The Secrets to Making Your Tabletop Game Kickstarter Project Appealing to Retailers

4 September 2014

One of the great mysteries of my Kickstarter life is: How can I make my projects better for retailers?

My interest is almost completely business driven. I want game stores (both brick-and-mortar and online) to survive and thrive in this era of Kickstarter because I think it’s good for Stonemaier as a publisher. I can reach a very small number of people on Kickstarter (relative to the number of gamers worldwide), but through distributors and retailers I can create lasting brands that can be seen by millions of people.

Also, retailers can inject a healthy dose of funding into a Kickstarter project, helping forward momentum and reaching stretch goals. The more games a publisher can make up front, the lower the manufacturing cost per unit, and retailers can play a big role in that. Plus, usually you go into a print run blind, not knowing how many copies distributors and retailers will order. If you have pre-orders up front, you have a much better idea of how many games you need to make.

Recently I reached out to 73 retailers who are on my contact list from previous campaigns. I asked them if they would take a few minutes to fill out a survey to get to the heart of what makes a Kickstarter project appealing for them. As several point out in the free answer, it’s a pretty big risk for a retailer to put their cash flow on the line for many months while they wait for game (that may or may not be good) to arrive.

23 retailers took the time to respond, which I greatly appreciate. It’s still a very small sample size relative to the number of retailers out there, so keep that in mind as you look over this data and my analysis. Hopefully this will help bridge the gap between tabletop game Kickstarter creators and retailers to benefit us both.

retail_-_first_contact

We’ll start off with the first question, which is pretty easy to analyze because the majority of retailers said the same thing: Let them know about the project in advance, not after launch.

A follow-up question (not shown here) asked if those retailers would mind having their e-mail addresses available publicly so creators can contact them at least a week before launch. Many of the retailers agreed to this, and their e-mail address are posted on this Google spreadsheet. Please do not spam them or add them to other mailing lists–this is only for Kickstarter launch notifications. Also, make sure you take into account a retailer’s location–don’t send retailers in Europe information that only applies to retailers in the US. Retailers may add their e-mails to that list.

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Please rank the following pricing options from most compelling (1) to least compelling (4). All of these options entail the KS version of the game at a 50% discount off the KS MSRP.

retail_-_best_pricing_method

 

This data is all over the place, and I think the way the survey was structured on Survey Monkey was a little confusing, so take this data with a grain of salt. Please make sure to read the question, though, because it’s important to note that all of these options were for games priced at a 50% discount off KS MSRP. 50% is the standard discount for retailers. “KS MSRP” is a made-up term that reflects that hypothetical MSRP of the game if you sold the KS version to retailers post-Kickstarter.

Overall, I think the key takeaway here is that there is no universal “best pricing method” for retailers. In general, smaller game stores are going to prefer smaller increments, while online giants like Cool Stuff and Miniature Market are much more interested in big bulk purchases.

Here’s my recommendation: Offer two options for retailers, one that caters to small retailers and one that caters to the big guys. Pick the two from the above list that work best for you. They key is to give retailers a nice financial incentive to pre-order the game during the Kickstarter campaign instead of just waiting for the retail release.

Also, if you do offer retailers a way to pre-order more than 10 copies of the game, I’d recommend making that offer to them off of Kickstarter. Kickstarter technically doesn’t allow for purchases of greater than 10 copies. Sure, you can’t stop someone from pledging for more than 10 copies on Kickstarter, but you can’t have a reward level that explicitly offers that option.

UPDATE: After a great conversation in the comments, here’s my recommendation (these are sample prices). These each represent a full version of the game with all stretch goals.

Listed on Project Page:

1 game: $45 game ($60 MSRP, $70 KS MSRP) + standard shipping rates
5 games: $200 ($40/game) + standard shipping rates

Listed on Your Website, Linked to the Campaign and Only Available During the Campaign:

10 games, retailers only: $350 ($35/game) + free worldwide shipping

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Please indicate if the following elements make a KS game more or less appealing for you to back as a retailer.

retail_-_turn_ons_turn_offs

 

I was a little surprised by how conclusive the answers to these questions were. Let’s go through each of them to see what they mean for you:

  • KS exclusives: This is a big part of the reason why a retailer would back a project on Kickstarter instead of waiting for retail. Now, if you’re like me and see the major downsides to KS exclusives, I would recommend the method approved here by 89% of voters (All stretch goals are included in every KS game and then form an “enhancement pack” available to be purchased separately at a premium price post-KS).
  • Early bird rewards: A pretty solid no from retailers. The negatives of early birds have been discussed on this blog quite a bit elsewhere (including here and here), so this further reinforces my recommendation not to put them on your project.
  • Money-back guarantee: A pretty solid yes from retailers. This makes sense–they’re putting their money on the line, so if they need to back out of the pledge, here’s a way for them to do it.
  • Promo item just for retailers: This is something I’ve never considered or done, mostly because it would be a huge shipping hassle based on my current fulfillment system. However, the data clearly shows that retailers value this, so I’m open to trying it in some form. If you do this, I’d highly recommend communicating it clearly on your project page so backers know about it up front, and make the promo item something like alternate art. Something unique but not gamebreaking.
  • Early delivery: A universal yes and one of the most-often mentioned tips in the free answer section of the survey. Retailers backed your campaign months in advance of the games delivery, so they should be treated like any other backer and get the games before distributors and retailers too.
  • Non-distributed items: This is essentially what I did with the Treasure Chest. The only chance for retailers to get it at a discount was through the Kickstarter campaign. After Kickstarter, the only way to get the Treasure Chest is directly from Stonemaier. I was curious if retailers found this appealing or unappealing. It looks like most of them liked it, because they have something that no other retailer will have, but some of them don’t like it because if it sells well, they won’t have the chance to get more copies at a discount. That prevents them from wanting to really push the product beyond the few copies they got from the campaign.

One element I didn’t mention here that several retailers brought up in the free answer is the importance of low-cost or free shipping, as well as EU friendly shipping for Europe and shipping directly from China for retailers in Asia.

***

retail_-_MSRP

 

I’m fascinated by these answers. Granted, it’s a small sample size. But look at that drop in interest in $60-$80 games! I suspect that trend would continue if we got more responses.

The key here is that it’s harder for a retailer to sell really expensive games unless they’re huge hits. And even then, expensive games represent a fraction of the sales of sub-$50 games. Look at the classic “evergreen” games: Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Pandemic, etc. What do they have in common? They all have MSRPs of less than $50.

So what do you do if you have a really big, expensive game for Kickstarter? The basic calculation for MSRP is 5x the manufacturing cost per unit. Thus this data is saying you shouldn’t publish a game that costs more than $10 to manufacturer.

Here’s the key, a little secret learned from our friends over at Greater Than Games: If you have an expensive game, break it down into several packages. For example, if they have a miniatures game, they sell the miniatures separately from the core game (which uses cardboard tokens instead of the miniatures). That way they keep the MSRP right at the $50 sweet spot, and they have a whole other product line of miniatures to upsell to customers (or to retailers). This falls in line with the KS exclusive strategy I discussed above in question 2.

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At the end of the survey I asked retailers if there was anything else they wanted to share. Their input was really helpful, and most of it reinforced the ideas expressed in the survey answers above. However, there were a few concepts and questions that I wanted to address here.

  • Group pledges vs. retail-only pledges. If you’re going to offer retailers a special discount, should it also apply to group pledges? I’ve gone back and forth about this, and one retailer mentioned that they didn’t like projects that don’t discriminate between groups and retailers (like the Treasure Chest). Perhaps the key is to offer a deal for 2 or 3 games at a slight discount to backers, and then offer a better package deal (10 copies) strictly to retailers on your website or retail e-newsletter (but encourage them to pledge through Kickstarter or at least during the Kickstarter campaign through PayPal).
  • Bill-me-later. One retailer mentioned the idea of letting retailers pledge for a certain amount of games, but not charging those retailers until they actually receive the games. I’m intrigued by the idea, but the problem is that you’re probably on Kickstarter because you need the funds to make the games in the first place. So those up-front funds are important. This is something I would consider on a case-by-case basis, but I wouldn’t offer quite the same discount to those retailers as I would to those who actually pledge funds many months in advance of receiving the games. One thing you can do is simply ask retailers how many retail copies they hope to order when the game is released. That can help you estimate the print run size.
  • In-store pickup. I really like this concept, but the execution seems really messy. The idea is that you give backers the option to pick up their games at their local stores. It’s good for the stores because you get people to actually walk into their store. However, the logistics involved seem like they’re built for problems to arise. The biggest issue I see is that you might send the right number of games to a store, but if a backer doesn’t actually pick it up (or when they pick it up, they say the game isn’t there), you’re accountable for that. I’d prefer to keep order fulfillment under my control instead of divvying them out to store owners who have bigger things to worry about.

***

That just about sums it up! I hope you found some of this information helpful or insightful. Feel free to share your retail strategy if you’ve run a tabletop game Kickstarter campaign, or if you’re a retailer who wasn’t on the survey, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m also curious to hear from backers who see retail discounts–is that a turn off for you, or do you support those types of reward levels?

89 Comments on “The Secrets to Making Your Tabletop Game Kickstarter Project Appealing to Retailers

  1. Really Interesting data here, Jamey. Thanks for sharing.

    A question for you based on the suggestion of a post-paid pre-order. As someone who has a few successful campaigns under your belt, would that be something you are willing to do?

    If the Kickstarter provides enough funding to pay for the print run, you don’t necessarily need that money up-front, but it still helps you to figure out how many copies to print. If you’re selling directly to retailers, you’re going to see a higher margin than if you sell through distributors, but you have the added work of actually having to ship small orders to retailers instead of large orders to distributors. I’m curious what your thoughts are on a direct-to-retailer pre-order system that happens outside the kickstarter itself, and relies on billing the retailers when the games get to your fulfillment center, prior to authorizing the actual shipment.

    1. Adam: Thanks for your question. For the most part, I would say that my answer is the same as in the post: I’d consider it on a case-by-case basis. We sell a LOT of games to retailers during the Kickstarter campaign, so it wouldn’t be financially possible for us to offer that option to everyone.

      Either way, I think the retailers are going to want to get the games before distributors, and distributors aren’t going to want to be used as a conduit between me and the retailers if they’re not getting a cut. So either way we’d need to ship directly to those retailers.

  2. Some people have mentioned using a $1 pledge to allow Retailers to back your project and then charge them more later when you deliver. While this sounds like a good fix to the paying way in advance issue, it is strictly against the rules of Kickstarter and now allowed.

    1. James: Thanks for sharing that. I’m actually not familiar with that rule–can you quote the Kickstarter rule that says that you can’t charge people after the Kickstarter? It makes sense to me, but I just haven’t heard of it.

      1. I’ve tried in the past and they made me remove it. You can do it under the table I suppose, but that’s hard to explain on the KS so you might as well just work directly with them off KS. The idea/point is that you’re using KS to promote and raise money for the product, you cannot then use another tool to collect the money afterwards. I guess it’s a grey area with add-ons from the 3rd party campaign managers. But KS is always rather subjective in how they enforce their rules. Point being, I tried and they refused to approve the campaign with a “pay $1 now and more later” reward.

          1. I think for your first project, all payment needs to go through kickstarter, as the retailer, doesn’t know that much about you, and so at least going through kickstarter gives them a little more security and it also adds to your funding, which makes your project look good, and encourages other people to fund.

            However, Kickstarter’s 10% fees are going to hurt. For your future projects, contact those retailers who have invested before (and possibly other backers to) and invite them to send you payment via paypal. Paypal only charges 3.4% +20p (assuming you haven’t used it before, if you have you may be on a better deal [also note this is the UK price so maybe different in your country) So you can even offer people a small discount, or extra product for paying you outside of kickstarter.

            Quick maths check (note I’m using UK figures here as I don’t know paypal’s US charges):
            £100 funding, minus 10% kickstarter leaves you with £90
            £100 funding, minus 3.4%+20p paypal leaves you with £96.40
            5% discount £100 funding minus 5% = £95 funding, 3.4%+20p paypal leaves you with £91.57
            which means the backer has got a discount and yet you’ve still got more money than if they had backed you via kickstarter
            and the more money you take via paypal, the lower their fees which leaves you with more money! (obviously paypal are not the only way to take money and feel free to use your own payment processing company!)
            This also gets round the limit of 10 items mentioned elsewhere.

  3. This is a neat analysis, even for someone who doesn’t own a store.

    I would say as a backer, though, I would be very irritated to see retailers get a special promo item that I wouldn’t get, even if it was just alternate art. Mostly because, as a backer, I’d have virtually no way to get that item because I backed it from you, I wouldn’t be buying the version from the retailer. If it was something I really liked, I would just wait to buy a copy from the retailer with that promo, which doesn’t help the Kickstarter campaign.

  4. i prefer the idea of not having a pledge level for retailers and you having a ‘contact me’ for retailer bundles.For non retailers seeing a 6 pack that’s drastically less than a 6 pack I can get erks me and will peev off backers. It’s one of those things I think is better to be hidden pledge for retailers. IMO. I’d second Adam’s statement. I generally have really disliked seeing retailers get a huge slash on KS project costs. If we don’t see it it’s not painful.

    1. Jason: Thanks, that’s definitely one of my concerns. That’s exactly what I did on Tuscany, and when I offered a retail pledge on the Treasure Chest (10 units), it was open to any backer. Your comment is an important reminder to Kickstarter creators about the impact seeing those retailer discounts has on their perception of value and fairness.

      1. I’d have to look at projects i backed that did this, but I’m scaling back on projects but Kings of Israel had a great deal that was basically retailer package that was open to any backer, I think the 6 pack basically was 50% off. I found 4 other people to pay the 50% off price that would not have otherwise backed the project. So that instantly helped both me and the project creator. Creating classes amongst pledges is dicey tho I understand retailers perspective as well. It’s a balance one must walk I suppose. I know there was some projects I decided NOT to back due to the feeling it gave. Basically tells regular backers that you’d be able to get this from retailers for possibly less than we’re backing it at. If you do this survey again I’m interested in seeing if retailers would be ok if backers had access to the same pledge if they’d be ok with that or not.

  5. Ha! kitteh out of the bag. MSRP vs. KS Reward vs. &c.

    1) AFAIK many (most?) KS projects see reasonable best-practice profit margins as a secondary thought. Not healthy if that’s your /only/ business model, but makes complete sense when you’re trying to, ahem, kick start your *idea* more than run an actual established business. It is not unheard of to actually do KS at some loss (turrible loss if you factor in the labor and time) with the intent to gain a bit of a tooth’s skin foothold in the market. (maybe I’m projecting here – *not counting labor* I’ll see a 25% ROI from my own project – counting labor it’s so red it looks soviet, but counting the lessons learned through the chance to “run my business with training wheels”, the gain is priceless)

    2) as Jason says, “if we don’t see it”… OTOH, giving /everyone/ the chance to play “retailer” might be interesting. Now that it is again permitted to offer multiple units, maybe offer, say, a dozen units at a 50% cut? Very above board no-nonsense, and good for everybody. But, ahem, maybe people *do* mind paying full retail price when you could have offered them a 25% KS discount? then it gets silly too fast.

    3) there are legends of retailers actually coming on board KS projects at full KS price. Makes little sense to me, but maybe it’s true…

    4) I see the ship-to-supporters-before-you-offer-things-retail as sacred. OTOH it has been said that retailers might want to take advantage of the dynamics and enthusiasm of a KS campaign, and that kind of collaboration might be worth looking into. If done honestly it might work. However, a vocal follower that finds the same item that he KSd being sold for less somewhere, worse if even before he got it, might turn into ugly.

          1. got confused, “familiar”.

            Yes. Indeed, that IMHO is the biggest change in the rules. 2 days after I launched. I made a mess of a variety of Rewards, when what I needed was simply to be able to do multiples…
            Thanks

  6. For Fast Food Legend we are trying a $5 pledge level for retail that gives backers the option to pick it up at that location. In exchange for not having it delivered directly to their home, they will receive four bonus cards (one for each deck type) that will not be part of the game in distribution (they are FLGS themed). Once we are ready to ship the rewards, we will also contact each of the stores that pledged to see if they would like to purchase any copies (with the bonus cards) at 50% MSRP, before it is available through distribution.

    We also have a handful of retailers across the US that are “Play Before You Pledge” locations. They have the game available for people to come in and play during the Kickstarter campaign.

    1. Spotted Owl: Thanks for sharing your perspective as a creator. I like that method. It sounds like a bit of extra work, but it sounds like a win-win for stores and backers (and you!). And the “play before you pledge” is brilliant if you’re working with those stores! Very nice.

  7. I like this post, thanks =)

    A few thoughts on some of the points that I had while reading…

    “Early bird rewards: A pretty solid no from retailers.”

    I think it’s quite interesting that this is a different take on it though. As a backer, I don’t like early birds because it feels like I’m not getting equal treatment to other backers, despite us all paying at the same time (And that includes when I am one of those early birds). The result being I don’t want to back projects with early birds unless I really want them.

    From a retailers perspective though, one of the big negatives is possibly that it lets backers get the game too cheap and may dissuade them from waiting till retail. I.e. may lose them sales by giving people their games too cheaply.

    “Promo item just for retailers:”

    I think this would be an interesting one. On the one hand, I naturally shy away from this (I’m probably at about a 50:50 kickstarter:retail ratio and its’ always a shame to miss out), but on the other hand there’s a really cool opportunity to offer the same promo’s that would go to backers, but with a retail twist. Instead of a big fat kickstarter logo you could have an image of a store or something. (Its’ kinda hard to be specific as it depends on the game!)

    “Non-distributed items:”

    As you’ve mentioned, this is an awkward one because of the lack of availability. What about offering the ‘upgrade packs’ that you plan to offer on your website, as a ‘retail add-on’. Alongside the 10 copies of the game perhaps they could have the option of grabbing 30 upgrade packs so they have something to offer alongside the retail games later.

    “But look at that drop in interest in $60-$80 games!”

    I’d be curious on the difference between retail/online game stores for this kind of size game. My main reason for that curiosity is that some online retailers give free shipping when orders hit certain amounts, so if someone’s going to drop say, $80 anyway, they can save 10% off the cost AND get free shipping. If they’re going to pick up a $20 game, then the $5 shipping means its’ more attractive to pick it up on the way home from work….I think I’m overanalysing here though ^^.

    “Bill-me-later”

    … I find that a bit ridiculous for them to even ask for. That’s basically just saying ‘I want some, but I don’t trust you’. Waiting for it to enter distribution is fine, there’s no need to muddy the waters.

    “In-store pickup”

    I really like the idea in principle, but I think this can, and should, be managed by the retailer themselves. If you’re able to give retailers a week or more notice before a projects launch, you could provide them printable advertisement and they could advertise in store as a ‘back through us’ system, then back a retail pledge and contact their ‘backers’ when the game arrives for pickup.

    1. Smoothsmith: Some great thoughts here–thanks for sharing. As for the MSRP, based on the data I saw, one big online store seemed to not care about the price at all. I’m sure they might order more units of cheaper games, but they order so many games at one time that the MSRP doesn’t have much of an impact on their buying behavior.

      I think I agree with you about in-store pickup. One stipulation I give retailers is that they can’t accept pre-orders for my games during the Kickstarter campaign at a price better than what I’m offering. After that, anything goes. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with that, but I don’t like being undercut during that crucial time of momentum. :)

  8. Nice article, Jamey. I was surprised by retailers liking the KS-exclusives, but it makes sense if you can convince them to back the project rather than waiting until later. In your experience, would you say that a new game publisher will be successful contacting retailers directly to get a good number of them to back the project ahead of time? I was getting advice elsewhere that retailers generally don’t want to talk to publishers directly – they’d rather go through distributors to reduce overhead by having just one point of contact, rather than dealing directly with a plethora of project creators. I feel like this would be easier for someone with a few more games under their belt than someone who’s a first-timer.

    1. Dennis: Yeah, I really wasn’t sure how retailers would answer that question (I was a bit surprised too).

      I certainly think it helps to have a track record. But what I garner from the above data is that retailers want the option to get in on the Kickstarter, and they want to be notified about it in advance even if you’re a new creator. They might not do anything, but at least they have the option. That probably goes for pretty much anyone, not just retailers.

      1. As a retailer, I like to have the KS exclusive bits. It means that I have something to offer that other retailers don’t have, until I’ve sold them all. It doesn’t matter if it is exclusive miniatures that can be sold separately, or special versions of the game (as long as they look different to the standard retail version).

  9. The question on pricing options was especially interesting to me. Personally, I think if a retailer wants to get 50% discount they would have to buy 10 copies or more, otherwise it wouldn’t look good for individual buyers. %50 off a purchase of only 5 copies is just way too crazy, because people will walk by and see e.g. a $50 game, then notice that 5 copies only cost $150!? That just makes your game seem overpriced at $50 right there.

    Anyways, I think it would make more sense to increase the % discount in proportion to the minimum purchase is. e.g. -20% for 5 copies (small retailers), and -50% for 10 copies (large retailers).

    What do you think?

    Oh and thanks for writing this!

    1. Payton: Well, there are a few factors in play here. One is that 50% off is the standard discount for retailers off of Kickstarter, so I think it’s fair for them to expect the same on Kickstarter (if that 50% is based on the KS MSRP). The question is what’s right for creators to offer. Two is the visibility of the retail offer. Those options don’t have to be reward levels–they can be outlined on your website, and you simply link to that retail page through the Kickstarter campaign. That way you’re transparent about it to backers who are curious, but they won’t see the retail rewards right next to the prices they’re paying.

      I typically offer backers about 30% off MSRP, so giving 20% off instead for retailers wouldn’t equate at all. I’m fine with the 50% standard fee, but I would probably charge for shipping if they’re only getting 5 copies. At 10 copies, with shipping built into the reward price (as it is for most backers), I offer free shipping to retailers.

      1. That actually makes a lot of sense! But if you lead them off of you KS page wouldn’t that detract from your total funding goal? Wait a minute, do you mean to have retailers pay via KS, but get a reward based on another form of agreement outside of KS?

          1. Jamey, great blog as always,

            One thing I think is confusing people here is the MRSP price vs the KS backer price
            The MRSP price is not the kickstarter it is the full recommended sales price, after the game has been delivered, for people who want to buy the game then.
            Most backers will expect the kickstarter price to be already discounted from the MRSP. (note I’m dealing here with big projects, if you are doing a small specialized project then you are going to be less interested in retailers though they may still be interested so you might want to have a bulk discount just in case)
            So lets say you’ve got a game and you are setting the kickstarter project price at $35
            this is a 30% discount from a MRSP of $50 (this you can make clear on kickstarter as it gives backers a reason to back however, note be careful what your MRSP price ends up being as stated in the survey there is a cut off point)
            and you can offer retailers a 50% discount of this MRSP, if they buy 5 copies.
            So they get 5 copies at 50% of $50 i.e. $25 each, which costs them $125
            Online retailers can then happily sell at a discount of 25% MRSP which is $37.50 giving them $12.50 profit
            Bricks and mortar retailers can sell at full MRSP i.e. $50 giving them $25 profit
            helping them to cover the higher overheads a bricks and mortar shop has compared to an online shop.
            (Remember retailers have invested early for the main reason of them wanting to make a profit from your game)

            Also don’t forget to work out shipping costs and any other charges and include them as necessary. Remember it generally costs less to send 5 copies of a game to 1 person than 5 copies to 5 different people.

            As far as contacting retailers like us is concerned, especially if you haven’t already got a track record, is by all means contact as a week in advance, in case it is something that might be of interest to us, but then if you manage to get your project going and surpass 200% or even 300% of funding, send us another email, essentially saying, look how many people like our product. As we may not have followed it that closely. (though don’t send lots of unsolicited emails as we will just ignore you, just 2 or possibly 3 for a project)

          2. Andrew: Thanks for your comments–I think that will help clarify the idea of MSRP and KS MSRP for some readers. And that’s a good tip about contacting a retailer again if/when a project overfunds. Thanks!

  10. I really enjoyed reading this information. I can be a bit of a stat geek myself sometimes. I can understand that a retailer wouldn’t feel that a backer should get the same 10 game package price but if a single backer has worked with 9 other backers to get them to all back they are acting similar to a retailer. I guess you could always let them pledge for multiple smaller group pledges but again if someone convinced 9 people in their gaming group to back the game they deserve something for their work. This is an interesting conundrum to me because you would never want to alienate backers or retail backers. I guess Kickstarter is always a little like walking on a tightrope. A recent project I was backing (Pack-O-Games) put up a final stretch goal with 2 days to go and it was pretty high but the creator stated that was what was needed to be able to produce the extra games. Several backers actually got mad at how high it was even though they had been the ones begging for the extra games to be added. It seems like too many people end up wanting something for free or no work. I have been developing a game for awhile and when I back one of your projects I fell like the KS community is great and would be fun to use to fund a game and then I see a project where the backers get greedy or spiteful and I feel the opposite.

    1. Eric: Thanks for your comment. It certainly is a tight line to walk, as you want the project to not turn off either group (backers and retailers) and also be really appealing to both groups.

      As for the stretch goal thing, I’ve had that happen before. Stretch goals aren’t just arbitrary goals–they’re based on actual increases in manufacturing cost. So if a few backers don’t like a large stretch goal and end up cancelling, that’s better in the long run for the creator and the rest of backers than if the creator severely underbudgets. I think you get this, and it’s good that you’re seeing that type of backer behavior up front so that when you run a project, you know how to respond to it. :)

      1. I agree, it’s good to see before being in the middle of your own campaign. I guess that having an MBA I just don’t understand when people don’t grasp that there are costs involved that must be covered.

        I would rather a creator make more profit and actually produce the game in a timely fashion with good quality rather than scrape by with a razor thin profit, have to delay production to get a more favorable price from the factory and get more “Goodies” but possibly a lower quality with a creator that vows to never use Kickstarter again because of the bad experience. Even the guys that aren’t trying to make it a business are still running a business. If it is stressful beyond reason and they lose money we will lose a creative individual in the field.

  11. I enjoyed reading it.

    Originally I was thinking to offer buy one get one free exclusively for retailers, as this goes well along their expectations of 50% of the MRSP. Basically they would normally put money that would account for a number of copies and on proving they are in fact a business they would get the free copies. I wonder how this would be perceived. (as Andrew elaborates above this approach would be in fact more then 50% of MRSP).

    Yet after reading comments above I am leaning away from only giving a great deal to retailers because of this negative flavour for a regular backer.

    Maybe something along the lines of buy 4 get 5th free for smaller retailers and groups. And buy 7 get 10 for the larger guys. This sounds fair to all plus if a retailer is interested in something one would assume they would be happy to contact you.

    Thank you.

        1. Jason: Thanks for sharing. That’s quite a discount for retailers. They list an MSRP of $65, so typically you’d offer retailers the price of $32.50/unit. So for 5 units, that would be $162.50.

          1. Yah, like i said, I see that I think, we’ll i could get that for possibly 35-45$ after market from retailers then, why in the world would I pay 55 for it on here? Where I can buy it cheaper later. Again this is a very interesting topic, where some people are in a sense retailers if they plan on buying thrifted games and resale them on ebay. The line is blurred.

          2. Right, I see what you’re saying. Though they’re including shipping costs in that $55, so you’re getting the game for about $45 plus shipping. It could be better, but I think it’s important to keep shipping in mind.

          3. @Jason, The answer to “why would I back a project on Kickstarter?” should always be rooted in the idea of “to directly support the creator of this project, and the creation *of* this project”. If you aren’t viewing KS as a platform for helping create things and support creators, yes, please, (IMO) go buy from a retailer.

          4. Teel: I appreciate your opinion, but I don’t quite agree that backers “should” have any specific motivation. It’s not my place as a creator to tell backers what they should think. My job as a Kickstarter creator is to create a project that is so compelling, exciting, and engaging that a backer is willing to pledge their hard-earned money to it many months before they actually receive the product. My hope is that backers are partially motivated by wanting the product to exist, but after we hit our funding goal, there has to be a lot more going on to get backers to continue to engage and join in the project. Each backer has their own unique motivation, and money is a scarce resource for all backers, so respecting backers with fair pricing is really important.

  12. Ok, as of right now, i backed 5 projects that had a pledge level that was ‘retailers only’ Only one of which was this year,

    Pay Dirt, by AF designer, which i loved, but I was a bit put off by the retailer level. I would have spent 90$ more on campaign had i been allowed to get the same deal retailers got. Instead I only got the 2 pack pledge. 6 pack was 180$ Making the game 30$ a pop.vs 45$ which isn’t as big as the 25$ difference. So it could be a gain vs loss ?

    Freedom Underground Railroad, 5 pack is a 18$ difference, again not a huge amount but still one I would have considered given the nature of the game. 42$ per copy with their 5 pack

    Archon 35$ price with base pledge of 55. 20$ difference.

    Hegemonic( still haven’t played, and was my first KS, otherwise their levels would cause me to not back today.) 112 for a 3 pack for 37$, a 3 pack for joe-smoes 190 at 60$ per copy, base level was 69$, so these are pretty large differences

    Expedition famous explorers Another of my first KS i pledged to and one I wouldn’t have done due to the pledge levels for retailers if it went live today. Base price 50$ $210 for 5 copies, so 42$ a piece. 20 pack of commercial copies of 5 copies, 1 of which was a demo for 125$ which is 85$ cheaper than the other 5 pack. Even at a base of 4 thats 31.25$ and you’re giving a demo copy to 20 people. That was at least limited.

    Only 1 of these was this year. Difference for Hegemonic was just painful In my opinion. For what it would have cost me to get 2 copies I could have received 5. for LESS. Needless to say as a backer I don’t like retailer packs that make backers feel like they’re not getting a deal.

    1. Jason: Thanks for sharing those examples. I think the price difference you describe here are part of the reason why I’m more of a fan of bigger group/retail packages (i.e., 10 games). They give retailers a great deal, but they’re not closed off to backers who want to coordinate a bunch of friends. I feel like they respect retailers by being less accessible to individual backers (because they’re in packs of 10), and they respect backers because they’re able to get in on those levels if they’re willing to put in the work to create the group. Either way, people are putting a lot of money on the line months before they get the product.

      1. I agree Jamie, the 10 pack is more restrictive and is a best of both worlds. I’m really curious as to how likely a backer would be to jump up to a group pledge you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I know for Kings of Israel, My friends would NOT have bought the game, If it wasn’t at the price i got the 6 pack for and they don’t use KickStarter. So basically the project got 5 new games on shelves they might have otherwise gotten.

        1. That’s a great example. I wonder if a potential compromise could be a discounted 5 pack open to anyone and a 10-copy level only open to retailers, with the 10-pack getting a slightly better discount than the 10-pack. Something like:

          1 game: $45 game ($60 MSRP, $70 KS MSRP)
          5 games: $200 ($40/game)
          10 games: $350 ($35/game, retailers only).

          1. well, it’s maybe worth another survey in the future at the very least, I for one preferred King of Israel’s approach. Pay Dirt did something like that to some degree. It’s an art form for sure, and I’m curious what others think about it as well.

          2. So, King of Israel offered the game for $45, or a pack of 6 games to anyone for $135. I don’t see a mention of MSRP or retail price on the Kickstarter, and it’s not on Cool Stuff or Amazon, so I’m not sure what the MSRP is. Let’s say the KS MSRP is $60, meaning that a typical group/retail discount of 50% would put the 6-pack at $180. No wonder you liked that level! :) I don’t think they did the product justice by offering it for so little–at best, they broke even on that group pack.

  13. Jason, well done for backing so many projects. People like you are helping to make a thriving games industry.
    Over the last year and a half, as a retailer, I have spent a five figure sum on games via KickStarter. Of these games, I have sold about a third, a third are in stock and a third have yet to arrive (even after 18 months e.g. Robotech). I suppose I could just wait until the games are available through normal distribution channels, I’d still get a 30 – 50 % discount (like every other retailer), but I wouldn’t have to buy more than one copy. The thing is, if I see a game that looks interesting, I’ll back it and then it’s up to me to make a profit from it.
    It started off with the idea to buy six at the lower price, keep one and sell the others to cover my costs. From there it just grew. Luckily it’s easy to start a business over here ‘ just keep the tax man informed.

  14. Jamey, This is Gary from Stone Circle Games, thank you for another great post. I did have a couple questions that I would like yours and your audiences insight on. I hope they aren’t repeats for you guys. Most of us at SCG have supported various projects however we are fairly new(First one coming soon hopefully) to the Kickstarter world in terms of running a project. You mentioned that an option was to offer a group tier(2-3 games) at one discounted rate and then another tier(10 games) with the 50% discount as strictly retail only. Is there a way to determine a retail backer vs a non-retail backer? If so, is there a way to prevent the non-retail backers from using that larger tier? If not, what are your thoughts on what to do about the non-retailers that use the retail only tiers?

    1. Gary: Hi, thanks for your questions. In general, I would stay away from restricting a reward level based on a certain status level. Reward levels are very public and could be a turn-off to backers, as mentioned a few times in the comments. Instead, if you want to offer retailers something special, I’d recommend doing it in your e-mail to them or on your website (then direct them back to Kickstarter to make the pledge). As you mention, there’s no way to prevent anyone from pledging to a reward level. I’ll update the above post to recommend this concept.

      But to get to your first question, I generally just ask retailers if they’re a retailer. You can also Google them.

  15. Can I ask you a specific question about catering for retailers on KS.

    I’ve been in touch with a few of the guys you listed in your database and one, Alejandro is interested in working with us, if the ‘price is right’.

    I know that you have previously handled retail requests ‘offline’ and asked them to contact you personally for a specific quote based on their quantity, which they can then manually add to their pledge total. And I know that you also ask for some sort of proof that they are a retailer.

    So, my question is – how do you feel about this method? Has it worked well for you? Is it worth it for the additional overhead, complexity etc.

    We don’t have a set MSRP yet. In fact retailing our games is something that we’re still a little in the dark about. So without a set MSRP, what would you advise?

    We currently are considering a bundle of 6 games at a 18% discount on the KS price (includes free expedited shipping and all KS exclusives + SGs)

    And a bundle of 10 games at a 26% discount (same terms as above). As you say, we can’t limit who buys which bundle, but do you think this is a decent way of dealing with this?

    Thanks as always for your amazing insights and knowledge!

    1. Alicia: Thanks for this great series of questions! I’ll do my best to answer them.

      You’re correct that for Tuscany we contacted retailers privately. They were mentioned in the $1 pledge on the project page (I put it there because it’s very visible), and they were given instructions by e-mail on how to pledge and how much to pay.

      I feel like it worked really well. Sure, it was a little extra work compared to the Treasure Chest, which had a group/retail bulk pledge level, but not that much more work. Really the only problems arose from retailers who didn’t realize (despite the instructions) that they needed to not only pledge during the campaign, but also manually add the full pledge amount during the campaign. There were very few who didn’t get it right, though.

      I would recommend setting an MSRP before approaching retailers. Just use the calculation 5x production cost and adjust slightly based on the MSRPs of similar games (you don’t know how many copies you’re making yet, so the MSRP could widely vary based on that–hence why using other games as anchor points is a good idea).

      I would suggest making the 6-game bundle available to backers as a reward level, but leave the 10-game bundle off the Kickstarter page to have something that’s only for retailers. Put a note on the page to have retailers contact you if they’re interested in 10+ games.

      I hope that helps!

  16. Thanks for the response, Jamey. I guess I’m worried that by having a whole offline strategy for retailers, that it’s alienating the core KS audience. Obviously we’re all on KS trying to promote a healthy gaming industry and it’s in backer’s interests to have a thriving board game retail market, but I’m just worried that it might bend the ‘consumer backer’s’ nose out of joint if retailers get special treatment. What do you think?

    1. Alicia: I certainly appreciate that backer-first philosophy. The way I look at it, you’re enabling retailers to become backers too. Without a special bulk discount, it’s usually not possible for them to be a part of the project, so this is a way to make a project more inclusive for various types of backers.

  17. I’m pretty late to the game, but I really appreciate this post! As an aspiring retailer, I fall in between backers and retailers – usually pledging for multiple copies of KS projects, but not always getting a retailer discount in doing so. In the latter case, I will only do so if there are KS Exclusives that make it possible to offer a version of the game that does not compete with the major online retailers (e.g. CMON projects like Arcadia Quest).

    I definitely understand that this can be a difficult path to navigate – offering a project that appeals to both backers and retailers. I understand the concerned raised that “off-line” communication with retailers might be off-putting to backers, but I think it’s the better course than offering a retailer pledge level that puts it right out there that backers are paying more than is “strictly necessary” for the game to get produced.

    The idea floated of having separate retail packages for “small” retailers vs. large retailers makes sense. Where it is feasible and attractive, I have no qualms about pledging for 10 copies of a game. But it’s completely understandable that one of the big(ger) players would want a larger discount for 20+ copies of a game. So much the better for the project creator, assuming the price point still makes financial sense for them!

    Re: the price point of games being a disincentive as a retailer – I don’t have a general problem with pledging for large dollar game projects, but it is definitely a case by base basis. For example, I pledged for Sails of Glory for multiple copies of the top level ($240 for the “all-in” package), and that was quite profitable for me. Even the core game itself has a fairly high MSRP, but the first print run of that game sold out almost immediately. Of course, I know that’s the exception rather than the rule. My budget is limited, so I do tend to be pretty selective at that price range. But my budget is the only real constraint right now – I’ve never had a problem finding buyers online for high dollar game packages. If I could afford to pledge for more high dollar game projects that looked attractive, I would.

    Last thought: for me personally, early delivery before a game enters into general retail distribution is definitely desirable, but one of the things that is the least “enforceable.” So I have pretty much given up on expecting that, even if a project insists that backers will get their games before anyone else. It’s a pleasant bonus if it happens. But given how unpredictable delivery of KS games can be vis a vis retail distribution, it makes it all the more important that a game project offer KS exclusives (however you define that term). That ensures that I will be able to sell my games without having to take a loss, even if I receive it weeks (or months, in some cases) after the game has become available at retail.

    Thanks again, Jamey, for posting this information. So interesting!

    1. Mike: Thanks for your extensive thoughts here–this is great! I appreciate your feedback on retail level visibility and different price points for different numbers of games acquired.

      It’s interesting to hear that you consider early delivery a nice perk at best, even if it’s promised. As a company who doesn’t do Kickstarter Exclusives anymore, that’s a good thing for me to keep in mind. :)

      1. Jamey – in the case of the Viticulture/Tuscany CE, I absolutely consider that a KS exclusive in all but name. I put that caveat on “KS Exclusive” because people tend to define that term rather differently. In this case, the fact that the CE is a single print run that will not be put into traditional retail distribution makes it a limited supply item that has potential re-sale value far above the KS price – which is the basic concept of a KS Exclusive in my mind.

        As you know, I pledged for 10 copies of the CE, and I have every reason to believe that I will sell each copy at a profit. I say that knowing that Miniature Market also pledged for x number of copies. But ultimately, the print run is the print run, and (I assume) that it won’t be reprinted. So I have the option of selling my copies at a comparable price point as MM (which I already know will be profitable for me as well), or I can simply wait till they run out, and then sell mine, perhaps at an even larger premium. I realize that not every retailer has that luxury of time, though.

        To bring this back to the issue of early delivery, the CE kind of puts a twist on the issue – I know that I will get the CE’s about the same time as MM does (or at least, I hope I do!). So in a sense, I won’t be getting the game “earlier” than retail, but there is no “general” retail distribution clock that I need to beat. In other words, I have no problems backing Stonemaier Games projects when there is a limited edition version of the game that I can pledge for, even if it does not have “KS Exclusives” in any meaningful way.

        1. Mike: That’s true, the Collector’s Edition is a one-time deal. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to have it not be KS Exclusive, though! It enabled me to make enough copies so I can replace any backer copies that are damaged or go missing in transit (well, not “any” copies, but some copies–enough that I think we’re covered), but I still have the flexibility to sell any of the leftovers as I wish. It’s a much better system for me than the traditional “KS Exclusive” model. I kind of look forward to the day when someone asks to buy a Collector’s Edition and I say, “No, we’re sold out” instead of “No, I have some, but they’re KS exclusives, so I can’t sell them to you.” :)

          It will be interesting to see how the impact of retailer copies of the Collector’s Edition (whether they’re batches of 10 or much bigger batches) on the open market. It’s certainly much less of a scarce resource than, say, with Euphoria Supreme or the original Viticulture.

  18. Hey Jaime, great article like always. How would you approach selling to retailers directly after fulfillment before you have a distributor? My game’s MSRP is 21.99. It’s very small and compact card game with 180 cards. 4x4x2.75. Do you have any idea what I should charge per game or for a bulk order? and do you just eat the cost for shipping?

    1. Thanks Michael! I think a retailer’s expectation is that they’ll get the game at 50% of MSRP with free shipping (that’s industry standard). The control you have is on the minimum number of copies you send so it’s worthwhile for you. One way to do that is to sell the games by the carton.

      1. Thanks for the answer, Jamey. Does it have to be 50%? Can first time creators get away with 45 % or 40 %? As a first time creator there have obviously been mistakes made, one of which is spending too much on manufacturing. I guess what I’m asking is if I wrote back 40 or 45 would that potentially burn a bridge for being considered too low?

  19. I think I have a way to get retailers to back a game through KS, without upsetting normal backers, but still feel like they are getting a great deal.

    Jamey, it’s been said that retailers expect a 50% discount many times. So how about we offer them a 10 copy pledge level at a 51-55% discount, with included shipping, and with a promise that all other copies they order (in minimum 10 copy orders) will have that same discount. You wouldn’t want that promise to extend forever, but it could last for… 6 months after they receive their pledge.

    From the perspective of retailers: they get a better discount than normal now; and if the game sells well, they can get more copies at the better discount. They also get the kickstarter stretched version of the game, they get the game before other retailer/distributors, and even if the game doesn’t do well, they can use that extra discount to sell the game at a bargain.

    From the perspective of backers: it isn’t a retailer exclusive pledge level, they can get that discount too (through friend coordination/selling the game themselves) and the retailer’s pledge brings them closer to stretch goals.

    I feel like this is the WIN-WIN-WIN option for creators looking to entice retailer involvement in their kickstarter campaigns. Personally, I can’t wait to try it on my first campaign in the future. How do you feel this approach would be received?

    1. Jonathan: The heart of this idea is good, though I have a few things for you to consider:

      1. I don’t recommend using the reward sidebar to announce the retailer level. The reason is that some individual backers will take offense to the idea that retailers are getting a better price than them. Also, some backers like to arrange big group orders, and some of them will feel like they deserve that group price (even though their situation is different than a retailers). I recommend creating a separate section on the project page that tells retailers to contact you directly for details.

      2. On a similar note, you allude to the idea that group backers could pledge to the 10-copy level, but I would recommend against that. First, you’ll really turn off any retailers your project may have attracted. Second, you will probably lose money. Just pick a fair price for 1 copy of that game and use that price for any number of copies within a group pledge. Backers who are part of a group pledge will save on shipping–you don’t need to deep-discount your game, as each copy of the game costs you the same to make.

      3. As for letting retailers add onto their pledge at the same price after the campaign, it’s up to you philosophically. For me, I treat my entire Kickstarter campaign like an early-bird reward–when the campaign ends, the price goes up for everyone, and even backers can no longer add limited copies of the games to their pledge (this is both out of respect for those who contributed during the campaign and because I start printing those games right away, so I need to know the final amount right away). Your philosophy may differ. If it does, keep in mind that you won’t have an infinite supply of games to offer–if you tell a retailer they have 6 months to add onto their order and you don’t have enough games to satisfy those retailers at the 6-month mark, they’re not going to like that.

      I’m not really trying to sway you either way–this is just food for thought. Thanks for sharing your idea!

      1. Maybe I’m missing something, or maybe I didn’t quite explain myself right…

        So I’m nearing the end of development on my first project-a 2-4 player card game called Wizard King-and I’m starting to think about pledge levels and MSRP and the like. On your post
        https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-201-a-step-by-step-guide-to-pricing-your-core-reward/
        you recommend the following:
        1. Determine your manufacturing cost for a minimum print run (for Wizard King that’s $4.84)
        2. Multiply by 5 to find your MSRP ($4.84 x 5 = $24.20 so round to $24)
        3. Remove 40% for Kickstarter ($24 x 0.6 = 14.40)
        4. Add shipping subsidy-freight and fulfillment ($14.40 + $6.24 = $20.64)
        5. Research other projects and finalize core reward price: $20

        In response to your second point, is this a fair price?

        If i had a 10 copy base pledge level of $115, that’s a 52% discount off MSRP. The pledge description would make no mention of retailer discounts. This level is available to all backers. (I believe this addresses your first point)

        However, on my project page there will be a notice for retailers to contact me. In response to this, and in the 1-week press release I send to retailers, I would explain that while the 52% level is available to all backers they may place additional orders at the 52% level up to 6 months after they receive their campaigns. If my supplies run thin before the six months are up, and if there is sufficient demand, I will fund a second print and their 52% discount will hold on their first order of the second print. This way, they get an exclusive incentive to back the kickstarter, as non-backing retailers will pay the traditional 50% price. (i believe this addresses your third point)

        Now, I have never ran a kickstarter so all i can really do is hope and crunch numbers. I have a feeling that this approach will incentivize retailers without alienating backers or retailers, but I value your experience. Do you still have the same position you did before?

        1. Yes, that’s a fair price.

          The system you describe here (which is a little different than in the first comment) has the potential to work. Though there are still some issues, as I don’t think retailers are going to be interested in pledging if they’re getting pretty much the same price as a group or bulk backer. Also, the shipping cost for, say, 2 copies of a game is a lot different than 10 copies of a game, but you can only set one price per location per reward. That’s why I limit units per pledge on my campaigns to 3 games. I instruct retailers separately that they can either pledge for 1-3 games on the project page like any other backer, or they can pledge for 4+ game at a special discount (but they have to adhere to carefully calculated shipping tiers depending on the number of units).

          1. Interesting… I guess shipping is the big difference between our projects. Shipping a card game is quite cheap (about $3). Shipping 10 decks of cards isn’t that much more (about $13). But when you look at shipping 10 of a project like Scythe, your shipping costs are sure to be much higher.

            On that conclusion, I think that my proposed system is likely not viable for medium to big box games. But I bet that for card to small games it should work… Hmmm… Either way, I will likely be trying it out with Wizard King when I get there.

            Thanks for how much work you put into this blog. It’s really incredible that you respond so quickly to fledgling creators like myself. Just know that you are appreciated.

  20. Not sure where to place this comment: there has been some discussions about whether or not a board game can/should be patented, trademarked and/or copyrighted. I was under the impression that the need to do these things is imperative, based on things I’ve read in the past. So I went in search of new information, here’s an article https://geekandsundry.com/6-must-know-game-design-tips-from-the-creative-director-of-fluxx/
    which talks about this some. I know for a fact that monopoly is patented, I’ve got copies of it downloaded on my computer and that’s the main reason I’ve been so careful to work on my game ideas, I have done research on each and every aspect of the game design to make sure I’m not gonna get sued.

    Anyway I’d like your comments on this above article and does this change your mind about the need to patent a game?

    or at least create a game that can be patented?

    As far as trademarks go, you can get a trademark on the logos and such which is very easy to do.

    Copyrights belong to an instruction pamphlet although it doesn’t apply to any generic terminology.

    Have you had any run ins with folks trying to copy your games?

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