In my last post I discussed the Shadow Throne Kickstarter at its most basic: the page, the video, and the reward tiers. But a Kickstarter is so much more than just what you put on the main page! So today I’ll to continue examining the Kickstarter by covering some of the peripheral elements: the stretch goals and the updates.
The Corporate America Kickstarter stretch goals were severely lacking, which probably contributed to it barely funding. For Shadow Throne, I wanted stretch goals that would get people excited and motivate backers to spread the word about the game. I’m happy to say that the goals did just that.
Shadow Throne funded at $12,500, and two stretch goals followed that. At $15,000, the card stock would get upgraded. At $20,000, I was going to open new reward tiers to allow people to pledge for an expansion for the game.
The $15k stretch goal wasn’t terribly exciting, but it was really helpful for a few reasons. First, upgraded components are a great way to make a game better without disrupting its design. Second, component quality is very important for many gamers. Finally, I needed a stepping stone to the $20k stretch goal, which was really exciting, but was a long way off from the base funding goal. One of the objectives of stretch goals is to keep people engaged with a project even after it funds, and stretch goals that seem impossible can have the opposite effect.
Ultimately, it was the $20k stretch goal that was the real motivator for the Kickstarter. It unlocked an expansion with three new factions, not only doubling the number of factions in the game, but upping the number of three-faction combinations by 2000%! This was really exciting, both for me and for backers, and even though we fell pretty far short of the goal, it still motivated people. In fact, many backers asked me to open the reward tiers early to get a pledge boost! It was hard to say “no”, but I’m happy I did, because the finances just didn’t make sense.
So why didn’t I include the expansion in the base game? There were two main reasons. First, I wanted to keep the cost of the base game down to about $25, and it was impossible to do that with twice the number of cards. Second, I worked very hard to tune the base three factions, but I hadn’t finalized the expansion factions yet. The expansion needed more time and I didn’t want to delay the whole project.
The $20k stretch goal was unusual in that backers wouldn’t automatically get it… they would have to up their pledges to get the new content. While there are other Kickstarters that have done this, it isn’t common. I ended up going this route for financial reasons… I couldn’t afford to give everyone a copy of the expansion. I was worried about people getting confused about having to pay extra for a stretch goal, but it didn’t seem to be an issue.
Sadly, we didn’t hit the expansion stretch goal. But we got far enough above the $15k stretch goal that I decided to upgrade the card stock yet again, and there was enough excitement about the expansion that I will probably run another Kickstarter for it next year!
Updates are the main way you can communicate with your backers during a campaign, but they can be tricky. You want to share important information and your excitement, but you want to keep them entertaining. You want to stay connected with your backers, but you don’t want to spam them. I was really happy with how the Shadow Throne updates went.
Over the 25 days of the campaign, I posted 13 updates. That’s about one every other day, which is a good rate.
But what should you write about in your updates? I highly recommend you have some material prepared before the Kickstarter so you aren’t forced to come up with topics mid-campaign, when you should be focused on promotion. But it’s also important to stay flexible and adapt your updates based on current events and backer feedback.
My first update was the first day of the campaign, and focused on how excited I was with the strong initial funding. In general, I like to avoid updates that focus on fundraising, but I couldn’t resist it on the first day. After this one, I included info about campaign milestones and made requests for backers to engage their friends, but I kept them short and generally not the focus of the updates.
For the second update, I wrote a bunch about theory and how Shadow Throne compares to popular drafting games. This is a topic I planned before the campaign (I love writing this stuff), and I was really happy with how it was received. It did a good job of setting the tone for later updates and generated future topics to discuss.
The fourth update was a pretty foundational one. I discussed the Empire faction, going over lore, mechanics, and strategy. I ended up doing updates like this for the other two base game factions (the Rebels and the Church) and three expansion factions (the Merchants, the Cultists, and the Order), so this provided a lot of material during the campaign. I also reused some of the lore from these updates for the final rulebook.
Number 5 was another noteworthy update: I announced the expansion stretch goal. I focused two more updates, 7 (backers only) and 9, on naming the expansion, which was a fun way to include backers in the design process that I’ll discuss more in a future post.
Other than a few more short updates, that covers them! Before I wrap up, though, I wanted to mention a couple more things.
First, always include images or videos in your updates, unless they’re extremely short. Many backers won’t read anything, but pictures can at least engage them briefly. For Shadow Throne, I included new illustrations in updates as Jesse finished them.
Second, don’t underestimate how much time updates will take you to write and edit. The faction updates in particular were equivalent to blog posts for me, which require many revisions over many hours. You’ll want your updates to be professional, so make sure to give yourself enough time!
Today I’ve covered some of the peripheral aspects of the Shadow Throne Kickstarter, but if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to reach out beyond Kickstarter itself. In my next couple of posts, I’ll discuss my outreach efforts, so stay tuned!