I’m in the process of putting the “Shenanigans: The Musical” Kickstarter page together and it’s becoming increasignly apparent that I want to break the rules. The core game consists of 24 cards and works perfectly well as a core. Then in addition to that we have three 10 card expansions. Conventional wisdom is to include the expansions as stretch goals, but increasingly I’d like to reject conventional wisdom.
The manufacturing and shipping plan is much easier to put together if I know how many cards are in the game from the get go. It’s also not tremendously more expensive to include the expansions, owing to the ubiquity of the 54 card deck. Also it seems kinder to backers, to say “Back the game and get all three expansions – for free!” than it is to say “If enough other people do something then we might give you them.” It feels like there are a lot of reasons to just say from day one “Here’s some extra stuff, please enjoy it ”
However I’m put in mind of the JC Penney disaster. They used to offer lots of coupons and discounts, but overpriced their stock, treating the coupon price as the “real price”. He stopped that practice, instead offering a constant simple honest decent price. The results were disasterous, people didn’t want a good deal at £20, they wanted a crappy deal at £50 to be reduced to £20. That’s not the full extent of the story, but it’s the part that sticks out in my memory, especially when I’m considering doing something like this.
Being honest up front that I’d like to include the expansions if the campaign funds and that we can pretty much afford to do that (The goal might be a little higher than it would have been otherwise but it’s still not going to be very high!) That means that everyone looking at the KS page knows what they’re getting, it’s a very good deal, fundemenetally it feels like it’s best for everyone.
The spectre of letting an otherwise good project fail by not making the most of the expansions as a marketing element is an unsettling one – but I think that perhaps that’s just a matter of presentation. Maybe the page could even have a stretch goals section with all of the goals marked as “£0 – unlocked” and then put a FAQ answer for “Why are all of your stretch goals at £0?”
I’m still not sure if that’d be as exciting as coming across the project and thinking “Wow, stretch goals have been unlocked that have more than doubled how much stuff is in the game!” but it’s available from day one of the campaign rather than only existing once we’ve overfunded by a large enough margin. It also averts the danger of not being able to give these expansions out, I feel it’d be disasterous to include them as stretch goals and then not reach those goals despite really wanting to include them in the game.
There are also examples of Kickstarter projects that have successfully taken the high road with respect to stretch goals before. The team behind Hocus announced that they’d have no stretch goals because the game was already everything that they wanted it to be, some players objected, saying that there were further ways to improve the game. The Hocus team doubled down, including the better component (a two piece box) at their own expense and launched with no stretch goals. They said that “If we could make even $15,000, which is $9,000 over our funding goal, we’ll consider this campaign an immense success.”
Now the Hocus team did a great many things very well. Perhaps they’d have raised $40,000 (or more!) with stretch goals, there’s no way to know what’d have happened in an alternate world – but there are some similarties between their project and ours that at very least signpost that it is possible for us to take this approach. We don’t have to take a deceptive approach to laying out things we want to include anyway as stretch goals. We can build the project in a way that’s better for everyone. We can succeed with the expansions unlocked and available to all backers from day one.
So let’s get it done!