Back in the day I used to play a card game called Magic: The Gathering. I remember an article written at the time about three different types of players. There was Spike, the aggressive competitive player, Timmy, the player that likes to win big with big creatures, and Johnny, the shifty player that wants to screw with you. I was most definitely a Johnny.
I would spend days going through each new set trying to break the game with infinite loops and freezing my opponents in stasis locks. As game designers, guys like Mark Rosewater had to keep in mind that there were people out there just like me, constantly trying to break the rules of the game for my own benefit. Those guys are still out there, and some of them are your backers.
Backers are Johnnies too
To me the spirit of Kickstarter is funding a project that wouldn’t normally ever see the light of the day if it wasn’t for something like crowd funding. It takes an idea and allows it to become realized and, many times, improved through feedback of those most vested in its success.
Unfortunately, I feel this initial intent has been bastardized a bit by the idea that Kickstarter is also a pre-order system. That it’s nothing more than a way to get products at a discount rather than paying full retail for it in a store later. This leads to the mentality that being a Johnny is okay.
What I mean by this is simple: some backers will try to manipulate your pledge levels to get the best deal. I don’t think many of them do it maliciously, it’s just human nature to want to get the best deal, but I think it goes against the idea of what Kickstarter is there for and as a project creator, you need to be aware of it.
To give you an example, I’ll use a Kickstarter project that I recently reviewed for someone. They had offered a pledge for $50 that was intended to give the backer a decent discount for ordering more copies of the product. Let’s say it was for something we have a little bit of experience with, like playing cards (shameless plug: see our current project, Synthesis here).
Don’t offer a loophole
Let’s look at two pledge levels:
Pledge A: $12 – 1 deck + $10 shipping
Pledge B: $45 – 4 decks + 2 dice + $25 shipping
You can add another deck for $11 and a pair of dice for $5
On the surface, Pledge B appears to be the better deal because you are getting decks and dice cheaper than if you added each one because you think $12×4 = $48. But if you start with Pledge A, add 3 decks, and add 2 dice, you end up with a grand total of only $60 ($12 + $10 shipping + $33 extra decks + $5 dice).
If you had pledged for Pledge B, you would have spent $70 for the same items. So as a backer you have gamed the system, but unfortunately for the project creator, shipping may still cost them $25.
Factoring in Kickstarter/Amazon fees and subtracting shipping, the project’s creator is only looking at about $29 on a $60 pledge (less than 50%) which is far from the percentage of reward costs that Kickstarter recommends to make them viable.
The process of finding all of these permutations can be time consuming and the more complexity you add to your project the worse it gets. Try to keep pledge levels simple and don’t get caught up in the whirlwind of hype and excitement that can come with a successful project campaign. If you aren’t careful, you can accidentally end up creating pledges that actually cost you money (trust me, I’ve done it before).
Take a look at the difference between our first deck project, Call of Cthulhu, and our current project Synthesis. You’ll see a huge difference in the number of pledge levels and how add-ons are handled. Remember that add-ons not only have the opportunity to create more loop holes, but they also have the potential to turn many of your pledges into custom reward tiers, something that will slow you down if you want to do batch processing of any kind during the fulfillment phase.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and check out one of our newest cards before it is released anywhere else. And don’t be a Johnny, at least not on Kickstarter.