This week’s Dispatch follows up on last week’s discussion of Kickstarter and board games.
In response to the three problems I pointed out last week, we’re starting to see a number of changes in KS habits for board game producers.
Stretch Goal Fever
The companies that do well fighting this problem have learned a couple things. First, that free or cheap to produce stretch goals are key. Adding a sheet of stickers? Great! Adding another miniature? Bad. I like the companies that do small runs of KS extras that will be tossed in with the box — both Heroes Wanted and Epic Resort did this, adding little packets of extra stuff that regular buyers of the game wouldn’t be able to get. On the other hand, sometimes we get extra trinkets that just feel like a waste of money (I’m looking at you, sheet of stickers).
Another response is to avoid stretch goals altogether, or only offer a couple at huge milestones.
Crushed by Success
Limiting specialized stretch goals is a key part of this process — individualized rewards mean tons of extra work in fulfillment, and thus lots of work outside of making the game. Boo. Ludicreations is the paramount of restraint here. Not only do they do NO stretch goals at all, they actually limit the number of games they will issue as rewards so they can be sure to fulfill the game on time. Here’s what they say:
NO BS KS
What You See Is What You Get - this is our doctrine, and we like to run simple, straightforward campaigns. We are aware that offering add-ons and/or introducing stretch goals would increase the funding total. However, we have already thrown everything into this game – a lot of time, effort, and money. We intend to print with the highest quality materials anyway and we will not cut any corners.
We also want to offer the game at the cheapest cost possible – and that is incompatible with stretch goals. We’d have to add “hidden” profit in the pledge levels, that we can then “spend” to give you stretch goals to get excited about. Therefore, raising money beyond our goal does not give us extra money on hand to create stretch goals.
Furthermore, because the games are made in Europe, and because we do small print runs, we do not benefit by economies of scale by producing more copies of the game.
If we do offer additional content, we will lock past pledge levels. That’s it – you do not need to pay more, or like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or be a fan on BGG – although all of those things are nice of you if you do them, we want you to do them if you want to, not because of a carrot we dangle in front of you.
We do not do add-ons (not even our other games), because we want to keep our operations simple, and deliver efficiently. We are in this for the long run, so it does not help us to squeeze a few more dollars from a few backers, if we disappoint *all* backers.
Will it be any good?
Ludicreations has also done a great job soliciting reviews of their games to combat the problem of games that look cool but aren’t fun to play. As Steven Johnson predicted in Interface Culture, reviewers have become the filter for us, a way to find games that work. By tapping into this fan culture, KS companies bypass the judgment of game production companies in favor of the wisdom of crowds.
The personal touch
My favorite company producing games through Kickstarter right now is Funto11 games (current KS: Epic PVP: Fantasy). These folks have a long track record of producing great games and delivering on time. They also do a great job of offering substantial and interesting stretch goals without going overboard. I also love the personal touch at the heart of all their projects. For instance, when they were doing the KS for Castle Dice, one of the stretch goals was bigger dice, but in the last week before the KS ended, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and the team saw backers withdrawing at about an even rate as new ones were signing up. They wrote this:
Just when a campaign should be taking off toward the end, we’ve been noticing a very large number of cancellations which is offsetting any new backer momentum. This is totally unlike our previous 2 campaigns and the campaigns that our friends have run in the past. It’s pretty clear to us that this is due to folks hunkering down from the storm on the East Coast.
We love making games and we think even expensive games like Castle Dice are an affordable way for folks to have fun (especially when you compare it to things like going to the movies or having a nice meal out). That said, We don’t want anyone feeling any sort of pressure to open their wallet more than they feel comfortable with to help us reach a stretch goal at a time like this.
As such, we’re taking down the stretch goal and marking it “achieved.” We’ll cover any uncovered costs associated with the upgrade (we have some extra money from MSfG and Flame War – none of us have taken a dime from Fun to 11 to date). And while we’re happy with any support we get in these last 3 days, we’re not announcing any new stretch goals for this product. Instead we will be donating 10% of every dollar raised between now and the end of the campaign to hurricane relief. It just feels like the right thing to do now. We’ve always said that Fun to 11 isn’t in this for the money, so it’s time we put those words into practice.
Thanks for all of your support folks and to all of you on the wrecked coast, hang tough,
Luke, Jay, Kai, Dave, and Rob
How cool is that?
All of this, of course, points to both the pleasures and the dangers of electracy. On the plus side, we get to know game developers in ways we couldn’t before. On the down side, we don’t have the smarts of the marketplace protecting us from flashy amateurs who don’t actually have the experience to get the game to market. And having to use our own judgment to filter those folks means that sometimes we’ll get screwed.