21 April 2016 | 19 Comments
Today I launched a pre-order campaign through our website for a new set of realistic resource tokens called the Token Trilogy and reprints of the metal coins featured in Tuscany Prima and Scythe.
You’re reading that correctly: I’m using the term “pre-order campaign.” It’s not a Kickstarter project (though it’s intended to feel similar to one, complete with a funding tracker). It’s also not an ongoing pre-order, as there is a specific end date to the campaign (May 1).
A few people have asked why we aren’t just running a Kickstarter campaign for the Token Trilogy. It’s a valid question, one that I thought I’d explore in detail on this post.
First, let’s go back mid-January when I explained in a project update to backers of the previous treasure chest campaign how they could get the Token Trilogy:
I’ve now run 7 tabletop-related Kickstarter projects. I keep returning to the platform when creating new things for a few reasons:
- Build community (through comments and updates)
- Gauge demand (for precision in manufacturing quantity)
- Raise funds (particularly on a trusted ecommerce site)
- Gain visibility
- Make the product better (via stretch goals)
All of those aspects combine to differentiate a Kickstarter project from a direct pre-order.Like, when I pre-ordered Pandemic Legacy from Z-Man Games last summer, I clicked a few buttons on their website and was done. There were no comments or updates. They were gauging demand, but they were also definitely making the game–there was no need to reach a funding threshold. And perhaps most importantly, they weren’t seeking to improve the project through stretch goals. They were ready to press the “print button,” and they just needed to know how many copies to make.
Well, that’s where we’ll soon be with the Token Trilogy. By the time we’re ready to start accepting pre-orders, we’ll no longer be debating which tokens to include or which colors to paint them. You saw that on the previous campaign.
On the previous campaign, we had stretch goals. We started with 20 tokens each and worked our way up to 28 tokens. It felt good for us to work together to make the chests bigger and better for everyone.
But…the problem with that method–a problem unique to these treasure chests–is that the exact quantity of tokens makes a big difference in their utility. For example, Civilization requires 28 wound tokens. Knowing that, it doesn’t seem fair to you to expect you to back the project before we’ve reached the 28-token stretch goal.
So we’re not doing stretch goals for the next campaign. In fact, we’re not even using Kickstarter.We’re just going to run a campaign using the pre-order platform we used for the Viticulture Essential Edition, Celery, so we know exactly how many copies to make of the Token Trilogy.
In summary, we don’t have anything against Kickstarter–I love that platform. But for this specific project, it wasn’t a good fit. Consider the following:
- A Kickstarter project insinuates necessity (funding goal). This isn’t true for the Token Trilogy. We’re committed to make at least a minimum print run (1500 units) of each chest, and we have the cash on hand to make that happen.
- A Kickstarter project insinuates growth potential (stretch goals). As explained above, these treasure chests require a level of precision that doesn’t mesh well with stretch goals. These chests are incredibly expensive to make, so the budget cannot be over-inflated on top of what we’re already including.
- A Kickstarter project insinuates collaboration (flexibility to make changes). We’ve been working on these tokens for about 6 months through a collaboration with the sculptor (Scott Wadyko), the manufacturer (Panda), and backers of both previous treasure chest projects. As much as we love backer feedback, we’ve already received that feedback in advance, so the campaign itself isn’t a time for collaboration. We’re ready to start making these tokens on May 1 as soon as the project ends.
But it’s more than just realigning expectations. Hosting the pre-order campaign on our website (via Celery) also gives us some flexibility that Kickstarter doesn’t allow:
- We can allow backers to easily select any combination of multiple rewards. On Kickstarter, if you want to order multiple copies of one reward and add on another product, you have to manually change the dollar amount and then report the exact configuration on the post-project survey. On Celery, you just click on each of the things you want and adjust the quantities as you wish.
- We can change shipping rates on the fly. If you forget a country or mistype a number when you’re entering shipping fees on Kickstarter, as soon as 1 person backs that reward, you can’t change any of the fees. You’re locked in. On Celery, I can easily change shipping fees if I make a mistake.
- We can mold the project page as we wish: I like the clean format of the Kickstarter page, but it’s been nice to work with our web dev, Dave Hewer, and our contact at Celery, Edward, to create our own project page. I particularly like how most of the images on the page and the sidebar are shown in thumbnail size but can be clicked to see in high res.
- We can block toxic backers. I really don’t want to limit conversation of any kind in regards to our campaigns, whether it’s good or bad. But on Kickstarter, every now and then there are truly toxic backers who don’t care about the project at all–they just seem to poison the well. You can’t do anything about those backers. The entire community for this campaign is located on a Facebook group for which I’m the admin, so if there’s a truly toxic backer, I’ll check with the members of my team to make sure I’m not just overreacting, and if they agree, I’ll block them from the group.
- No backer survey. I don’t mind Kickstarter’s backer survey, but it’s an extra step that can cause a lot of hassle. Using a platform like Celery lets us collect all of the information we need at the point of purchase.
Despite all this, there are still downsides to using our website/Celery instead of Kickstarter. Among them:
- Backers are charged right away. This is the thing I don’t like about Indiegogo as compared to Kickstarter, but it’s necessary here.
- It’s more of a nuisance to cancel your pre-order. If you place an order and decide against it in a few days, you have to contact me (there’s no automated way to do that).
- Decrease in discovery: Kickstarter is pretty good at helping people discover new things, but with a self-hosted project, that’s not the case. However, we are advertising on BoardGameGeek for this project, as we’re not trying to solely rely on our current audience.
- It’s not Kickstarter. People are familiar with Kickstarter. People trust the platform. People also associate it with Stonemaier Games. So no matter how much I explain that this project isn’t a good fit for Kickstarter, I’m sure there are quite a few people who won’t pre-order just because it’s a little different.
Those are my thoughts! I’d love to hear yours. I’ll follow up in a few weeks with the results and lessons learned from this campaign.