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Kickstarter: You're Doing It Wrong

Go throw $1 at a Kickstarter project just because it's cool.

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So, you think you know what's up with Kickstarter? As someone who visits Kickstarter almost daily, let me tell you something: you have no idea how to really use Kickstarter.

And that's ok. Nobody told you how to use Kickstarter.

What people DID tell you is that you can get products for cheap by backing them in advanced. Or, you can get cool perks the more you donate. Or, that pledging X amount of dollars for early copies of games (or movies, art, music, etc) is the best way to support a Kickstarter campaign.

And, you know what? This mentality is problematic.

Kickstarter is a platform for funding and investing in ideas that will eventually turn into full products or projects. So, let me repeat: Kickstarter is NOT a pre-order service. Get that out of your head. Sure, you can utilize Kickstarter to get beta access and full copies (usually DRM-free) of games, and that's awesome. But there are two things to keep note of:

  1. Rewards are rewards.
  2. Reward tiers are suggestions.

So, let's look at that first point: Rewards are rewards. If you pledge money, you will be rewarded for your enthusiasm and faith in the project. You are not buying things. You do not deserve to get a product when you donate money. That's like donating to an orphanage and expecting the orphans to wash your car. If a creator/developer wants to offer rewards, that is a perk for you - it's awesome, but (really) it's just the creators being nice to you.

Kickstarter is NOT a pre-order service.

And the second point, which I think is the most important: Reward tiers are suggestions. Many people, especially gamers, will not support Kickstarter campaigns because they don't feel like plopping down $10, $15, or even $25 for a product if they don't even know if the game will be any good... But, who says you need to put in that much money? If you are expecting to 'buy' the product, yes, you will need to put in that money. If you just think the project is cool and you want to support it, you can just put in as little as $1 - and that's ok. Every little bit does help a Kickstarter campaign.

A Buck For A Duck... A Duck Being Chased and Yelled At
It is OK to only donate $1 to a Kickstarter campaign.

On the Kickstarter blog, Diana Kimball wrote a phenomenal article called "The Power of $1" where she lauds the use of the $1 donation tier.

What does $1 get you these days? Not a lot. Maybe a newspaper, a candy bar, or a bottle of water. But when it comes to Kickstarter, $1 can go a lot farther than you might think.

For creators, a standout $1 reward can make a great first impression. It's a way to snag a backer's attention, and bring them into the world of your project. In return, a $1 pledge is a backer's gesture of support — Kickstarter's version of "liking" something — since creators get an email notifying them of the action. - Diana Kimball

A $1 pledge is easy money to donate. I've got that lying around and I'm more than happy to use that to show my support. Whether it's a retro styled pixel-art sci-fi adventure game or a revival of an old classic, I can spare one dollar to show my support. And you can too. It all adds up. You can spend $10 to support one Kickstarter, or you can spend $10 to support ten separate Kickstarters with $1 each. It's still only $10 and that money is going to support some awesome ideas.

Besides, as Kimball notes, there are some GREAT $1 rewards. My favorite example: Penny Arcade’s Kickstarter (successful) to remove ads from their comic's site offered this for $1:

Gabe followed through with this 50 minute video of him chasing ducks around in circles and yelling out a total of 9,069 backers' names.

An art-project Kickstarter (successful) called “Molly Crabapple’s Week in Hell” offered a $1 tier which gave any backer “access to a private live stream of the week-long drawing session.” This isn't game-related, but is still a creative reward to encourage even the smallest of donations. This was a very cool and exceptionally unique way to not only engage her audience, but also pioneer a new way for streaming media technology to be integrated into a supportive and engaging investment environment. So, yay! Art!

My Suggestion

Here's what you can do. Set aside an amount of money, say $5, per month to put towards Kickstarter campaigns. That's it, $5. Either spend it all each month on some awesome project(s) or let that roll over and add to it each month to save up to support a big project. But definitely put that measly five bucks towards something cool. Go support some awesome indie project. You'll be helping out some creators realize their dreams and it will feel great. If everyone did this, just spare a few dollars to support innovative indie creators, imagine all the amazing projects that could be realized. Skip that second cup of coffee tomorrow and use that coffee money to support something awesome.

Go to your couch, dig around for some coins, and go support some crazy indie project on Kickstarter.

I am a huge supporter of Kickstarter, I think it's a great platform and deserves attention and respect. I've already backed several projects ranging from games like Hyper Light Drifter to goofy films like Dude Bro Party Massacre 3 - and, guess what? I was happy just to throw in a buck or two. It's easy, it feels great, and awesome stuff will come from showing any amount of support for these creative Kickstarter projects

I plan to do more work with Kickstarter here on GameSkinny in the future, hopefully snagging interviews and aiming a spotlight at some deserving projects. Do you have a campaign or a project you'd like to see talked about on GameSkinny? Drop me a tip on Twitter @ZacaJay!

Or, you know, write about it yourself!

Originally Published Sep. 30th 2013

Staff Editor

Deadline Hunter. Lawful Neutral Editor. Baron of the JTP. Graduate of U of Rochester with dual degrees in Film & Media Studies and English.... more »



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Comments
  • 30
    Steve Lawton 12 months ago
    Columnist
    Kickstarter is one of those things eveyone has cursory knowledge of but no one understands. I've never personally donated but it's good to hear from someone who does consistently and knows the ins and outs. I'd look forward to a Kickstarter series of articles.

    Somewhat Related: What's your stance on celebrities (or other well to do people) using Kickstarter?

    Totally Unrelated: How awesome is lasagna?
  • 60
    Jay Ricciardi 12 months ago
    Staff Editor
    Thanks, Steve! I'm actually really looking forward to doing more Kickstarter content in the future and I already have a few interviews lined up. :)

    As far as celebs go on Kickstarter: it really depends case-by-case. Some celebrities really shouldn't have much trouble contacting investors for their projects, so it can be a bit silly. However, sometimes even star-power doesn't necessarily mean that investors might not be scared by a risky project. Most industries like to go with the safest and most potentially lucrative products possible. Just look at most of the crappy summer blockbusters - usually pretty safe tried-and-true options (especially in film).

    I'd say on a scale from 1 to kung fu, lasagna is probably Jackie Chan. And Jackie Chan is one of the grooviest dudes this side of kung fu.
    Last edited 12 months ago
  • 41
    Amazon Eliza Steel 12 months ago
    Featured Contributor
    Like this one -

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jcyoung/scarlet-seas-graphic-novel

    Just $2 to get your name on a Thank Ye page.
  • 60
    Jay Ricciardi 12 months ago
    Staff Editor
    Yup! Even something as small as getting your name somewhere in the product is huge. It might seems small, but just allowing backers to be in the credits can mean a lot.
  • 56
    Stephanie Tang 12 months ago
    Featured Columnist
    Creative backer rewards and updates are incredible when done right. Vienna Teng's "Level Up" video Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/viennateng/level-up-a-music-video-for-the-new-album-aims) was funded in about 4 hours but people kept joining the party afterwards because she had almost daily updates with some new cover, or cool video, or post that you could get access to just by putting in a dollar.

    She has exactly the same attitude towards Kickstarter as you do, and it's refreshing to see this frame of mind from Kickstarter supporters.
  • 60
    Jay Ricciardi 12 months ago
    Staff Editor
    Yeah, the "Level Up" Kickstarter was awesome! Teng did 21 updates in the 21 days the Kickstarter was live, which is nuts!
    Last edited 12 months ago

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