Publishing lessons

Board games & crowdfunding

How many reward tiers should you have?

22nd February 2022 0

When it comes to crowdfunding, I am a firm believer that a campaign should have two reward levels, with a third only in rare cases.

Typically, this would be the base content (the game) and a deluxe or upgraded version.

There are many reasons for this line of thinking but the primary one is keeping your rewards simple will make it much easier for backers. The vast majority of people visiting your campaign will not take the time to read through your page, identify what everything is, or have any idea of what some of the extras are.

The more options you add, the harder you make it for them to decide and the more you increase the chances they will leave.

Past campaigns

The City of Kings campaign offered 4 versions of the game:

  • The Base game (502 backers)
  • The Premium edition (229 backers)
  • The Deluxe edition (1756 backers)
  • The Collectors edition (146 backers)

At the time I thought this was a great idea but looking back I wish I had stuck with just the base game and deluxe edition. Not only would it have been easier for backers, but is also would have been easier to fulfill and saved me some money.

The Isle of Cats campaign offered 2 versions of the game:

  • The base game (2,272 backers)
  • The game + expansion content (4,744 backers)

In my experience most backers prefer to choose between “the basic” or “the everything” options and often more people will go with the everything choice if the price point isn’t too high.

Breaking the rule

If you are to believe everything in this article, you may be wondering why my latest Kickstarter had 8 reward levels!

A number which I spent countless hours considering and trying to optimise, it fluctuated between 2 and 10 over a couple of months before finally settling at 8.

This was a difficult decision!

As with all things, there are exceptions to the rule and this campaign was different as it offered new content for a game that already existed.

My first thoughts were to offer 2 tiers, the new content and all the content (new and old) and leave it at that. But this meant I would be forcing newcomers to purchase the game, 5 expansions, a storage solution, and extras which was a huge investment.

I firmly believe in giving people choice and allowing them to buy the content they want, rather than forcing everything upon them. This really challenged my way of thinking with the 2 rewards limit and I looked at ways to solve this.

I started with a naming structure, by using Veteran 1, Veteran 2, Veteran 3, and Veteran 4, alongside New Arrival 1, New Arrival 2, and New Arrival 3, it helped break the rewards into 2 groups. Those for people with the game and those for newcomers.

By adding the New Arrival Starter Kit I could also point newcomers to a starting reward and help them make a decision without needing to read the options.

How to choose your reward

Despite the naming system and all the effort I put in to clearly explaining what everything was, the rewards were too much and people were getting confused. A few hours into the campaign launch I knew I had to do something to help and created the “How to choose your reward” graphic below, placing it high up on the Kickstarter page.

I can’t express enough how valuable this image was, it turned a complex decision back into a simple process where people had choice. Rather than being overwhelmed, many backers felt grateful I was giving them the freedom to choose and guiding them through the process.

If you ever need to go above 2 or 3 rewards then I strongly recommend a flow chart at the top of your Kickstarter to help people decide, I have no doubt this single image was the difference between a rough time and the overwhelming success the Kickstarter became.

For reference, each tier was backed:

  • Veteran 1 (1,578 backers)
  • Veteran 2 (2,895 backers)
  • Veteran 3 (1,997 backers)
  • Veteran 4 (707 backers)
  • New Arrival Starter Kit (448 backers)
  • New Arrival 1 (1,161 backers)
  • New Arrival 2 (579 backers)
  • New Arrival 3 (329 backers)

Looking at these numbers it makes me very glad I didn’t force all newcomers to buy everything as in the end only 2.7% of people opted to do so. Equally, I’m glad I split the new content into 4 veteran tiers as there was a very clear distribution of people across each of them.

In conclusion

In an ideal world you should try your best to keep your campaign to just 2 rewards and make things simpler for both yourself and your backers.

In the real world however, this might not always be possible and in these situations it is on you to make it as simple as possible for your backers. Don’t think they will read the page, don’t rely on naming conventions or descriptions, provide tools and don’t be afraid to adapt them throughout the first 48 hours of your campaign.

Frank West

Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!

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