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How to create Kickstarter pledge levels for your game that will attract backers

We’ve all seen this before. A creator makes a game that looks interesting and you’re thinking of backing it. You can tell they took a lot of care to create something awesome, with beautiful art and innovative gameplay. So, why do they have so many Kickstarter pledge levels selling things like buttons, posters, t-shirts, mugs, and lunch boxes?

You want to make your page all about your game. You shouldn’t be trying to merchandise something that hasn’t sold a single copy and has no following yet.

So, today, we’ll look at how to create Kickstarter pledge levels that people will actually be interested in.

How many Kickstarter pledge levels do you need?

It’s good to give people choice, but you don’t want to overwhelm them.

If you only offer one Kickstarter pledge level, you are missing opportunities for collectors and hard-core fans to get more of what they want.

Yet, if you have 10 or 15 different pledge levels, you’re going to cause a lot of analysis paralysis. People will look at all the options, trying to decipher how they are different, and which one is for them. Too often they will not back at any level because it isn’t clear which product is right for them.

I recommend including between 3 and 5 Kickstarter pledge levels. This offers choice without so much confusion.

Backers can already back for $1 or more to support you through the default pledge level. But beyond that, you’ll have to look at what makes the most sense for your game.

Are there different versions? Do you have a regular and NSFW (not safe for work) edition like Exploding Kittens?

You might want to look at a model similar to this:

  • Supporter pledge level – $1 or more
  • Base game
  • Deluxe version of the game
  • Multiple copy order (at a discount)
  • Retailer pledge level

Why you want to include a deluxe version

Some people are completionists. Others just like fancy components and additions. Still, others want to feel like they are getting a great deal.

You may also find that if you offer an upgraded or deluxe version of your game, the majority of backers will go for this option, especially if they see it is a good value and it is only a little bit more than the base game.

Depending on what is included and how much more this version is, you could see a ratio as high as 10:1 or more of people backing the higher-end version. That makes offering this version at least worthy of consideration.

This deluxe version could include upgraded components, an expansion, or just some additional cards or other components. Again, it all depends a lot on your game.

Of course, your base game needs to stand alone as a great experience. The deluxe version should enhance this, not be something that it necessary to play the game, nor an afterthought.

Why including a Kickstarter retailer pledge level is so important

Game stores, like any other business, need to make a profit in order to stay in business. They have lots of expenses, including rent, employee salaries, utilities, etc., so they need to be able to mark up their prices to remain viable.

Also, not every game ends up being a best-seller. Some will eventually be heavily discounted and may even be sold at a loss. Shelf space is valuable and stores have to stock what sells.

Retailers are used to buying games from distributors at 50% of the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price), so you need to be able to offer them a similar discount. You may even need to throw in free or discounted shipping, so make sure to price your game accordingly.

You can set up retail Kickstarter pledge levels in many ways. A couple of the most popular ways to do this are through (1) a retailer price, or (2) a deposit. There are pros and cons to each approach.

If your game is $40 on Kickstarter, you may offer a retailer Kickstarter pledge level of $120 for 6 games. That’s $20 per game (50% off) and at the small quantity of one case (6 games) that they are often used to. This makes it easy for the retailer.

But what if they want more than 6 copies?

For Relics of Rajavihara, I chose the deposit model. I did this for a couple of different reasons.

Retailers could buy as many as they would like, and most bought way more than 6. You could argue that a retailer could easily just back at a multiple of 6 and let you know how many they want though.

The other reason, which was more important to me, was Kickstarter fees. Kickstarter takes 5% off the top for every dollar you earn. By finalizing the order outside of Kickstarter, you only lose this 5% on the deposit, not the whole order. Either way, you’ll have to pay the credit card transaction fee of about 3% (through Stripe or another payment partner), but you can definitely save some expenses here.

However, there is the downside to this approach. Retailers will be contributing less to the funding goal that others see on Kickstarter, but if you fund early, this won’t be as much of a consideration.

Just make sure the retailer deposit is higher than the cost of a single game. Otherwise, you might have individual backers choosing this option and you’ll have a lot of sorting out to do after your campaign!

Next week we’ll look at how to set up a Kickstarter campaign page with your backers in mind.

What questions do you have about setting Kickstarter pledge levels for your game?

Leave a comment and let me know!

Want to know how to launch your game on Kickstarter and keep your campaign running smoothly? Download my free Kickstarter Checklist now!

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    Hello Joe, great article!
    I think there is one more argument for the deposit model for retailers. With the retailer price model your backers will see how much the retailer pays for a copy, which will let them think they get a worse deal!

    Great point, Joeri!

    At the same time you do have to give some indication of what the retailer will pay, otherwise, they will be reluctant to leave a deposit. You could say something like 50% off retail price or ask them to leave a small deposit and that you will contact them to complete their order.

    I like the simplicity of the pledge level model. It seems really sound, and a retailer deposit seems to make sense, too.

    how do I determine amounts of pledges for an item that will sell for $24.95

    Hi Wesley,

    Could you please provide a bit more information? Are you trying to figure out the number of backers you will need? There are a lot of factors at play here, including the funding goal, manufacturing cost, shipping cost (if you are charging this during your campaign), and other things to consider.

    Also, you have to price your items at whole dollar values, so that might mean charging $25 in your case.

    If you’re simply trying to figure out how many backers you need at $25 per pledge to meet your goal, just divide your total funding goal by $25, and you will get that number. Will it be enough to cover all your costs and does it align well with your costs for your minimum print run? That requires a bit more information.