Dev Diary – Gaming the Kickstarter Reward Tiers
Designing the reward tiers for our upcoming Kickstarter campaign has been a very interesting process. I didn't think it would be quick and easy by any means, but it turned out to be considerably more involved than I'd expected. The time and effort I've put in have still been worthwhile since they have given me a good learning experience even though I'm not sure my eyes will ever recover from all the recent spreadsheet work.
In this regard, the first thing I had to do was figure out what my core goals for our Kickstarter's reward structure would be, and then determine how best to implement them. This isn't a simple task for a variety of reasons, since the MMORPG player audience is both large and diverse, composed of different people with a wide range of preferred play styles, individual preferences and very distinct wants/needs.
One goal I settled on right away was that I wanted our tiers to be generous as a way of thanking our backers for making a collective $2M bet on our studio. As anyone who has played my games over the years can attest, I have never been interested in treating customers as just walking wallets or ATMs. From my first MUD (Aradath
) through to March On Oz™
, I have resisted the sirens' call of ham-handed monetization and/or of charging players for services that really should be included with the purchase of a game, let alone ones that should come standard with a subscription-based game.
In the case of CU
, I wanted to go even farther by having possibly the most generous program of any Kickstarter game. As part of my due diligence, I put spreadsheets together from the tiers of other projects and compared them to what I intended to offer to ensure that our pledge tiers should always be seen favorably. Now, I wasn't content to simply shave a few bucks off the pledges and just leave it at that. Instead, I decided to go to the next level by using a Founder's Points system that will let our backers flesh out the already-loaded tiers by choosing their personal favorites from a large selection of optional items that will only be available in our in-game store.
I also decided it was crucial to have some truly different pledge tiers with our Kickstarter, as well as certain tiers that meant something to me personally. Doing what everybody else is doing isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I wanted to differentiate us from some of the others as long as doing so would be a win-win situation for CSE and our backers. As part of my internal and external consultations and discussions, we have put some items into our tiers that are reasonably unusual, and even unique. For example, one of our packages comes with a miniature hand-painted by our team. Another tier allows the backer to do some voice-work for our game, and others come with a discount on subscription pricing. There are also many other interesting items; some of these came from suggestions from the community, others from my private discussions with people outside as well as from within our studio.
However, the physical goods tiers proved to be a bit more challenging than our digital ones simply because we'll need to have many of the items manufactured by other companies. Additionally, they have to be delivered to the players through either a third-party fulfillment house and/or the mail system. This means that instead of every $1 that is collected for a digital reward staying with the studio, a large percentage will leave.. Now, we can easily address the shipping cost, but unless we want to really have a high margin on the goods, if a large percentage of our backers choose our physical tiers instead of our digital ones, a much lower percentage of the total pledged would be available for the game's development. I am all for creating, collecting and selling swag but I would rather have more of the backers' money go into actual game development and not be spent on tee shirts, mouse pads, etc. While we do have some tiers with those items, they are all limited. However, our backers can expect that once the Kickstarter closes, we will then set up a way for them to buy such items if they wish and we will be happy to work with them on exactly which ones they want to see and allow them to be part of designing them.
This is, I expect, one of the reasons why most games are not focused on the physical goods tiers but rather the digital. However, as a long-time gamer who still remembers when I both hefted and shook game boxes to hear what was inside, I still wanted a limited number of pledge tiers that harkened back to those days. Plus, I'm also a fan of serious collector editions and not just higher priced boxes with a couple of supposedly "special" items, which brings me to my last point.
Feeling that these goals and a couple more had been addressed, I also wanted to create one more tier that was near and dear to my heart, that of a "bat-shit-crazy" collector's edition. Back in the Warhammer Online
days, I pitched the idea of an insane CE that we would create with the help of Games Workshop. It would be a truly limited edition and very expensive, but it would set the bar so high for CEs that it would be remembered forever in the annals of BSC ideas. Unfortunately, due to certain issues (including too many people thinking the idea was indeed BSC), it never got green-lit, but it 's a different day and a different studio... so, we are going to create a truly BSC CE. We may only sell a few of them, but it has been fun to think about how to fill up that box and we'll probably add more items to it as our Kickstarter progresses.
Something else that might seem BSC to some is my decision to put our tiers out there for feedback before we actually launch our Kickstarter. The idea behind this is simple. You know what you like and want better than I do, so here is your chance to tell us what you think. Without further navel-gazing, here is a look our current (subject to change prior to the launch of the Kickstarter) physical goods pledge tiers. One of them, $1,250, is quite limited, and we will not open up additional clones of it (even at a higher price), as with a few higher-priced tiers. I ask for your feedback and if your reactions tell us we need to make changes, it is still not too late.
Pledge Tier $120
– Comes with access to private forums, official "Thank You" email/letter, Silver forum badge, 30 FPs, 1 DVD copy of the game for PC, 1 month free subscription, digital manual, special in-game title, an additional 5 FPs if you bought March on Oz
, an additional 5 FPs if you are a subscriber to our newsletter, access to our Founder's Store, special founder's death marker, founder's app, ringtones and wallpapers, digital strategy guide, digital high resolution map, special thanks in the credits, founder's crafting icon, extra beta invites (# TBD), realm-locked founder's chat, cloth map, printed manual, and Beta 3 access.
Pledge Tier $250
– Comes with everything above plus special starter armor (cosmetic difference only), special starter weapon (cosmetic difference only), founder's wall plaque, unique trophies, unique dyes, digital copy of the art book, special in-game thanks, extra character slots (# TBD), discounted sub rate ($ TDB), Platinum forum badge, Beta 2 access, 40 total FPs, founder's statue for display outside of your house, a total of 6 months free subscription, CU mouse pad and printed art book.
Pledge Tier $450
– Comes with everything above plus a total of 50 FPs, an additional digital copy of the game (30 days subscription on the second copy), additional exclusive cosmetic housing items, 3D character model of your choice (1), CU poster signed by the development team, cloth map signed by Mark Jacobs, special backer credits, 12 month subscription and Beta 1 access.
Pledge Tier $750
– Comes with everything above plus 150 FPs, 18 month subscription for main account, two digital copies of the game with 3 months subscription each, Platinum forum badge, printed copy of our Rejected Art, 3D model from your favorite realm, statue in Founder's Row, one hand signed piece of concept art from the game and Alpha access.
Pledge Tier $1,250
- (BSC edition, non-repeatable) – Comes with everything above plus a total of 250 FPs, three-year subscription (renewable at $1 per year as per Kickstarter's ask when it comes to anytime "lifetime"), Mithril forum badge, one additional piece of unique hand- signed concept art (two total), and one hand-painted miniature from your favorite realm.
Besides all the goodies included in the physical tiers, here are some of the items that our backers will be able to spend their FPs on – reserving your character name, special proc, special founder only facial skins, armor and banner skins, unique guild widgets for your banner, and many more. Right now, we have about 40 items that will be available in the Founder's Store and I'm sure we'll add more over time with the help and support of our backers. When you combine all the physical rewards plus the high number of FPs that come with the physical pledge tiers, I think that I have demonstrated how much I want our backers who purchase them to be happy, just as gamers felt the same way many decades ago when the both the industry and I were young.
When reading this diary, please keep in mind that these tiers are not final. In some cases, I expect we'll add more things to them before launch as well as during the Kickstarter cycle. After all, we will have 30 more days to think of new and interesting stuff. won't we?
Lastly -- for now at least -- I want to thank everyone who has already participated in and who will now contribute to our collaborative reward-setting process. I believe this this is only one of the ways in which CSE and our community will work together to make CU
the game we all believe it can be.