The Current State of Early Birds and KS Exclusives (2017)

24 February 2017 | 83 Comments

The age-old question lives on: Will your crowdfunding campaign–and your business–be more successful if you offer early bird rewards and backer-only exclusives?

In the past I’ve talked about these topics both from an idealogical perspective: Is it right to treat some backers better than others? Is it right to exclude people instead of seeking ways to include them?

That’s for you to decide. (For what it’s worth, my philosophy is that I treat the entire Kickstarter campaign as one long early bird reward, and Stonemaier Games does not do exclusives.) But today I’m going to focus on the current state of early birds and KS exclusives purely from a business angle.

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Let’s start with the broad definitions of these terms. Over time they’ve become more and more muddled as creators use them in different ways. Perhaps you’ll disagree with these definitions, but I think it would help all backers if we creators use words consistently.

Early-Bird Reward: An early-bird reward is something that is offered to a limited number of backers, usually based on time (e.g., the first 24 hours) or quantity (e.g., the first 100 backers). The limited offer is usually price (e.g., a $5 discount), but it may instead be something like a bonus component.

Kickstarter Exclusive: A Kickstarter exclusive is something that is offered only to backers during the campaign and never again to anyone else. This term is widely misused in place of a limited promo, which is an item made in limited quantities that the creator can continue to sell post-Kickstarter.

I’m not aware of any creators who intentionally misuse these terms. I often see where creators label something a “KS Exclusive” and then in the fine print they note that they’re going to sell extra items at conventions or through their website. Many backers are only going to see the label, not the footnote, so please use the correct term (limited promo) on the label itself.

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Enough of these words–let’s get to the data!

I’ve run polls about early birds and KS exclusives in the past, but we need current data from which to draw conclusions. Thankfully, Frank West, designer of The City of Kings, recently contacted me about a massive survey he’s run over the last few weeks. At this point, over 750 people have filled out the survey–you can join those results and see the full stats here.

First we’ll start with early birds. The question is, “How important are early birds to you for a board game on Kickstarter?” Here are the results from 763 people:

In summary, 59.2% of people dislike early birds and only 11.8% of people like them.

Next up are KS exclusives. The question is, “How important are exclusive for a board game on Kickstarter?” Here are the results from 760 people:

In summary, 39.3% of people like KS exclusives and 32.3% dislike them.

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What can we conclude from this data from a business perspective?

Early-bird rewards: I can understand why early-bird rewards are tempting for new creators. Day 1 of a project is really important, and giving people a reason to back now instead of later can have a lasting impact on your project (though, if you’ve done your homework, you should already have a crowd of people eager to back the project on Day 1).

The problem is that you’re not factoring all of the potential backers who are significantly less likely to back the project because they missed out on the early-bird reward. That’s the 36% in Frank’s survey–people who have a strong, visceral response to missing out on something special just because they found out about the project on Day 3 or Day 30 of a campaign instead of Day 1.

KS exclusives: Frank’s data seems to indicate that you may lose more backers by not having KS exclusives than by having them. I must admit I have my doubts that the 39.3% of people truly want KS exclusives according to the definition of that term. I suspect that many of them care about limited promos or even regular promos rather than exclusive items that no one can ever buy again.

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To dig a little deeper into this data, I’ve created a 4-question anonymous survey. You should be able to see the current results as soon as you answer it, and I’ll update every now and then below:



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What do you think about early-bird rewards and KS exclusives?

Also read:

83 Comments on “The Current State of Early Birds and KS Exclusives (2017)

  1. We use the term Kickstarter Limited Exclusive to mean that backers get it as part of their pledge and we will not sell at retail, but will still sell on our website, conventions, and on the BGG store.

      1. If I may, I think the problem here is that “limited promo” is a technical term used in marketing. It is not a term that a typical consumer understands. This “Kickstarter Exclusive” has popped into the popular lexicon to mean, “highly limited content for which Kickstarter is my only guaranteed route of getting it.” A definition that works just fine for the average consumer. (Especially as they try to find channels post-campaign to acquire the content.)

        FWIW, it’s not uncommon for the consumer lexicon to differ radically from the technical terms. One that annoys the heck out of me (though I’ve learned to accept it) is “hard core gamers”. The marketing language was “core market” which contrasted with “casual gamers” – a growing fringe market. This all got exposed to consumers who corrupted “core market” and “hard core gaming” (which was more like classic space shooters and other score-based challenge games) to form “hard core gamers”. Now every player who plays FPSes thinks (s)he’s “hard core”.

        In the end it doesn’t matter. The point is to be understood. And if consumers understand “Kickstarter Exclusive content” in a useful manner, then it’s not worth confusing them with other terms.

        Which does not excuse creators from learning the technical language! Anyone engaged in the practice of marketing (or any skilled craft) should know what their talking about. It the only way they can learn from their colleagues and peers.

        1. Personally, as a consumer, I understand exclusive as “exclusive”, something that no one will have access to, outside KS. I find the term “Kickstarter Limited Exclusive” almost meaningless as it is neither “exclusive” nor “limited”. Exclusive should be used when the only way to get it is the KS campaign and limited when only a certain amount of those will be produced (albeit distributed via various avenues).

      2. I’ve heard the term “Kickstarter Promo” floating around. It strikes a good compromise as people that are used to seeing “Kickstarter Exclusive” still get the same vibe, but people that don’t like exclusives can realize that it is actually a Promo.

  2. I disagree that “Not Important” is a type of “dislike”. I’m actually surprised that a poll was created with both “Not Important” and “Doesn’t Matter”, as I see little distinction between them.

  3. During a KS campaign, has a backer on day 1 the same value as a backer on day 30 (suppose on Day 30 the project is fully funded, and all levels unlocked)? If their value is the same them EB makes no sense. If the first backers have more value, they should be rewarded as such.

  4. I tend to think people like exclusive Kickstart promos for kickstarters they like. I’m pretty sure CMON would lose KS money if it’s promos speed being exclusive, and I assume they don’t think they’d see a commensurate retail uptick (or they’d stop them).

    I dislike any time-limited promo, as it effectively penalises latecomers to the game, but I’d back a lot fewer kickstarters if they stopped.

  5. “The problem is that you’re not factoring all of the potential backers who are significantly less likely to back the project because they missed out on the early-bird reward. That’s the 36% in Frank’s survey….”

    I doubt that. One could dislike the idea of EBs in general, but encounter one and hit it just because he can. On the other side, some people see EBs and turn the other way even if they like the product.

    I’d say the 36% is an estimate of “I do not like the idea of EBs” , not whether or not they’d actually use an EB option.

  6. Kickstarter is often used as a way of ameliorating risk (for people producing something), by collecting money for the item before hand, and allowing the creator to walk away without providing the item if things go incredibly pear-shaped. It serves other purposes, but I think we can agree that this is one thing it does. Having Kickstarter exclusive game content is a way I have of reducing my risk. I have watched games played, then *still* decided that it wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be when I played it myself. If there is Kickstarter exclusive content, I am likely to be able to recoup my entire pledge, or even more, even if I have opened and gently played the game.

    Furthermore, if a game does not have Kickstarter exclusive content, then it is fairly likely that I will be able to get its content at retail for cheaper. I am miserly enough (and I don’t have enough time to tear through new games, so early adoption isn’t much of an issue for me) that this doesn’t sit well with me. If a project is doing something that excites me I may just absorb this extra cost as a tip to the creator for making something awesome, but that isn’t the case for everything I consider backing on Kickstarter.

    1. “allowing the creator to walk away without providing the item if things go incredibly pear-shaped.”

      I’m not sure who agrees with that, but I’ll certainly raise my hand as someone who disagrees with it. :)

      1. I am certainly not saying they should, and your past actions have demonstrated that your moral code probably wouldn’t let you. That said, legal precedent is that creators are most likely allowed to (legally that is). Fortunately I haven’t backed a project yet where that has happened (and the board game community has been pretty awesome at supporting backers of projects like The Doom that Came to Atlantic City or Odin’s Ravens that have collapsed).

  7. If I happen across an early bird pledge while it’s still available I’ll be more likely to back at that moment, and if a campaign offers Kickstarter exclusives I’ll be more likely to back it rather than wait for retail.

    If I run across a Kickstarter after the early birds are gone then I’m going to be less likely to back it. As someone who has backed around 260 projects, the number I’ve known about prior to the campaign launching is probably in the single digits. I think people vastly overestimate their ability to get the word out prior to a project launching. Also, just because I pledged at an early bird level doesn’t mean I won’t back out before the end of the Kickstarter.

    I don’t think I’ve never knowingly bought a game after a Kickstarter that had Kickstarter exclusives that affected gameplay. That just kills a product for me. I’m NOT going to take the time to try and track down those exclusives. There are too many other games out there to make that worth the effort.

    Overall I find both early birds and exclusives annoying, and I think they do more harm than good.

  8. Most early bird perks are small enough to be nearly irrelevant, maybe 10-15% of MSRP at most. If not getting a $5 discount on a game is what keeps you from backing it, then you probably weren’t that interested in it the first place.

    As far as KS-exclusives go, they’re a simple product of the market. People who back games on Kickstarter do so at MSRP and usually a dramatically larger shipping cost as compared to a mass distributor like Miniature Market, CSI, or Amazon. Additionally, the backers are the ones who take on the majority of the financial risk of a project, rather than the designer or manufacturer. I think it’s only fair that backers might want or expect some perks for doing so. Banks that take on risk charge higher interest. Backers expect perks or exclusives.

    I don’t think any creator should fear the people who have negative FOMO reactions to missing KS exclusives, because they are by far the minority of potential purchasers. Even amongst hobbyists, backers are a small part of the population. People who will not buy a game at retail that had KS exclusives are an even smaller part of that small population.

    I can at least sympathize with some of the criticism of KS exclusives, especially when some creators (especially established companies that make miniatures board games ) can seem obnoxious about the number of available add-ons and exclusives. That said, what I discussed above is even more true for these people. To pick one company in particular, there is nothing that CMON makes that’s not getting released to the public, and often found at a price dramatically lower than MSRP, with zero or minimal shipping cost. In order to get the multiple benefits of 1) direct sales, 2) people paying MSRP, and 3) revenue in advance of actual production, they *have to* have exclusives… and IMO, it would be worse if they didn’t. There is NO HUMAN WAY I am shouldering the financial risk for an established company if I’m not getting a serious ROI, because I can just wait a few months and buy Arcadia Quest 3 or or Zombicide 4 or whatever for half the price… and anyone who would is either a gullible fanboy or an idiot or both.

    That said, I do think that the way Stonemaier handles KS perks is a proper compromise between zero exclusives and KS-only exclusive bonanzas. Have as many addons and perks as you want to entice backers, but produce real print runs of these things so that people have an opportunity to obtain them afterward at an additional cost. Unless the things you’re producing are simply upgraded components for the existing game, cosmetic things or whatever, you shouldn’t be producing items for your game that wouldn’t sell at retail *in the first place*, let alone to use them as enticements.

    1. “Most early bird perks are small enough to be nearly irrelevant, maybe 10-15% of MSRP at most. If not getting a $5 discount on a game is what keeps you from backing it, then you probably weren’t that interested in it the first place.”

      You might be surprised at the psychological impact of even the smallest increases in price, even when all other factors remain the same. There’s an experiment that involved people selling chocolates for $0.01 to one group and offering them for free to the next. With even the smallest price difference, the decreases in takers was significant.

      As for KS exclusives, it sounds like you’re speaking as a backer. But as a creator, I think the data is showing something very different. It’s showing that the majority of backers don’t care and that 50% of people are less likely to buy the product post-Kickstarter if they’re missing out on exclusives–that’s huge!

      1. Comments on your data —

        50% of what pool, though? 100 people that follow you on Facebook and respond to polls on a crowdfunding blog aren’t necessarily representative of the general population. You’re getting responses from people thoroughly versed in crowdfunding and are already dedicated enough to the gaming hobby and collecting that they can be influenced by FOMO. How much of this is your total sales, though? How many sales are you actually missing out on because of this? How many of these people say they would be less likely to buy but in reality buy anyway? You need way more data before you can call any of this real or huge. Both of these bits of data are opinion polls, at least one with a flawed methodology, as others have pointed out, and either way it has no causal or correlative relationship to actual purchasing behavior.

        Second, I disagree with your conclusions about promos the data you’ve gathered so far. 95% of your respondents want some kind of promo material in their KS pledges. Nearly *everyone* wants some kind of perk. I don’t see how you can see that result and say people don’t care. Also, fwiw, you can’t really compare your questions to the one from the beginning of the post because they aren’t asking the same thing. So 95% want some kind of perk or promo. Essentially everyone. But half of those people are willing to put themselves in a situation where they might miss out on a game because of a personal negative FOMO reaction to not getting all available promos? I realize that this can be a completely human even if irrational response, but it should absolutely give you pause before trying to draw any kind of broad conclusion about hugeness.

          1. I don’t have any dog in this fight. I mean, I have an opinion, sure… but ultimately I’m happy to go wherever the data take me. And I just don’t see enough here to convince me that these data mean anything yet. I’m happy to have you point out any specific blind spots, though.

  9. I think I’m echoing someone else’s comment…
    But I feel the original survey was not worded objectively…. mainly speaking about the 3 “negative” choices to 2 positive… “It doesn’t Matter” carries a negative connotation…

  10. Additionally, its easier to speak about not needing “early birds” if one has done their “homework” when one actually has a business or clientele (like Stonemaier… although I kno they are smaller than many other companies), with contacts, a presence, hundreds (or more) Twitter/FB followers, etc… But many creators do not have a business (nor the time or ability) to do that “homework” ….

    1. Selling anything, including a Kickstarter pledge, is as much about understanding the psychology of purchasing decisions as it is about “homework.” Probably moreso. if you spend any time in the actual literature on purchase psych, you’d see how irrational most people are when it comes to money, and a lot of that has to do with hard-wired biases in the brain.

    2. @michael

      As a small first time creator I see it as my duty to spread the word and make people aware of my campaign before launching. For me it’s a validation exercise that the game I am creating is something people want and have interest in, if I rely purely on offers such as early birds to attract those people then I may be good at sales but I’ve no guarantee my product is good.

      And if I don’t know if my product is good, I don’t believe I have the right to ask for money for it. In the end, to me personally, the quality of a game is much more important than a higher profit level. Although I’d like to think that one thing leads to another.

  11. So there is two takes here on the promos.

    Things like CMON addons that come out later at retail, which are time limited promos for the game like Gods of Asgard for the game which is on its own an expansion, or the extra Sins for The Others, or different acting Acolytes for Others. I can’t bring myself to buy the base game anymore if there is so much extra content on release that its going to cost over $100 to get the full experience.

    However for Scythe, the only promos that change the game in anyway are the encounter cards, and you don’t even go through the deck on a play through, the rest of it is all upgrades to things that you get in the game, there is no impact beyond tactile feel.

    I like and understand the idea of getting extra content for free as part of Kickstarter that is extra at retail, or may not be included due to one time production cost.

    However when looking outside of the gaming ecosystem, for things like Jackets, umbrellas or other things on kickstarter, they don’t have the advantage of offering small component upgrades or goodies, so what they use to differentiate themselves is the early bird pricing.

    I’ve seen to many Kickstarters run where they shot themselves in the foot with early bird pricing making it to cheap to produce in the quantities that it was ordered at, that it does make me rethink a project when I see more than 4 “waves” of early bird pricing. Its just a red flag that makes me rethink backing that project.

      1. This is exactly where I’m at. I have a hardware good for the bathroom (I reinvented the bathroom faucet – see http://www.nasoni.com), and there no “extra pieces” that could be offered as goodies as Sean rightly points out. My MSRP is $279, and I’m trying to determine now now much off MSRP do I want to start Super Early Bird pricing. I want to get the ball rolling early, and build excitement that it is going to market.

        My factory MOQ is 350 of each finish (chrome and brushed nickel) so I will have 350 of each available. I’m considering something around $199 for the first 100, and go up from there.

        My other dilemma is, I have a gloss black nickel version that is amazing! However, to offer it I have to offer another 350, which could be added as a goal, but those who buy the others won’t need this version. So the goal doesn’t motivate them. And if I add it to the initial project, my MOQs go from 700 (350 X 2), to 1,050, which raises my Kickstarter funding goal considerably putting it at risk of not funding.

        Anyhow, back to the original point – I think James should update the article, adding that there are differences based on product types. If a product has separate component parts that can be offered as reward levels, then early bird pricing may not be the most appropriate method as it creates the perception of winners and losers.

        However, in those cases where it is a singular product, with nothing else to add, then using an early bird approach can be beneficial to building momentum and generating buzz. In that case, it is simply a bonus for the early backers who followed the project and supported it from the day it went live, helping it to achieve it’s goal.

        1. Steve: I appreciate you sharing your opinion, but I’m not going to update the article, as I think my opinion about early birds is consistent with the data (whether there are multiple variations of the product or just one). There are plenty of other ways to have a strong launch day, and those ways don’t discourage backers on days 2-25 like early birds do. I talk about this in detail here: https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-62-early-bird-pledge-levels/

          1. My suggestion would be to think about your entire project as an early bird reward. So, if you’re able to offer 100 units for $199, offer ALL units backed during the project for $199. Then raise the price to MSRP (or somewhere between $199 and MSRP) the second the project ends.

        2. And as a fact, early birds have mostly disappeared from Kickstarter. Even CMON is not offering them anymore. Guess companies learned the lesson. Jamey’s article about early birds he suggested to read is very good.

  12. Nice post!

    Regarding the exclusive data, I wonder what the breakdown is for backers who trend towards miniatures projects, versus backers who don’t. My impression is that exclusives are much more common, and perhaps even expected, in a minis project, whereas they tend to be avoided in board game projects.

    Regarding early birds, I avoid them, and I encourage other creators to do so as well, especially in projects that have premium tiers. Early bird pledge levels disincentivize backers from raising their pledges later, which can hurt a project with open premium tiers.

    My friends Diane and Nick Sauer of Shoot Again Games have an interesting approach to early bird levels. They offer an early bird level where the backers get their games a week before everyone else. It’s relatively easy to achieve logistically, and after a few months, there’s no real difference between the pledge levels. It seems like a “less bad” way to do early birds, although I’ll still always avoid them for my projects.

    1. “Early bird pledge levels disincentivize backers from raising their pledges later, which can hurt a project with open premium tiers.”

      That’s a very keen observation, Gil. Thanks for sharing. And I’m curious about your point regarding miniatures projects. I could see backers of different types of projects having different expectations.

    2. “Regarding the exclusive data, I wonder what the breakdown is for backers who trend towards miniatures projects, versus backers who don’t”

      That’s a great question, I’m going to add that to my list for future analysis.

  13. Hey Jamey,

    Thank you for writing this, it’s great to see other people sharing their opinions on the data. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of your survey and if you don’t mind, I will write up a follow up on my pages, based on that data too.

    It’s been really interesting to see the different responses from different audiences, with the survey being spread across Facebook, Twitter, BGDF, BGG and Reddit there has been a wide range of views and it certainly helps to show how tricky getting it right can be.

  14. Frank and Jamey thanks for putting this informarion together as, although not definitive, it is incrediably interesting to me as I am walking down that first time creator roll myself.

    It really seems to come down to a majority of people dont care and/or dislike EB but there is still a significant populace out there, as this thread shows, that do want them and may nit backnwithout them. They are also potentlcial backers and for a project to be successful the more backer the better obviously.

    So i wonder in realation to EB is it the type of EB that is an issue versus the concept as a whole?

    I created the short survey below for thise innthis thread please take it and share to help further this great discussion

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SKZT63X

      1. So I posted the survey here and on some facebook board game groups. Admittedly the response pool was not as large as I had hoped, but we still got 26 unique oppinions (still working on my audience =P )

        What was interesting though was out of 26 responses the following were the outcomes-

        34.6 % of people would choose not to back a KS if they missed out on an EB that gave a discount on the game

        26.9% of people would choose not to back a KS if they missed out on an EB gave an add-on that did not affect game play for free. So less people were turned off by this but still a huge number of potentially lost backers.

        If the EB was something else like an early release of the game or some form of recognition, or creative way of saying thanks like game credits etc. then the number dropped to 11.54% of people not backing due to missing the EB.

        None of the people that took the survey said they would not back a KS because it did not have an EB as some have stated on this thread.

        So although there is not enough data to really hang your hat on, it does seem to indicate that if early birds are going to be used, Financial based EBs seem to have the highest chance of turning off potential backers and add on EBs are also very likely to turn off some backers.

        So for me the moral of the story is if you are going to go down the EB route it seems that it is far less risky if the EB you offer is more creative and as far removed from financial benefits as possible.

        1. Thanks for sharing, Bill. That’s interesting data, and I like your conclusion. I shared this survey in our e-newsletter today, and we got a ton of responses (I’ve updated the results images on the post).

  15. Jamey I think your audience here will taint your polls to be anti exclusive. Not the best place to get a sample but maybe I’m wrong. The bgg KS geeklists would be a good place as well. That’s a lost for users looking to back games. Here the audience is for potential creators

    1. I teach statistics this semester and if I may add, here the audience is
      1. experienced gamers/backers/creators, that
      2. backed Stonemeier Games’ games which
      3. follow the non-EB/non-exclusive way.
      A great many people yes, by the thousands, but the sample is still not representative. That is the only reason I dare to call it biased.

      Had the survey been out to the core of Kickstarter backers, where even someone just has a 0 backed account, could result in another opinion. Even with a smaller amount of votes (actually more, cause KS list > Jamey’s list, sorry Jamey we love U!) , it would have been more objective.

      PS We do not try to troll here. All want to contribute for a better Kickstarter experience. I personally don’t like EBs, but I have used them to fund my project. So I answered as someone that uses them. But Statistics is just that: estimates..

      Have a nice weekend everyone! :)

      1. I just wanted to add, (and I’ll go back and update the original data to mention) that the original survey was filled in by a wide mix from 5 platforms and included people who hadn’t backed projects all the way up to people who had backed 100+.

        Whilst I agree the new survey Jamey created might have some bias, it will still be useful data for a variety of reports and hopefully over time we can further expand upon it with other, further reaching surveys.

  16. Hello Frank, and thank you for the effort of making the survey! As we both agree that the original data were made by lots of people, that answered only one answer (there are polls with multiple answers as well), let me say that:

    It’s not the national elections where the 0,01% wins. Using Jamey’s first pie-chart, 45% is a No, 23% a Maybe and 32% is a Yes. let us divide the 23 to 12 and 11 in favor of No for simplicity. That makes us a 45+12=57% No and a 32+11=43% Yes. A 43% against a 57% is not that big of a difference, it is not a 90-10 difference. I’ll try to explain with simple terms:

    Some projects fund with 147, some with 22000 backers. The average project has about 1000 backers, right? From that 1000, we assume 430 like EBs and 570 do not. So my project with EBs is funded with 430 and yours without is funded with 570. We excluded the options that the project becomes a big hit, or someone disobeys his beliefs of backing one another’s option.

    From a creator’s point of view, is there a significant difference?
    From a backer’s point of view, is there a loss from the EBs?

    I only see lots of EBs (1000s) in 3D printers or other gadgets, in tabletop games category there are usually 50-500. So for an average of (500+50)/2=275 EBs, the majority of those backers hit the EB option. So, the creator that wants Early Birds, gets funded by those Early birds and some more. No harm, not illegal, he/she didn’t steal from others. The only difference I see is the momentum built from day 1, that leads to many many cancels later due to the EB hype and an empty wallet, maybe.

    That was my interpretation of above results.

    P.S. IF we don’t want to enter a pit/arena and fight about who’s more right, let me remind that everything has a maximum and a minimum. The Early Bird was created along with Kickstarter in 2009, Stretch goals too, Social goals too, returns to Kickstarter for reprints/expansions/other projects too. Kickstarter itself is running endlessly for 8 years, it will hit a maximum and then fall too. So yes, maybe Early birds were a fashion once that is over now, that’s all.

  17. Jamey, I think that there is probably a disconnect between what I want and what actually gets me to spend money. For example, Santorini put all of their extra content in an expansion that is now readily available. This is my preference, but I didn’t back Santorini because I didn’t see enough value in paying the full retail price (even though with the expansion my total cost will be about the same). So Roxley made me happy, but didn’t get me to open my wallet for the Kickstarter. ( I did buy the game after it came out though.)

    Gamelyn Games also has a regular version and a deluxe version. It really isn’t a very good deal to get the regular version vs retail, but you save a few bucks getting the deluxe version over buying the base game and deluxe content later.

    I think that price pays a big role too. With a ~$25 game that I expect to be really good, I don’t care too much about the extras or if I can get it cheaper later. I’m okay with paying a few bucks extra just to get the content first with maybe a few extras. But on a $100 game, that I might be able to pick up for $70 later, I need a lot more convincing.

    The other thought that I have is that I normally introduce new games to people I play with. The first question that they ask is where can I get this? I don’t like answering “Well you can get this part of the game, but not this other part.”

  18. EB pledges don’t bother me and won’t cause me to not back a game.

    When it comes to kickstarter exclusives…. I personally am not a fan of them. But because of CMON kickstarter exclusives and not wanting to miss out on content I have backed a couple of their games. If it wasn’t for the KS exclusives I would wait for a sale at retail to purchase a CMON game. On the flip side I didn’t know about kickstarter when Blood rage was on Kickstarter.
    After playing the kickstarter edition of blood rage. I felt that if I were to buy the regular edition I would be missing out on content and not a fully completed game experience. Because of this I have chosen not to ever purchase the game.

    Why not have something be a “limited kickstarter exclusive” where you can purchase the content at a fair price in the future?

    I could not be the norm…. I do love how Scythe was set up on kickstarter, the extra encounter cards are nice but don’t change the game in a way I feel like I’m missing out on content. Scythe was the first game I ever back on Kickstarter and I am grateful looking back at taking that risk.

    1. I think this comment makes an important point, just because backers don’t like something, doesn’t mean they won’t respond to it in the desired way. I don’t like missing KS exclusive content or early bird pricing either, but I will still back projects because they offer these things.

  19. It’s interesting to see some people sharing that the projects they’ve backed have been for games with pledge levels at MSRP. The projects I’ve backed were cheaper than MSRP because the creator could bypass the markup of the distributor and retail channels. That’s one of the incentives I have for backing projects.

    The other is ensuring that the project gets made in the first place. For popular projects this isn’t so much an issue, but for others not backing might mean not being able to get it later in retail. And even if the project does reach its funding goal, helping to reach stretch goals gives the creator a higher minimum level of support, allowing them to add more value to the game.

    Individually, my one pledge won’t make a difference one way or the other (unless the campaign closes right at the funding level or a stretch goal). But collectively, if everyone waited until retail, the game might end up in a worse state or not being made at all.

    Kickstarter exclusive content does nothing for me. I don’t care about having content that other people can’t have. I do like getting promo content, but not for reasons having anything to do with exclusivity. I like it because I am getting content that I don’t have to pay extra for later.

    Regarding a creator selling or giving away Kickstarter exclusive content, I don’t have a problem with a creator getting rid of extra copies by selling them or giving them away at conventions. If they continue to produce that content, then that is a violation of the spirit of a Kickstarter exclusive. But I see “Kickstarter exclusive” as being more of an exclusive for that print run.

    Usually a creator will want to make extra copies in case some of them have issues. I’m fine with creators selling or giving them away rather than throwing them out. And really, it’s not that much different from a retailer backing for 10 or 20 copies, and selling those to other customers who weren’t backers later.

    But again, being exclusive to Kickstarter vs being a limited promo vs being a regularly printed promo makes no difference to me. I’m backing for the value that I can get out of the game, not the value that other’s can’t.

    1. I love your final sentence.

      “I’m backing for the value that I can get out of the game, not the value that others can’t.”

      It suggests a very rational mind without any of the jealousy or hoarding that some drift towards.

      However, Fear Of Missing Out is a very real thing. It’s that fear that the physical KS exclusives tap into and that seems like not a kind thing to exploit.

  20. This reminds me a little bit of the furor over day 1 DLC in digital games. If it seems that I am not receiving the “complete” game on day 1, even if I’m spending complete game money it’s off-putting.

  21. For me, these things are always contextual.

    On Early Birds: Am honestly ambivalent (e.g. not a dealbreaker) with this. However, there are several emotional paradigms feeding into this.

    1) If you’re actually an early-bird, it feels good to do so.

    2) If you don’t qualify, I think this is where the sentiment of the survey comes in. It feels like you are paying more, a sense that an opportunity was lost. (That’s not how I see it, but I can see how others might perceive it.)

    Also, I think 2) is only relevant if the Kickstarter project has a sizable #2. If majority of your backers for example fall under #1, then it’s a non-issue. It becomes an issue if your project becomes too popular, and #2 outnumbers or forms a significant audience of your backers.

    (Personally I associate early birds with pre-orders vs buying something via retail, in w/c pre-orders usually get a bonus, whether it’s a cheaper price and/or some promo items.)

    On KS Exclusives: I think there’s a distinction to be made here.

    For example, there’s definitely some ill-will from non-KS backers if the company is offering a KS Exclusive that’s a) not obtainable anywhere else and, b) has a significant game-changing mechanic. It’s basically saying “KS backers are getting a superior game while retail buyers are getting the inferior version”. (Like my previous point, this is more of an issue if there are more non-KS backers than KS backers. If your game only has a limited circulation and majority of those able to purchase it are only KS backers, then it’s not an issue.)

    I think a lot of board games that run KS Exclusives run this perception risk, even if the extras aren’t game-changing. (In fact, just a few minutes ago, there was a Reddit thread that someone was dissuaded from buying Scythe because the retail version didn’t have the KS extras; was persuaded to change their mind when they were informed that some of the exclusives were non-essential, such as the extra battle dials, or not unique, such as the extra Encounter cards.)

    If the KS Exclusives (regardless of whether it’s limited promo or true KS Exclusives), if the changes are cosmetic (e.g. better components) or doesn’t alter the game significantly, then it’s not a major point.

    The problem with the survey, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t cover the nuances between the two.

    A digression is that with retail vs promo releases, since I’m not from the US, usually securing the latter is difficult, unless it’s also available to local distributors. So the concept of KS Exclusive vs Limited Promo can be moot to some people, depending on their region.

    (And of course, these paradigms only apply to board games; there’s a different model for video games, and other ways how to alleviate some of these problems, such as regional pricing—that is impractical for board games.)

    1. Although a caveat is that what is considered mechanics that is game-changing can be relative too.

      For example, for the extra battle dials in Scythe, most (if not everyone) can agree that this is a cosmetic extra. Gameplay won’t change if you have the extras (but it’s certainly more convenient.)

      The extra encounter cards in Scythe, some might argue it’s a mechanic that changes the game (because it offers a different combination of benefits in-game). while others might argue it won’t (because in the larger picture, it doesn’t change the gameplay experience).

  22. Jamey,

    As you may remember, I peruse all board game KS entries at the beginning of each month, so the chances that I can take advantage of an “Early Bird Special” is quite remote. Having said that, it’s really about the game itself versus any small decrease in price which will attract me to back it in the first place. As an extremely discriminating gamer, I remain sensitive to purchasing games that may not get to the Gaming Table.

    As to “Exclusives” on KS, I’m not a fan of them, even if I receive them. We’re working on this issue right now as we determine what we’ll do with our upcoming game and expansion. We want the people who come our game later, during the KS, or even much later, post-KS to have the same opportunity to receive all of the content.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  23. Your definitions are unclear to me.

    “A Kickstarter exclusive is something… ”

    When you say ‘something’, are you limiting it to mass-produced physical objects? Is there any other extra limitation?

    If we expand it beyond mass-produced physical objects, then I think that exclusives are a great thing. Signed copies; being featured in the game; influence over the game; the feeling of helping the creator. From this perspective, every KS should try to have something exclusive to your KS backers.

    Personally, I include a small rough comic (a single A4 page, photocopied, cut and folded to make an 8-page comic) that is basically just a message of thanks/autobiography of the production process. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it online before.

    Would you consider that a KS Exclusive?

    I certainly wouldn’t give them to anyone else – it would be totally wrong! – and I like to think that they make some folk smile a little more broadly when they get the package.

    The difference is, of course, that I don’t dangle it as a carrot, nor use it as a stick. It’s just (hopefully) a nice surprise that no-one should feel jealous of.

    I consider those comics a continuation of the KS experience and, hopefully, a reminder of how much I appreciate my backers.

    1. Bez: “Something” can be anything–an item, a service, a bonus, etc.

      You used the example of a signed copy. So if you offered 100 backers an exclusive signed copy, and then a fan came up to you at a convention and asked you to sign his/her copy, you would have to say no because it’s a Kickstarter exclusive. There’s a difference between a limited item (like a pre-signed copy during the campaign or a custom art pledge) and an exclusive–the limited thing is limited for a reason, while an exclusive is exclusive to Kickstarter because you said so.

      Your small rough comic was a nice tough. It’s only a KS exclusive if you labeled it as such. It sounds like it’s more like a bonus surprise for backers, and you made it in limited quantities.

  24. Hi Jamey, the survey was a nice initiative. I was actually really surprised with the “exclusives” responses. It might be however that the sample (SMGames friends and followers) is not representative of the general gamers population. I also felt that the questions didn’t fully capture my sentiments about such incentives therefore I decided to share my views below.

    For starters I do believe that there should be incentives (we do risk investing our money on something we haven’t really seen or experienced yet). Someone on the other hand might say that KS is all about helping to bring to life a game that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Sure, but there are so many great games out there, enough to keep us busy for 5 lifetimes, why take the risk? Maybe that was more true in the early KS days.

    Given the proliferation of excellent releases from established (and new) companies it almost feels crazy that people don’t buy the countless tried and true, and decide to invest in oftentimes half-baked ideas. Still, there is something exciting in all this…

    Second, I despise scalping practices on games with exclusives in the form of extra content (see CMON), however exclusives could also exist in an aesthetic form. E.g. a special limited KS box cover would be an attractive enough reason for me to back a game, something which wouldn’t reduce the utility of the game for the retail buyer. The same as with a signed copy, or a special thank you card. These things have primarily emotional/personal value and its a memory that we were part of something.

    I also pretty much dislike early birds.
    If we assume that the KS and retail versions are identical, I can’t accept paying retail price + shipping on a game that 1 month post-release will be bought for less (and without shipping) from all major online retailers. Especially after taking the big risk of investing on a prototype. Under this light a universal guaranteed lower price (compared to the online retailer’s MSRP) would also be a good incentive to risk my money and much more preferable than the early bird practice (many of us have better things to do than waiting for the countdown of every KS campaign in order to grab a $5 dollar discount).

    These are only a few thoughts that maybe other people share but the survey didn’t capture entirely (namely, non content based exclusivity & universal discounts).

    As always, thanks for the awesome content!

    P.S I re-posted my comment here as I originally posted it on the news section that referenced the poll.

  25. Most EB pledge levels that I’ve seen are “first 1-3 days” or “first x backers” but has anyone ever tried “all but the last 48 hours”?

    Because, my understanding of EBs is they are a way to convince people to back the game now, not later (including retail). People don’t like them because normally only lucky people can snag them and everyone else is excluded. But, this way, you might inspire people throughout the entire campaign to *back now* instead of “remind me later”. Thoughts?

    Furthermore, what if, rather than a discount, you offered a “Kickstarter Promo” for free to backers in “all but the last 48 hours” which you then offered as an add-on during the last 48 hours (and after KS)?

    1. That’s really interesting, Jonathan! I really like the promo idea, and using the final 48 hours as the cutoff could inspire people to back earlier in the campaign instead of waiting. And it’s so close to the end of the campaign that you’re not excluding people who happened to discover the project midway through the campaign.

  26. About early birds, CMON were doing them in the past, and they dropped it recently. As they wrote in Rising Sun FAQ on them, “We are tweaking our campaigns all the time to better service our fans”. But they’re still going heavily on exclusives. I dislike it, but given how big support their campaigns get, that probably works for them, and I guess they do most of their sales through KS. Doubt if they will ever change stance on exclusives, but if they’d do that, that could be market changing. I also think that by changing stance and selling those would be ex-exclusives at premium price (not as exorbitant as second hand market) they could actually profit from them without hurting KS campaigns, and as a side effect to increase retail sales too. That’s in place of annoying late comers and allowing resellers to profit instead of themselves.
    Now about the meaning of KS exclusives, it is not written in stone anywhere (I think) that they have to be exclusives for exactly that project. There of course will be people (especially those who backed the very first kickstarters) who will not like those exclusives repeated in subsequent KS projects, but I doubt on their amount. Sample – in Aeons End publisher re-released previous gameplay exclusives in new KS expansion campaign. I was very actively following Aeons End, reading all the about 2500 comments (bar the last ones), and no one tried to complain, but there was an amount of happy people. Note that Aeons End did not have much in exclusives so it’s not the best benchmark, but no complaint is quite big. Also I remember reading campaign for Xia: Embers – I don’t find that place, probably that was in video, but I remember creators saying/writing that exclusive envoy cards from Xia: Legends won’t be reproduced anymore due to exclusivity, but they also quite mixed things as second part of exclusive content – one ship – could be bought in second campaign in a rebranded version. Did not read comments though so cannot tell anything about community reaction. Overall, I see no reason why anyone would need to follow opinion of few people that KS exclusives are meant only for this campaign.
    What I just remembered now, One Deck Dungeon had a component exclusive in first campaign, and then dropped that exclusive part completely in next campaign including retail. Again not a simple complaint, lots of positive ones, and just a single person weeping in quite unintelligent way that he would want some new exclusives.
    I do think that even if you had KS exclusives which were imprinted “for this campaign only”, you would still have a lot more happy than unhappy people if you say it was a miss and drop exclusivity. After all, you delivered, trademark is yours, do what’s best.
    Personally, I refused to buy Curse: Escape from the Temple and Blood Rage after seeing that I’d be missing a lot of stuff from Kickstarter. I backed One Deck Dungeon on the first campaign partly because I was impressed by their words “We wanted to do a little something cool for backers, but without crippling the game for latecomers”. I’m going to back Rising Sun late pledge as it is still possible, but I know I’d never had bought a retail version if I had missed it (and I almost did, because I had no time to look more into Rising Sun before campaign ended).

  27. About rewarding KS backers, I’ll kind of repeat thoughts of my previous post, but I liked the most Aeons End way by packaging all KS promo content into a single separate expansion, and selling it separately. I read it’s harder to get (did not need it so did not search for it), guess they could or did sell it directly themselves, that way with better profit margins due no dealers. Similar to what Scythe did for good, but Scythe unnecessarily made multiple promo packs instead of just a single one, bringing additional confusion as I had to research what’s on sale and what I’m supposed to buy.
    The all-but-48 hour early bird is a thing I thought about in the past, but did not think it being significant enough. It sounds interesting on paper, but I think it bears a risk of being similarly annoying.

      1. I think there’s mainly 3 types of people – those who are happy with what they got with base game, those who want it all/complete game, and those who want to expand their game because what they have is not enough / they want more. I hardly imagine a fourth group – people wanting to expand with something little like a trinket and going to search for it. Well I’d go for such trinket (actually all trinkets), but only because I’m mostly in the 2nd group of people wanting it all. In addition, separate shipping and separate packagings costs too. And I bought all 4 gameplay promos for ~$27 from UK with shipping – wonder if I missed something (confusion again!) then as you said about $40. Anyway the $27 or $40 is a standard price for game expansion. I’d understand splitting it in half if it’d cost some $100. And imagine what would happen with market if every publisher would start splitting their $40 expansions in multiple $10 mini pieces. That would be utter mess and hurt sales. Though honestly there are rare expansions which do have like separate big modules which would make sense to split (Battlestar Galactica Exodus comes into mind, but even that one has some additional nice small stuff which would be impossible to assign to any of the modules). But Scythe promos are nothing like that.

        1. It’s partially about accessibility, but it’s much more about people who already have some promos but not all promos (there are lots of different ways to get the promos). I don’t want to force a customer to buy something they already have.

  28. As I understand KS campaign backers got all the promos, and after campaign you could control whether non-backer promos go all together or not. If so, that had to be choice from the beginning and not based on a djinn out of a bottle. And in any case, you could decide from the beginning that all promos go together (or not, as you did). I don’t know but from your response I may guess you made small packs so you could give away them here and there, but then I’d think there was more harm than benefit in the end result.

    1. I still think there’s more flexibility in small packs. You lose that flexibility once you consolidate. And consolidation really isn’t possible when you release an ongoing series of somewhat unplanned promos over a long period of time.

  29. Well, be critical of it:) For you it is flexibility, for market it is mess. As you’re basically alone with this splitting behavior, market will not punish you, but imagine the market with everyone splitting their expansions. Ongoing promos is another thing, though it can still be consolidated after some time (think of “best of” music albums). But what was once consolidated in kickstarter, I think it was wrong to split artificially later.
    And those ongoing promos, as you touched it – I quite hate it. It is very similar to kickstarter exclusives. I don’t have time (or ability, as they’re often exclusive to some event) to hunt for them, and missing them adds to a growing feeling that I have an incomplete game again (not always, as I did not care much for most of Eclipse promos as I felt they don’t add anything good to the game). Good only if you’d make those promos widely available now or later to buy (that usually is not the case with other games).

  30. Thanks Jamey for all these wonderful articles and views. I never seen this before and I have been a longtime backer on Kickstarter, and had one successful project. As I am getting ready for a new Kickstarter (in 2018 no rush) for a card game, a kind member of BGG pointed me in your direction, I will be always grateful for that, Jules!

    It’s Promo and EB that are exactly the two things our team has many discussions about. A promo with high game value is not a good thing, it would take the possible experience away from people who don’t have that promo, but on the other hand, why not give just a little extra to backers who like to have some kind of thank you card that they could use in game as well. We are thinking to create a unique playing card as an exclusive, so there is only one like that and every backer that supports that level gets their own. They all do the same in game, but the game is perfect without the card, so it can be left out. Think of a rule: If you hold the card you take four instead of three extra cards or something like that, giving a minor advantage… or disadvantage actually…

    So now for the early birds, we are trying to reach out to people, well before we Kickstart, with the promise of the launch in 2018. So people can subscribe on our website for 60 minute pre launch ‘early bird’ notification. We will send out an email to our subscribers list an hour before we launch, so they get the first chance to grab the Early bird, which will be something like a few dollars discount, and the regular KS price will be under the retail price.

    Happy to hear any ideas, dear readers and thanks a lot!

    1. Thanks Nils! As you can probably tell, I’m against exclusives and early birds of any kind, but if I had to choose one of the ideas you mentioned, I would go with the card. Definitely not the early bird, though.

      1. Dear Jamey, almost a year ago I reached out and you responded so quickly :-) We worked long and hard and this week finally we launched our game Blindsight. I like to say thanks again to you for all the impressive work you have done for self-publishing people like us. Many times I found myself going through your papers and you know what? We threw the whole idea of early birds and exclusives completely overboard. It is just what it is. Thanks again!

  31. Relief, discussion goes on (after my latest brawl with Jamey:) What I’m noticing of myself as long term (becoming) KS backer, I’m backing less and less. I’m quicker to reject early bird game when I (usually) miss the early bird. I’m very quick to reject game with KS exclusives – lesson learned that gameplay exclusives in most cases is a sign of crappy game which does not have anything else special to attract people, and even if not the case, I find no value in exclusives. What still attracts me is high quality game pieces. I do not care for unpainted plastic miniatiures (no time for painting myself), but then I like high quality wooden pieces, and all the extra quality stuff. Reason why I lately could not resist for Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done.. And one more lesson learned here – people are craving for quality – any miniatiures kickstarter will have from good to enormous success, disproportionate to actual gameplay. Reason to think and adapt.

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