Try, Try, Try Again: How to Fund After Failing Twice (KS Lesson #265)

11 April 2019 | 31 Comments

A few days ago I delivered some difficult news to a creator whose project was struggling to fund: At some point, I said, you might consider the possibility that people simply don’t want the product.

No creator wants to think about that or give up a product on which they’ve spent so much time, effort, and love. Fortunately, Kickstarter allows creators to relaunch projects, as sometimes it’s more about the campaign than the product itself.

Several years ago I wrote a post about rebooting projects after a first-time failure. However, I haven’t ever done a deep-dive analysis into campaigns that failed twice…until today.

Denny Weston is a Kickstarter creator who has tried three times to fund the Kingdoms Lawn Game. He didn’t reach his goal the first two times, but in his third attempt, he has successfully funded. Congrats, Denny!

I asked Denny if he’d like to hunt down some other projects that required 3 campaigns to successfully fund, and he put together the following chart:

Here are some patterns that Denny observed, compiled with some of my thoughts:

  1. Lower the Funding Goal: All these projects had their lowest funding goal on their third attempt, which increased the probability that they would quickly reach their goal. With its ~$5000 funding goal, the latest Kingdoms Lawn project funded in the first 24 hours, which inspires confidence in other backers who discover the live campaign. Also, lowering the goal often means that you decrease the number of backers you need, which can be particularly helpful when there’s a niche audience for your product.
  2. Remember Your Roots: A majority of the projects had the most backers on their third attempt. For the third Kingdoms Lawn campaign, Denny partnered with a wooden games company (Et Games) out of London, England to produce and sell the game. Denny informed his previous backers know of a potential partnership and third launch seven months in advance. That engagement showed his original backers that he was still working on a way to bring the game to life for them, and many of them brought their support to the project on launch day.
  3. Reduce the Price (or Not): For Kingdoms Lawn, Denny identified that the original price was simply too high. Starting with the second campaign, he cut the price almost in half by re-designing the components to fit a friendly consumer budget. However, the majority of the other projects featured above kept the same or similar price point for the product during all three of their campaigns. This is a good indication that the reason for the first two failed attempts had little/or nothing to do with price (this is contrary to what both Denny and Jamey would have thought).

I would say that if your project still doesn’t fund after three iterations, that’s a glaring sign that not enough people want the product. It’s tough to cut your losses and move on, but sometimes that’s the best thing to do. I’m glad that wasn’t the case for Denny’s third attempt at Kingdoms Lawn Game.

Have you seen other projects successfully fund on the third attempt? What did they do differently to make it work that time? When can a creator know that it’s just not going to work out? One other example is in this older guest post.

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31 Comments on “Try, Try, Try Again: How to Fund After Failing Twice (KS Lesson #265)

  1. As someone who is getting into board game design coming from a background in marketing and service design, I find this trend to use Kickstarting as a market research tool interesting and a bit strange as well. I hear more and more creators talk about launching and relaunching campaigns as a way to gauge customer interest and gain feedback. That’s great – but I wouldn’t be so sure that Kickstarter is the best way to do it.

    For example, I heard Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold games talk about this on Board Games Insider when re-launching the campaign for Aftershock by Alan Moon. That’s no little indie publisher, and certainly no indie designer :) It’s great that they adjusted, re-launched and funded (again), but all I could think was: have they done no user research to find this out BEFORE going to Kickstarter? Launching a campaign seems time consuming when you could just do some user testing to gain those insights.

    Stronghold perhaps have the resources to “waste” an attempt, but for indie game creators it seems super frustrating and time consuming.

  2. This is kind of reassuring for me. I’m on my 2nd Kickstarter for TITANOMACHINA and the feedback I’m getting is that, as a first-time publisher, that I haven’t earned the trust that sees similar projects funded in short order.

  3. Thanks for the mention, my name is Mark who ran wreck and Ruin. All your points are valid, I think for me it was also lack of visibility: I have a core following in that anyone who has tried the game wants it, but struggled to spread the word. I had almost half my backers in the US without ever being there though, so something must have struck a chord. I believe the ks metric is partially to blame in that if a project doesn’t fund immediately it is deemed in the eyes of backers to be a failure

  4. It seems a lot of this is a matter of writing a solid business plan. It is hard to predict demand, but if you can get a good picture of the finances the goal will become somewhat self evident. At least that is my suspicion and hope as I am now post-funding and hoping that all of my estimates are accurate as we make the card decks.

    Really we are kickstarting our businesses more than a single game.

  5. Very interesting and good motivation.

    I think most of the time what many campaigns lack is a base of backers that will discover (or know already) the project right at the beginning to support it. With repetition it is something that can be overcome.

    I agree that it would be better to put the bare minimum goal you need for production and covering the expenses you will face to get the game in the hands of backers.

    The 300.000 dollars goal is totally unrealistic and difficult to justify: in that case you either misplanned the design and production or the campaign target. Imagine that they received from the manufacturer a minimum order of 10.000 copies it means that the game cost of production + shipping is 30 dollars to reach that goal. It seems a bit too high… Even worse for the game with an initial goal of 200.000 dollars and a price of 39…

    PS: Maybe there is an error in the first campaign for Zero Gravity, it says 50,0481 out of 28,073, which does not make much sense.

  6. I’ve said before, maybe on a comment here, about how Kickstarter sort-of needs to break their projects into “kickstarter” and “niche-product” markets.. where in the first, are people genuinely looking to create a new thing and need to determine if there is an audience, and the second for companies that produce goods for people in that niche, i.e. board games, art, etc,

    But the first group can create text pages, photos, maybe nice headers, but little to no cost up front to determine “Is there an audience for this?”.

    And the Second spends the money on banner art, adverts, prototypes, advertising on external sites, all that jazz, because “yes there is an audience and a market, but they’re all “here” browsing kickstarter, and there isn’t another place to do this..


    Maybe even there’s a market for pre-kickstarters? A place you set up the basics for a kickstarter, and people come judge your project, they pay a $1 to comment or $X to back it, at the ‘reduced price’ of “we believe in this project” and then it goes to kickstarter for the general public?

  7. An interesting case study Jamey! Thanks for the case studies in the chart!

    You mention creating products others want. That seems like it’s just very hard to actually know definitively. I mean with how saturated the tabletop gaming market is, I wonder if certain categories of games are just less appealing? Or if anything can truly succeed if executed well and for the right price?


    1. Eric: I agree, it is difficult, and Kickstarter is one way to figure out if people actually want something you’re creating. At the same time, Kickstarter isn’t great for certain types of games that actually do have huge potential, like party games. Even Denny’s game might have huge potential in a big box retailer in the summertime.

      I don’t think just anything can succeed even if executed well and for the right price.

  8. One of my backers pointed me here. Great article and I’ve been following your book and blogs for a long time Jamey. I’ll be doing a relaunch in 3 or 4 weeks. I’m a one person operation and got behind on video assets. Still a very positive campaign and I learned a tremendous amount as a first time creator. Contacting BGG wishlist folks (191) is something I need to tackle. Any advice on that? I’m going to send PMs and I did send PMs to every backer during my campaign which I think is very important. Thanks again!

    1. Van: Thanks for your comment, and I think it’s great that you learned from your first experience as a creator (and I like that you gave personal attention to each of your backers through the PMs). You know, I’ve never contacted BGG wishlist folks, but that’s a fantastic idea.

  9. Seems to me an independent creator trying for an astronomical amount of money has virtually no chance to fund versus an established company for example Fantasy Flight games asking the same amount.

  10. I’ve given this unfortunate piece of advice a few times as well. It is never well received lol. When I know I’m going to trek them that it’s the product, I usually ask beforehand what other projects they have going. That way I can try to get them to focus on beginning the new project instead of the ending of the old one. Focus on the positive.

  11. I didn’t have to launch a project for the third time, but I had another situation; both projects I ran had to be relaunched.
    Our first Kickstarter project failed, and we relaunched it with a lower goal and as a softcover book (it’s a tabletop RPG). The relaunch was a success, and we reached the stretch goal needed for a hardcover, surpassing the original campaign goal by some 15%.

    The second project was a setting sourcebook for said RPG and the backer influx stopped after the first week, never to recuperate.
    This time we didn’t actually relaunch, pivoting instead and scaling down the book into a more focused sourcebook.
    We funded successfully, but this time lower than the original sourcebook goal and we’ll have to stretch the budget razor thin. We took this dissipation of support and backers as a sign that people are probably not that into our product and that we’ll have to turn towards something new.

  12. I’ve noticed some of the projects that have succeeded on relaunch have lowered the funding goal only because that’s what they’ve been told to do. Many of them expect to blow past that goal, and then find themselves “successful” but unable to produce or fulfil the game with the smaller amount they asked for.

  13. I’m going into my 3rd attempt this Summer (or early fall) with 1,000 Year Beard. My followers know I tried to defy the odds in the past and I’m lucky to have kept their loyalty. I worked hard to do it right this time. I’m probably on the lowest budget for any project ever, but I want that to be the only hurdle this time around. I’ve crunched the numbers and with the new design that helped cut manufacturing costs in half, I think I can have a very low funding goal.

    Biggest change I’m making is that I’m teaming up with friends and volunteers to help make it happen. The one-man-show thing is not going work.

  14. This is interesting data. Thanks for sharing it, Jamey.

    Working toward my first KS campaign, setting an appropriate funding goal seems critical.

    Looking over the chart you posted, it kind of begs the question: why set an initial all-or-nothing funding goal of $300K when less than $5K is actually needed in order to produce and publish the game?

    Seems like the most funds were raised in the first and second campaigns for KLG, and having set a reduced goal in either the first or second rounds would have garnered the best overall interest and returns.

    In light of your more recent blog posts, especially discussing the need to fund in the first couple days, wouldn’t setting the minimum viable goal be the best option?

    What are your thoughts on setting the right funding goal?

    1. Hey Mike. Thanks for your comment. 300K vs 5k is quite a difference. During our first campaign, we were working with a different manufacturer that had a 1,500 games minimum. Most of the Chinese companies we found had a 1,000 – 5,000 games threshold to even have a production run. Our original Kingdoms set was also double the cost due to the high cost of resin balls and some other bells and whistles.

      The second campaign we re-focused on reducing the cost of the game by changing the material of the balls, as well as working with another Chinese manufacturer who had a slightly lower minimum of 1,000 games.

      For this third campaign, we were able to find an established game company out of England (Et Games) who had manufacturing in India (Asha Handicrafts). This company out of India allowed us a extremely low minimum of around 100 games, knowing Et Games would order more.

      I would encourage you, and anyone considering launching a KS campaign, to find manufacturing that allows you to set your goal at $5,000 or less before moving forward. I learned the hard way….but it was a good lesson to learn. Cheers and best of luck on your upcoming campaign.

  15. I’m not sure if it’s a sign people are rejecting your idea itself without knowing the engagement that’s happened too.

    Marketing and campaign support could be big factors as well as simple outreach numbers.

  16. I’m curious… do most of these examples really show any real “success” on the third attempt?

    It seems like kind of a no brainer that if there’s 200 people that want something, and you set a goal that requires 500 people, you’ll fail. If you relaunch only asking for 150 people, you’ll “succeed”. It looks like Project Gorgon is the one example here where it would be useful to know what they did to jump from 300 backers to 1,300 backers.

    The other projects seem to have not really done anything to increase demand; they just reduced their goal to be more on par with demand. In these cases, I have to wonder if successfully funding really translates to it being a successful endeavor (financially).

    1. I think it depends on the situation. Like, with Denny’s game, he took an in-depth look at the cost of components and the MOQ, which changed the bar of success. In my mind, that’s still a success.

      1. I agree with Chad. Specially, if you look at zero gravity they gathered more money in the first run than in the third. But the third is considered successful because the goal was lower

    2. One thing not covered in this blog is the time between campaigns: wreck and Ruin was mine, first campaign being September 17, the 3rd successful one being June 18. I didn’t stop building my influence in that time. My definition of success was being able to make the game not make a profit Would I have liked more backers? – of course, but now I have a game out there ready to scratch that itch for anyone who needs it

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