I think Shadowborne games had this down to a fine art. For months before the KS opened they were everywhere promoting Oathsworn with play videos, reviews and interviews. Timing was excellent with a game con demo syncing up with the monthly reveals on their website just 2 months from KS launch. The 24hr mystery box just fed the excitment and their launch day total was a result of the hardwork Jamie put in. Granted this was a game 3 years in development with awesome design and outstanding lore, but still the pre-KS campaign has yet to be matched in my opinion.

  4. This got me thinking that since it’s important to have a large following to succeed with a kickstarter then one might as well have it as a Pre-launch goal to acquire X number of sign-ups in order for the Kickstarter to go live at all.

    1. Well presumably you’d be planning the date long in advance, so you wouldn’t want to lean too much on that specific number if it changed. You definitely want some degree of certainty as to the number of people that’ll back day one, but I’m not sure you’d want to make that a public pre-launch goal.

      1. I agree. It could still be a set date though, just that it’s not much use to launch it unless a good number of people have signed up, and thus set another date further ahead. It would at least make more projects reach their goal since they would be better prepared.

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