Usually when I stumble upon a Kickstarter campaign thanks to the ongoing list of Kickstarted board games on BGG, I first look at the top of the page to see the number of updates and the number of comments. I’ve already talked about project updates–today I’m talking about those comments (general comments and comments on updates).
The way you respond to comments in the public forum on Kickstarter (and/or BGG if you’re running a board game campaign) defines you as a project creator. Are you responsive or not? Are you transparent or secretive? Do you get defensive when someone criticizes you? Do you make it about them or is it all about you?
If you look through Kickstarter projects with a lot of comments, a common thread you’ll notice is that backers tend to offer a lot of feedback about the Kickstarter project and the product itself. This is a good thing. Backer feedback means that they’re invested in and excited about your project. Nurture that sense of involvement by responding to the feedback with gratitude, excitement, and transparency, and stay flexible enough to improve your project–I guarantee that at least one of your backers will think of something really cool that you hadn’t considered.
Viticulture was my first campaign, and I must say that quite a few backer ideas were incorporated into the project. The most notable idea was a “cheese expansion” to the game. It started as a joke–after seeing photos of my cat “playing” Viticulture, someone asked when the “kitten expansion” would be released. Another backer fleshed out that idea, bringing mice and cheese into the equation. Soon after that, we added it as a big stretch goal at $75,000. I’ll come back to what happened at the end of this entry.
As a project creator, you walk a very thin line as you respond to feedback. On one hand, you want to be open and receptive to ideas. On the other, if you seem too open and receptive, you might be perceived as being wishy washy or indecisive. Yet you don’t want to say “no” much, because if you keep shutting people down, they’re not going to keep offering feedback.
I think the key is to thank people for their ideas and then share the facts from which they can draw their own conclusions. For example, if a backer suggests that you make the game board box out of wood, the wrong way to respond is, “No, that’s too expensive.” Remember that you have stretch goals as your ally. Rather, you could say, “Interesting idea. I ran the numbers, and it will cost $15/game to make that addition and it will delay production by 4 months. Thus we could make it a stretch goal at $200,000 or we could run a separate campaign for that bonus. Or we could could create a new limited reward level for 10 wood boxes and not impact the budget or the schedule.” Perhaps one of the options you mention will resonate with the backer, or maybe they won’t say anything after they see how the math adds up.
For Viticulture, I used several polls on this blog to gauge backer interest in certain stretch goals and even art direction for the board and box. It was a neat way to engage the backers and get great feedback at the same time.
In the end, the decisions you make based on backer feedback come down to you and what you believe is best for the campaign. This might seem obvious now, but you might feel differently when 500 people are encouraging you to do something else. Go with your gut (and your budget), and explain the decision to your backers in a project update. If you have a good reason that you explain in a timely and transparent manner, they’ll understand.
So what happened with the cheese expansion? Well, the “transparency” part of it, as I made sure to tell backers in a number of different forums, was that the cheese expansion didn’t exist yet. After all, it was a backer’s idea during the Kickstarter campaign. I let everyone know that even though it would be great to raise $75,000 and design an expansion based on backer feedback, it would push the schedule back by months so we could properly test and design the expansion (looking back, even that would have been a very tight timeframe).
We ended up raising $65,980 for Viticulture, so we were still about $10k away from that stretch goal. In the future, I think I would stay away from an idea that would add a significant amount of time to a project. It’s a lot of added pressure at an already busy time, and delaying a project by months even before the campaign ends just doesn’t seem fair to the backers.
For all of you backers out there, has a Kickstarter creator ever used a piece of your feedback to adjust and improve their project? How did it go?