What Makes Kickstarter Special for Game Creators?

17 April 2017

Recently I shared a guest post from James Hudson of Druid City Games about certain features offered by Indiegogo. James talks about his internal debate between Kickstarter and Indiegogo in the article and why he eventually chose Kickstarter. While we’ll never know how The Grimm Forest would have done on a different platform, it did phenomenally well on Kickstarter, recently ending funding with $405,145 in funding from 7,131 backers.

In an effort to hear Kickstarter’s perspective of why their platform is great for board games, James reached out to Luke Crane, head of games at Kickstarter. Here’s a follow-up guest post from James about his chat with Luke. Thanks, James and Luke!

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As far as stats go, Kickstarter is the “go-to” platform for board gaming. Here are some staggering stats:

  • $364 million pledged all time to tabletop games
  • $114 million in 2016 alone
  • 1 million backers
  • Over 6200 successful projects, with a 55% success rate in tabletop gaming.

But any platform is about much more than about stats–it’s about the people running the show. Luke is a gamer himself and not only that, but he has been on several projects such as The Burning Wheel, Burning Empires, Free Market, Torchbearer and Mouse Guard RPG. He has also worked on two graphic novels and a 10-player Viking LARP. It is nice to know someone that can greatly affect the board game category has been in our shoes and has felt the ups and downs of a campaign.

One of the big differences between Kickstarter and Indiegogo is when the backer gets charged for their pledge. On IGG it is charged at the time of pledging, while Kickstarter waits until the conclusion of the campaign date, then all backers are charged at once. There are some advantages and disadvantages to both, but here is what Luke had to say about it:

“We don’t charge backers until a campaign’s funding period ends, which gives them plenty of time to adjust their pledges. We think this is good for backers, creators, and the health of the system as a whole. Backers tell us they enjoy the freedom to adjust as the campaign progresses and our data shows that backers are far more likely to increase their pledges during a campaign than to cancel them.”

The lack of a “flexible funding” option on Kickstarter also contributes to backer confidence, particularly for tabletop game projects. A minimum print run of a game has a specific cost, and if you don’t have those funds (from crowdfunding or elsewhere), you simply can’t make the game. Thus it doesn’t make sense for a tabletop game project on other platforms to accept funds if that goal hasn’t been reached, and backers know that.

A few years back Kickstarter saw the rise of board games and put them on the same playing field as the other categories. This was an important move for exposure and traffic to campaigns. Luke says, “As a platform, Kickstarter puts Games on the same cultural level as Music, Theater and Film. This is a big deal. When Kickstarter launched, there was some discussion in academia and on the conference circuit about the place of games in culture, but very few (if any) companies had taken the step of acknowledging that games were an equal part of the creative and artistic culture. I think the games community really appreciates that. But this equal treatment also means that when we’re looking at making changes to Kickstarter, we must consider the effects not only for games, but for the other 14 categories as well.”

Luke also tries to increase the exposure of tabletop game projects through the media side of Kickstarter’s platform: “I’m constantly working on getting games featured in our newsletters and blogs.” The newsletter that goes out every two weeks has 60,000 subscribers with 8-10 live games projects. It includes news about launches and events as well.

I mentioned on my previous guest post that one of the big advantages to KS is their internal user notification network. I have hundreds of people that follow me, so when I launch a campaign, they are alerted. The same thing happens when someone I follow on Kickstarter launches or backs a project.

As a creator, I want to know someone on the other side is listening to my feedback and making changes. I think we all have a few of our “pet peeves” we would love to see changed about the platform (let backers pledge to multiple reward tiers!), with that said, Luke is that force for change.

He had this to say about feedback and implementing new initiatives. “Part of my role at Kickstarter is to listen to the games community and represent their feedback internally to the curation and product teams. And I provide feedback to the product and engineering teams about the needs of the games community. You may not have noticed the changes, but largely due to feedback from the community, we’ve updated how our shipping works and added the ability to have multiple collaborators on a project.”

Luke said that there are quite a few changes that his team are looking to make to the platform in 2017 and they all stem directly from the feedback they receive from creators and backers. As the old adage goes, “it takes time to turn a moving ship”.

It is safe to say, that Kickstarter was first to the party and they have taken the ball and ran with it. I think there are changes that the gaming community on Kickstarter want to see made to the platform to better serve our needs. It was great to get some perspective from Luke on the challenges they face to make adjustments that would benefit gaming that might affect different categories negatively.

It is also comforting to know that they are listening and not only that, but Luke is a champion for our cause, he is in the offices of the people that can push these changes up the line and he is in his words “jumping up and down” when needed.

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What other features on Kickstarter make it a great environment for tabletop game projects? Conversely, what elements of Kickstarter are you hoping to see improved?

(This is Jamey) I used to have a long list of improvements I hoped to see from Kickstarter, but that list has decreased over time. Here’s where that list currently stands:

  • Allow creators to populate the FAQ in advance.
  • Incorporate add-ons into the reward sidebar (or at the point of pledge)
  • Nested comments
  • Give creators more moderator control to reduce bullying and abuse
  • Let creators see how many people have clicked the “remind me” button

17 Comments on “What Makes Kickstarter Special for Game Creators?

  1. Jamey – Thanks for providing the space for this conversation! I learned so much talking with Luke and understanding a little better the different factors that go into their decisions.

    I would love to field any questions or comments!

  2. Haven’t launched my first campaign yet, but have backed a few. Definitely agree with all four of your comments Jamey. Nested comments would be amazing. Pretty difficult to scroll through all the following comments to try and find whether your question was answered.

    And somehow I missed that Luke Crane is working for Kickstarter. Awesome.

  3. I’ll share my opinion about the Community tab :

    1. Helps to precalculate shipping costs
    2. Can really be useful for targeted ads (on various social networks)
    3. Offer translations based on #of speakers
    4. Helps Cross-promotion.

    About 4, an example. I run a campaign and have lots of US backers, then in order from UK, France, Germany etc. Jamey (arbitrarily taken :P ) runs his own, at the same time, with US backers again 1st, then Germany, Australia, Sweden etc. We both know that 56% of backers consist of US residents and try to come up with ways to get the “flow” to the remaining 44%. With a cross-promotion here, I get Australians, Swedish ans more Germans while Jamey benefits from my English, French and a biiiiit of German backers. (***of course, nobody contributes to Jamey more than himself***)

    All in all, Kickstarter improves over time, and that’s a good thing.

      1. Thanks, I’ll get to the shipping section now:

        Kickstarter started to distinguish shipping from base pledge. That’s a good thing, when you want it to be separated. Some prefer to leave is as is, offering shipping at a later date. Some spend an hour entering costs for every country and leave France out (arbitrarily taken again).

        My point is, there is not a stable motive. When they made the bulletins for the “what’s included” I thought, “Why not make it like that for shipping as well? Why do I have to make a graphic/ paragraph/ separate section of the campaign just to mention that?”

        An option like Worldwide shipping, Shipping included, only to certain countries is already available, so why can’t there be something like
        -Pledge $X
        -Shipping $Y
        -Total $X + Y

        or
        -Pledge $X
        -Shipping after survey is sent
        -Total $X + Shipping

        I know now that when you go to back a pledge they automatically charge the shipping in checkout, but they automatically take away the enthusiasm when I see $39 becoming $55 all of a sudden.. But there is a code for showing the price in USD id other currency is asked in a campaign (not in Greece, though). What’s stopping them from adding a code to show the proper shipping in the proper country beforehand?

        Some might agree that I am overthinking it, but I think it will reduce the cancelling rate which is frustrating in most cases.

  4. Jamey,
    I don’t have any suggestions about the KS platform, but I really like yours. I hope that they are considered for implementation.

    My only concern would be about number 4. While I totally agree that there can be abuse and bullying in the comments sections and that this is unacceptable, allowing creators to delete or otherwise moderate comments could also allow less honest creators to remove comments pointing out flaws with the campaign or providing legitimate criticism or concern, leaving the comments page a clean, sparkling sheet of glowing reviews.

    For example, there is presently a campaign which shall remain nameless which is under suspicion by many backers as being fraudulent. If the creators had mod control over comments (and it truly were fraudulent), they would be able to remove the accusatory comments, leaving many backers unaware of the possibility of scam, thus, helping their scheme.

    Maybe this could be prevented a bit by leaving a “this comment was deleted by the creator” message. Then people could see how many comments are being removed on a project. Not perfect, but better.

    Anyway, thanks for this article.

    1. Eric: That’s a great point. I very much like that backers hold creators accountable, hopefully in a healthy, productive way. It’s a way for backers to look out for each other.

  5. During my campaign I’ve resorted to copying each persons comment and then replying to it within a single post. Whilst this works, it adds a lot of extra time and I’d love to have a direct reply function or even just a ‘quote’ button. Other moderation facilities would be nice, but the ‘reply’ feature would have saved me hours.

    I’d also like to be able to add more media without increasing the length of the page, being able to add an image gallery or video playlist would be a really nice feature – Possibly on another tab.

    Those would be my main 2 wants, but as a feature I think could be interesting:

    Perhaps the ability to reduce the cost of a reward or shipping tier once it’s live (but not to increase). I setup about 200 shipping options across my rewards and unfortunately I got 1 of them wrong, now I have a small group of backers stuck on £40 shipping instead of £13 and there seems to be no easy fix other than manually fixing it around Kickstarter.

    Whilst it’s certainly not needed, it would be interesting to see how Kickstarter would change if you could reduce the cost of a product (rather than add stretch goals) as you get more backers.

    1. Frank: I like all of your suggestions. The idea to scroll sideways through an image gallery would be fantastic, and the ability to reduce a shipping cost (not increase) would be great too. Have you tried to reach out to Kickstarter about your specific situation? They might be able to change it while the project is live.

          1. That’s an extension yes, but similar idea. I think being able to better present information and making it easier to find would be very powerful.

  6. Interesting post & interview, thanks! Jamey’s suggestion #3 is my top pick – that’d be really handy. And… if I may sound like a broken record: please allow creators to pick their campaign’s currency. (For example, allow Canadian creators to list goal & pledges in USD.) Thanks! :)

  7. Great article, Jamey. It turns out I have a lot of feedback on Kickstarter’s system! My use case is as a user of the Kickstarter system.

    1. Better forums/threads. I find the current Comments section overwhelming, especially on busy campaigns. It’s really hard to see threads of comments or respond to individuals with either information or additional questions. Having a more sophisticated forum would be very useful. Also, being able to more easily follow threads of conversations both on posts as well as the global comment area would be nice.

    2. Converting threads to FAQs. I could see from someone running a campaign on there that being able to take forum posts (especially questions) and convert them into FAQ questions would also be VERY useful. The more interactive and accessible the forums can be, the better.

    3. Pledge manager built-in. I’d also suggest having pledge management built-in (so no need for another system/expense). Too often there are extra steps needed to finalize a campaign. Make it more integrated and simple for both the creator as well as the backers.

    4. A simple voting mechanism. Easier said than done, but something where backers can vote within KS would be lovely, even if it was just a basic multiple choice.

    1. Todd: I’m absolutely on board with #4 (and the others, but particularly that one, especially since it would be easy to add). It would be amazing to be able to integrate basic polls into the project page and updates.

      1. Thanks, Jamey.

        Ironically, even your forum here has threading, which makes it so much easier to follow conversations!

        As I reflected on my suggestions and others more, I realized that Kickstarter’s primary reason to exist is a funding mechanism. That said, successful campaigns are ones in which the creator is able to more easily interact with those backing the game. Improving the forums and adding other tools (like easier FAQs, polls, etc.) inside of the application would only help enhance the experience for both backers and creators.

        I hope Luke’s reading these comments- there’s some great stuff in here!

  8. Thanks Jamey for this post. It’s quite amazing how KS standout. Definitely moderation would be good; however, I understand why there is no moderation at the moment.

    But maybe KS team can start reviewing posts when reported – for example, ban folks with inappropriate behaviour.

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