The Results of Viticulture’s Money-Back Guarantee

15 July 2013 | 16 Comments

Photo Credit: Morten
Photo Credit: Morten

Way back in August of 2012, we launched a Kickstarter project with a novel idea: Within the first month that a backer received his or her copy of Viticulture, if they wanted to return it for any reason, they could do so for a full refund of their Kickstarter pledge.

We were a new company back then, and we understood that backers were taking a risk in supporting us. We wanted to mitigate that risk and take on the responsibility of producing something that backers wouldn’t want to return. Also, it was something exclusive we could offer to Kickstarter backers.

When I wrote about the money-back guarantee on Kickstarter Lesson #22, the response from other project creators was tepid at best. And I get it, I really do. It’s a scary thought to think that hundreds of backers might return your game and ask for money you no longer have.

The results I have to share with you today from Viticulture’s money-back guarantee aren’t meant to sway anyone to try it. Nor should anyone think that their project will get the same results. As you can see from the reasons I list below, we didn’t have complete control over what happened with Viticulture.

We started shipping Viticulture to backers way back in April. Most backers had received it by the first week of June, and a few got it a few weeks later if we needed to sign the games. At this point we’re safely outside of the one-month trial period, so I can share the final number of returns with 99.9% accuracy.

The number of returned Kickstarter copies of Viticulture (out of 1300) is: 0.

0 out of 1300 is pretty amazing. I actually did have one backer contact me about a month ago to say that it wasn’t his kind of game and he wanted to return it. I sent him my mailing address, but he never actually returned it. Maybe he sold it instead.

Let me explain why I think this is. Some of these we had control over; others we kind of stumbled into.

  1. Viticulture is a good-looking game. My graphic designer and Panda did a great job with the components. We didn’t skimp on anything–all pieces are custom and unique, and Beth and Jacqui’s art in the game looks great.
  2. Many people enjoy playing that game. I’m basing this off of what I hear and the 7.60 rating on BGG, which I wish were higher, but I’m sure every designer wishes it were higher.
  3. Backers feel loyal to Stonemaier Games. It feels a bit presumptuous to write that, but honestly, I think we treat backers really well. We treat everyone with respect, we’re extremely responsive, we keep everyone updated, and if someone was missing a piece or needed a replacement part, they had a new piece within days, no questions asked.
  4. Returning the game is kind of a hassle. Sure, we offer a full refund for the Kickstarter pledge, but a backer would still need to pay for the shipping back to us.
  5. Even if someone doesn’t like the game, it could serve as a nice gift.
  6. It takes a lot to return a Kickstarter product. I don’t know exactly what it is. I have a several games that I backed on Kickstarter and have since received that I truly don’t want–one was a huge disappointment on every level, and one looks great but is really boring. However, even if those projects offered money-back guarantees, I probably wouldn’t take them up on it. Maybe it’s because I paid them so long ago that money isn’t part of the equation at this point.
  7. The game is worth more than what backers paid for it. This is the biggie that we stumbled into. The full Kickstarter version of Viticulture has been in very high demand, mostly because it includes an exclusive gameplay element in the Arboriculture expansion. For the record, we’re not doing exclusive gameplay elements in the future–we didn’t include any in Euphoria. But I think that has played a big role in driving the secondary market price of the KS Viticulture upwards of $100. Why would people return the game and break even when they could earn money on it instead? I know of one backer who paid his bills for a month by selling his 5 copies of Viticulture.

We went into Euphoria with another money-back guarantee, even though we had no idea how the Viticulture one would turn out. Given that the scale of Euphoria is considerably bigger, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got some returns. Euphoria doesn’t have exclusive gameplay elements like Viticulture does. Though, Euphoria’s Kickstarter components are off-the charts, so if the game is well received, it might do quite well on the secondary market.

Hopefully you can derive from the above reasons what you need to do to make a successful money-back guarantee on Kickstarter if you decide to go that route. If you were a Kickstarter backer and have any other reasons to add, feel free to add your insights below.

If you think this might have been an anomaly, see this article about the results of Euphoria’s money-back guarantee.

16 Comments on “The Results of Viticulture’s Money-Back Guarantee

  1. Jamey, you didn’t have anyone take you up on your money-back guarantee after you funded. But how many people backed out during your campaign? You blew through your goal, so I’m sure back-outs didn’t affect you much. I know a few kickstarters that had a lot of back outs on the 2nd to last day (the last day to bail) and barely recovered. I’ve seen kicktraq charts with negative days on some recent game-related kickstarters as well. Are back-outs a new problem or have they always been there?

  2. Happy to read these numbers, I’m definitely looking into a money-back guarantee as well now.
    Jamey, you’re blog is a great inspiration. I wish I had time and experience to write more of this caliber for my own blog :)
    Good work!
    Best regards Emil

    1. Thanks Emil–I think you’ll do well with it for Burning Suns. It’s great that you write about your Kickstarter experiences as well! I know that people find them to be helpful.

  3. Hi, I’m working through your blogs and though I posted a similar comment on an earlier blog I’m sort of asking it again here. How did you set out the terms and conditions of what is essentially a legally binding guarantee? Did you need to hire a lawyer? The main advantage, or one of them, that I can see from Kickstarter is that those sorts of money processing and return elements are covered with full legal certainty. I’d be happy to give money back but would be concerned about my ability to do so in all cases.

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