Check out the rest of our Kickstarter Advice Series!:
Since starting this Kickstarter Post-Mortem series, one of the biggest requests we’ve gotten is for an edition on rewards and how much to ask for. We’ll definitely be covering those today, but first we wanted to talk about the actual page and body copy, mostly because we don’t have a whole lot to say about it. Here are the two cardinal rules:\
It has to look good. It has to appear professional and eyecatching.
No one is going to read it. A full 70%+ of the questions we got from people during the campaign were about things that were answered in the body copy.
At the intersection of those two things is the .gif. We tried to add a lot of movement to our page to keep the feeling less like a static page of text and more like Times Square. It’s also a great way to reinforce notions from the trailer. If you go to our campaign page now, there’s a whole mess of stuff up top, but it originally went straight to “Core Mechanics” and the triptych (Which we stole from Witchmarsh!) below. Figuring that people had gotten the mood from the trailer, we really wanted to push the game’s mechanical innovations with a couple of cool moments- Explore, Build, Defend.
Aside from that, we never really got a lot of feedback about the page other than it “looked great”. Not many people read it, but it exuded an air of confidence- Look at all that concept art! Check out the cool reward GIFs (via Bryce’s girlfriend Lai who invented and executed all of them.)! It was a nice chance to explore the breadth of the game’s universe and project an image of professionalism. If you’re running a store, this is the window.
One thing to be aware of is that there is a character limit to the Kickstarter copy, but it won’t tell you until you hit the ‘Save’ button. We had a really panicky moment where we made a tiny change to the copy literally 5 minutes before launch only to have Kickstarter tell us we were over the limit. I think we ended up launching a few minutes late! This is also why you see a lot of Kickstarters wherein the text is an image- You only ‘pay’ for the embed code and not the text itself.
The body copy is your store window, so window dress.
But don’t expect people to do a deep dive and read every single thing. Communicate as much as you can visually.
Motion! Excitement! A static page is for a static project and your project is EXCITING. Be confident!
Watch the character limit!
With that out of the way, let’s get down to the meat and taters: The Rewards. Rewards are tough because that have to meet a few conflicting criteria:
They have to be cool enough that people want them
They have be cheap enough that you can fulfill & ship them
For us , the process went something like this. We drew up a list of Blue Sky rewards that we’d love to offer. Then we went out and priced them and figured out the shipping cost for those rewards. DO THIS STEP. I can’t tell you the number of Kickstarter horror stories where a team says, “Oh, we’ll offer a plushie at $20” and then realize that a plushie cannot be made and shipped for $20. It is not difficult to call up a print shop or manufacturer and get a quote and you’ll have a much more robust budget for it.
From there, we decided what percentage of a pledge tier the reward cost could reasonably consume. For us, we decided that the cost of producing and shipping goods for a tier could be no more than 10% of that tier. We also decided that everything below the $100 tier should be able to ship in a flat, Media Mail envelope, which is the cheapest way to ship things inside the US.
This knocked out some options right away (RIP 3D Printed turrets!). T-shirts, for instance, cost us around $7.50 to produce and between $3 and 4 to ship. Do the math and we could offer a shirt- and only a shirt- at $110. The math on physical goods is gnarly and sad. As a result, we tried to offer solutions that were low-cost, but still special. Items like Bryce’s post-card art only cost us time and a trivial amount of materials and are probably equally special and attractive to a buyer. The SNES-style instruction manual will end up around $1.85 to print , but fits the game perfectly and makes a lot of sense as a pledge reward. We think both of those things are equally as valuable to a backer as a t-shirt, but fit our cost profile much more easily.
Once that was done, it was like a little puzzle game as we got to work,figuring out where each item would fit. Our major strategy in the $50-and-under category to entice an upgrade at every tier. So, if you pledged $15 to just get the game, well, hey, it’s just $5 to get the Kickstarter-exclusive turret skins! And if you’re in for $20, well then the $30 tier gets you the soundtrack and more exclusive goods! And if you’re gonna spend $30, hey, get the game early for just $10 more!
We really worked on trying to walk backers up to the $40 tier. Beyond that we figured that we weren’t really converting anyone, they had to really want to support the game and no matter of sweet talking was going to get them to cough up another 50 bucks. That said, if you did have deep pockets, we did stack the deck at $60 and $125, tiers where the value of the rewards were most evident.
This seemed to work for us. We had 549 backers and the $40 tier and 549 at the $30 tier, but a mere 30 at the $50. The $60 tier saw another uptick at 155 backers. Above that we really focused on specialty items like designing game content- This will cost us time (Which, yes, is money), but not straight cash.
We frequently get questions about our limited tiers and whether or not they seemed worth it. The embedded question there is whether or not they make backers angry. I can say that we didn’t see any backlash from them and they seemed to incentivize an immediate purchase as opposed to a “Well, let me check back in two weeks” mentality. Other Kickstarters campaigns have reported a backlash, but I tend to think that that’s just a vocal minority.
If all that seems perfect, well. It’s not quite. The biggest issue is that many of our rewards will ship together, so even if one reward is complete, we can’t ship it until its companion piece is done. That means a longer wait for our already patient backers.
Additionally, we didn’t plan on doing Add-Ons for our campaign. After much grousing from the crowd, we added the option to buy the art book or a t-shirt ala carte. This turned out to be really difficult because the value of the shirt, according to the tiers, is $250. That’s silly. But if we allow you to just buy a shirt for $15 or whatever, that’s contradicting the perceived value as indicated in the tiers. The artbook shared a similar fate. No one complained about this, but we were acutely aware of it and hadn’t left ourselves a lot of flexibility in the tier structure to accommodate mid-campaign shifts. If you think you’ll want to do add-ons, plan for that and think about it long and hard.
Find items that are valuable to your audience, not just expensive
Get quotes on EVERYTHING. Call up multiple print shops or shirt printers.
SHIPPING! Take your hypothetical package to the post office website and see how much it’s going to cost you to send.
Oh boy. This is where things get difficult and weird and risky. Figuring out how much to ask for is an insane balancing act of pop psych., budgeting and gambling. Remember back in part one where I told you to budget, budget, budget? Well, take a long hard look at that number. What’s your absolute minimum? What’s your sanity number?
Here’s what ours look like. If we were really making Aegis Defenders in a responsible, real world studio, it’d cost $300,000 minimum. However, Bryce and Lifu both take greatly reduced salaries (About 15-20% of what they could be making in the industry) that just about cover cost of living and Scott gets paid nothing because he has a full time job elsewhere. With this in mind, we decided that we could make the game for about $150,000, $130,000 if we were ready to put in our own money.
So, easy, ask for $150,000 , right? Unfortunately, wrong. Many Kickstarters do the bulk of their funding after they meet their ask. Additionally, we had commitments from several large blogs and other promo partners that they’d only write about us once we were funded. That meant that if we asked for $150,000 , we might miss out on a big press push because we’d take longer to fund.
We ultimately asked for $65,000 as that was about half of our bare-minimum $130,000. This paid off for us- We funded quickly and more than doubled our goal. But if we had ended up around $100,000, we really would have had to ask some hard questions about whether or not to continue with the campaign. We were also happy to fund early as an insurance policy- The closer we got to the $65k, the more and more people who withdrew their pledges. Seems like there’s a whole class of Backers who only back to get their numbers up, not to actually fund the project.
Remember, too, that your Ask should be inclusive of Kickstarter fees (~10%), federal taxes (~20%+) and rewards (for us, 10%). This meant that 30-40% of everything we made on Kickstarter essentially vanished immediately.
The Ask is a gamble. Ask for too much and you scare away potential backers. Ask for too little and you risk the health of your project. There isn’t really good, true advice here except that you shouldn’t Ask for a number that you know will make it impossible to finish your project.
This is probably the most common sense bit we’ll cover. Be honest, use your brain, do the groundwork. Consider the whole picture when thinking about rewards and the Ask. It’s really easy to get caught up in the micro and not be thinking about what happens after you fund. I remember the moment when the campaign closed and we all looked at each other and thought: Oh god, now we have to make the game? Thankfully, the work we did on budgeting made that possible. Thinking long and hard about your finances can save you from a real ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ scenario.