The Good, The Bad, & The Misinformed – Week 5

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!

Lightning & Bolt — an asymmetric co-op superhero adventure!

A game of superheroes & robots for parents & kids, from the creator of Vast & the illustrator of Everdell // A proud part of MAKE 100

The Good: Watch the video. Done? I’m not crying; you’re crying! Let’s talk about how great of a sales pitch this is for one moment. This game is marketed to parents who want to play a game with their kid. The immediate concern from a would-be customer is that it may be too complicated for my kid to enjoy. What better way to explain the game than to have your child fully understand and help you teach customers how to play the game and how much fun they’ve had playing it? The lesson here is that the more indie (or small-scale) your campaign is, the more your backers are there to support you as much as the product. Be on camera when the project is small, be genuine, and you will be surprised at the reception.
The Bad: This campaign is chock full of blocks of text. People who have their brain switched to buying games mode don’t take time to read. I backed this game blindly on there being 100 physical copies without any regard to how it plays or reviews of the game or even watching the intro video if I am honest. Now the creators have a unique problem where they are trying to convert backers for the PnP pledge level, which means they need to try harder to explain the game and give folks a better first impression.
The Misinformed: One aspect currently keeping this campaign in the four-figure territory is this unyielding commitment to making 100 physical games and that being the main pledge level. As a result, you see a bizarre thing in the pledges where more than 200 people have signed on to receive a digital print and play. If you look at the Make 100 campaigns on Kickstarter, you will see that other creators are making 100 special versions of the game and then opening up lesser versions of a physical game for everyone else. They have said in the campaign that they may come back to Kickstarter with a large campaign in the future if there is a positive reception, but I say kill the middle man and make some money!

Show & Tile – a creative party game

The fifth Jellybean Game. A tangram game for 3-6 players of all ages from the creators of Seikatsu.

The Good: Look at the pledge levels for just a moment. Show and Tile displays a $29 level and a $39 level. But what do I get for an extra $10? 150 more cards! That is worth an extra $10! What I just explained is what 101 backers, the campaign’s main source of support, experienced on the page. You can repeat this effort by cutting out extra content to your game (kill your darlings) and adding them back in as a separate deluxe tier. What you will find is that most backers don’t equate your higher ticket item by its actual price, but by the difference between the two pledge levels. I don’t look at the $39 pledge level and think that it is going to cost me $39. I look at it and think, it’s only $10 more than the version I already wanted. What’s better is that this isn’t likely to be a huge time sink for the creator or manufacturers because it is simply added card content, which the creator may sell separately in the future.
The Bad: The first pledge level in a campaign is the most valuable real estate in the entire campaign. What do you owe to $1 backers that you would sacrifice this real estate to them? The 30 backers earned in this fashion is not enough by a long shot. If you want people to engage with you and support your efforts, make them pay for a copy of your game. Games are already undervalued as it is. Do you want to reward people for giving you $1? I say that you as an indie publisher do not owe someone willing to give you $1 your most valuable space in the campaign. Make them pay full price or politely ask that they use Kickstarter’s built-in features to pledge less.
The Misinformed: Say it with me everyone. Combined price for US shipping in the pledge levels! The number one mistake holding this campaign back from funding is the sticker shock associated with separate shipping. I am a case user who clicked on the campaign, then clicked to pledge for $39, saw it cost $49 and backed out. I followed up by questioning the value of the lesser pledge for the $39 total and ended up not making any purchase decision. I didn’t make these rules, the market did. We live in the world where US buyers expect the sticker price to reflect the cost of included shipping. When shopping on Amazon, we specifically target products offered under our Prime membership. When not shopping on Amazon, we try to spend just $10 more dollars, so our order qualifies for free shipping. So when you imagine that you are transparent and forthright in showing would-be backers the actual cost of shipping, you do so at the expense of backer support. I see one price advertised in the campaign and, whether I was willing to back for an additional $10, I now think I have been given the bait and switch. This experience is the opposite effect the creators intended when they made a separate shipping price. It’s unfortunate but true.

Pulp Detective

Pulp Detective is a 1–2p card detective game in the pulp universe: Grab your gun, find the clues and confront the criminal at the end!

The Good: This is a perfect example of how you can avoid stretch goals in a campaign for legitimate reasons, say so politely in the campaign, and go on to be successful. The thought that you need stretch goals to be successful is short-sighted. Stretch goals add a lot of frustrations and complications to the manufacturing and logistics side, while also eating into your profit margin. You’ve even heard of landmark crowdfunding examples where a product could not be delivered because they didn’t accurately plot out the stretch goals. You owe it to your backers to be inclusive and engaging. But you also owe it to yourself to put food on the table and continue to make fun, profitable games. I hope 2018 is the year stretch goals go the way of the dodo, even if that is not likely to be the case.
The Bad: The gameplay section is discombobulated and leaves me wanting. There are two gameplay sections in this campaign. The first explains the basic concepts of the game; then after the components and impressions, you get another gameplay section. That second gameplay section is filled with blocks of text and no context built into the images shown. The publisher simply grabbed assets for the game and without any additional graphics edits or clarifications, spliced them into a text-only explanation. You can do better.
The Misinformed: I want to settle this right now. There is no such thing as a review of a prototype, even if the media entity offers an opinion of the said prototype. “Review” is a precise industry term in which the product was/is widely available for purchase. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a Kickstarter product has not yet been manufactured and will undergo some level of changes in between the campaign and mass production. A “preview” is something entirely different. A preview should show you what may be available for purchase at a later date and almost always includes a prototype of the product, as well as a disclaimer citing paid preview content if the content creator has been compensated. I am a believer that publishers have no business paying for reviews. However, in stark contrast, I have no issues with a publisher paying for previews/advertisements of a product which doesn’t exist yet. Publishers should pay! It takes roughly 20-30 hours on average of dedicated hands-on with the content creator and the prototype to ensure that a prototype is accurately portrayed. A media personality with an audience should be paid for their time! To claim moral high ground using a proud paid-free banner because you had no interest in investing in the marketing of your prototype is lazy at best, disingenuous at worse, and misinformed all around.