Stretch Goals are Not Real

Stretch Goals! The end-all sign of a healthy Kickstarter campaign! It shows the publisher not only has surpassed their expectations for funding, but are putting those profits right back into the project, right? Wrong! In this short article, I will explain how most stretch goals are at best disingenuous as to the manufacturing process, and at worst down-right marketing scams.

Stretch Goals are not unique to crowdfunding. They have actually been used for quite some time in the workplace to set extraneous goals for staff to reach past the otherwise adequate requirements of the job. Many companies who use stretch goals have actually gotten into trouble, such as Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo created increasingly aggressive stretch goals for their sales staff, leading to more than 3.5 million fraudulently opened accounts and more than $300 million in fines and class action lawsuit payments. Stretch goals as an incentive in the workplace cause employees to become fixated on a lofty numeric goal and lose sight of what makes a company special, the product itself. Notice any similarities yet?

Let’s clear something up for stretch goals as they relate to Kickstarter campaigns. Your pledge on its own does not influence what a competent publisher does to improve the project. 100 backers do not warrant adding linen finish to cards, and 200 backers don’t justify adding a miniature to the project. These decisions are all made in advance of the campaign before a penny is pledged. Even CMON’s quarterly losses last year can be easily attributed to making detailed plans for numerous Kickstarters and seeing those plans through, even though the money actually wasn’t there to make as grand of a game at the time based on backer interests. Let me break that down as it actually relates to manufacturing.

According to, about 300 successful campaigns attracted more than 1500 backers in 2018. More than 1900 successful campaigns attracted fewer backers in the same year. What you may not know is that most publishers (with very few exceptions) should not mass manufacture below 1500 units in order to benefit from production scales of economy. Scaling is what is pitched to you the consumer as the reason for the stretch goals, usually. “We reached x dollars, so we can now afford this x upgrade.” In fact, most reputable Chinese manufacturers, such as LongPack, Panda, etc., have minimum order quantities of around 1500 units. Even at 500 units produced from a smaller printer, the lesson in this article should remain intact.

Very few campaigns gain enough backers for scales of economy to matter much.

Because most publishers need to make at least 1500 units no matter what, your added pledges to the tune of 100s of units won’t actually affect the planned profitability of the project. The publisher was always going to make more units than your combined pledges would amount to, especially if that publisher is in distribution. That means that more backers do not equal more goodies. Instead, marketing is needed and what better marketing than FOMO (fear of missing out) and word of mouth?

Still here? Great! Let’s break down how a publisher does math before a campaign. I am going to purposefully ignore shipping, logistics, etc. because even though that factors into what the Kickstarter goal should be, it does not reflect in what is done after the goal is made (again, with exceptions related to added weight, new shipping lanes, etc.).

You can read more about what Jamey Stegmaier thinks of stretch goals from his article on the topic here.

A publisher has a publishable game. It is fun, it is mostly ready for press. It may need art, and it may need a few more pizzazz elements so it has the best chance on Kickstarter. So the publisher goes to a number of manufacturers, and gets quotes on the specific breakdown of components, down the millimeters, weights, colors, and finishing in everything related to the finished product. I want to stress that this is a delicate and detailed process that continues all the way through the campaign to production and subsequent reprint. During this quotation process, a competent publisher will always quote all of the stretch goals they have in mind, or, in some cases, the deluxe editions of the game. This pricing is broken down by line item and the publisher can make out which combinations of which stretch goals will cost x dollars when added to the full print run. Side note, publishers. Always ask for line item breakdowns.

Remember that we said a publisher usually needs to make 1500 units when mass manufacturing in China. That means that all of the stretch goals must be priced out to keep each unit sold profitable, no matter which upgrades are present. Miniatures and wooden pieces in a game complicate this math, but the principles are generally the same. The publisher always needs to manufacture more units than Kickstarter units sold, and the profitability is not impacted by making more units until you cross about 3000 units (at least for paper-based products, more/less so for other components).

Let’s take a deck of cards for example. A run of 1500 decks of cards costs roughly $1-$2 per unit depending on the box type, finishes, fancy glosses and metallics added to the box, etc. Let’s say all the upgrades you could possibly do to a deck of cards amounts to $3 total production per unit (this is high, but let’s just run with it). As long as the publisher covers the cost of freight shipping, fulfillment, etc. in the cost of the game and shipping charges, that publisher only needs to add their own profitability margin and could then include every stretch goal available from the start. But that is not what happens.

What usually happens is that the publisher creates a marketing engine called stretch goals by presenting a reduced version of the game from the start. The publisher wants your attention and excitement, but mostly your shares, throughout the campaign. It is cheap marketing to say that we will unlock linen finish once we hit $1000 more, so go out and tell your friends so we can hit that goal. In reality, linen finish is already planned for the print run at pennies added to the unit cost of the run. You just got math’d, backers!

Detractors of this article will say what about added art costs, or development costs for game modes, or distributor/retail interest due to the high performing campaign? I will go back to my original statement that most competent publishers plan for this eventuality and all of it is accounted for in advance in a nice little spreadsheet, to include the Kickstarter graphics which gave you a sense of being there when we all successfully unlocked linen finish! It’s all a man behind the curtain, sending you off on sharing quests to get the publisher that one-way ticket home to profit town.

Wasn’t the original game concept enough to get you to back on day one, proudly presenting your backer number? Aren’t you losing out by not demanding that all unlocks be made available from the start of the campaign with relatively few exceptions? I want publishers to present their masterpiece as they were intended, rather than a Frankenstein of upgrades. We should ask ourselves which games we want to play, and why we actually care about stretch goals in the first place.

Tangled Timelines Live on Kickstarter!

Tangled Timelines is live now on Kickstarter!

In Tangled Timelines, you will lead a rescue mission which transcends time and space. Heroes from other worlds have been cast out of time due to an unknown spatial anomaly. It is up to you to rebuild the best hero timelines and as diverse a team as you can. You will send heroes to rescue others like them, sometimes rescuing themselves from another time! Using the right hero at the right time is paramount to winning this game and saving time as we know it!

Introducing the Matchbox Series! Games in this series will be housed in a fun and unique containment system, not unlike matchboxes in your home. Buy Tangled Timelines, #1 in the Matchbox Series, to say you were there when it started!

Back now to receive a free 52 promo card expansion and free shipping on the custom sleeves add-on!

The Best Campaigns of Christmas Day

All backer counts are recorded simultaneously before publishing. Numbers may have adjusted since the time of publishing.

Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon

34,516 Backers

The World’s Most Versatile Painting Handle and Grip Returns!

1,923 Backers

War for Chicken Island

1,859 Backers

Folded Space – Board Game Inserts Campaign 3

1,721 Backers

☕️ Chai—An Immersive Tea Board Game!

1,240 Backers

Dized: The Best Way To Learn Board Games

1,154 Backers

Ogre Battlefields

1,020 Backers

Into the Wyrd and Wild

806 Backers

Silent Titans

805 Backers

Valda — race to the gods — a boardgame by Nathan Vermeulen

525 Backers

Treading Water – Kickstarter Reflection 2018

I did one of these articles last year, so it is fitting that I recap all the changes that happened this year as well. These are all mostly my opinions with a smattering of proof and personal experience, so take that for what it’s worth. Feel free to disagree with me because I enjoy that most of all. 🙂

Big Projects Outpaced Platform Adoption

The board game hobby is experiencing its biggest growth in history, not just in profits, but in general pop culture adoption. Publishing companies are being created every week and many thousands of titles were debuted this year alone. You see a growing display of games at big box stores, heavy investments of online sales of games, and more and more board game retail stores and cafes popping up to become their community’s third space. In 2018, my expected trajectory of increased board game buyers happened everywhere except on Kickstarter. While Kickstarter doesn’t release this type of information, those who use the platform both as creators and backers felt a unique squeeze this year over others. According to Board Game Data, 57.8% of the 3,220 tabletop projects on the site funded so far this year, whereas 61.9% of the 3021 tabletop projects in all of 2017 funded. The prospects are even worse for new creators. 45.2% of 1506 tabletop projects by new creators funded in 2017, but only 40.3% of 1486 tabletop projects by new creators have funded so far this year. December isn’t likely to boost those numbers. Nearly every trend below stems from this specific normalizing, or evening out, of new user adoption. Users overall grew on Kickstarter, but not at the rate you might have guessed looking at the boom in 2015 with Exploding Kittens.

My Takeaway: I have no idea what the future holds for Kickstarter, and neither does anyone else. I hope a lot more publishers “graduate” from the platform and move on as Stonemaier Games did a few years ago. If they don’t (or can’t) we are in for some tough times ahead.

Nostalgia, Storytelling, and IPs, Oh My!

If you look at the most successful campaigns of 2018, it is easy to see that The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls, Strongholds & Streaming, Trogdor!! The Board Game, Fireball Island – 80’s Board Game, Reignited and Restored, Batman™: Gotham City Chronicles, and Hellboy: The Board Game all spoke to this childhood nostalgia relived through Kickstarter campaigns. I also took notice of those non-IP but skirting that line trend that happened this year, such as when Pandasaurus came out swinging with their monumentally successful This-Isn’t-Jurassic-Park-MTV-Acid-Wash Dinosaur Island: Back from Extinction campaign, or the This-Isn’t-Aliens-But-Isn’t-It Nemesis campaign. Notable campaign Tidal Blades leaned heavily into narratives even as a brand new world and IP.

My Takeaway: Storytelling is in. Build worlds, not just art.

Creators Relied Too Heavily on Superbackers

Where creators really hit a brick wall this year was the sheer amount of quality campaigns on the platform at any one given time. Creators realized firsthand how shared their audience really was when the campaigns which would have made tons of money last year barely scraped by. Backer budgets have always been a limitation on the platform. It’s just that this year was the first year saturation was met and projects either didn’t fund or made meager gains. I think this is a result primarily of publishers getting comfortable with who is funding their projects. The games industry is growing. The customer base is growing. But publishers haven’t brought an explosion of new users since Exploding Kittens.

My Takeaway: It has always been the case that you need to cultivate your audience rather than assume all of the existing Kickstarter audience will fund your projects. I think we need to take that idea a step further and do more education in our marketing of what crowdfunding and Kickstarter actually is.

Cancelled Funded Campaigns

Since mainstream publishers entered the Kickstarter market in a large way last year, canceled funded campaigns have grown tremendously. I say tremendously, but we are talking about 30 or so campaigns when the norm was half that or less. Whether the result of retooling for bigger gains or unrealistic expectations, Kickstarter has become the R&D department for a lot of companies with resources to spare on the time and resources spent in a Kickstarter. That isn’t actually a bad thing, as experimentation has continuously been the hallmark of a breakout Kickstarter campaign. It’s most shocking to backers that a company would appear successful in the funds they asked for (which is never the actual cost of a game production), and decide to pull the experiment before funds are collected.

My Takeaway: This is a symptom of the squeeze. I don’t think anything will change and creators will continue to ask for lower goals with the knowledge they can cancel before the campaign ends. Just a symptom of the platform. I also don’t think it’s that big of a deal to not be charged for something that needs to be retooled and relaunched, so there is that.

Blasting Off the Tabletop

Looking closer at a campaign such as Fireball Island, it is easy to write off the success as pure nostalgia. However, Fireball Island tapped into another emerging trend of 2018, and that is 3D gameplay environments. While naysayers may say of course Fireball Island has a 3D board because the original did as well, we need only look at the excitement the giant play-on-able Cthulhu plastic figure in Cthulhu: Death May Die stirred, or the even-though-it-was-a-scam-take-some-trend-lessons Overturn campaign, with 3D scenery littered throughout. Although a bit of a stretch, an honorable mention should definitely be extended to the AR hit, Chronicles of Crime, which brings the player’s attention off the table into a phone scenery.

My Takeaway: Try to find ways to imagine how your game can come up from the table some, even using plastic formed boards or a reason for players to stand up.

Live Video and Kickstarter UI

This was actually a trend I added late because I enjoyed it and then took it for granted, but yes. Kickstarter did a great thing and implemented live video which could simulcast to Facebook and it was a magical thing to behold. Kickstarter also made a few much-needed updates to the back-end and simplified a lot of what creators need to deal with. Many Kickstarter employees actually found their way onto Facebook Groups where a majority of the complaints took place.

My Takeaway: I would like to think live video will continue to dominate the landscape in 2019, but I am much more inclined to imagine shorter video content drops within updates will become the more viewed and marketable content. But keep making live content because we all love it.

So, What’s Next?

I want to propose something and many existing creators will laugh and disagree with my sentiments, but I think in order for new creators to succeed on Kickstarter in 2019, the entire paradigm needs to shift. Best Practices need to be uprooted and new ones need to take their place. To stop the bar from rising to heights that only large budget operations can sustain, and to ensure Kickstarter remains for everyone as this experimental wonderland for daring products to be made, we need to get weird. This won’t be for everyone, and it is very unlikely that existing successful creators will see the benefit to this. But I do, and I hope you do too.

Here is something I want to put forth and if you think it is a good idea, I encourage you to use this banner in your campaigns.

#KeepKickstarterWeird is a new independent initiative I started in Kickstarter Board Games to separate new creators from the herd. When someone sees your new campaign and supports it, they will be supporting it because your initial vision is immediately present in the campaign, nothing more or less. In order to accurately use this banner in your campaign, you just need to do 3 things.

  • No Stretch Goals – Present your game the way it is and let that be the game you want to fund. Find new ways to engage with your audience that doesn’t require bloating your game to unrealistic expectations.
  • No Deluxe Versions – Established creators have started making two versions of their game so they can justify stretch goals for a smaller run of the deluxe game paired with early sales of what will end up in distribution. New creators almost never get into distribution after one successful campaign, so stop playing by those rules.
  • Share the Love – In at least one update, talk about another campaign that is part of the #KeepKickstarterWeird initiative. In order to find those campaigns, simply search for #KeepKickstarterWeird in the various Facebook groups and elsewhere online.

And that’s it! See you next year and best of luck in your endeavors in crowdfunding.

Subscribe to DZC Emails and Adopt a Gorilla!

Inspired by this initiative by Thundergryph Games, I have decided to use this platform to do some small amount of social good. Helping me costs you nothing but creates a tangible way for me to give back to a charitable cause I feel very passionate about.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International is a 501(c)3 charity dedicated to the conservation of gorillas and their habitats in Africa. They are committed to promoting continued research on threatened ecosystems and education about Gorilla’s relevance to the world in which we live. The charity has an A grade from Charity Watch, 4-stars from Charity Navigator, and the list goes on validating my decision to support this cause. Their conservation efforts help people, forests, and entire ecosystems so that we can all thrive together on this planet. Your subscription today fuels this mission – 87% of every dollar given immediately goes to work in their programs. That’s a number I am proud of and I hope you will be too!

Subscribe for access to the FREE-TO-PLAY game, Triple Triple Trouble. Also, each December, The Daniel Zayas Company will donate $1 to Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International for every subscriber on this mailing list. Get a free game and feel great about doing so! Sign up today!

Thank you for joining the international movement to save gorillas. For fun, check out a tangible way Ellen Degeneres is contributing to the same fund!

Don’t Just be a Designer, be a Collaborator – Guest Blog by Nestor Tyr

It was a mid-May afternoon back a year ago when I first talked with Martin Looij from Keep Exploring Games. He told me he had seen some Facebook posts regarding Tour Operator and wanted to learn more as was creating a traveling-themed game himself. As it turned out, our perspective on the theme was different. His game’s protagonists were tourists while I was designing a game from the standpoint of the occupations in tourism around the world. Nonetheless, we agreed to keep in touch and to help each other with our designs.

Some months later, we talked again. Martin had seen some promo art I got commissioned for Tour Operator and was proposing to check the game for publishing. At the time I was in a dilemma, to self-publish or not, having faith in my game but not much time to market it correctly. I eventually agreed to sign it over to Keep Exploring Games, and on April 9, Tour Operator launched on Kickstarter.

What designers fear in signing their game over to some company is the thought that they will have no further involvement in their creation. “Now sit back and let the publisher run the show,” a fellow designer told me. I didn’t quite follow his advice, and I am glad I didn’t. For the past three months and a half, I have been following Tour Operator in all stages: art, graphic design, previews, promotion and Kickstarter release.

My advice to designers is to offer your help to the publisher, try to stay as close to your game as you can and don’t let your love for it die out. Some publishers prefer to have designers out of their way, but, in truth, you are potentially their most crucial ally in this project. As long as you know your boundaries, respect your publisher and yourself, and keep loving your game, everything will work out for both parties in the end.

The first thing you should do is have a sincere talk with your potential publisher. Explain how you envision your partnership and your involvement in the publishing process and listen to what the publisher wants from you. I am sure that you can work out a collaborative framework that will allow you to contribute to the publishing process. My experience working with Martin Looij and Keep Exploring Games is that a designer can help a lot. A very delicate subject is the game art. Most publishers will exclude the designers from choosing the game’s illustrator but in my case, the illustrator, Thanos Tsilis, was my choice. I had approached him before we had any contract with Keep Exploring Games and Martin was so happy with the art that he wouldn’t want to change the art direction. The same happened with the graphic design we needed for the KS page and the game box. The publisher’s regular graphic designer wasn’t available for some time, so I proposed a friend who closed a deal with the publisher and helped us out at a critical point.

A designer may also help with the game design in general. Martin gladly supported my proposals about the player mats and the size of the city cards, which I wanted big enough to show off our awesome game art. I tried to offer thoughts on why something should be the way I propose but never expected to get my way every time.

Another way a designer may help is promoting the game. There are various Facebook Groups right now which offer both product visibility and direct contact with board gamers and potential clients. Providing info about the rules and the gameplay, answering questions and talking to future backers or industry insiders helps to build an audience for any game, and that’s a job a designer might do very well. I remember the Tour Operator Facebook Group already having almost 800 followers when Keep Exploring Games had taken over, and I continued posting about Tour Operator in several groups during the pre-campaign period, especially art related posts. Get the publisher’s blessing on what sort of sharing is allowed and then keep loving that game!

A designer may also help as a collaborator during the KS campaign, answering relevant backer questions and posting updates. It’s a great experience, and I suggest you ask your publisher to give you collaborator rights. Of course, it goes without saying that you should be sure on the things you are commenting or your answers to the public and you always ask the publisher if something doesn’t stick with you before posting on the KS comments.

So, it’s all that easy? Publishers and designers get along without any problems, any slight little shadow between them? Certainly not. There were viewpoints with which I disagreed with the publisher, such as having a ticket resource instead of a clean plane seats one, or various city card decisions, with me wanting more mainstream cities and sites in the game and Martin Looij going for some more “uncommon” ones. In these cases the rule is simple. The publisher always has the decisive vote because at the end of the day they are more financially liable for the project’s success. Keep this fixed in your mind, and communication will be great.

You’ve got a friend in me: Collaborating with other Kickstarter Creators – Guest Post by Artem Safarov

Your Kickstarter goes live in a few months. Your days are a mix of pride in and anxiety. If you have done your homework and consumed the wisdom of Jamie Stegmaier and James Mathe (and many others) – you know that the most significant predictor of your success now is how much awareness you are going to drum up before the project launches.

So, you do the best you can. You are signed up to all the Facebook groups. You even go to r/boardgames on Reddit from time to time, looking for opportunities to mention your game. You talk it up as much as you can. And you probably wish there would be someone there who would care as much as you do to amplify all the good vibes you are putting out there.

Well, I have good news for you! There is someone like that. They are your fellow Kickstarter creators. You probably thought they were your opponents or competitors, haven’t you? Silly talk. Your real obstacle is the sheer amount of game information out there, creating a level of noise with which it is hard to compete. The individual people who share your dream, however, are your potential greatest allies.

Let’s see why:

  • They know the environment you are in because they are also a part of the same community
  • They are well-versed in the current interests/preferences of the community
  • They have a presence on social media platforms because they want to share their message
  • They share the drive to see a passion project succeed

So why not help each other? Find a project you like, reach out to the creator and see if there is an opportunity for collaboration. The ways to collaborate are many, but at the very basic level even if you have a connection with someone who is more likely to like/upvote your content or provide positive comments on mentions of your game – that’s so much more valuable than mentioning your game to deafening silence.

I had the pleasure of forming such a connection with Casey Hill who has recently wrapped up his Kickstarter for Arkon (smashing many stretch goals in the process, earning 800% of his goal).

Arkon is a light, gorgeous-looking card game that mixes strategy of Hero Realms with bluffing and social deduction. You can pre-order it for just over $20 here.

Our collaboration was not a particularly official one – we just got to talking about our projects, liked what we both saw and formed a habit of supporting each other’s content. And it makes a difference. The supportive public voice that such connections can provide is invaluable for visibility of your project, and it leads to a mutually beneficial relationship, opening future avenues of collaboration. I am grateful to Casey for his support and providing his view of our interaction below:

Casey: When I started out on my journey as a game creator, there was a lot I didn’t know. One of the things I did know, was that broadly and repetitively promoting your work in boardgame groups was a sure-fire way to foster ill-will. So, I decided to start with a) trying to find game creators who were doing it right and learn from them and b) try to see how I could give back.

For the first item there, I began by engaging with a handful of creators that I found were producing compelling content. The key here is don’t game this. Don’t be disingenuous. Start by liking and commenting on stuff about which you actually care; things you would follow, like and comment on regardless of any benefit in return. Comments that show thought and engagement with the material are better than likes. One of the creators I connected with was Artem. I found the work he was doing on his new game fascinating, I loved the art, and I dug the theme. Above all that, I saw him as an amiable and authentic person. When I reached out with some questions after a bit, he was happy to share his insights. We started to build a genuine relationship around mutual respect as founders and what we liked in each other’s games. Having allies to help you amplify your voice is enormous but treat this as you would a relationship in real life and share/like/comment on the stuff that you actually like and find interesting.

Excited about this idea? Here are some suggestions on how to go about it:

  • Be realistic in who you approach. Pick creators on your “level”. You might love Ryan Laukat’s stuff, but he’s probably ok for social media support without your help :). But there are plenty of small shops doing remarkable things.
  • Approach creators of projects that you genuinely like. If you are going to be telling people something is fantastic – you better believe it yourself. The last thing I want to suggest is to misrepresent something in which you have little interest.
  • Give as much as you get. This kind of support is a two-way street. If you expect help and engagement from others – make sure you are just as committed to helping their projects.

So, go ahead – reach out to someone today, show interest in their project, make a friend and see if they like what you’ve made. More of these connections will make sure that our community thrives as we continue to create meaningful games!

Unbroken is a solo game of survival and revenge in a world of dark fantasy, on Kickstarter now. You play as a lone survivor of a monster ambush. Wounded, alone and unarmed you must navigate the dark caverns, recover from wounds, craft weapons from scraps and fight your way back to freedom. Unbroken is a 20-30-minute game of resource management and pushing your luck. If you enjoy a challenging, decision-driven experience in a tight playtime – Unbroken is available for an affordable $23!

Announcing New York Slice Legacy!

Today, Bézier Games announced the upcoming release of New York Slice Legacy, the very first Legacy game that you eat while you play! Co-designed by Rob Daviau, Jeffrey D. Allers, and Ted Alspach, the game will debut at Gen Con with a general release in early September.

The Original

New York Slice is an “I cut, you choose” game where players have to divide up a pizza knowing that they’ll end up with the section that none of their opponents want. The challenge is collecting the best pizza, avoiding anchovies, and getting the right specials to manage a victory!

Adding Legacy

New York Slice Legacy builds on the original game, and brings something entirely new to Legacy gaming by making it a culinary experience! You can play the game with any pizza, so all you have to do is order in (or make your own!) and your game night is ready to start!

A New York Slice Legacy campaign adds all new layers of strategy. With permanent changes each game, every decision (and every bite!) counts. Will you keep those slices as leftovers for next game, or will you fit them in now? Will you upgrade your plate size or your stomach? The choice is yours, but we know one thing for sure – this will be the most fulFILLING Legacy game you’ve ever played!

New York Slice Legacy plays with 2-4 players, and each game takes about 45 minutes to play. The game contains plates for each player, a pizza cutter to help slice the portions each round, a scoring pad, all new player abilities, secret upgrades, and brand new specials that can even be added to the original game for more variety once the legacy campaign is complete!

New York Slice Legacy will debut at Gen Con 2018 and is currently available for preorder. Don’t miss out on this brand new game that is good enough to eat!

The Good, The Bad, & The Misinformed – Week 9

Each week, I will show you educational case studies on Kickstarter. These are strictly my experience-based opinions on Kickstarter best practices. My listing these campaigns are always an endorsement of the product itself, no matter my critical commentary of the campaign. Enjoy! *Please note that I missed Week 6, 7, and 8 due to schedule complications.

Palm Island – Portable Card Game

Take your island with you. Play anywhere with this portable deck transformer game.

The Good: A word about preview content. A Rahdo preview can almost guarantee a funded Kickstarter campaign. Big thumbs up to the creators for pursuing and getting that preview content. Seriously, look down the line of Rahdo videos and point a failed Kickstarter campaign out to me. You’ll see my comparison to even The Dice Tower’s new preview arm below, but you as a creator need to take into account a reviewer’s track record. You also want to pay attention to a content creator’s views and comment sections. I generally don’t get many comments here, but the few I do get are mostly responded to. You want that level of engagement when selecting (and sometimes paying) a content creator.
The Bad: You as a self-publisher need to make a decision between creating a deluxe edition of your game or making the only game you are selling deluxe in the first place. I have helped run both types of campaigns. While deluxe on Kickstarter is usually the more popular option, I think Palm Island could have done without the basic edition entirely. For an extra $2, you get the game the creators actually wanted to make. Now the creators have a dilemma of mass producing likely 1000 copies of the paper card game, but only 300 were really interested in the first place. They have learned now that they could have easily gotten away with all-weather cards and been just fine with one less SKU to worry about post-Kickstarter.
The Misinformed: It is hard to justify anything as categorically “misinformed” when I regard the campaign overall as a resounding success. So here’s a softball critique, but one I think is valuable. Maybe when you have the inclination to post four updates on your campaign within the first 24 hours, just don’t. I know running a Kickstarter campaign is like riding a tidal wave of emotion but try to hold back and take your customers’ time seriously. Don’t negatively impact your campaign with oversharing. Hold back information so that you can have better quality updates throughout. In general, I recommend a few standard updates: The “Welcome to the campaign” update, the “we funded” update, and the “thank you for all your support in these last 72 to 48 hours” update. The rest of the updates can be sparingly spaced apart to maybe one per week or, at most, every couple days as you unlock big stretch goals.

Pichenotte Hockey – A Great Wooden Flicking Game !

Face your rival in a simple, smooth and relaxed way. Pichenotte Hockey is a surprising dexterity game for 2 players.

The Good: Funny thing, there were two dexterity games launched this week: the above Pichenotte Hockey, and Flicky Spaceships. Can anyone spot why one is funded and the other likely to cancel? If you said overproduced game compared to gameplay experience you are right! Pichenotte Hockey should by all accounts be charging more for their game. It’s WOODEN BOARDS! But I can get a large version for a cool $43. However, if I want Flicky Spaceships, I’m looking at double the price. If I wanted an $80 dexterity game, I’d buy PitchCar. Know your market, and know what prices actual products on Kickstarter sell for. Otherwise, you will be hitting the cancel button before you launch.
The Bad: Here’s where my praise of Pichenotte Hockey and their pricepoint gets a little dicey. The creators of this campaign made the conscious decision, as many others have before them, to separate shipping from the pledge level. While this is not outright bad for this type of campaign, they probably could have achieved better results with a different split. To the publisher, it’s all the same money when the check comes in from Kickstarter. If I make a game for $1 and make the shipping $50, I am still getting $51 per unit sold when all is said and done. The $50 in shipping is even going toward my funding goal. Where Pichenotte did a $43 / $17 split, I think they would have been better served with a $49 / $10 split. It ups the perceived value of the product, which already seems underpriced and a great value, while also not giving people as much sticker shock when clicking the back button and seeing the $17 in shipping.
The Misinformed: I am generally in the camp of fewer pledge levels is more, but in this case, I think the creators could have afforded to add a couple levels to clarify their Montreal pickup offering. Not too drastic as far as misinformed lessons go, but definitely could become a headache post-Kickstarter when they start to figure out fulfillment. If you do a local pickup option (or, as you’ll see many times in the Spring, Essen pickup option), save yourself some navigating the no reward section and just build a pledge level with worldwide free shipping rules. Be perfectly clear in the pledge level the terms for backing, and then be prepared for backers to have clicked that option by mistake, at which point you will need to charge shipping after the campaign. The risk of that happening is much preferred over sorting No Reward backers.

Guardian’s Gambit

2-player Card combat that you can take and play anywhere without a table!

The Good: Now, I am possibly in the minority of believing earnestly that you the creator should be in charge of teaching people your game and third-party content creators should be in charge of broad explanations, pontificating, and promotion. The Guardian’s Gambit campaign does their video really well, even on an indie limited budget. It also gives the creators more screen time, which is always a net positive when backers are backing creators as much as they are backing for new games.
The Bad: I am trying not to make a negative out of what should have been a sound business decision. But when you look at the new Kickstarter preview offering by The Dice Tower, likely going for hundreds of dollars, and you see the severe lack of views on that video compared to Rahdo’s subscription to view ratio, and you see the lack of official engagement in the YouTube comments, you have to wonder about where that marketing budget could have been better spent. This is unfortunate because it shouldn’t have been a negative to the campaign at all. It should have been a resounding positive. I hope the Dice Tower team reads this and retools how they get the word out on paid preview content.
The Misinformed: This is one of those cases where you don’t need extra pledge levels, but the creator made them anyway. You as the creator can tell backers to pledge for whatever amount extra per extra copy and keep it all in one pledge level. Then you can sort it out with a pledge manager after the campaign. On a related note, the difference between the $75 pledge and the $250 pledge is a mention in the rulebook. That is a laughable attempt at providing added value, even if rich Uncle Lou wanted to give you extra money in the campaign. Keep it simple with the pledges and Uncle Lou can still give you what he wanted with one available pledge level.

Guest Blog with Petter Olsen – Do I Have Enough Followers?

Sorry for the hiatus! It’s been a busy few weeks. I have both helped launch two Kickstarter campaigns, Infinities: Defiance of Fate and Castles of Caleira, as well as attended two industry conventions, New York Toy Fair and Expedition Prototype and Industry Con (EPIC). In that time I let The Good, The Bad, and the Misinformed slip a couple of weeks, so for that, I apologize and promise to start up again as soon as possible.

In this time, I have talked to numerous creators about their strategies on Kickstarter, and one of those creators was none other than Petter Olsen. Petter is mid-campaign for his game, Donning the Purple, but took time to explain a bit about how he is best able to determine social clout and how that relates to his Kickstarter conversions.

You can support Petter by backing Donning the Purple, on Kickstarter now.

Your Crowd Size

So how do you know when are you ready to launch your campaign on Kickstarter? That depends on a lot of factors. In this article, I’m going to talk about one of those factors: Your crowd size.

Once your budget is in order, you probably know how many backers you minimum will need to fund your project. In this example, let’s say you need 300 backers.

It is crucial that you bring your audience to Kickstarter, but how do you know when your crowd is at the correct size to even think about having a launch date? Sadly, the social media world is not a place where one fan on your Facebook page equals one backer.


To help answer the crowd size question, I always start by placing my social media following across the web into a spreadsheet. I also put in my conversion rate for each platform from my prior campaigns as well as traffic to my website where I blog regularly. Tracking where your blog audience is coming from is a very powerful metric for new creators who do not have a campaign yet.

The conversion rates that I have may be different than yours, so put in the numbers that fit with your marketing results. Remember the numbers are dependent on how active you are on each platform. It takes a lot of time and effort to create engagement among your followers.

Conversion Probability

So how does this work? At the moment, I have 781 fans on the Facebook page. I think that I can get approximately 5 percent of those fans to back my campaign based on the history of my analytics data. That means I will get conservatively 39 backers who are also my Facebook fans. Then I do this on Twitter, Instagram, BGG and other social media accounts I manage. I also include the members of any relevant groups I admin. Each one of these has different conversion rates. The place where I get most response and backers from is my email list. They are active and responsive, so I calculate I will have a 10 percent conversion rate from the list members.

In the end, I add up all the converted backer numbers, and if that total is near my target goal backer count, I know I have enough to launch.