The Reward Tier that Almost Was

When basking in the glory of the Corporate America Kickstarter, you might ask yourself, “Why does the Campaign Volunteer reward tier have to pay $10? Shouldn’t it be free?” An excellent question! Today, I’ll tell you the marvelous tale of how this reward tier came to be, and what it almost was.

It all started many moons ago in a little town called Santa Cruz. I was visiting some friends, planning out a Kickstarter I hoped to one day run. It was becoming clear to me that successful Kickstarters generally had some playful qualities to them, one of which being themed reward tiers.

Corporate America is a game about campaign contributions determining elections, so it seemed only fitting to make the reward tiers for the Kickstarter based on different types of political donors out there. It turns out that the friend I was brainstorming with happened to play a campaign volunteer on the awesome web series Battleground, so it seemed only natural to include a reward tier at this level. But what would it do!?

After giving it some thought, I came up with the idea of letting Campaign Volunteers have the print-and-play version of the game for free, as long as they were willing to help spread the word about the game on Twitter or Facebook. Just like political campaigns need to get their message out there, so does my Kickstarter campaign! I hadn’t ever seen a project do something like this before, so I was really excited to see how it would pan out.

But it didn’t take long for the plan to start to break down. First off, every reward tier on Kickstarter must be at least $1. I figured that was fine–I could just have the reward level be $1 instead of $0. It didn’t seem quite like a Volunteer level at that point, but I suppose campaign volunteers probably ultimately use some of their own money to support the campaign, right?

I even had a spiffy image for the reward tier and everything.

Unfortunately, after I submitted the Kickstarter for approval, I received a message saying that reward tiers can only require money. At that point, I was already a day late in getting the Kickstarter up and running (I didn’t realize there would even be a manual review process… pretty amateur mistake), so I quickly shuffled around the existing reward tiers, bumping Campaign Volunteer up to what Grassroots Supporter used to be, and creating a new level (hat and pdfs) for the Grassroots Supporter level. I quickly submitted the project again and launched it as soon as I could, down one quirky reward tier level I was excited to see in action.

I can’t blame Kickstarter for not allowing creative reward tiers like that. For one thing, they wouldn’t get a cut of the payment. For another thing, it could be really difficult to confirm that a supporter actually fulfilled his or her end of the bargain. That in particular could open a whole can of worms with project owners and supporters arguing over who owes what to who. And of course, once one quirky reward tier gets approved, who knows what crazy stuff project owners could dream up to make their supporters put themselves through.

I do think the reward tier would have been popular, though. A number of people have supported the game at the $10 reward level for the print-n-play pdf version of the game, and I’m guessing many of these people would have preferred paying less to do so. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot more people were willing to pay $1 than $10, actually. (What about you? Would you have gone for this level? I’m especially curious if you happened to go for the $10 level.)

That said, I’m not sure how successful getting the word out would have been. It turns out that a lot of people actually did volunteer to spread the word about Corporate America on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and I don’t think it has made a huge difference in terms of the number of pledges. (Though just yesterday one of my friends was quite successful.) I would love to see a visualization of how the game has spread through social networks, but I believe that most supporters have been friends in my immediate social circles or people who have randomly stumbled upon the game and like what they see. It seems that very few friends of friends have been interested in the game.

And that’s about all I have to say about that! It’s too bad the world will never see the true Campaign Volunteer reward tier in action, but honestly, Kickstarter probably saved me a ton of work making sure people actually tweeted or shared when they said they did. Oh well, maybe next Kickstarter.

In the mean time… help spread the word about Corporate America! I’m afraid I can’t offer you a reward tier to do so, but you can volunteer all the same! The Kickstarter still has a way to go and not a lot of time to get there, so now’s not the time to be shy! Let your friends know about the game, and make sure you tell them how great it is if you’ve played it! And don’t forget that letting specific friends know about it, those who would particularly enjoy the game, can be much more effective than shouting into the void that is the internet! Let’s make this happen!

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