3/26/2013

A few musings on Kickstarter

It's been a bit quiet around here, which is at least partially because of the fact that the day of Scions On A Plane has been literally the only day of gaming I've gotten to participate in the new year.  There are plans for International TableTop Day, though, so hopefully that'll get things going again.

In the meantime, I'm just going to jot down some of my musings on Kickstarter campaigns, based on what I've seen working and the campaigns I've chosen not to back.  I'll go over a few categories of what I look at in a Kickstarter and talk about what usually entices me and what doesn't.  Right up front I'll say that I often first inspect a campaign based on the product offered, but the product offered has yet to overcome my apathy if I'm seeing things that I dislike about the project.  I'll list the projects I've backed, but I'm going to leave out specific names of ones I've chosen not to back, since I don't want to directly harm their chances of getting other backers.

Price Point

One of the most important things I've seen about how I interact with campaigns on Kickstarter is that I need to feel like I am getting value for the money I'm pledging.  If the initial reward tier is too high, then I virtually never pledge, especially if I'm considering a project that I've got no prior experience with.  Low as the price point sounds, it seems like $10 is about where I need to feel like I'm getting some reward even if it isn't the full version of the product.  I backed Dresden Codak, where I get a PDF for $10; Artisan Dice, where $7 nets a die; Fate Core, giving a PDF at $10; and Werewolf 20th Anniversary, with a wallpaper at $10.  The outlier is Zombicide Season 2, where the first reward was at $50; in that instance I already owned Zombicide Season 1 and had friends who participated in the first Zombicide Kickstarter.  I pledged more than the minimum on them all, but I feel that the reasonable minimum was a contributing factor in my choice to pledge.

In the projects I've chosen to skip over, the lowest pledge at which I gained a reward was $14 dollars.  More typically, I've found rewards starting at $25, $40, or $50.  In a few rare cases I've looked at projects at where the initial reward was over $150!  Obviously some design projects need that high of an initial level, but I think it puts them at a distinct disadvantage from the start.  I've seen some of the projects where high pledge levels are important for getting actual products made get around the need a for a high "first" pledge by offering things like t-shirts and schematics for lesser pledge levels (and this is somewhat the Werewolf Kickstarter did).

Funding Goal

In a lot of ways, the funding goal is even more important than the price point to me.  In order from lowest to highest, the campaigns I've backed were Fate Core ($3000 goal), Artisan Dice ($9000), Zombicide Season 2 ($25000), Dresden Codak ($30000), and Werewolf 20th Anniversary ($85000).  These campaigns also all managed to hit their funding goals at a rapid pace.  Many of the Kickstarters I've chosen not to back have had goals upwards of $150000.  While there are certainly projects that do require that sort of funding, I've found that many Kickstarters which might not need such high goals (a single RPG game book, a figure carrying case, production of cooking sauces) aim for these lofty goals.

My sense in this case is that when the Kickstarter is designed to reach for "just enough" to fund a project they set these lower funding goals and when they're aiming for enough to produce the Kickstarter and then gain mass release outside the campaign, too.  While that's probably the better business decision on paper, I think it often does not actually pay off as those campaigns go unfunded where campaigns with lower goals have far more success and pull in the extra funding that would enable them to seek broader release.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the campaigns with higher funding goals are also those with higher initial pledge levels.

Stretch Goals

Stretch goals are vitally important.  They're not a requirement on Kickstarter, but they are a fairly common aspect of virtually every campaign on the site.  Most Kickstarter campaigns are long affairs, lasting over 30 days.  Stretch goals keep people considering a higher pledge level and serve as extra incentive to woo individuals who are undecided into pledging.  In looking back at the campaigns I've backed, Dresden Codak has 26 stretch goals, mostly announced fairly early on, but modified as the campaign continued.  Artisan Dice, still fairly early in the campaign with 35 days to go as I write this, has six stretch goals with more hinted to be revealed further down the line.  Zombicide Season 2 has 45 stretch goals currently at just 5 days to go, with a few optional bits that aren't quite stretch goals, but have been revealed similarly.  Fate Core had 35 stretch goals.  And Werewolf 20th Anniversary had 12 stretch goals, though they were bigger ticket items such as whole new books.

While most of the campaigns I haven't backed have had stretch goals, those goals were often, in my mind, unobtainable.  They were set out past the funding goal (which is the norm), but when the goal is so far out that it may be unobtainable, stretch goals fail to add extra incentive.  Similarly, I find that I'm most motivated when there are a few stretch goals laid out at the start and more are added as the campaign goes on.  That pattern taps into my curiosity and encourages me to share the Kickstarter and raise my pledge more than a list of stretch goals which is completely set down before the campaign even begins.  Obviously, I'm sure the best campaigns have their goals planned internally before the Kickstarter begins, but there's no need for full disclosure right away.

In looking back, a lot of the campaigns I've backed have shared quite a few attributes and given their success, it seems like those attributes are attractive to quite a few people.  The key outlier in my purchasing habits here seems to be the Werewolf 20th Anniversary book.  It had a higher funding goal, fewer stretch goals revealed less frequently, and didn't provide the actual produced item until a much higher pledge level.  I think that the key factor that got me to overlook those things that might normally turn me off was the fact that I was highly familiar with White Wolf/Onyx Path and the product that I'd be purchasing.  The same goes for Zombicide in some ways, as I knew that $50 was less than I'd pay for the full game once released and I already owned Season 1.

As a side note, I've left out one Kickstarter which I backed with the intent of helping a 9 year old girl go to camp to learn to make computer games.  I excluded it because I consider it a charitable donation more than a purchase and am not concerned with getting a final product back.  Normally, I'd do that sort of thing on Indiegogo, but it happened where it happened.