The Current State of Stretch Goals (2019)

2 May 2019 | 17 Comments

It’s been a few years since I’ve written about Kickstarter stretch goals, so I thought I’d revisit the topic today.

The last Kickstarter campaign I ran was in 2015, so it’s been a while since I’ve used stretch goals as a creator. As exciting as it was to have milestones to mark a project’s progress and to instill a sense of collaboration among the backers, there were many times when I wish I could have just done what I do now: I try to make the best version of the product in relation to an appealing price.

I delve into more of the core issues and dilemmas surrounding stretch goals in this article, including launch day uncertainty, enabling toxic backer entitlement, and unfair manipulation of backers.

While I focus on stretch goals much less as a backer than I used to, I appreciate that they are an integral part of the Kickstarter ecosystem, especially for board games. The following is a fairly comprehensive list of stretch goal methods and considerations, starting with some of the newest techniques.

  • Story Voting: Rather than vote on the goals themselves, backers vote on decisions to be made by characters in the world, and those decisions result in unlocked game content. (Runika and the Six-Sided Spellbooks)
  • Grouped Goals: Group together similar components so each goal is substantial, and require several different targets (funding, # of backers, social media, etc) to be reached to unlock the goal. (Anachrony: Fractures of Time)
  • Earned Stretch Goals: Backers “earn” badges by unlocking a variety of goals, then poll backers to spend the badges on the first stretch goal or save up for a bigger goal. (Fail Faster)
  • Funding Quests: Reveal a new goal every day even if the previous “quest” is incomplete. This allows you to highlight each goal while conveying progression on incomplete goals. (Dice Throne Season 2)
  • The “Root” Method: The core game would be 100% complete on launch day. All stretch goals are included for free in all core reward levels, and they would be compiled to form an expansion for the game. There would be no exclusives, just early and free access to the expansion content. (Root) I describe this method in more detail here.
  • Story Reveals: Start with the best possible version of the product, but reveal a new element every day, either systematically (like The Legend of Korra) or by allowing backers to make story-driven decisions (Nanty Narking).
  • Backer Count Thresholds: Use the number of backers as thresholds for unlocking new goals in addition to the funding level. (Euphoria)
  • Inclusive vs. Exclusive vs. Promo: Inclusive stretch goals are those that improve every copy of the product. Exclusive stretch goals are those that only backers receive. Promo stretch goals are included for free in every Kickstarter product and for an additional cost post-Kickstarter (promos and inclusive stretch goals are my recommendations, not exclusives). (Scuba)
  • Timing of the Reveal: Some projects show all of their stretch goals from the moment they launch, while others show none (or only some) until their funding goal is reached. (Toast)
  • Graphic Design: While some projects display the list of stretch goals as a text-based bulleted list, others feature eye-catching illustrations. (Steampunk Rally)
  • Backer Voting: Allowing backers to influence the order in which the stretch goals will unlock or the contents of those goals. (T.C. Petty and Get Adler)
  • Global vs. Limited: Stretch goals apply to some rewards but not to others. (The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction)
  • Pre-Order Continuation: Stretch goals can continue to be unlocked after the project ends if the creator continues to accept pre-orders.
  • Social Media Goals: Unlock new elements when you reach a certain number of Facebook likes, Twitter followers, Instagram fans, etc. The downside to these is that you might end up with a bunch of fans who don’t actually care about your content.
  • Add-Ons: Some projects unlock new add-ons (at a cost) or even decrease the cost of add-ons as stretch goals are unlocked. (Avignon)
  • Achievements: Give backers a bunch of different types of achievements and unlock new goals when sets of achievements are achieved. (Exploding Kittens and Treasure Chests)
  • Flash-Funding Goals: Unlock a goal if and only if the funding goal is reached during a set amount of time, like within one week. (Trickerion and Infinities: Defiance of Fate)
  • Daily Goals: Reveal a new goal every day of the campaign. (Scythe)
  • No Stretch Goals: Don’t include any stretch goals at all. (Hocus)

What do you think about these method? What are your favorites?

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17 Comments on “The Current State of Stretch Goals (2019)

  1. Hey,
    I am a huge Stretch Goal advocate. I have backed 7 games and will not back Frosthaven or Ankh. I will pickup a KS copy of Ankh after physical delivery. Frosthaven offers nothing major so I will just get a retail copy. Normally I would back something like Ankh because the KS content wont really be available. I hate exclusive content, but it works. Good example is Oceans. I backed it and i love it. They upgraded all editions of their games and threw in a bunch of freebee promos for backers. Then offered the promos post KS to everyone. SM offers the extras post KS. I enjoy games and companies that do this, although some companies cannot. Like Dinosaur Island Totally Liquid KS is outstanding! The retail versions are not that great. Same goes for Suburbia CE. It is hard to place when someone will back and when someone wont. There are many factors that each person struggles with. I hate exclusive, but the game quality is amazing, i will back. The game is outstanding, but doesnt offer anything and i can get it cheaper at retail so i wont back.
    Cheers, Neil

  2. Hello Jamey, I am a first time designer and in a couple months, I will be launching a KS campaign for my first game. I was thinking about not adding any stretch goals to my campaign. Reason being, I believe in offering the best quality of materials I can afford upfront for the backers/customers. What are your thoughts?

  3. I get a LOT of blowback for not doing stretch goals. You mentioned in a post about Early Bird pricing that you never want backers to feel like they “lost”, and stretch goals are absolutely that. I would never EVER want to be in a situation where I released a game that is in any way worse than what I showed people it could have been. To top it all off, I don’t think you get your effort back. I don’t enough believe backers really punch the clock for you and try to get more backers to justify the planning hell that is stretch goal implementation.

    1. I do think that’s why creators put in things like UV finish as a stretch goal though. Its easy to organise, it means that you have a stretch goal section and it is nice, but if you don’t get there it’s not really undermining the actual quality of the game as such.

  4. Stretch goals. I don’t trust them. They feel a bit carnivalesque to me. Manufactured, pre-engineered excitement. The model smacks of shenanigan-ism. And they feel manipulative. That doesn’t mean they’re not “fun.” They are. That’s… kind of the problem. The model’s motives use “fun” as a shield, in my Grinchy opinion.

    It makes me sad when a project is said to “only” have reached 100 percent of funding. It’s a distortion of what Kickstarter can be at its (to me) most special: a labor-of-love project that might otherwise never have come into existence is funded. At 100 percent. And that’s cause for much joyous celebration.

    Steve Finn has written about the relative joylessness of reaching 100 percent on project after project in an environment in which campaigns, underrating humbleness, boast of having funded in mere minutes. I seriously dislike a model that makes somebody as special as Steve Finn feel deflated about his “unremarkable” successes.

  5. Hi Jamey, Thank you so much for your amazingly detailed info and all the advice you have so freely given over the years! We referred to your blog many times in developing our storytelling game. We are live on Kickstarter now and have just funded with 12 days left to go- woo–hoo! ( but are debating whether instead of adding Stretch Goals, we might add another Reward Tier that would donate copies of our game to public libraries designated by the backer. Do you think it matters whether it is a Stretch Goal or a Reward Tier in this case? Thanks so much! Annie

  6. Hi Jamey I am a first time creator and I am trying to decide if it’s a good idea to make our first expansion part of the stretch goals. We are questioning it only because it’s our first KS and not sure if we should just stick to focusing on the core game and making the stretch goals to simply improve it. We do have our expansion fully planned out however we are not sure what backer level we should try to hit before starting to include the expansion goals. Thanks for any advice!

  7. Hi Jamey,

    A bit off topic, but I just wanted to thank you for all the information you’ve compiled in your blog about kickstarter. I’m starting to prepare to launch my first one ever, and all this information is extremely useful, I have around 40 links saved for reference!

    Thanks a lot!

    PS: By the way, I’m a big fan of Sçythe too, can’t wait for your next one!

  8. Exclusive Kickstarter add ons are a sure way to
    1. Cripple retail sales
    2 ensure that I will NEVER buy your game.

    Make EVERYTHING available after the Kickstarter. If I can’t get it (except for scalper prices), then I won’t bother even PLAUING the game, much less buying it.

    “Oh, had you known about our product 6 months ago, you could’ve gotten twice as much stuff, and cheaper. Now you have to pay more, and there’s a ton of stuff you can’t get”.

    They can pound sand.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree about exclusive game content (please don’t use it as an incentive to back a Kickstarter! — I wrote a big post about it way back in 2011:…

      That said, I will note that “Oh, had you known about our product 6 months ago, you could’ve gotten twice as much stuff, and cheaper. Now you have to pay more, and there’s a ton of stuff you can’t get” is pretty hyperbolic.

  9. Interesting thoughts here. When I first got back into board-gaming (and kickstarters), I was REALLY intrigued by stretch goals – they seemed SO cool. But, as I encountered games that sounded perfect for me, I found that they were long past kickstarter and I begin to wonder why the goals weren’t built in to start with. Yeah, just give me a fully developed and designed game with every thing that the original designer wanted in the first place. All those friggin’ add ons – I question that they were ever tested and in many games they sure don’t seem like they ever were.

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