A short post on Kickstarter funding goals

Posted by Daniel Zayas November 7, 2017 in Advice

This is going to be a very short post exploring working backward from the gameplay experience to arrive at your funding goal.

Step One: Take a Field Trip

If you take a trip to your Friendly Local Game Store, you will see a setup of box sizes with varying complexities of games and you will feel varying literal weights of the games as well.

In being a games publisher, you should have a well rounded knowledge first of what retailers are interested in carrying (especially in terms of art quality), but also in terms of what gameplay experiences and box sizes warrant MSRP price points that distributors and retailers have actually agreed is worth the effort.

Above and Below costs $49.99. But Diplomacy costs $39.99. Why is that the case? Could it be component count? Could it be depth of experience and replayablity? Could it be qualities of art on a price spectrum? Could it be the difference in years published? 

The truth is it is likely all of those things and more, but it is something you will not grasp unless you play a lot of games from the lens of a project manager.

Do the same thing now with Kickstarter to know what people are willing to pledge for a similar experience and box size. Back many campaigns, even for $1 each to follow along. Do the same consumer norms hold true as they do in retail? Do some of these games go on to a retailer release? Can you later find these games on Amazon or a proprietary website instead? Does the product die after fulfillment to backers? 

Step 2: What will the market support?

In developing a mass produced game, you need to kill your darlings. You need to wrestle with a design until it is not just a good experience, but a sellable product. I cannot tell you how many times I have been in an email thread with newer publishers through my work with LongPack Games Manufacturing and they are either blissfully unaware of how they can minimize costs, or worse, adamant they have a minimum viable product when it is obvious that is not the case.

You need to get into a dialogue with your manufacturer early on and discuss ways to minimize costs. Better yet, based on playtester feedback, tell the manufacturer you have a game that future backers would likely buy for $20-25 based on the gameplay experience. That means you need them to shrink production to around $3-4 per unit or better (15% of the intended MSRP or less). You can even at this point ask for DDP shipping terms to know landed cost to an address in US, which may break out to $4-6 per unit in this example, or more depending on many factors like weight, dimensions, etc. The key here is asking the manufacturer how you can lower production costs without sacrificing component count. Internally you should be play testing reduction of component counts to make the game more streamlined or dare I say elegant. Maybe the answer is that it is impossible, and that is where you want to arrive. 

From this, you learn about minimum order quantity from the manufacturer, and you can now place your MSRP for a 2000 unit print run, but you also know the costs associated with a 1000-unit print run for what we do next with the goal. 

Step 3: You are not a rock star, yet

Now, you have an intended price point for the product, you have a rough estimate of manufacturing and landed costs to US, and you will see a much bigger picture as you partner with fulfillment entities to help you solve problems and as you charge international shipping to cover those costs based on partner feedback. I will say this outright. Partner with many fulfillment companies, but shop around per region to find the best solution. Usually that is 3-6 different partners who will fulfill to Europe, US, Canada, Australia, etc. But I digress! 

Now you need to temper your expectations for how many backers you can realistically lure to the project depending on your prior success or lack thereof on Kickstarter itself. Ignore your precious email list and social following for two seconds.


That is the number.


If you cannot lure 300 people to your Kickstarter project, I would argue that you should not be mass producing a minimum order of 1000. Secondly, even though your MSRP is set for 2000 units, your campaign may not warrant making that amount. At this point, you should make less money per unit with a 1000-unit print run, cut your losses, and move on to the next game.
So, the magic number is 300. Remember the example with $19-25? Now with some simple math, you will need to raise between $5700 and $7500 to meet that price range and stay true to the minimum turnout. Now let’s say your landed cost again is $4-6. You need to raise a minimum (not including shipping) of $4000 to $6000 based on the minimum order of 1000 units. If you read above, you will actually see we more than covered the cost of a $4 or $6 unit cost with a $5700 or $7500 funding goal.

I carefully avoided shipping in that equation. That’s because you should absolutely roll shipping into the pledge amount, which means for US, it looks like $39 with free shipping instead of $29 with $10 shipping. Then charge excess of that $10 shipping to international backers as a separate charge, which will then cover your actual shipping costs. Either way, that pledge level you arrive at for US backers should be what you use to determine the funding goal at 300 backers. 

My own little disclaimer

I have oversimplified the process intentionally to drive home a point that your game price should be based on customer expectations and that your funding goal should take into account how many people you should be expect in a new creator campaign. There are many, many outlier costs such as art,  marketing,  logistics, et cetera for days. But knowing this formula for the sake of taking action to reduce the cost of the game, figuring out MSRP/pledge, and getting to a safe funding goal will set you apart from a lot of would be publishers who throw spaghetti at the wall hoping to fund and fulfill a Kickstarter.