Publishing lessons

Board games & crowdfunding

Setting your Kickstarter goal

15th March 2022 0

Setting your Kickstarter goal should be one of the easiest parts of the process. You should just be able to work out how much it is going to cost you to make and ship the game, add a cushion in case something goes wrong, and then use that number… Right?

How I wish it was that easy!

Unfortunately, board game crowdfunding has evolved over the years and now we find ourselves fighting against budgets, expectations, marketing, and human psychology. The real number is often the wrong number, and this means we need to carefully calculate our goals if we are to succeed.

Defining some rules

Before we go any further, I want to make a few things absolutely clear:

  • For this article I am specifically talking about crowdfunding board games. This category has its own rules and the vast majority of non-board game projects can just use the costs + cushion number. To be even more clear, I specifically mean board games and not board game related projects such as a board game YouTube channel.
  • This article is primarily aimed at first time creators. As you grow a community and gain a reputation you will be able to approach this differently.
  • There are always exceptions to the rule. You are welcome to plan around being an exception, but I would advise against it.

The evolution of crowdfunding board games

This article is written to help you set your goal in modern times. I don’t want to dive into the full history of crowdfunding board games, but it is important to look at a very simplistic generalisation.

Once upon a time board games on Kickstarter worked just like any other project. Someone had an idea, worked out the costs, and then tried to raise enough money to make it happen. Over time more and more people realised if they wanted to make a game, then Kickstarter was the way to do it. Crowdfunding for board games started to become competitive and creators wanted to get a bigger slice of the cake, unfortunately, then marketing happened.

Creators became obsessed by hype, the more hype there was for their game the more backers they would get. We started to see “funded in x days” being used to show how great a game was, and this kept reducing to “funded in x hours”, “funded in x minutes”, and so on as creators always wanted to be better than the others.

Stretch goals also came along, showing people they could make the game even better and get lots of extras if the game over funded. While stretching the budget was originally a nice idea to improve components and add nice extras, it got wrapped up in marketing to produce more hype.

Afterall, the more people excited, the more people talking, sharing, and encouraging others to back, the more successful you will be.

Many other things happened too, and all of them started to change what being funded meant. While originally a project would be happy to fund in the last day, for board games it became nearly a requirement for a game to fund within the first 48 – 72 hours.

Over the years I have seen countless projects get to 80% in the first 3 days and then they just fall off the radar. They don’t get enough traction for Kickstarter to promote them and a large chunk of backers lose faith.

There will always be some people who will support a project regardless of its funding goal, but a lot aren’t willing to waste their time. It sounds horrible (and I personally hate it), but with how crowdfunding games has evolved, the hype for all the extras associated with a quickly funding project makes a slow funding project undesirable.

The 3 parts of a Kickstarter

You can break Kickstarter’s down into 3 parts:

  • The first 72 hours
  • The middle
  • The last 48 hours

Typically speaking, you can make a good prediction on how much will be raised in the middle and last 48 hours, based on a number of factors:

  • Is this a new game or reprint?
  • How big is the creators reach?
  • How much is being invested into marketing?
  • How long is the campaign?

Let’s look at some examples:

Note. These numbers are the percentage raised during the first 72 hours, middle, and last 48 hours. They are not precise due to launching at different times of day but will be within a couple of %.

  • Scythe: 45%, 33%, 22%
  • Frosthaven: 46%, 28%, 26%
  • Everdell complete collection: 39%, 35%, 26%

All 3 of these projects had a huge amount of buzz when they launched based on the creator’s previous success. Despite how different they were, you can see the variance between each project through the 3 parts of campaign was 6%, 7%, 4%.

Let’s look at some first-time projects:

  • Steam Up a Feast of Dim Sum: 31%, 48%, 21%
  • Coraquest: 37%, 43%, 20%
  • Earthbourne Rangers: 35%, 45%, 20%

Unlike the first 3 projects, these first-time creators had a much smaller following so their first 72 hours was lower than the bigger creators. However, despite all the differences the variations between them were 6%, 5%, 1%.

I could continue to run through examples of different types of projects and creators, but typically speaking if you follow the trends, after the first 72 hours you can reliably predict the middle and last 48 hours within 10% accuracy, unless something unusual happens.

Putting it all together

We know that to succeed we need to fund as quickly as possible, and we also know that as a first-time creator we must raise enough to cover our costs.

The goal here is not to lie about how much we need, or to put ourselves at risk. The goal is to redistribute our actual goal across the timeline of the project based on typical trends and backer expectations.

If the typical (successful) first time project raises 30 – 40% in their first 72 hours, and a very popular project raises 40-50% in their first 72 hours, then we should be able to set our goal at 50% of what we need without much risk.

This means if we need $25,000, we can set our funding goal to $12,500.

If we raise that in the first 72 hours, then we should be on track to raise $25,000 – $35,000 by the end of the campaign.

Following the typical trends, by using a funding goal of 50% of what we need, we are greatly increasing the chances that we fund, and we should still make more than our actual goal by the end of the campaign.

Caveats and disclaimers!

This is the logic I used for my first campaign and it worked out very well for me. It is also the approach I have recommended to many first-time creators and it has helped them succeed.

However, while this approach increases your chances of succeeding, it also adds risk. To take this approach you must still work hard to market your campaign and do everything possible to make it succeed. You can’t just press launch and assume based on statistics everything will just happen. While the trends show similar numbers across different projects, it’s because each of these creators has put in the work.

While failing isn’t the end of the world and you can try again, you shouldn’t plan around this idea. If you start to fall below the funding trends after the first 72 hours, then you might be doing something wrong and you’ll need to evaluate how people are responding to your Kickstarter and fix it as soon as possible.

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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *