Ramblings from the president of Van Ryder Games

Ok, this started off as a blog focused on Kickstarter, but of late I've been discussing more topics and thus I have renamed the blog to a more general title. I hope you enjoy my ramblings!
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Project Length: How many days should your Kickstarter project last?

A.J. Porfirio
United States
Thompsons Station
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What Van Ryder Game are YOU playing?
Welcome back friends! Let's talk about project length. This discussion will be a little more opinion and less analysis than the previous entries, but before I get to my opinion I will do my best to first present the options objectively.

Back in June, Kickstarter shortened the maximum project length from 90 to 60 days. They blogged their reasoning and included some nice charts to help show the justification of the decision. Read about it here: http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/shortening-the-maximum-proje...

Now anyone who has studied or researched Kickstarter for even a short time knows that according to Kickstarter 30 days is the best length, You may even see comments like, "There are more successful 30 day projects than any other project length" and I have seen folks blindly follow this recommendation. But why don't we put it under the microscope a bit, and think about it specific to Board Game projects?

First I'll give you a quick advantages/disadvantages look at shorter vs. longer projects. Obviously there may be some not mentioned here, but it will give us a good reference point for the rest of the discussion.

Now obviously as you move toward either extreme the effects are intensified. So at this point knowing what Kickstarter says and what you see in the model 30 days looks pretty good right? Well lets not rush to judgement just yet...

If we polled 100 random backers to projects, how many do you think would say they prefer to back shorter projects? 80%? 90%? 99%?
I think it would be very high.

Now how do you think the same 100 backers would respond if we asked if they would have changed there decision to back a project if it was 30 days longer? I suspect the majority would have still backed the project.

The point I am trying to make is that from an individual's perspective the length of the project probably has very little to do with the ultimate decision to back a project. And in turn, the magnitude of the decision to go longer or shorter is down the list of what are the most critical factors to a successful project. I don't mean to suggest that it is not an important decision, only that it is not THE most important decision.

Besides, unless as a backer you are a religious Kickstarter checker (check everyday) you probably don't even know how long the project was to begin with, only what it was when you ran across it.

Ok so let me just quit beating around the bush and tell you where my head is at... I think there is very strong evidence to suggest that board game Kickstarter projects, generally speaking, should be longer than 30 days.

Would you not agree that the amount of the funding goal would have a direct impact on how long the project should be? If you are asking for more money you will likely need more time to get the pledges right?

Well look at this chart from Kickstarters blog:

Now if you have seen as many board game projects on Kickstarter as I have, you probably have noticed that most of them have a funding goal of $5,000 or more. So we need to be careful about general numbers that Kickstarter puts out there across ALL categories. So yes maybe most of the successful projects are 30 days long. But it is also true that most of the successful projects are under $5,000. Does that fit what we know about board game projects? I hope you are shaking your head no. I suspect the average board game project is 40 days long.

Keep in mind we are looking at this from a project owner's perspective, not from a backer's perspective. Take any emotion you have out of the equation and think about it objectively.

So this brings me to the first variable you should look at when determining your projects length: Your Funding Goal

Ok so then I guess we should just always choose 60 days then? No, not necessarily. If you have not noticed in the previous posts, there is an issue that gets mentioned (and will continue to get mentioned) in practically every one - building momentum BEFORE the project starts. If you do not think you have 10% to 15% in pledges in the project's first 48 hours you are NOT ready to launch your project!

So the second variable you should look at when determining your projects length: Your expected momentum going into the project

Having a longer project gives you a little bit of a cushion to recoup from a slow start if it unexpectedly happens. Either way you will be constantly promoting and doing things to promote the project. As an example let's look at something I did with If I'm Going Down.... I chose 35 days as my project term. Yes, I bought into the 30 day recommendation not knowing what I know now. There was a strategy behind choosing 35 instead of 30 though. I wanted to see what happened in the first 5 days and still be able to take advantage of BGG ads if needed depending on what happened. Again that was a decision I did not have the information I have now, but you can certainly make the argument that you can save the money for ads if the project takes off.

The extra days also can give potential backers that wouldn't have seen the project a chance to see and back it. If your funding goal comes down to the wire you'll be much happier you added the extra days than you would if you didn't have them.

Give yourself time to go on podcasts, complete interviews, get reviews from 3rd parties, etc.

So the third variable you should look at when determining your projects length: Your marketing plan for the project

The last thing I want to make sure you are thinking about when deciding on the project length is how much work it is! You have to be on top of you game constantly throughout the project. If you aren't moving forward you are moving backward! It is both mentally and physically exhausting. You will lose sleep and you will be stressed. Ask yourself candidly how long you are willing to do it. If I could go back I would have done 40 days, but 60 would have just been too much for me having a family in need of my attention. Look at your situation and go with what you think you can do.

So the fourth thing to look at is your workload tolerance

In Summary
I believe that board game projects in general should be longer than 30 days for the best chance at success and the greatest funding %.

The 4 most important variables that I think should go into the decision are:
1. Your Funding Goal ($)
2. Your expected momentum going into the project
3. Your marketing plan for the project
4. Your workload tolerance

I believe that if you look at your project from this perspective you will make an optimal decision for your project's length increasing your chances for success!

Thanks for checking out this blog! And look out for the next one where we'll look at building a project cost/benefit model in Excel!

Kickstarter chart pulled from the Kickstarter blog entry found here: http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/10000-successful-projects

Copyright 2011 Van Ryder Games. May be used on your Blog, Podcast, website, etc. with proper attribution to Van Ryder Games.
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