Monday, April 25, 2016

Early Bird Gets The Worm

I've backed a lot of Kickstarters in my day, though I haven't ran any, so take this post with a huge pinch of salt and with the understanding that this all comes from one point of view.

There are a lot of ways to get your product moving on Kickstarter. Interesting Stretch goals are the obvious main feature, slowly unlocking new features or improved components over the course of the campaign as more and more funding is achieved. I also like something that I saw Evil Hat Productions[1] do first, unlocking additional content based on number of Backers, rather than funding. This nicely encouraged people to share and promote the campaign to friends, spreading the footprint wider.

But some Kickstarters use Early Bird offers to encourage people to back their product early, and I have an issue with this. A Kickstarter is a marathon, not a sprint. They last four weeks, or more in some cases, Bu Early Bird offers rarely last past the first day, if not the first few minutes. The Game Canopy campaign had two Early Bird levels, a regular one and a Super Early Bird level. Both were gone within the first 10 seconds. I know. I was there.

Ultimately, Early Bird offers are supposed to reward supporters that have been following the creator since before the Kickstarter, but they're usually restricted to an extremely limited number, as they are often zero profit, or even loss-taking pledge levels. This results in a mad dash to grab them by a much larger number of Backers, resulting in a lottery system based on luck, connectivity, and even proximity to the Kickstarter servers. This incentive harms more supporters than it rewards, and leaves a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouth toward the campaign.

A way around this is to have a timed Early Bird offer, a cheaper than normal level only available for the first 24 hours, or something similar. This is better, but still leaves people who stumble on to your campaign at a later date cold, knowing they're paying more for the same product than those in-the-know. You could argue that this is to reward long-time supporters who will know about your camping before it starts, but the flip side is that Kickstarter is designed to bring in new supporters, to broaden your reach into new communities, and seeing a closed off early, cheap pledge level can turn away potential new Backers.

As a regular Kickstarter supporter, I'd advise any campaign to avoid any form of special discount that is only available to people who find your campaign early. Focus on unlockables that are available to all, either as automatically included upgrades or add-ons. Aim to spread knowledge of your campaign, treating Backers who find you in the last hour as just as valuable to your success as those who have been supporting you for years.

Because a lot of them will be there to support you the next time.

[1]- Evil Hat are currently running their own newest Kickstarter, The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game. Well worth checking out, it's a fast, fun game based in the universe of wizard Private Investigator Harry Dresden.

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