Recently, Adam Jury wrote “Pricing that punishes late adopters discourages late adopters. Hey, discouraging customers kinda sucks.” This got me thinking about Kickstarter—specifically why I chose to support one wildly successful project instead of another.

Keep in mind here, I have only worked with Kickstarter as a patron; my perspective is it’s akin to a pledge drive. In exchange for my support, I get stuff: more support; more stuff. With game development (and possibly others—I have only looked at game funding), several projects have additional patron rewards that are issued if the funding total goes over certain thresholds. This is completely awesome for patrons that have already pledged: I get extra stuff. But these threshold rewards aren’t for me. They’re to motivate people that are on the fence to pledge.

Case in point: Far West. I was waiting until after GenCon to check the post-con finances before jumping in. At the $50 level of patronage, the thing I get is a hardcover version of the book (probably about the cost if I had purchased it at the local game store) plus a PDF version of the game book. Nice, but I was going to wait.

Then it hit the funding goal. Then threshold goals were announced, and as each one was met, more stuff went in. Eventually, there was a ridiculous amount of stuff being given away and I jumped in. The crazy thing is the early adopters also got all that extra stuff. It didn’t matter when you pledged, you got your bundle of awesome.

(And there were also additional rewards that were triggered at different funding levels for different levels of pledging. These are actually very clever: unlike the normal threshold rewards, these also encourage patrons to up their pledges to higher levels.)

So I wound up pledging, and I get cool stuff.

Meanwhile, there’s another project that I’m interested in, but I’m not going to pledge. It’s the Glory to Rome redesign kickstarter. I found out about this two days ago, and I found out that the developers had special rewards for people that pledged at the beginning of the drive. So if I pledge $35 now, I get the game, plus a little thing for the game. Everyone else that pledged $35 a week ago gets the game and even more stuff. A week before that, game, plus even more stuff and even more stuff.

While a developer might think it is a great idea to give rewards to early adopters to increase motivation, this only makes sense if the entire target audience is aware of the early bird rewards. For someone that finds out about the drive later, they are effectively penalized for not knowing about the funding project. Rather than ask “What do you get for pledging early?”, the question is really “What do I not get for pledging now?”

It turns out I don’t get a lot of stuff that others are getting. Sure, I get the game, but everyone else is getting up to four additional promotional items, including two expansions to the game.

And they were in a drawing to win a copy of the game developer’s 2011 releases.

And they were in a drawing to win what looks like original artwork for the game.

Simply because I didn’t know about the project, I don’t get the same benefits that everyone else got. It feels like I was cheated of the opportunity; I’m not as likely to pledge. Dammit, I was picked last in gym class. Again.

See, that just goes against what Kickstarter should be—if you’re a backer, it doesn’t matter when you come in, just that you do. As a developer using Kickstarter as a fundraiser, you want as much money coming in as you can get. You want me to give you money. It doesn’t matter when I find out about your project, just as long as I do.

I’m on the fence for Far West: more stuff is added and I decide to support them.

I’m on the fence for Glory to Rome: they take away rewards, so I spend my money elsewhere.


  • Thomas

    Oh, and even though the Glory for Rome kickstarter is past $60k at this writing, the simple fact remains: they could have had more.

  • Interesting. I hadn’t actually heard that Glory to Rome did that – I had bought their clamshell version at GenCon, so I wasn’t super motivated about their Kickstarter in the first place, since I had just dropped money into the game.

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