Survey Says… KS Usage

Energy Empire


Kickstarter has made several great improvements to their systems over the last year. From being able to ask for a shipping amount to a specific country, to providing more useful survey options, to a new post-campaign landing page, to being able to refund backers from within Kickstarter. There has also been a massive growth in 3rd party service sites popping up attempting to milk what they can from wishful thinking project creators (most of which are just scams). Some of the more useful 3rd party services are pre-launch services and more campaign managers.

My company (Minion Games) will be running several more campaigns this year, so we wanted to know if any of these new features or services change the way we should approach our campaigns. Are the best practices from last year still the best this year? How do the backers feel about these things and which would they prefer you use? So we decided to ask 703 backers and below are the results of that survey.



Kickstarter started allowing campaigns to charge a different shipping amount based on the country the backer is from. As such, it shifted the question of shipping from the reward levels listed on the campaign to the actual payment page. This is fine as long as the project creator is up front about the amount of shipping BEFORE they get hit with extra payment. It is important though, that your shipping cost isn’t more than 50% of the cost of your reward or it will be a huge turn off to the backers and many will give up at the payment page.

So, I wanted to gauge the manner in which to best handle shipping on a campaign these days. I asked 3 questions about listing the shipping on the main reward or allowing it to be collected after the reward was selected. Here are the responses we got:KS_shipping


As you can see above, most people still prefer to see the shipping included in the reward level. In fact a very large amount prefer that for cheap games, while with more expensive games they don’t mind so much if the shipping is separated out.  For small projects it appears people are more interested in a quick checkout with an up front shipping cost bundled in. This feeds the impulse buy mentality and thus a good idea. While expensive and large/heavy products (like a box game with minis) it appears that people are more willing to see a true cost for the game listed separately from their overall cost. This may be due to people telling themselves (rationalizing) they are spending less on a very expensive game than they might otherwise feel if it was all bundled in the reward amount.



There are now services that allow you to set up your campaign ahead of time on their site and claim to help promote your project.  We’ve seen an increase in pre-marketing and email acquisition and that’s a great thing, people are starting to understand you need to bring your own backers to the party. One such site, Prefundia, has gotten a good amount of attention and some blog writers have stated it worked great for them. I was uncertain if I could believe that as I think the publisher’s own pre-marketing was the main reason for the pull through of that site. So, we asked this in the survey:KS_mailing

This is more or less what I would have expected though the number of people wanting to only use the remind me button on the preview page was higher than I expected. I’ve been telling people not to funnel their potential backers to a 3rd party tool which the above results strongly support. It’s fine to use these tools to attempt to garner any backers organically from them, but you should not be marketing your page on their site – you should be pointing people to the preview page on Kickstarter or your own website for e-mail collection.  It is clear that people do not like leaving their info with 3rd parties as there is no trust there of privacy.



A campaign manager is a 3rd party tool/site that helps you manage your backers post campaign choices, but equally important, helps you sell additional products to them. I’ve listed a few of them in this blog post. They usually have a setup charge of $0-300 and take a percentage of each purchase (3-5%). But at the end of the day, they almost always pay for themselves if you have decent add-on items (or older games) to sell though them. Some people dislike handing over their personal data to a 3rd party service like this and we usually got a few people who refused to do so. So, has the tide changed over the last year?KS_manager

As shown above, campaign managers are pretty well accepted these days. What worries me is the large amount of people who said NOT to use them. I think that has gone up over the last year. I have not used a campaign manager in over a year because we have been opting for clear and easy reward levels and no add-ons with our campaigns. The data above would seem to support that as a good idea, until you look at this survey question:KS_purchase

Clearly people want to give us more money for products we offer. While I still believe it’s important not to spam the add-on menu with everything including the kitchen sink, a well thought out menu can have a big impact on your bottom line. Stick with complementary products like metal coin upgrades, linen bags, or similar games from your portfolio. It seems we’ve been leaving money on the table for our last couple campaigns. I’m alright with that, as we are a more mature company and our goal was to streamline the shipping process (since we do it in-house). However if you are a small company with only a couple products, you should seriously think about what add-on items you can put on your campaign to help your bottom line. Note that these items don’t have to be part of your original campaign – in fact too many add-ons there make you look like a used car salesman. So add a few to the main campaign and more in the menu on the campaign manager where people can add more money to support you.



For a few years, Kickstarter creators have used Early Bird reward levels, which has created quite a bit of discussion and is generally recommended against by experienced creators. These, in my wise opinion, are not good for your campaign. They are especially toxic to the campaign if you offer more than a small $5 discount. The people who come to your campaign the first day or two are already sold on backing you – so why give them an extra discount? People who come late to your campaign are turned off by the fact that they missed something (anything). Jamey Stegmaier covers EB well in some blog posts on his site and I also cover them in my DMTNT blog.

During a discussion on the topic in our Facebook forum, someone mentioned that companies like Reaper are using early shipping as a sort of Early Bird reward. I thought this was a great solution. You’re not providing any significant physical or economic reason for a late backer to get upset about missing. Best of both worlds, right? So what do the backers think?KS_marketing

This one surprised me… While I thought it was a great idea, apparently it’s still a turn off for many backers. So even with something so mild and intangible as this, it would push backers away. Just think how much damage you’re doing to your campaign by offering EB rewards that give large discounts! Don’t do Early Birds!

My last question on the survey was just a way to gauge the current environment for marketing purposes. No big surprises here and Kickstarter browsing is still a very strong method for people finding campaigns. While you can’t just post your campaign and expect it to fund, it is fair to give KS credit for it’s significant help in organically funding your project. This is why it’s not a good idea to use any competitor of KS as they will not have the same “shopping mall” effect on your campaign.KS_discover


UPDATE: June 12 2017: BGG Front Page Takeover feedback…

Currently, on BoardGameGeek you are “sharing” that front page space with 1 other publisher so it’s not you exclusive – but pretty much should hit most everyone. You pay $250 for the front page. We did this for Sunday (which wasn’t ideal but the only day they had open). Usually, this is run in concert with some banners, we spent $500 on banners for the last 3 days, so $166 was also spent on banners Sunday. So total ad spend for Sunday was $416.

Well, we earned about $830 (probably a bit more given errors in tracking and could have been more on a Monday) from the front page ads and banners on BGG for Sunday. Got about 550 visitors from it. Goggle Analytics show 13 backers and KS dashboard says 11 (most appear to have backed from the USA as the average spend was $63). Given each game will cost us about $15 landed cost and about $15 in shipping, that’s a hard cost to us of about $390. So total Sunday spend is actually $806.

Total revenue generated was $829 so one might say that we roughly broke even. Which seems to be the typical state of things with BGG ads the last year or two of my using them. The upside though is that I was able to pay this bill with promo cards which actually cost me much less (like 10 cents on the dollar) – thus, in the end, the marketing was a very good deal. If you had to pay cash though, it’s a harder choice.

UPDATE: March 2018;  More and more BGG ads are just a break-even proposition if you are looking to earn your money back. There is value in branding especially if you’re newer to the industry. Typically we see about a 2-3% increase in funding if we spend money on ads at BoardGameGeek (using data from my last 7 campaigns). So roughly unless I have a campaign I’m sure will do more than $50,000 I usually don’t spend money on BGG ads since they have like a $1000 min buy (which still only gets you low amounts of exposure).

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Written by: James Mathe
The Manhattan Project



  1. Thanks James. Really interesting.

    Confirmed my suspicions about bundled ‘free shipping’ being the preference for impulse price point game so that’s what I’ll offer globally. Thank you!

    Like you Im surprised by the early bird shipping stats. Still not as concerned as you are by these stats showing 18% of people would probably be turned off by ‘early bird shipping’ (not early bird pricing). I think the stats for those people hating early bird pricing were more like 50% so its significantly less heat for a higher bump. And its still 31% of people who now have a reason to back in the first 2 days to get you that all so critical great start. That snowball effect might well outweigh the loss of whatever portion of the 18% are actually dissuaded by being fulfilled a few days later… So I’m still looking at doing a fixed number of first wave early bird shipments. 500 or 750 maybe. Or maybe first 3 days is better than 2 as it appears more inclusive?

  2. Glad to see you used a large sample size! I’m surprised how many people discover new projects just by browsing Kickstarter (and how few find new projects from review videos).

  3. This is highly valuable information, James. Thanks for putting in the brain power and time to find this out! I’m convinced my next game will have included shipping worldwide.

    • Keep in mind that the survey does not state they want 1 reward and 1 price for world wide. They are saying they want shipping bundled into the reward price up front with no surprises. So you’ll still need to create a USA reward level, an EU reward level, and a Worldwide reward level.

  4. Thanks for running the survey and posting the results.

    I found the Early Bird shipping results most interesting. For our last project we decided to have expedited/ tracked shipping as a post-campaign add-on (shipping was otherwise included in the pledge level). Though we didn’t get very many takers (it was on the page but may have been lost amongst the other info, but we did offer it via the survey too) I feel it is a good thing to offer for those backers who just can’t wait to get their stuff. So while it isn’t an early bird as it costs the backer more it is a service provided by the project creator.

    As a backer I consider it important for a project to make it clear in the pledge level itself how much shipoing will be. I don’t like having to click through to find out.

    Very useful data overall. Cheers.

  5. Wow, great data, thanks again!

    Since these are actual backers, I bet the numbers would look a little different for ‘potential’ backers and I suspect that you’d have an even stronger negative opinion of early bird rewards and an aversion to having shipping bundled in. Still, people may say that they want shipping bundled, but I wonder if you’d actually get more backers with a lower price up front.

    I think the most interesting part for me is that people are not as opposed to the campaign managers and bundles/add-ons as I thought. I’ll have to give one a try in a future campaign.


  6. I appreciate you taking the time to do this, James. I definitely want to be ready for my first Kickstarter launch a couple of months!

  7. Worst abuse of Early Bird I’ve ever seen – I discovered a product several months prior to them launching their KS, signed up for their notification mailing list, was very excited about the product. They launched a KS with EB pricing of 50% off or so, but didn’t notify their notification mailing list. A week later, they notified the notification list, and of course all of the EB slots were long gone.

    I went from excited about the product to angry at the company very quickly, and not only didn’t back, I will never patronize the company in the future (non-boardgame KS)

  8. Hi James,

    Thanks for sharing this super helpful data. Like all your other posts, it really helps other game designers, especially first-timers like me, gain insight how to publish their own games.

    I’m really impressed at the number of your respondents who find new board games through BGG banner ads given the proliferation of ad-blockers and BGG’s own (paid) ad-blocking feature. Have you seen any change in this over the last year?

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

    • There are a number of people who leave the banners on and turn off blockers at BGG (even me) cause we like to see new info about games coming out. They are just as useful as they used to be I think. Though a lot of KS noise is mixed in.

  9. Thanks a lot for survey James, it provided many useful data for every ks planner.
    We wishfully want to know more about EB backlashes, to not make a bad mistake in our first campaign.

    • This is debated back and forth probably monthly in our Tabletop Kickstarter facebook group. You can search there for more info.

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