Kickstats: Go Big or Go Humble?

Kickstats: Go Big or Go Humble?

Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash

Introduction

Here's a question I've run across a few times in the last several months. It goes something like this:

"I have a few ideas for my first Kickstarter campaign. Should I start with the simplest idea to get the hang of things, or should I go all out to build anticipation for this project and the others?"

It's a reasonable question to ask. Starting small would certainly be easier, which would be nice as you learn a ton of new things, but the buzz that you can create for that truly awesome idea might help get your campaign over the top, and even make your other ideas more successful.

I don't have all the answers, but what we can do is look at how the ambitiousness of your first Kickstarter campaign might affect its outcome. Once we know that key info, we can use it to help us make the best choice possible.

Before We Start

Using Funding Goal

There's one big caveat we need to keep in mind with this analysis: we'll have to assume a Kickstarter campaign's funding goal is a reasonable indicator for how ambitious a project is. There are literally thousands of campaigns to analyze! There's no way I can go through each individual project and determine its scope. If we're ever going to get through them all, we'll have to use the goal as a proxy.

Here's why I think that's OK. If the funding goal of a project is $30,000, It's usually because the project is large enough to justify that goal. Now I recognize that, occasionally, there are campaign's whose goals are way larger than called for. That's not going big - that's going greedy. There are also campaigns that put their funding goal far too low so they can look more successful than they actually are. But after trying a few different ways of filtering out those campaigns, I found that they really don't make a huge difference in the findings. When I removed the unrealistically low or high goals, the results only changed by around 3-5%, and that change was consistent across several other factors. So whether you leave them in or take them out, you'll pretty much draw the same conclusions.

Tabletop Kickstarters Only

If we're going to use the funding goal as a proxy, then we'll definitely have to limit the scope of our analysis to a single category. Why? Because different categories will have vastly different funding goal ranges. Think about it - what might be a completely acceptable goal for the latest tech is likely way higher than the average goal for, say, enamel pins.

So why choose the Tabletop category? Two reasons. First, it's the largest category on Kickstarter. Second, our upcoming game, Rucksack, fits into that category.

How Does Project Size Affect Success?

I sympathize with anyone who really wants to dive right in with their big, awesome idea, but I have to admit that the outcome doesn't look good for those that do.

Kickstarter tabletop first-time creators success rates

For first-time tabletop Kickstarter creators, there's an undeniable negative correlation between funding goal and success rates. But that's just for first-time creators. Now compare that to campaigns that don't come from first-time creators.

 

Kickstarter success rates by funding goal for non-first-time Tabletop creators

For subsequent campaigns, the success rate is nearly unaffected by the size of the goal. Sure, the outcomes of larger goals are less predictable, but there's barely a downward trend at all, which indicates that other factors are more important now, so we should focus on those rather than on how high or low the campaign goal is (again, assuming the goal is relatively reasonable for the project).

We also shouldn't ignore the fact that larger, more complex projects are much more difficult to fulfill - especially for anyone who's inexperienced. If you decide to go big and then flounder with the actual execution of the project, you'll seriously hurt your ability to fund later campaigns.

Based on the above analysis, I would highly recommend that first-time creators start humble and work their way up to larger projects.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you agree with my conclusion? Are there extenuating circumstances that are worth considering? Let me know in the comments below!

4 comments

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David Miller

David Miller

Interesting take on the funding goal. I’ve only thought about ours as the minimum needed to actually bring the game to fruition. So we look at what the minimums are for the best quantity discount of our components and work from there.

For example, component A has the best discount when more than 3,000 are ordered. If we only need one of A, then 3,000 is what we aim for. If there are two, then 1,500 games.

So then we take that 3,000 and as the minimum number of games we will manufacture. We now know the distribution of domestic versus the two main international USPS rates and calculate shipping for those 3,000 games. We take into account an estimate of various reward levels (one, two, and 10 games for example). We calculate our shipping materials (including thermal address labels, tape, padding, etc.). This gives us a precise breakdown of everything we can control on our side (our Excel spreadsheets are amazingly accurate—thanks to dumb luck, experience, and luck).

So then we can determine what the Kickstarter funding goal is. We don’t try to use the funding goal as a marketing thing itself but stay true to what we feel are the original roots of Kickstarter—which is to help something become a reality and not be a pre-launch thing for a product that will be created anyway (a la big publishing companies and where my thoughts on pledge managers come form. I can’t bring our game to market if everyone does $1 pledges—I appreciate those but the Kickstarter is honestly launched to make the game a reality at that time).

David

David

I’m with you there! Occasionally, I come across people asking about how much profit you should expect to make from a Kickstarter campaign. My response is always that Kickstarter isn’t about making a profit, it’s about getting the funding necessary to create the product you’re launching. The “profit” comes from the excess units (games/whatever) you have left over after you’ve fulfilled the campaign.

But this post was actually meant to address a different question. I’ve met several people that have multiple ideas they’d like to bring to Kickstarter, and they’re not sure which one to start with. Inevitably, it ends up as “should I go with my biggest/fanciest idea, or go with my smallest idea?” To that I say, without a doubt, start small!

David Miller

David Miller

Yes, we plow any profit back into component inventory. For example, from our three Kickstarters, we have enough components on hand (and that are fully paid for) to make about 1,000 of each. This means that anything we sell now is profit except for postage (we also stocked up on shipping supplies—thank goodness we have space in a breezeway and basement for those giganto boxes). We even have a stock of thermal labels that should last us years (those cost about 18 cents each!!!.

I’d add one small bit of advice for the person that has many projects in mind: create their Kickstarter pages. I have 6 unlaunched projects. I tend to tweak on them as time goes by. Some are bare bones, just a few paragraphs, but as I see good ideas from others that may fit a particular one, I jot that down in its unlaunched project.

I find that really helps me for the ideas and strategy for them. AND … helps me decide an order to launch them.

David

David

Six unlaunched projects? That’s pretty impressive! We’re working on 4 games at the moment, but only one (Rucksack) has a Kickstarter page at the moment.

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