We’re starting to have enough data on the success and failure of crowdfunding in general and the Kickstarter version in particular to know that one of the first financial killers for the post-funding, pre-delivery phase (a.k.a. “Delivering the stuff you promised to your backers”) is shipping cost, especially when shipping outside the country where your items are produced. Another important one is the cost of managing production, schedule and yes, shipping again, for all the little extras that are physically distinct from the core product you were crowdfunding. You know, the stickers, plush toys, extra books, prints, fancy dice, etc.
(If you are not up to date on the discussion, read Fred Hicks’ Breakdown: Why International Shipping Doesn’t Work For a Kickstarter and Suw Charman-Anderson’s Kickstarter And The Shipping Problem.)
One obvious answer is to maximize digital rewards and stretch goals. As backer and er, consumer of Kickstarter campaigns, I’ve been thinking about what kind of items get me interested and even excited about a project. I wanted to share the list here in the hopes that user feedback might help publishers. Obviously I’m only one data point, but maybe this will help someone else collect many data points.
Edit: See Christopher Ruthenbeck’s thoughts on the topic a few weeks ago in A Love Letter to Kickstarters.
Here is a list of reward and stretch goal types I have seen used which do not require a new physical product nor additional shipping (except inasmuch as a book may become heavier and costlier to ship). For each, I explain how much or how little they typically appeal to me as a potential backer, and why.
To make things simpler, I added ratings:
- Yes!—That’s definitely worthwhile for me, and makes me more interested in contributing or in raising my contribution.
- Nice—It might not be a deal-breaker, but I’m interested, depending on the quality or the author, artist, etc.
- Meh—I don’t object and maybe we’ll be lucky this time, but in general that’s not my thing.
- No—I’ll pay you extra not to add that.
PDF version: Yes! I love having the searchable PDF in addition to (and sometimes in lieu of) a print book. It’s a great way to check out a book when you’re not sure, and it’s handy to search for specific information when the print index and table of contents fail you.
Advanced PDF features: Nice. I’m thinking of the extras available in Nova Praxis (Void Star Games), for example. It’s not a key item for me because I don’t have an iPad or other colour, full-size tablet, but it’s handy.
Ebook version (ePub, mobi, etc.): Yes! Dear gods, yes. This is my number one wanted feature for any new game; it’s so handy to have the game on my Kindle to read the rules minutia. So many RPGs have a very pretty but hard-to-read layout, it’s very restful to drop to plain e-ink when you don’t need any schematics.
Additional Game Content in the Core Book:
Additional characters: Meh. If a system is complicated enough that I need to have the stats for a bunch of pre-gen NPCs, I’m probably not the right audience anymore.
Additional setting material: Nice. Within limits, of course, but the idea of expanding the setting available in the core book sounds good to me, since I’m not likely to buy supplements later anyway. I very much like one-book games.
Alternate setting options: Yes! I love this, and in fact I have been lured into buying several games that way.
Rules hacking toolkit: Yes! I love a discussion of why the rules are built a certain way and how to tinker with them to give them a different twist.
Additional scenarios: Nice. I’m a little wary because there are so many bad scenarios out there, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. I especially like sandbox-style scenarios with well-crafted GM info.
Detailed campaign demo/analysis: Yes! I love a book that goes through all the steps of putting a campaign together and examines all the moving parts in practical, how-to detail.
Additional art: Nice. Assuming I like the artists’ work, more art means more visual inspiration and understanding of the setting.
Detailed examples of play: Yes! This is the one use of what you could arguably call fiction which I always appreciate in a game: show me how it’s done.
Additional Non-Game Content in the Core Book:
Colour printing: Meh. Maybe, if your layout isn’t too busy and doesn’t kill my eyes; I’m not fond of colour page backgrounds. On the other hand, some art is really worth seeing in full colours.
Fiction: No. It’s the very last thing I read in the core book, and most of the time a glance convinces me that I don’t need to read the whole thing. I can think of a handful of RPGs in my life where I’ve liked the fiction, out of the few hundred books I’ve read.
Art released under Creative Commons license: Yes! I love that, and that is worth something to me. Well, depending on the artists, of course, but I have seen some very good material released that way.
Downloadable Additional Content:
Downloadable art: Nice. If it’s from good artists and really helps convey the feel of the setting, I’m interested.
Downloadable expansions: Nice. It’s like Christmas all over again! I love getting more content separate from my book.
Downloadable badges, music, etc.: Meh. They can be a good idea, but I’m not the target audience; I might appreciate them after the fact but they will not incite me to contribute.