How to change a Kickstarter from a Fail to a Win
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This list was started as a progression from this thread:
Kickstarter EPIC FAIL

I hope to point out a few things you should generally avoid at all costs in designing as well as marketing a game on Kickstarter (KS). Some of these are things that will almost guarantee that you will get little to no funding at all. Few exceptions exist, but they're like an ant compared to a tidal wave. So good luck with that, ant!

The point of this list is not to berate those who make these poor choices, but to explain why those are bad choices, and also offer solutions (at least, that is my hope).

So, please, if you have any links, comments, suggestions or anything at all to add towards this aim, then add a comment. I want this to be a critical geeklist for budding kickstarter designers to read and learn from. Your contribution may be the one that matters and leads to the creation of a great game, instead of sending one to kickstarter Hades.

If you think I should add a new item to this list, let me know, either by comments at the end or a geekmail. If it adds something worth adding, I'll add it on - or I might create a discussion thread to hash the idea out first.

Thanks for reading and any contributions you give!


Thank you for your patience and input. I've listed all the main important aspects I could think of (or find). Please let me know if there is anything I should add.

If you wish to add any more great examples of KS projects, please feel free to add them in the comments.


This is a very useful (and similar) list of KS issues that should be considered.
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1. Board Game: Legacy: Gears of Time [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:2130]
Board Game: Legacy: Gears of Time
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The most critical step is proper preparation. All the other flaws stem from this basic issue. There are two places where this happens.

1) The important one which would stop all the other problems is: RESEARCH! If it's clear you haven't done enough research, people will stay away.

Solution: There are dozens of threads in the design forums here. There is more information on the internet too. Read through them. They are your friend.

2) A bad idea is to start your campaign when you know that you'll need to add something later, like reviews, a play through video, etc. Sometimes you'll only get one chance to impress a person into backing. If you have glaring gaps, they may not look again. It gives the impression that you are not properly prepared to handle fulfilling your project.

Solution: Research what you need to have in your project by the end of it. Create a checklist and do as much as you possibly can before your KS campaign. If you show proper preparation, it inspires confidence.

EDIT:
3) There are times where it is obvious that you are grossly unprepared. This is especially true if your game is not even close to being marketable. It can be that your 'game' is only a game idea and not an actual game. It can also be that you are using KS as your games first entrance into the market. Both of these will lead you towards KS disaster.

Solution: Make sure that your game is playable from start to finish, repeatedly. Playtest, playtest, playtest. Your rules need to be firmly set. Rules queries and clarifications are okay to come up during your KS campaign, but the framework needs to be done. Also, make sure that your game has been playtested by strangers (not friends or family) without your involvement beyond the initial rules explanation (at most). Even better would be to hand them the rulebook and the game components and see if they can play the game without any intervention. If it can survive this process and still leave people wanting to play it again, then you may have a marketable game. If it doesn't, then your game is certainly not ready for KS.
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2. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:158] [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked]
Board Game: Magic: The Gathering
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Avoid making a CCG/TCG/LCG, etc. I've put this second because it seems to be the most popular form of failed KS board game projects. They don't do well and they are a pain to design, balance and sell.

Solution: Start with a single box with preset decks or all the cards a gaming group will need to play a balanced game. If it becomes popular, then you can expand.

Clarification: People pledging at the same level (for a basic copy of your game) should get the same thing. Random cards and 'rarity' should be avoided.

Great example: BattleCON: War of Indines is a perfect example of how to run a Card Game KS Campaign. All you need in one box. Everyone gets the same cards. Yet it is expandable, with new characters and cards a real possibility. It also was incredibly communicative with its backers, and gave them a real chance to contribute to which characters get included for backers.

Thanks for the suggestion
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3. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:219]
Board Game: Modern Art
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It's somewhat sad to say, but artwork is often a crucial factor to getting funding. This doesn't mean you have all of your artwork finished beforehand. You only need to make sure your artwork isn't horrible. Avoid artwork that looks like a kid drew it, or artwork that is very inappropriate. Show a semblance of professional design and use decent materials - no markers on cereal boxes, please. Make sure that all icons and writing is clearly legible and not lost in the busy artwork.

This is a multifaceted issue worthy of its own separate thread.

Solution: Your best bet is to get at least 1 or 2 pieces of professionally done art to give people an idea of what style you're going for. Even professional draft sketches will help you here. Failing that, contact artists who have a style you think would suit your game, get some price quotes and see if they would be interested in working with you. Ask them if they'd let you show off some of their previous artwork to give backers an idea of what style you are aiming for (and be clear to backers that this is what you're doing).

Great Example: I think Dragon Whisperer is an excellent example for this with their KS Project. One of the primary focuses of this game was to make a beautiful game and yet they didn't have all the artwork done up front. In fact, if you look through the main video, you'll only notice a handful of cards with full art. In the rest of the page, you can still see some concept art that they had from the start. Much of the artwork was added as the campaign grew and reached some of its stretch goals - which is why it is particularly hard to find examples of projects that still show this. There was enough artwork to let backers know the style and quality that the designers wanted and this gave people the confidence to back this project.
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4. Board Game: Word on the Street [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1838]
Board Game: Word on the Street
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KS does not mean instant awareness. Part of your preparation is to go out and show your games to as many people as possible. KS is a crowded field full of games and other products. If people don't know about your game, they're not going to be able to back your game.

Solution: Post about your game on the design forums. Get the input of people. Play your game with as many people as possible, including strangers. Find a FLGS or other groups that may meetup and play board games regularly. Play it at conventions. Find people that are willing to try out a prototype version, either as P&P files that they can construct themselves (if feasible) or by sending them a prototype copy. Again, the forums are great for this. Get the word spread out as widely and as quickly as possible. Get feedback and communicate with people about what they thought about your game. Listen to them. Take in their concerns.

Great Example: With some caveats, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Extreme Danger did an excellent job of creating awareness before their KS Project. Travis, who I quote elsewhere on this list, released information about this game before he started this campaign. There was a special award level for the first 24 hours that got people talking about the game and sharing this knowledge with people they knew who would be interested. In some respects, it was a marketing strategy that almost worked too well as people tried to cram in their pledges. Of course, this is an expansion of a popular game which certainly helps, but the point is still the same. Create an awareness of your game FIRST. Get a network running and use social media so that when the KS project release day comes, people are salivating to back it.

Here is a link to a great blog post by James Mathe on how to handle communication and create awareness of your game before and during your KS campaign.
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5. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:602]
Board Game: Diplomacy
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Communication isn't just vital in a marriage - it's critical in a KS too. Getting the word out is only good if people are saying good things about you. Belittling or berating people or getting overly aggressive/defensive with people is never a good idea - whether or not they would have supported you. Listing a KS project and providing no updates, or being silent on questions asked of you are also recipes for KS disaster.

Solution: As mentioned before, listen to people's issues. Ask them questions, or to elaborate when they say something you don't agree with. Try to see things from their perspective. Offer positive responses and feedback. If they are offering suggestions that you are not comfortable with at all, make a note of it (especially if multiple people are making that request), see if there is a compromise to be made that makes both sides happy, and, if not, thank them and say that it is not within your vision of your game, but you'll keep it in mind - or be mysterious. E.g. 'Hmm, that's a great idea for an expansion or variant. I'll have to give that some thought.' Be light, cheerful and optimistic.

Great Example:
Viticulture did an awesome job of communication with its KS Project. An average update around every 1.5 days is a little on the high end, but perfect for this project. The discussions and comments are thoroughly engaging and they did a perfect job of drawing in backers into their world and building a community through their KS campaign. Their use of social media, blogs, links and clear, concise guides throughout their main page is the epitome of great communication.

Thanks again for giving us this reference!
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6. Board Game: Show & Tell Game [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Show & Tell Game
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Excessive Hyberbole can also harm your product image. It makes people wary that you're overcompensating for flaws in your game by distracting them. The catch phrase is 'Show, don't tell.'

This is phrased better than I could've put it:

lwdgames wrote:

You're making a sales pitch, so of course you're going to talk up the product... but your game probably isn't "revolutionary", "breathtaking", or "mindblowing". Let the game do most of the talking.
Solution: Use exaggerated language sparingly, like a spice in food. When you do use it, reserve it for statements that others have made and not from your own mouth, or close friends or family. This will help it come across as genuine compliments of the game.

Great Example: After much deliberation, I decided to go with Deck of Thieves and their KS project. The language in this project is simple, straight-forward and to the point. It gives the project an air of honesty and allows the game and project to speak for itself.

EDIT: Oops, almost forgot to thank you for the suggestion!
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7. Board Game: The Price Is Right [Average Rating:4.70 Overall Rank:19514]
Board Game: The Price Is Right
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Unrealistic pricing is another area that many fall short on. People will often look at your components and use this as the prime way of judging and comparing the $ value of your game. Ask too much and they'll prefer to get another game instead. Ask too little and they'll think that there is no way you'll complete your project. Your funding level is also an important consideration - if you ask for too much or too little, people will begin to wonder if you've researched enough into the production, storage and shipping costs involved in delivering on your project.

Another designer/producer says it best:
T Worthington wrote:
I have always said this, if you are kickstarting your own design you are now a publisher. And being both a designer and publisher you have to do both, understand both worlds and be really good at them. I would suspect that most self designed kickstarters lose money, perhaps even significant amounts of money despite being successfully funded.
Solution: Proper preparation and research! (Haven't you been listening?) Make sure that you account for all the different aspects of producing a game. The sticky threads over in the designers forum have laid out many of these steps and considerations. Make sure you have all of them covered. Look at similar games (component-wise) and see how expensive they are - don't fall too far outside of the average.

Great Example: I think Fleet did an excellent job of getting the right price point, setting up clean, easy to understand pledge points, and letting you know exactly what your money was getting you. The component bonuses in this KS campaign's stretch levels were well planned. It was clear that the focus was on great component quality and getting you the best value for money - along with an awesome game to boot.
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8. Board Game: Split-Level Aggravation [Average Rating:4.62 Unranked]
Board Game: Split-Level Aggravation
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This is a point that affects two areas - Pledge Levels and Stretch Goals. There are many differing opinions on how to get this right and what people will look for in them. For example, being mentioned in the rulebook/website - some think that this is a nice touch, others find it meaningless. This can, and does, lead to debates and arguments. However, there are some common points of consensus.

1) T-shirts, caps, mugs, etc. are not good or wanted.
Solution: If your ultimate goal is to produce a game, try to make your goals/levels focused on in-game benefits. Artwork or miniature models may be acceptable as well.

2) Level Regression is also bad for you. I.e. Pledge at X level gives you the benefit of this plus Y level, which gives you the benefit of Z level, etc. This is especially a problem if different pledge levels give you different combinations of previous pledge levels.
Solutions: There are several solutions.
A) The complete list: create a standard format for each pledge level and list all the benefits in that pledge level. Use with caution, as it can become overwhelming.
B) Straight progression: Each level gives you ALL of the previous levels plus something new.
C) Common point: There is one central pledge level that all/many of the others give you, plus 1 extra thing.
D) Add-ons: Have a simplified pledge level structure, but allow people to increase their pledge at that level to purchase 'add-ons' for the increased rewards.

3) A high entry level point for pledging doesn't help. Many will back at a low level ($1-$5) so that they can follow your project and potentially back more later, if you gain their confidence. They will also back at this level to provide you with valuable feedback and to see if you'll take their advice or suggestions.
Solution: Ensure you have a low cost pledge level. Good rewards at this level are a 'Thank you backers' list, P&P files of your game, or promos.

I'll stop at this point. There are many, many decisions that need to be made very carefully here. It's best you research them in other threads.

Great Example: And the winner of best example of pledge levels is (Drum Roll please)... uhm well, you know. Its pledge levels were clear, concise and to the point. The promos were at just the right level. Looking through the page you could tell exactly what you were getting at the multiple levels as well as what you were getting as stretch goals. I admit, though, that the graphics of those probably took up too much room and could've been compressed a bit better and more concisely. The way in which this project used Add-ons is a perfect example of how they should be used. Nothing but what you want or need to enhance your gaming experience.
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9. Board Game: Vídeo Mania [Average Rating:5.33 Unranked]
Board Game: Vídeo Mania
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The main video is often the first thing people will use to gauge their interest in your game. Fail here, and many people will look no further.

A common mistake in a main video is to ramble or harp on about certain parts of the game, you, your life and your beliefs, and leave out huge important chunks of information that people are interested in.

Solution: Plan your video - again, make a checklist of the most important things people will want to know about your product. This includes (but not limited to):
Who you and your team are - a 'please back us' and 'thank you for your support' is great as well. Keep it short.
The general theme of your game - show some artwork, give a bit of back story.
The game - you need to show your prototype game and show people playing it (briefly), if possible. If it is prototype quality - a simple 'Prototype version' mention is enough to let people know the real game will have better components.
The gameplay - give us the basics - How many players? How long? Is it a heavy, medium or light game? What are some of the core mechanics? What is the overall goal of the game? E.g. You win X by having the most Y by the end of Z turns. You'll need to manage A, B and C to win.

EDIT: For the sake of clarity, I don't mean that you will need to spell these out directly, as I have here. I mean that this information should be conveyed in the video somewhere.

Break up your video into segments, where possible. It's difficult and tedious to see the same shot/angle throughout a 5 minute long video. It gets stale. The key is finding a good balance of length.

Great Example: As mentioned in the comments, Compounded did this perfectly. Their main video contained everything you needed to know in a little more than 5 minutes. It had a good level of humor, although you can (and probably should) get away with much less. It didn't need to use a massive budget on special effects either (although the props were enjoyable). It changed camera angles often, had clear segments to the different portions of the game and even showed various groups having fun playing the game.

Thanks for the suggestion
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10. Board Game: Charge! Or How to Play War Games [Average Rating:9.29 Unranked]
Board Game: Charge! Or How to Play War Games
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Game play and Review videos can serve as a tipping point for support. If your main video and your page looks interesting, this will be another area that will turn fence-sitters into backers and keep them as backers. If you don't include these, you risk losing support and some backers may leave. Starting off with these on your KS page is far better than bringing them in later on.

Solution: You don't need a game play video of an entire game - and it may be better to avoid this. Show how the game looks after setting it up. Go through the different areas of the game and what they're useful for. Go through the most important rules (don't worry about specifics and exceptions at this point). Play through some of the decisions someone needs to make at the start of the game, in the mid-point of a game, and at the end of the game. Show how your decisions affect other players' decisions. A good video can condense all of this into less than 15 minutes, a great one can condense it into half that time.

As far as review videos go, people like to know what other peoples' opinions of your game. While a well-known reviewer is great, it is, by no means, necessary. Showing play testers giving their feedback can hit this mark - but allow for honest feedback, not 'gamed' feedback. Include:
What some of their favorite games are (to connect with your viewers).
What decisions they found interesting.
What challenges they had during the game.
How heavy/light they felt the game was.

Great Example: I think Evil Intent did an excellent job with these points in their KS project. They gave a short rules explanation video as well as some excellent game play videos with a variety of people. All low-budget, but very effective. They broke up their videos into 3 different videos and did an excellent job of editing it down to show the most important bits that gave you a great sense of how the game played. Whether it's your cup of tea or not - you knew what you'd be backing and you knew it flowed well, was coherent and mostly, was enjoyable.
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11. Board Game: Rules of the Game [Average Rating:3.97 Overall Rank:19427]
Board Game: Rules of the Game
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While this is not always a deal-breaker, having a Rulebook posted up is often a sign of good faith. Budding designers may be worried about their idea being stolen and so prefer to keep this secret. This idea breeds mistrust, and, frankly, while your ideas may inspire others, it is highly unlikely anyone will bother going through the effort of stealing your ideas. Far better to inspire, than to make people question if your rules are flawed.

Solution: You don't need a completely ready, publishable set of rules (although this helps). Even a work in progress or an early draft version does a lot to give people confidence in your project. Make sure that your rules are legible and not just a wall of text. Some layout will go a long way. Spend a little effort in your spelling and grammar, especially if you're not a native English speaker. Get someone else to read it before posting it to get out the most glaring mistakes. Remember, you can always let people know that you will get better editors before your rules get printed. Although this may alarm people because of the well-known time it takes to write, edit, correct, etc. a good version of rules, it's far better than letting them think that an unpolished version is the final version.
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12. Board Game: Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition [Average Rating:5.23 Overall Rank:20079] [Average Rating:5.23 Unranked]
Board Game: Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition
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Worthy of a dishonorable mention is the Roll / Spin and Move mechanic. This is one of the most out-dated and most familiar mechanic of board games. If you are not Milton Bradley, Hasbro or Parker Brothers, trying to market one of these types of games really is a Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition. If you put yourself in competition with these companies and their crazy mass market engine, you will lose.

The reasons for this are:
1) You will never be able to match their component quality and/or their price. These companies produce hundreds of thousands, if not millions of copies of these games. Even Kingdom Death: Monster and Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak, the highest funded board games on KS to date, haven't even gotten to ten thousand backers. You cannot get enough people interested in your game to get these sorts of competitive prices on your game components.
2) This mechanic alone is completely uninteresting to hobby gamers. This is because it is completely luck-based and requires no meaningful decision making at all. The player could easily be replaced with a simple program and there would be no difference in game play.

Avoid this mechanic at all costs. Avoid having your game board even look remotely like a Monopoly board, as this may turn away interested backers immediately.

Solution: If you are dead-set in having this mechanic, try using it in an interesting or different way, such as rolling multiple dice and using all of them for different things, like moving, activating powers, determining power levels, etc. Look at different Dice Rolling mechanics and games for inspiration. Dice are still very popular and can be used in very interesting ways - do a little research and try out some of the new hobby games to see the interesting ways it can be used. Stefan Feld is a well known and popular designer for using dice in interesting ways and there are many others.
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13. Board Game: Back to the Future [Average Rating:3.67 Unranked]
Board Game: Back to the Future
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Have you Given Support to other projects? This will make a difference to some backers. It's a sign that you know and have experienced a KS project from the backers perspective. It is also a sign of good faith. It is difficult to expect people to back your KS project if you are not willing to back any KS projects yourself.

Solution: You should look into other KS projects you may be interested in and back them. Take note of what attracts you to that project and what makes it worthy of your backing. You'll need to do this well in advance of posting your own KS, so you can get a sense of the whole process from start to finish from the side of a backer. For this reason, it's better to back at least one smaller, indie project that will have a similar process to the one you'll be going through. Backing wildly popular games from established companies may not provide you with this insight, but you should back them if you're interested in their games too!
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14. Board Game: The Good Ship Freedom [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Board Game: The Good Ship Freedom
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Shipping prices need to be closely looked at and considered. There are many different viewpoints on this issue and what is the best way to go forward. Not considering shipping costs at all is a big mistake and can lead even a successfully funded KS into failure by either failing to deliver the product you've promised backers, or by making you lose more money on the project than you intended. Unlike previous points, I'm unable to give any sort of firm solutions, as it depends largely on your circumstances and the aims you are attempting to achieve. Instead I will list a few points I think are worth considering.

1) Shipping is expensive! Board games are generally big, heavy, bulky things to ship. Make sure you know how much it'll cost you to ship your game.

2) If you are in the US, then shipping internationally (even to Canada) will mean extra work (going to the post office, waiting in lines, filling in customs forms, etc.), skyrocketing costs, added shipping time to get to your investors. This is something often overlooked by non-US people who want to back your project, but find the international costs too high.
If you are not selling from the US, I'd advise you look into this situation closely from where you're shipping from and take into account not only the cost, but also the effort and reliability of shipping overseas.

3) Even with the added effort and cost and, perhaps, a small loss in profit, it may be worthwhile to include international backers, because they can act as ambassadors for your game internationally. This will allow your game to expand internationally much more easily in the future, as well as in retail stores.

4) The size of your project and print run is also important. If you are a small indie company and this is your first project, it may be better to start small and local and include international backers if your project gains enough traction. I have seen stretch goals that have done this before (although I can't verify their success). The companies that have offered better international shipping options successfully tend to be more well-known, experienced companies.

5) Bundle deals for international backers may be a good work around for high shipping costs - bundles of 3 games seem to be the sweet spot, but it will depend on the size and cost of your game.

6) Fulfillment companies are worth looking into, such as Game Salute. They will handle all of these issues for you. I would urge caution though, as some prefer using this method, and others are dead set against this option. Look into this option carefully and decide if it will suit you or not.
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