The Early Bird Gets The Worm

With the large number of new projects each week on Kickstarter it is easy to get lost in the mix quickly. That is why it is important to hit the ground running. In fact there is 18 projects in the games category which end today on Kickstarter, 9 of these are already funded. Every single one of these nine projects were funded in the first 48 hours. It’s not just in board games either, in all of Kickstarter only 7 of 40 projects that will be funded today didn’t reach their goal in the first 2 days. While it is not impossible to have a successful campaign if you don’t fund early it’s definitely important to hit the ground running. An increasingly common way to encourage early backers are to offer Early Bird pledge levels.

Early Bird pledge levels in general offer a discounted price to any backers who pledge within a limited time frame. The discount is meant to entice backers into pledging straight away instead of waiting until the last few days. However there are a few issues I have with this approach. As a consumer if I am on the fence about a project a small discount isn’t really going to push me over the edge and if it does I am more likely to cancel my pledge at a later date. On the opposite side of that, if I am really excited about a project to back it day one I will back it no matter the cost meaning as a creator you are losing out on some extra funding. Getting a discounted price also doesn’t really make backers connect emotionally with the project very much either.

Another example of common Early Bird incentives is to offer exclusive content to the early backers. Even if it is just some exclusive upgraded components, this does help with making the backers connect with the project more than a discount. The early backers are getting some cool extra content. However, for those who aren’t the early backer it can actually be off putting. When they come to the project a few days late and see they missed out on the extra content they might now no longer want to back the project because they can’t get everything that is available. It can also be confusing as campaigns sometimes remove any reference to the early bird content on the project page but people are still talking about it in the comments and late backers have no clue what it is or how they can get it. You could get around this by offering the exclusive content as an add-on for the late backers but personally that makes me even more unlikely to back then if I missed out on a nominal discount. In a survey from 2017 about 1 in 5 backers are actually less likely to back in these cases too as other backers don’t get the same opportunities.

A large part of a Kickstarter project is creating a community atmosphere and people feeling like they got in on the ground floor. However, I feel the current state of Early Bird rewards are counter to this. Sure the people who got in on day 1 or 2 have this sense of community but what about if you arrived on day 3? You’re paying extra than someone for the same game or sometimes a lesser game. The goal of Early Birds is to encourage people to pledge in the first 48 hours, since we saw how important it is to fund in that time period. While they do work in that sense I think they can be done better. Turf War by Gadabout Games launched last week and offered a 72 hour stretch goal. If the project was funded in the first 72 hours they would add 10 new cards to the game for everyone who backs the game. They were funded in 32 hours and now anyone who was maybe on the fence on day 1 that comes back to an improved game then they first saw and might be convinced more to back than they would have by getting a discount. The early backers can feel that sense of community around reaching early funding goal. The creators get their project backed. Everyone wins in this situation and importantly every backer gets the same opportunities.

What kind of incentive would make you most likely to back a project now rather than later?

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