The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

Top 5 ways to tick off your Kickstarter backers (and potential backers)

Last week we looked at the top 5 reasons we design games. We discussed why we get started in game design and what keeps us designing. In today’s article, we’re going to look at the top 5 ways to tick off your Kickstarter backers (and potential backers).

Obviously, ticking off your Kickstarter backers or alienating those who are thinking of backing your game is something you want to avoid at all costs. So, this will be more of a “what not to do” approach.

Some of these will be obvious, some you may never have thought of, but we’ll try to keep this light and fun.

#5 Make your page one big wall of text

Ugh. Have you ever seen a Kickstarter page (or any web page for that matter) that’s just one big wall of text?

No images.

No headers.

Nothing except for what seems to be a long-winded essay.

People like to see visuals. They want to know what the game looks like and how it plays. They don’t need to read the history of how the game came to be or the entire lore of each and every one of the characters.

Please, please, please, don’t make your Kickstarter page one big impenetrable wall of text.

#4 Don’t show people what your game is or what they’ll get

Building on #5, you need to show people what your game is all about. They need to see what they get, how it plays, and be able to determine whether it is a game that will appeal to them.

Don’t make this all about you.

Yes, you want people to buy into you as a creator, but the main reason they are here is to potentially back your game. So, you need to show them how cool it is, and what makes it different from all the other games out there.

Include a how to play video, rules, and either a print and play (PNP) version or Tabletop Simulator/Tabletopia link so that they can try it out themselves if possible.

List and show your components so that people know what they’re getting.

Also, don’t just say your game is fun over and over. I’ve seen this in many very amateur looking Kickstarter videos and every time they repeat how fun it is, the potential fun meter drops. Show them that it’s fun! This is where “show, don’t tell” really comes into play.

#3 Make your pricing and pledges unclear

In addition to showing people what they will get and what your game is all about, you need to ensure that people know what they will receive under each pledge level.

They should clearly understand:

  • What the price is
  • Everything they get for that price
  • The difference between the pledge levels

I’ve scrolled through some Kickstarter pages where once I’ve looked through the whole page and reviewed the pledge levels a few times, I still don’t know what’s different between them!

In the pledge levels, you need to itemize everything that a backer will get. Kickstarter makes this easy when you set up the pledge levels.

Then, you need to create a section on your page for pledge levels that explains and shows what backers will get at each pledge level.

If there are add-on items, make sure it is clear what they are and how backers can add them to their order as well.

Shipping costs also need to be explained, with cost by item and region being made very clear. It’s ok to use estimates. You just need to ensure that you’re clear that these shipping prices are estimates and that they will be finalized after the campaign, assuming you are using a pledge manager to collect shipping (which I highly recommend).

#2 Fail to answer their questions

As clear as you are on your Kickstarter campaign page, questions will arise. There may be something that a backer is unclear about or they may have suggestions or comments that require a response.

If someone asks a question and never gets a response, they are less likely to back your campaign (or may cancel if they’ve already backed it). Others will also see your non-responsiveness to questions and may decide to move on to the next project.

During your campaign, as well as afterwards, you need to be able to respond to backers quickly. You or someone on your team need to provide answers and follow up as necessary.

Fail to respond to backers and you will fail to keep them as backers.

#1 Don’t communicate with them regularly

This is definitely the #1 complaint I hear amongst Kickstarter backers. You can’t go months at a time between updates after your campaign has ended.

When the campaign is over, this is when the real work starts. Not that creating and marketing your game aren’t a lot of work, but the publishing process is a whole other animal.

You’re going to be finalizing art, sending and approving digital submissions with your manufacturer, evaluating samples, moving into production, testing your game, shipping, fulfilling, and providing customer service. There’s so much to do!

You need to keep backers up to date on your progress and share updates, whether they are good news or bad news. Sometimes you make a mistake. Sometimes there are delays that are completely out of your control.

You need to be honest and communicate everything going on with your project. You’d be surprised how supportive and understanding most backers are, as long as you keep them updated and let them know what you’re doing to keep your project moving forward.

Once your campaign ends, you need to update your backers at least once a month. Once every 2-3 weeks is even better. If you get backers asking for updates in the comments section or hitting the button to ask you for an update, you know you’ll need to increase the frequency of your communications.

Even if it’s just to say you’re still here, you’re still waiting for your games to clear customs or they’re still on a freighter heading overseas, let backers know what’s happening. Share some pictures of the process or some new artwork whenever you can.

Wrapping it up

Communication and clarity. That’s what it really comes down to.

Make it clear what your game is about and what backers will get. Then make sure to respond to questions and keep your backers updated, whether it’s good news or bad.

You’ll keep your backers happy and they’ll be much more likely to back your next campaign!

I tried to avoid all these mistakes in my campaign for Relics of Rajavihara and the Montalo’s Revenge expansion. Hopefully, I didn’t commit any of these errors!

You can also check out my article on building an audience and marketing your game for your Kickstarter campaign.

What other things do you feel Kickstarter creators need to avoid?

Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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    Thank you for this article. It made me feel ok that I have done most of this.

    You’ve done most of this or avoided doing most of this? 😉