In The Face of Reality

Dead Men Tell No Tales


There comes a time when you realize your Kickstarter campaign isn’t going to make it… realizing that point and dealing with it is what this article is about. I have studied and talk to many campaigns that had failure in their first campaign but successes their second time at bat.

You may be able to save your current campaign, but honestly, it is usually just best to cancel, regroup, and try again. Luckly, Kickstarter has no penalties for canceling and launching again in the future.



A mid-campaign slump is normal. We all have it. It’s no reason to panic… Slow and steady is fine. But if you didn’t get the initial traction you needed you may be in trouble. There are two different scenarios:

1) You hit a slump but you are still tracking to be successful. The last few days you can gain 10-25% of your goal.

2) Your hit the slump and you’re not tracking to be successful. Being at less then 10% after a week is a failure.

If you have a look at your campaign at you can get a general feel for your progress after the first week. By day 7 or 10 you should be able to gauge your future and attempt to change it as will have pretty accurate estimates at that point. By half way through your campaign you still are not tracking to success you should definitely considering canceling the campaign. Obviously you want to do what you can to fight the slump. It’s hard to admit defeat and I see many people dragging this on way to long.

The first part of dealing with a slump is determining if you’re in one or if your campaign just missed the mark some how. If you haven’t had any traction in the first few days (at most a week) then you’re not in a slump, your in a failure. Let me state it a bit more succinctly: if you’re a week into your campaign and still have not hit at least 10% of your funding, cancel now. Regroup, redesign, reanalyze, and restart your campaign a month or more later. Don’t kid yourself, you will not succeed if you don’t have at least a basic momentum to your campaign. Go figure out where you went wrong and try again. There is no shame in that, I’ve done it too!

Even I (having run many success campaigns and having a large fan base and good reputation) am susceptible to this mid-campaign slump. Recently I ran a campaign and had to deal with the post launch slump that threatened the campaign as a whole. I tried many things and some worked a little and most worked not at all.

Problem is many people have made up their mind about your campaign in the first few days. So even if you make changes to sweeten your deals, many never learn of it. The first few days and the momentum you generate during that time cannot be understated. This is why in most cases to “Fix” a campaign it’s going to require a cancel and reboot (see below).

One of the most important things to do though, is listen to your backers. They want to help you. They may be telling you things you don’t want to hear – but listen and react. If they are saying your art is off, then get it fixed. If they have problems with your prices, try to adjust or find another solution to make it happen.

day1-badgeSome hard data from 522 game campaigns tracked by

    • 94% of successful projects reached 10% by day 3
    • 99.5% of successful projects reached 10% by day 7
    • 75% of successful projects made more than 25% of their goal by day 3
    • 91% of successful projects made more than 25% of their goal by day 7
    • Average 3-day percentage for successful projects is 45% of goal earned
    • Average 7-day percentage for successful projects is 67% of goal earned
    • 59% of all game projects in the last year and a half have failed.
    • 87.5% of failed projects do not reach 10% by day 3
    • 81% of failed projects do not reach 10% by day 7
    • 98.7% of failed projects made less than 25% of their goal by day 3
    • 93% of failed projects made less than 25% of their goal by day 7
  • 50% of all projects make at least 10% by day 7


My tips to help you recover from a slump:

  • BGG ads fail me again, post to the BGG forums all your updates.
  • Reviews are one of the best ways to get people back to your campaign.
  • Keep on tweeting / FB, daily if you can.
  • Get podcasts to mention you and try to arrange for an interview
  • Get more reviews posted on BGG
  • Make a couple Reddit post. Arrange an AMA (ask me anything) on redit with the designer.
  • Reach outside the hobby games sphere for support. What does your game relate to? Find sites about that. See if you can get news posts on their sites.
  • Find ways to get current backers to talk about you. Give them an avatar. Add a contest/stretch goal for getting LIKES to the actual KS page.
  • Reach out and collaborate with other campaigns. Mention each other in an update. Offer some cross promotion.


Alyssa Faden from the Torn Armor campaign had one of the most successful slump come-backs that I’ve seen. It was all hard fought gains through day after day of hard work. I reached out to Alyssa to ask what she did and here are some tips from her:

  • Reach outside board game blog-sphere for support. What does your game relate to? Find sites about that.
  • Very important this one. Know your market/audience. Find out where they post/share news/commentary (i.e. forum
    s). Get a list of 12-30 of the top forums. Post in them daily – share news, updates, progress, stretch goals.
  • Adding to this though, a lot of forums do not like project creators sharing ‘news’ or will relegate you to a ‘news’ forum which gets no traffic, so run competitions through your Kickstarter (make an update for the contest) to get your backers to get out there and spread the word for you.
  • I (Alyssa) ran twice a week contests that often were themed around “share this Kickstarter on your favorite blog or forum, post here when you have done it! Person who shares the most wins X”
  • I (Alyssa) also ran a Kickstarter-long competition that had the backers chasing a special unlock. Every week they had to perform a task that would get them closer to the goal. It encouraged community, but it developed a grassroots spreading of the word.
  • Get a list of podcasts together and get interviewed. Don’t stop being interviewed. I (Alyssa) had perhaps a dozen interviews out there and several were big traffic generators
  • BGG failed me too I suspect. Cost to revenue didn’t seem to play out. It’s hard to tell, but it seemed low results (beyond organic traffic)
  • Get a big voice to get behind you. Think in terms of ‘marketing collaboration.’ I gave away a Reaper mini. It cost me a few thousand to get the number together, BUT Reaper then promoted me through their social channels and it became a huge buzz: “Torn Armor are giving away a reaper dragon!” It was easily the greatest traffic driver for us
  • Get backers, not $ – i.e. run daily tweet/FB/G+ games to get backers and don’t ask for $. “If we can get to 110 backers today, we’ll show new artwork! Pledge anything, even a buck!” Make the goal achievable (+9 backers), the reward should always be ‘free’ or cost nothing. The point is each $1 backer just signed up for your updates and can be up-sold, each $1 backer then has the fact that he/she backed your project get sent out to their network on Kickstarter. It doesn’t share how much they backed at, just that they backed it, which gets the word out.
  • Ultimately all of this comes down to social outreach – through your channels or someone else’s. So one of the biggest things for me was getting all of the backers to talk about the project (that’s 300-500 voices right there, each with their social channels) and to get them to do it REGULARLY. Daily is too much, but every other day give them a reason to talk (positively and in an excited manner) about the project.


If all else fails, cancel in the last half of the campaign. Give it a few weeks or a month and relaunch. But don’t relaunch the same exact campaign – the point that has been clearly made by the public is that your campaign is missing something. That might be the price is too high. That might be you didn’t instill confidence. That might be your lack of early reviews. That might be a hundred reasons. Figure out 2 or 3 of the major ones and DO something about them BEFORE your relaunch.


I feel it’s best to cancel your campaign instead of letting it fail, cause it will appear to be more like a managed exit to regroup and come back stronger. Not having a failed campaign in your history or on searching is a bonus. The only real question is when to actually cancel. If you do it last minute it’s a bit odd. If you do it the last day, that’s ok I guess. If you do it when you know you’re not going to make the funding a week or two out, then maybe that misses you out of a few backers that could have wondered in and gotten onto your mailing list.

So in general it’s good to cancel after seeing the 48hour notice’s effect but don’t wait until the last few hours. Restarting the campaign only a month later – that’s a bit of a push. If you’re failing then you should regroup, restart your outreach, requote for a smaller funding goal, rethink a lot of things. Is relaunching only 1 or 2 months later really going to 1) allow you to do that, or 2) give the impression that you did that?


11954452561216891203jean_victor_balin_reset.svg.medIn the dozen or so campaigns I’ve studied and reach out to, I have found some common threads that lead to success. These all boil down to:

  1. Be Ready: Videos made. Reviews posted, Blogs contacted, Interviews scheduled, Final Art examples, Rules readable online, Contests lined up, Exclusive content
  2. Be Affordable: Total goal realistic, per unit price reasonable (or below MSRP), shipping solutions worked out. Stretch goals to add value. Add-ons to increase pledges.
  3. Be Seen: Exposure and social networking, being active on BGG before launch, interviews and reviews, pre-launch networking. You want people talking about your project BEFORE you launch. Launch party. Contests. Marketing partners.
  4. Be Confident: Do whatever you can to instill confidence in your company, project, and eventual delivery date. Write an honest Risk & Rewards section. Share some actual production numbers.


  • Reach out to reviewers weeks before your re-launch (eg NOW)
  • Make sure you have some final artwork and final card layout ready to show off on the page.
  • Make sure you have a nearly complete rules manual for download right from the page
  • Get a play through video made, even if it’s just you explaining it all. This video helps people understand the game flow and what to expect.
  • Do not relaunch with the same mistakes. If your backers were complaining about something in your first campaign, fix it!
  • Do not launch with elements that are “Coming Soon” on your page. People may never return after their first visit. Have the game play video and at least one review on the main page from the start.
  • Have podcasts & interviews scheduled during the duration of your campaign. Closer to the start the better.


  • Consider launching a smaller first project and coming back to your main project. This will build an existing customer base and confidence in your ability to do something at a much larger scale.
  • Get the initial goal as low as possible. People like backing a campaign that looks to be a success.
  • Make sure your funding goal is reachable by 500 backers. A $20,000 goal for a $20 game is too high! Chances are you will not break that number unless you’ve got a name already in the industry. There are many printers out there, get quotes from more of them. Use stretch goals to add more or upgrade bits, but start with your goal being the bear minimum. See my blog post about cutting costs of production: Board Game Diet
  • Make sure your base price for your game meets industry expected norms: $10-15 for a card game, $20-30 for a family game, $40-55 for a medium heavy game, $60-95 for a game with miniatures. People will not back your $50 card game. They will not back your $75+ euro game without minis.
  • Don’t leave gaps in your reward levels, let everyone pledge at levels that work for their budget.
  • Don’t launch or end during events like conventions. People are not home on the computer and at the show they want something physical, not a promise of a future game. Plus money runs dry with so much else pulling at the purse strings.
  • Don’t launch the week when a big name similar campaign is already drawing your backers away
  • Have lots of over-funding goals close together to give momentum to the campaign.
  • Exclusive, non-game changing, content has become a must for all campaigns and should be included in the base game or a very early stretch goal.
  • Early Bird discounts can help drive momentum but be careful as most all of your early birds for the relaunch will be from your previous campaign. So maybe offer them a very small discount (under $5) or some special little trinket.


  • Build the hype BEFORE you relaunch. Give yourself a week to two to chat it up.
  • Do interviews and get reviews! Make prototypes and send them out.
  • Keep the clutter down and put most popular add-ons right in as a pledge goal. Not everyone understands over-pledging and add-ons can be confusing.
  • Don’t launch during a convention or on a Friday or Saturday. People need to be at their computers to back you!
  • Consider some paid ads in newsletters and blog sites or even
  • A quality video and great start can get you chosen by Kickstarter as a featured campaign
  • Setup a preview page on Facebook under your company or on it’s own. Use it as a staging area for the relaunch and contests and post something daily that might get people to talk. Ask them questions on how to do things better.
  • Run contests outside of Kickstater (as they are not allowed on your page). Try to have ones that require people to leave comments and interact.
  • Team up with other campaigns or accessory companies to help spread the word of your campaign.


  • Don’t rush into it (well that might have been your first mistake last time, so don’t do it again)
  • Garbage in garbage out. Make sure you presentation is professional and explains the game you wish to sell, not your life dream or your future plans for world domination. Make it about the game and get the game idea across as fast and succinct as possible.
  • Try to be transparent about cost as this shows you know what you’re talking about and have realistic goals.



More reading:

Kickstarter Lesson #49: To Cancel or to Finish

7 Methods to Get Over the Kickstarter Slump

Advertising tips

Tabletop Game Kickstarter Workshop:

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

Foam Dice


  1. I just wanted to echo that throwing advertising at a struggling project likely is going to do no good, whether on BGG or any where. If a project is failing to convert on traffic, throwing more traffic at it is likely going to produce little to no result, as that’s really all that ads can do.

    Advertising is best used to supplement a project that is already seeing a measure of success. In this case, you know the game is being well-received, so you know that pumping more traffic at it will result in more conversions on that increased traffic.

    Essentially, the only thing ads can do is pump traffic. If the project is weak, it’s not going to sell the game to any of that traffic. If the project is strong, that traffic will convert into sales.

  2. “If you have a look at your campaign at you can get a general feel for your progress after the first week. By day 7 or 10 you should be able to gauge your future and attempt to change it as will have pretty accurate estimates at that point.”

    KickTraq has horrendous projections. It’s all just a linear continuation of the previous day. No intelligence built into it at all. It’s useless, and, frankly, KickTraq is an overhyped scam.

    We exceeded our goal by 22%, we followed a very typical curve, and yet KickTraq didn’t catch up to reality until the last day.

    They basically admit this when they describe the “fun” of seeing their projection “approach” the actual results curve as the project approaches its end.

    They also only update their data a few times a day, & flip over the date at some time zone that has no relationship to Kickstarter’s clock, let alone the creator’s. It’s useless

    People touting it have a vested interest in doing so, or they just follow like sheep praising the latest trend. The emperor has no clothes.

    I’d like to see you provide some actual data showing how KickTraq predicts anything better than anyone can do on their own.

    • You seem upset, and it’s unfortunate it seems we’ve had a hand in you feeling this way. However some of the things you are stating as fact are just patently not true.

      >> “KickTraq has horrendous projections. It’s all just a linear continuation of the previous day. No intelligence built into it at all”


      There are a lot of factors that go into the projection model we use, least of which is a linear continuation of the previous day. Visually it may appear as a linear range (e.g. the cone) but the cone is only for visual reference for projecting out from the current daily point where the model estimates the project will fall, applies a range of accuracy and the flexible daily weighting model based on the realm that the project is contained within.

      A linear continuation it is not.

      >> “It’s useless, and, frankly, KickTraq is an overhyped scam.”

      That’s a rather strong statement and flagrantly insulting.

      A scam? Who are we defrauding and swindling with our completely free service. Who are we cheating? If it was truly useless, the only people we are cheating is ourselves and the countless hours we put in each day hopefully helping people with and through the tool.

      I’d be the worst scam artist on the planet if the only person I am scamming is myself out of the 2 years of work I’ve put into helping people both directly and indirectly and never charging a cent for the effort.

      Also, participation is completely optional. If you truly feel this way, please reach out to us so we can remove your past and future projects from the site. Even though the data is completely fair use, we still provide an easy method to request this removal at any time through our contact form.

      >> “We exceeded our goal by 22%, we followed a very typical curve, and yet KickTraq didn’t catch up to reality until the last day.”

      (assuming your project is “Antimatter Matters”)

      On the contrary, your project had a very atypical curve due to your last 7/8 days. Most projects don’t have a jump from an average of ~11 backers a day to +200% average increase on days -7 and -6, and +500% average increase again on days -4 and -3. That behavior normally doesn’t occur until day -2 once your 48hr notification goes out.

      See for yourself:

      After your stall on day 7, if you would have maintained the average throughout the middle of your campaign until the last 48hrs, even with a 400~800% bump on day -2, you would have still failed based on the average model of your category. That’s what the numbers say *on average*, and that’s why it took the projection a couple days to adjust to your rapid increase in backers and funding on day -6.


      It is virtually impossible for a tool to forecast things like mentions in large-scale publications or appearing on the evening news, for good or bad. Our only point of reference is your day to day momentum – hence why things like the aforementioned throw off the projection the day after it happens. While we have buffered weighting that tries to soften these jumps until they are consistent, it’s not going to show much difference until it’s sustained over a period of time and we talk about that in detail in the article linked above.

      >> “They basically admit this when they describe the “fun” of seeing their projection “approach” the actual results curve as the project approaches its end.”

      Where do we “basically admit this”?

      >> “They also only update their data a few times a day, & flip over the date at some time zone that has no relationship to Kickstarter’s clock, let alone the creator’s.”

      Also false: We update hourly as close to the hour as we can to be as accurate as we can, unless you are in the last 2 days of your project then we update every 15 minutes for the benefit of your backers. 24 times a day and 96 times a day respectively isn’t a few times a day.

      All projects, by default, are displayed in EDT on Kickstarter — even European ones. Unless you change the timezone inside your settings, it will always be displayed in EDT. However, this doesn’t impact the time remaining, it’s a constant regardless. As we started when there weren’t anything but US projects, for display purposes we time-shifted everything to CDT to pick a middle-timezone that would be somewhat equal between both coasts. This only changes how the daily summaries are displayed compared to Kickstarter’s default of EDT and given the shift happens during one of the most inactive periods of the day, it doesn’t really change that much.

      Again we have no idea what timezone the creator uses as it’s not exposed publicly. If we did, I would adjust the charts accordingly. We capture hourly so in the future you will be able to generate your own time-shifted reports based on hourly captures vs daily, but as of yet that’s not a feature we expose.

      >> “It’s useless. People touting it have a vested interest in doing so, or they just follow like sheep praising the latest trend. The emperor has no clothes.”

      Who? Who has a vested interest? The service is entirely free. We don’t charge for sharing the data, we don’t charge to post and share news (which takes countless hours a day to answer emails and post these for projects), we don’t charge for posting the widgets on external sites, we don’t charge for people to use the RSS feeds, we don’t restrict people using those feeds to their own services, nothing. Yet I’m still plugging away each day helping small and large project alike.

      The only reason they’d have a vested interest was if it wasn’t useless, which is counter to your whole argument. We don’t pay anyone, nobody pays us for using the site. What other reason would they have to support us other than their own benefit and success?

      Ask the Pebble folks how much vested interest they had in us sharing their project data, yet they used our data to share with backers to help them estimate when their products should be manufactured and delivered. Zero relation to the latest trend of their project.

      Ask James and others like him, who has been provided data like that seen above completely free of charge, and all the backers and project owners who read articles sourced from such data how useful the information is to them. We provide data to countless writers, students, and universities free of charge. This isn’t data that is obtained by just clicking a few buttons, it takes time to generate and refine the specific data-sets they request. All my time, all done for free, all for the hope that it helps people and projects succeed.

      >> “I’d like to see you provide some actual data showing how KickTraq predicts anything better than anyone can do on their own.”

      I happily and publicly challenge you. If it’s easier for people to do it on their own — feel free to use the daily data from any projects you wish and show me your predictive model that accurately predicts Kickstarter projects with even an 90% accuracy after day5. We can run it against a random sampling of projects and see how it stands up within that range of accuracy.

      Do that and I’ll gladly eat my Kicktraq hat with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Seriously.

      With it’s stated ease, I’ll happily give you 2 weeks to ponder and refine, after which if you find this more challenging than expected, I promise I won’t make you eat your hat — but I’ll look forward to a gracious apology for your egregious and patently false statements.

      We totally understand the service we provide isn’t for everyone — and that’s fine. Our intended goal isn’t to be the perfect tool for every person. This is why we are backer driven and we don’t add projects to our own site, backers and project owners do. So please, happily share your opinions on the service we provide or how we provided no use for your campaign, but at least do us the courtesy of expressing them as opinions and not complete conjecture stated as fact.

      • Thanks Adam for the awesome reply. I’m a project creator, I used kicktraq and I’m extremely thankful it was there. I saw how my project was looking – tracking to fund – but I wasn’t happy with the pace or the bottom of the cone, so I doubled my efforts to make sure I hit as high as I needed to. It was a fantastic chart not only for the help it offers in projections but also for morale. Even basic functions like comments tracking helped me see when I needed to drive the audience to more chat. David, If you look at Tasty Minstrel Games, Michael Mindes has mastered studying these charts and used them to make successful campaigns, (and I’m sure James has as well – hence this informative article on the numbers) and it’s one more useful tool you have when rolling the dice out there on your KS project. KS projects in general can be crap shoots, with the whim of audiences being a very hard stat to predict. I can understand someone not getting as much out of kicktraq as others, but I think calling a free, optional service a scam is misplaced here. Kicktraq ads btw – now there’s a way to change your projection! 🙂

      • I just wanted to post that I respect the awesome service that kicktraq offers (for free no less!)
        Don’t let the folks who don’t appriciate it get you down, you’re doing a lot of people a lot of good 🙂

    • I see this is an old comment, but it really bothers me when people throw around harsh words like “scam” – in the US you’re innocent until proven guilty, and I see nothing suggesting that they’re trying to swindle anyone out of anything. Yes it’s true that the projections are off, but that doesn’t make the tool either useless or a scam by any stretch. There’s lots of valuable data in there, particularly the daily data tab as David mentioned below. I use it like I use many other similar tools for some of the marketing work I do – to see trends. For example, it’s a pretty common trend that most successful campaigns do very well at the very beginning and the very end of the period and have a slump in the middle. It also helps to measure correlations between engagement (e.g. number of comments per day) and funding (backers and dollars). With a live campaign, I like to check back with it frequently to see if I’m keeping a steady flow of backers or if I need to step it up. In terms of pre-launch research, it’s a great tool to see what successful projects are doing. For example, if you see a project that has a big spike in the middle of their campaign, then you can look to see if any articles or reviews came out around that time to reverse-engineer their strategies and use some of that knowledge to help your own campaign along. And best of all, unless you’re a paying advertiser, it’s free to use. I’ve paid for advertising on Kicktraq and the ROI for my projects has been about the same as BGG.

  3. This article is STELLAR. Bookmarked.

    Done some of the preliminary things.

    Once enough art is done I will do something I haven’t ever done yet: set up interviews and send my game for official previews by established people in the industry.

    I wonder if there is a list somewhere of the common places (blogs, youtube channels, podcasts) that give interviews.

    Same with previews.

  4. Dale Taylor on

    If I could make one suggestion to James Mathe, please change your blog settings to include the title of your post in your title tags. When you bookmark or share an article like this one, all you get is “Jame Mathe” with no other indication of what you’ve bookmarked. And for people like me bookmarking multiple pages, it just becomes a bunch of “Jame Mathe, Jame Mathe, Jame Mathe” links. I have no other suggestions, thank you.

  5. Great article. Regarding advertising, it’s really important to keep in mind that you need to plan at least some of it out before your campaign launches, and it’s not easy to know if your campaign has bugs before committing to it. For example, as the first several days of a campaign are the most critical in my opinion, we planned for a lot of advertising to begin on day 1 or 2 of our campaign. This was paid for in advance, and there was no way we could schedule advertising to start on those days without making plans far in advance. Even most of our mid-campaign ads were planned far in advance, with the goal of hopefully giving us a bump during the mid-campaign slump. For example, we asked some of our reviewers to release their videos during week 1, 2, 3 and 4 of our campaign, rather than all during the first week. Some followed the plan, a few released earlier or later than expected. With ads on sites like BGG & Kicktraq, I think it’s important to set your goals appropriately. We never expected to get a total return on investment on our ads. We raised maybe double what we spent on these sites, which is not break-even given our margins. However what we did gain were backers who didn’t know about our project previously, and some of these backers theoretically are now influencers who can help to promote the campaign to more people. This is the real value I see from those ads.

  6. James,

    I thought I was the only one enjoying the statistics of our industry. Great article! Thank you very much for so much wonderful content in one place.


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