How did we choose our Kickstarter reward tiers?

How are and were the tiers structured?

In the last marketing post, I used the phrase “openness is our currency”.  The gist of the phrase was that since we don’t have a huge number of credentials to offer or to inspire you to back our project with, we were focusing on honesty and large amounts of information to convince people that our game was good.

When we designed our tiers, I wanted to follow that same principle, so very early I decided to center our rewards around access to even more information about the project.  While you can look at the current tiers on the Kickstarter page, I thought it would be interesting to go over what the tiers used to be, and how they’ve evolved in that goal since then.

This could potentially be a longer post, and I will go more in-depth if anyone is curious, but for now I’m just going to give a quick overview.

Iteration 1 :

  • $1 – Name on our website
  • $5 – Name in the game
  • $10 – Limited – game
  • $15 – Unlimited – game
  • $20 – Concept art PDF
  • $30 – Expanded Art Commentary
  • $30 – Backer Blog Access
  • $40 – Both $30 tiers
  • $50 – Livestream Access
  • $95 – Physical concept art

Our first set of tiers was designed just by me – I looked at some other projects, but mostly I just wrote down what I thought was valuable and priced it accordingly.  You can see the bias : I’m a game developer and designer, so my priorities ended up centering around the livestreams.  It would be really interesting to me to have the opportunity to just pop in and see what someone was doing right now with a game I had backed; and that’s something I would be willing to pay a premium for.

The mistake with this tier is assuming that everyone else had the same system of value; a mistake that was immediately rectified as soon as I showed the tiers to another person and got the response, “$50 for a livestream?  Wouldn’t that be free?”

Iteration 2 :

  • $1 – Thanks
  • $5 – Name on the site
  • $10 – Limited – game
  • $15 – Unlimited – game
  • $25 – Livestream access
  • $35 – Concept art PDF
  • $45 – Backer Blog access
  • $45 – Expanded art commentary
  • $55 – Both $45 tiers
  • $75 – Poster
  • $100 – Signed Poster
  • $150 – Physical concept art

There were a number of problems with this setup, but it demonstrates how diverse different views of value can become once you pull two or three people into a discussion together.  Our tiers essentially flip from being centered around development to being centered around art and collectables.  Everything started costing a lot more as well, which I was eventually not willing to get behind.  The tiers look more reasonable, but there’s a lot less value and a lot more of locking you into unnecessary rewards that you might not want.

This is where I finally ventured into the area of actual printed physical rewards as well, beyond just concept art.  The posters are still something that we’re working out the details on, but we calculated shipping and average costs, and it seems like we’ll have some flexibility to offer some pretty cool designs.  We have a minimum amount of quality that we won’t go under, no matter what, but we also have a secondary amount of money we’re willing to spend on each pledge, so if we’re able to offer more at that tier, we will.  Physical rewards are dangerous, but people like them, for good reason.  It’s a risk we decided we’re willing to take, and even if it works out to be costlier than we initially thought it would be we’ve budgeted conservatively to account for that.

We stuck with the increased price for concept art, but the distinction between the $75 and $100 tiers ultimately just seemed pretentious.  It’s not a significant amount of extra work for us to sign something before sending it out, and, again, we’re just college kids.  We really don’t have a significant basis to be valuing our signatures at $25.

Original design notes that are exclusive to you… that’s one thing.  Posters are another.

Iteration 3 :

  • $1 – Thanks
  • $5 – Name on the site
  • $10 – Limited – game
  • $15 – Unlimited – game
  • $25 – Concept art PDF
  • $35 – Expanded art commentary
  • $35 – Backer Blog access
  • $35 – Livestream access
  • $45 – Any two $35 tiers
  • $50 – All three $35 tiers
  • $75 – Signed Poster
  • $150 – Physical concept art

Our final reward tiers.  Sean gets complete credit for seeing the obvious solution I was blind to.  Increase the amount of choice, and get rid of the weird and slightly confusing tiered structure for the middle three rewards.

Kickstarter’s system of value is, to put it bluntly, inconsistent and seemingly kind of arbitrary.  We researched a lot of products, and most of them had at least one pricing tier that we were surprised by: everything from starting with physical rewards at the base level to charging backers for wallpapers.  If there’s a pattern, we don’t know it.

The system we’re using is designed to circumvent a lot of that by offering direct choice as to which reward you choose.  Centering our rewards around development access is not unprecedented, but we’ve taken it a lot farther than most other indie studios do.  I’ll be honest, we don’t know how well that’s going to turn out, but the last thing we want to do is mess up the pricing model to what could possibly end up being a successful and somewhat innovative set of rewards.

How are the tiers formatted and phrased?

We stole a lot of ideas from other Kickstarter projects.  We didn’t use all of them, but we made sure we knew what the conventions were and what other people were doing that was innovative.  Kickstarter actually doesn’t have all that great control for formatting, but it has a major advantage in that the way it’s laid out is very very consistent.  That means there are a number of tricks you can pull.

For instance, if you write a pledge out like this -

============================= KICKSTART CONNOISSEUR ============================= Our sincere thanks for supporting our project.

It will come out formatted like this -

our base pledge, formatted all pretty like

There are a dozen projects that have already found out what the correct dimensions and tricks are, and following in their footsteps is pretty much as simple as copying and pasting.  I still don’t really know how Lioness (by the way, have you seen Lioness?) pulls off their font, but a lot of the other stuff is pretty easy to duplicate.  Probably custom characters or something like that.

We wanted everything to be simple and easy to read, so we separated each tier into sections: a title in all caps to make it easier to read, a description of the reward, and then a full list of everything you get at that tier.  The full list is important, because we didn’t want people to get confused about what they were getting at the $35 tiers.  It’s important that people realize exactly what they’re getting and what they’re not getting.

Another reason we list all of the rewards for each post is because my very limited research has lead me to believe that the amount of text in a reward is directly correlational to how much people are willing to pay for it.  Yes, it is manipulative, and yes I do feel just a tiny bit guilty about it, but that’s a subject for another post.

What if there had been an iteration 4?

There wouldn’t be.

That’s not to say that our tiers are perfect, but it is to say that choosing tiers is an inexact science, and I’m comfortable with what we did.  In a perfect world, or at least a world that cared more about what we want, we’d get funded in the first day and release pretty much everything for free.  That’s not an option though.

It’s actually a fairly interesting problem for us to have: I want to do a lot of marketing through these updates : especially the livestream.  The more people that we get involved in livestreams and this blog and watching Sarah do art, the more motivated we’ll all be at LatinForImagination to get up and do cool things for you, and the more genuinely valuable these tiers will become.  However, if we price them too high or restrict them too much, we lose that marketing opportunity, and the only people who read any blog posts at all are the few backers really invested in the game.

I think we’ve come up with a good compromise: we’re making everything about choice, and we’re releasing enough free updates that you should be able to get a feel for what you’re buying before you buy it – case in point, this post.

There are probably better ways to do that, but I’m happy with where we are.

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