Nov 072011

So Metatopia went smashingly, and I think you’ll start to see some posts from Rob Donoghue about the details of that in the next few days. Also keep an eye on the Jennisodes, as she managed to catch one of the panels helmed by Kenneth Hite. I got to run a few panels too, but was so focused on running that I spaced on any possibility of audio recording. Apologies there.

I was particularly pleased to see Cindy Au from Kickstarter come out to talk to the Metatopians about Kickstarter. Her presentation focused right at the heart of what makes a good kickstarter drive, enough so that I think a checklist could be extracted from it, so I’m going to write down my hastily-scrawled bullet points here in case they happen to be useful to you, the prospective kickstarter. If you have any questions for her, you can reach her at cindy at kickstarter dot com. She’s super-approachable.

Those of you who are already kickstarter-savvy may know a bunch of this stuff already, but I was reminded this weekend when I had to explain what the heck I was talking about that not everyone has heard of kickstarter.

Some of these bullet points came from the experienced members of the audience rather than Cindy.


  • Every kickstarter is a story. Tell your story. People want to hear it and be involved with it.
  • If people bail from watching a video, it’s in the first 20-30 seconds. Make sure you cover why someone would want to back your project, and what your project is, in those first 15-30 seconds.
  • Average length of a successful kickstarter’s video is about 2 minutes. (Personally I favor more like 1 minute.)

Incentives & Goals

  • The average goal is $4500. The average amount raised is $6000.
  • The most common pledge is $25.
  • The average pledge is $70.
  • Between 5 and 7 tiers is the sweet spot. This probably has to do with how much reading someone needs to do to make a choice. Avoid overwhelming with choices.

Finances & Timing

  • The largest number of successful kickstarters have a length of only 30 days.
  • Projects that hit 30% of their goal are 90% likely to succeed. That’s true whether they hit 30% early in the drive or late in it.
  • Amazon takes 3-5% of the total pledge amount; Kickstarter’s fee is 5%. So plan for getting 90% of the money you raise.
  • End your project on a Sunday.
  • Get your Amazon Payments account set up well in advance of starting your kickstarter. Give it at least a week.
  • Make sure to calculate shipping costs and make sure your incentive tiers cover those costs. And make sure your total goal accounts for both production and shipping!
  • Use the built-in blog to communicate with your backers and keep them involved at all stages!
  • Update your project once a week or so while it’s running.
  • If you hit your initial goal, consider setting new, higher milestones with additional rewards for backers that help you get there. (I’d recommend doing this one at a time, rather than unloading with a series of milestones all at once. You’ll stay more adaptable that way.)
  • Between success and delivery, update your project about once a month to make sure folks know how things are coming along.
  • Having something to give your backers right away when the project concludes is a good way to keep people happy, even if you’re going to take some extra time beyond that to deliver the final product. (Consider a PDF, or a look at the current draft, as a cheap way to do that. A protected backer-only blog post can be used to deliver such exclusives to your backers.)

Folks who were at this panel — what’d I miss?


  24 Responses to “Kickstarter Bulletpoints”

  1. Having something to give your backers right away when the project concludes is a good way to keep people happy, even if you’re going to take some extra time beyond that to deliver the final product.


    The emotional curve of kickstarter is rah rah! Rah! RAH! RAH!!! done. wait… okay, finished product. Inserting anything in there right after done provides a sort of capstone to the cheerleading process and better lets your backers feel like they helped something happen, because they have a thing in their hands (or on their screens).

  2. “Update your project once a week or so while it’s running.”

    I’d take this further – update it regularly, and do more with the update than just drop in a few sentences. Get some photos (or production), share a video, do something dynamic to show that people didn’t throw money at a project that is dragging its feet.

    “Projects that hit 30% of their goal are 90% likely to succeed. That’s true whether they hit 30% early in the drive or late in it.”

    For me, this item should be huge and bold. Because I’m a recovering pessimist, I sometimes think that I’ll never succeed and that whatever I’m doing is rarely interesting enough to have people give me money for it. Doubt sucks. This stat though kicks doubt in the teeth, since 30% feels more like a reasonable volume of money — I can totally generate 30% interest in something — and if 30% of work leads to 90% success, I’ll totally take those odds, renew my confidence and motivation and push hard for that last 10%.

    The presentation as a whole made Kickstarter feel viable, and made me feel like “Yeah, I can do this!” which is crucial if I want to attack those items on my wishes-to-reality list.

  3. These are outstanding tips. I need to go back and revisit my “15 Steps for a Successful Kickstarter Project” post I made a while back to incorporate the most recent information, such as the recent statistics that show that Sunday is the best day to end a project (followed by Saturday and Friday, which are what I’d recommended based on eBay statistics — Kickstarter was a lot newer when I started). Overall, I’m happy that my original tips hold up so well, and I’m really glad to keep finding new details that I can add to them so people can get a good start on their projects. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, Fred!

  4. The most important factor for a successful Kickstarter campaign is to have an existing audience, and being able to reach that audience. People are often amazed at the response Tasty Minstrel Games gets based on what is available.

    It is 100% because I have a fan base, and I am able to contact them when I want to. The key to getting a response is treating a large group of people as individuals, which can be difficult at times.

    • Absolutely. It’s not just about your immediate audience — your immediate audience may have audiences of their own — but it is in the end all about finding an exchange rate between followers and dollars.

  5. This is the 3rd guide to Kickstarter I’ve read–1 general, 2 on game sites. They all mention videos. My first though: There are sales videos on kickstarter? I’ve pledged for multiple things there, and don’t ever recall seeing a video.

    The 1st time, I figured it was aimed at folks doing performancey things, like bands. But for an RPG? Do most/all people do that? Do people watch the videos? (im pretty sure that if I couldn’t figure out what a project was or whether I wanted to support it from the description/pitch, I wouldn’t bother spending the time on a video even if I saw one. With the exception of a Kickstarter for an AV or performance thing, of course. But that’s just me.)

    What the heck do you put in a video? Why is this better than the text that is the main thing I see on every Kickstarter page?

    • 90% of the kickstarters I’ve seen (and backed) have been games and almost all of them have had video components. Videos increase the likelihood that folks will feel like they’ve “met” you to an extent, and if they’re done well they can supercharge information delivery to your backers that doesn’t require reading. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the various kinds of customer service work I’ve done over the past 15 years, it’s that people (in a very generalized sense) do not read (at least not thoroughly enough to be sure they’ve caught all the data you’re putting in text).

    • Huh–went back to some things I’d backed, and, yep, turns out the header image isn’t an image, it’s a video. Never even noticed that. Partly, that shows how textually-oriented I am: my brain spent a tenth of a second on the image, just long enough to read the title, and then went on to the “actual content”: the text. It never even occurred to me to look for a video presentation on products that were not themselves animated or interactive. (So, frex, I *did* notice the video on the Tapose Kickstarter page–but it’s software being pushed based on its interaction model, so I want to see how it interacts.)

      I was all set to use Kickstarter to afford Four Colors al Fresco in color, rather than B&W (even before your post–I was just looking for advice at this stage), but now I’m intimidated. I can’t make a video. Well, not a good one–I could write and edit what I want to say, and then read that to the camera, but that’s not interesting, and it’s easier to just read it, rather than hear it, anyway. I’m not a presenter.

      I’ll have to go watch a couple videos, and see what they do–maybe I’ll figure something out.

    • Yeah, to be honest, it’s the thing I’m most intimidated about, too.

  6. Our first try on Kickstarter with Samsara was fumbled a bit, so we were part of the 10% who reached 30% of our goal, but never got it completely funded.

    Other things to consider:

    Short video on Kickstarter web site is essential and it must be short or won’t get uploaded. From experience, fewer people go to a linked video.

    For board games, there is an expectation of one reward that gives notoriety to the backer (name in rule book? on board?), one reward that gives a special exclusive component to backers, and one reward that allows for multiple-copy orders.

    If your pool of email and social network contacts is in the dozens and not in the thousands, don’t follow the advice on the Kickstarter web site — give your self LOTS of time to round up all the backers, even 6 months, if you want. That some backers back out is not necessarily a reflection on your campaign length. Some just decide to invest their money elsewhere because a better option comes along.

    Lead with your best. We led with our most niche game instead of our broadest appealing one. That was another mistake we made. If you have one successful campaign, you have an audience that will respond well to a second campaign.

    Know your competition. Check out the lists of board games on Kickstarter at Purple Pawn each week. See what they’re offering so you can get ideas to bring you closer to parity with the rest of the pack.

    Incite your friends to recommend your project to their friends. Most of us do not know enough backers directly to sustain a print run that will satisfy retailers.

    • I think recommending people go for longer project lengths is pretty doomful. First off, it’s not even allowed yet — they’ve capped it at 60 days, because the majority of failed projects fell in the 61-90 day length that used to be possible. And second off, when you take urgency away from a project, you take away excitement.

    • (Which is not to say that you can’t spend some time before you *start* your kickstarter drive telling people that it’s coming and making sure they’ll be looking for it!)

  7. Interesting article, makes me want to have something to crowdfund… Any tips on dealing with other platforms, since Kickstarter is not available outside the states (if anybody is wondering, I am looking at RocketHub and IndieGoGo at the moment)

    • I’m only familiar with IndieGoGo, and — since I have no non-USA complication — I would only use IGG if I was looking for something where I wanted to see the cash delivered even if we only got to 15% of our goal. I see the all-or-nothing aspect of Kickstarter as a feature.

  8. […] you considering trying to fund a game project on Kickstarter? Fred Hicks offers a few tips he learned at Metatopia from Cindy Au of Kickstarter. Great tips and things to think […]

  9. My game, Warparty is just finishing up on KS. We are at 91% funding with 9 days left. I feel good about our chances for making it.

    What helped us get this far:
    Everything noted above. The video is a must! I put two on ours, the 1st video is just a quick 2 minute overview, the 2nd one is a full 15 minute deeper dive.

    Promotion is key.
    Facebook, Twitter, G+, BGG, any other gaming forum, contact game bloggers to see if they can do a review and take your game on the road and bring it to cons. I did about 6 of them this year and it really helped a lot.
    We had several backers from Metatopia, including one backer that supported us with a very considerable pledge.

    Best of luck to all your kickstarters out there. Have heart and be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster ride. If you hang on tight and don’t give up, you will have a good chance of success.

  10. […] 2009 and April 2011. It’s really good.  On top of that, Cindy Au is an employee there and Fred Kicks has some good notes from her stat-packed talk at the Metatopia Game Design […]

  11. […] projects’ videos length on Kickstarter is about 2 minutes.  And people are most likely to bail after the first 20-30 seconds, so make sure you say what your […]

  12. […] Grab backers in the first 30 seconds […]

  13. Would you still say Sunday is the best day? Why? How about Sat? Thanks!

    • End Sunday to give people the weekend to find and react to your final 48 hour project zone. Saturday means that’s happening more as folks are scrambling to end their week instead of into the time they’re enjoying their weekend. That’s IMO, though; I’ve never ended on a Saturday so I don’t know. 🙂

      I have ended on a Tuesday (as will my current Fate Dice project). There, it’s the same reason as why to launch on a Tuesday: Tuesday is a good day for social media buzz. So I end *late* on a Tuesday when I do.

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