For about a month now I have been putting together weekly breakdowns of Kickstarter campaigns over at All Us Geeks. The truth is, I have looked at every single tabletop Kickstarter campaign that has gone live in 2015. All of them. And for a great majority, I’ve studied those campaigns and those pages. Looked at the charts. Read all the comments and updates. This has been my homework, 5-7 days a week, for several hours a day. Now, I’m not saying that is something you have to do before launching your first Kickstarter campaign. But for me, I felt the need to do this level of research.
Now, what does this translate to? Hopefully, it translates to a campaign page that looks like I give a damn. Let’s take a look at some of the elements that make a quality campaign page.
Video It’s right at the top of the page. And while not everyone watches it, I’m of the belief that you absolutely should have one. There are campaigns out there that have funded without a video. But there are countless failed Kickstarters without one. So what makes a good video?
-Good Audio: I (and I’m not the only one) would argue that good audio is more important than good video. People will sit through a video with less quality camera work, but fuzzy, hissy audio will make people turn it off every time. Get a good microphone (even spending $60-70 will get you something suitable) and sit down with an audio editor (Audacity is free, though I haven’t used it. You can pay $30 for a month of Adobe Audition, which I swear by). This is a place where you need to make an investment. So do it!
-Time: It seems that the sweet spot for videos is right around 1:30. There are a lot of good videos shorter than that, but most videos over that feel too long. And just about everyone who has run a campaign will tell you that most people turn off the video long before it finishes. Make it short and sweet, then get out. If your video is longer than 1:30, make sure the hook is early.
-Thematic/Personal: I think you should ideally have a short section that fits the world of your game, and a personal appeal from the designer. If the video is 1:30, then I would say 30 seconds or less should be devoted to the thematic part, then the rest should come directly from the designer (designer, not publisher). People like to invest in people. So show your passion. Make us feel it. Nobody loves the game better than you, right?
Pledge Levels There are a ton of different opinions on what you should put in your pledge levels. Some people will tell you about early birds. Retail levels. All kinds of things to add on to your levels. But the research that I have generally says that simpler is better. So here’s what good pledge levels look like:
-$1: Look at a $1 pledge as a welcome mat. This level tells people “Hey, I’m really glad you’re here. Come in and stay awhile.” Just about anyone can throw you a buck. And having that level tells people that you value their buck. Is their dollar really going to help you? No. But if they get in for a dollar, they get to comment, they get all your updates, and you have the opportunity to let them know why they should turn that dollar into a full pledge. It happens. A lot. So make sure to put the welcome mat out on the porch.
-Base level: There’s nothing between the $1 and this. Nothing. No early birds. No mugs. No posters. No t-shirts. Nothing. Not only does that help the page look more elegant, but it maintains the value of your product. “But wait,” you might say. “People love early birds, don’t they?” No, actually. People like deals. Many tolerate early birds. Some people actively hate them. And I don’t believe they really work. An early bird does not motivate a large swath of backers to a substandard product or page. People will snap up early birds to a game they would back anyway. If they find that they don’t actually want your game, they’ll dump the early bird level halfway through and make your pledge levels look even worse. Also, an early bird devalues your product. If the base level is $30 and you sell 100 copies at $25, people are going to wonder why you’re not just selling the game for $25. And why aren’t you? Is it because you want that 5 dollars as padding for your wallet? Or because you’re selling those 100 copies as loss leaders? I can virtually guarantee that no backer will assume you’re selling at a loss.
So to end the rant, find the lowest price you can and sell at that price. Don’t sell at a loss, but don’t do anything to devalue your product either. Pick a price and defend it. Say “It takes money to make a game, and this is the amount of money each copy needs to be so that we can not lose money.” Pick that price and make it stone. It’ll be the best deal for the most backers, and it will mean that people understand why they need to pay what they’re paying.
-Deluxe Level: What this is is going to change depending on what your project is. It might be the game plus an expansion, a nice box, another character, or something customized. It should be something that helps drive you to your funding goal without significant cost.
What should not be the deluxe level? The deluxe level should not be: multiple copies, retailer levels, anything that costs too much to make, or anything that renders the base level incomplete.
-Multiple copies: If people want to pledge for multiple copies, that’s fine. You should include something on the page (in the shipping section or in the FAQ) on how to pledge for multiple copies. But what people do here is, for example, have their base level be for $25 and the pledge for 2 copies be for $40. Do you see what happens here? People wonder why you can suddenly drop the price by $15 just because they ordered a second. You may have a great reason, but many of your backers will assume your product costs less than it actually does, and they will mentally devalue your product.
-Retailer levels: I love the FLGS. Don’t get me wrong. I love supporting the FLGS. But very very few game stores stock their shelves with stock they ordered on Kickstarter. It just doesn’t happen that often. Stores have connections with distributors. They pick up games at trade shows because they played them and maybe got free copies. For a game store to back your project to put in their store, they tie up money for 6 months or longer without a tangible product to put on their shelves. That is no way to run a business, and they know that. If someone wants to order multiple copies, refer them to that part of your page where they can do so. Don’t clutter your page with useless levels.
-High Cost: If your deluxe level is $10 more than the base level and it costs $7 to make, you’re cutting your margins too close. The deluxe model should be something that adds value to the product without adding a great amount of cost to manufacturing. Something simple and effective. A new game mode might just take 10 more cards. A new character might be a pawn and additional resources. It adds something to your game and it adds something to your buffer. It’s a win for everyone.
-Making Your Base Incomplete: Anyone who plays video games regularly knows that Day-1 DLC is not popular or fun. How it feels is that someone has shipped an incomplete game…but they’ll sell you the rest for a low, low price! Likewise, your base game should be complete. It should stand on its own. If you barely make the goal and nobody buys the deluxe level, everyone should be getting a fantastic, complete product. If people want a bonus, that’s great. But that’s really what the deluxe level should be. This is the same principle for stretch goals, which we will go over later.
So that’s part one! That was probably more detailed than I intended, but so it goes. While you’re waiting for part two, let me know what you think about my own campaign page: http://www.tinyurl.com/BillShakespeare Make sure I practice what I preach!