Two Kickstarters

My team is getting ready to have an AAR meeting (After Action Report) regarding The Strange Kickstarter. This will likely be a very long meeting, because I think that there will be a lot to say.

It’s been interesting to run a second major rpg Kickstarter campaign a year after our first one. The first, Numenera, broke records in terms of funding raised. While those records have since been broken, Numenera remains the highest grossing Kickstarter, ever, for a new, original tabletop rpg.

And now the second one, The Strange, is second in that category. So both were wildly successful, but the changes that have occurred with crowdfunding over the last year are interesting.

The Down Side

Kickstarter is a somewhat less friendly place for project creators than it was more than a year ago. The number of people who show up, make huge pledges, and then cancel those pledges later, is dramatically larger. In 2012, you watched as your funding total went up (sometimes slowly), but in 2013, you watch it go up and down. It’s a very different experience.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the number of failed payments from backers has also increased. For both Numenera and The Strange, the number of failed payments (and the amount) were about the same, but Numenera raised almost $100,000 more and had 2,000 more backers.

Lastly, the existence of Kickstarter for an additional year has given us “arm chair quarterbacking” in terms of running a Kickstarter. People who’ve backed a few projects now consider themselves experts and are constantly sending along unsolicited advice about what you’re doing wrong.

The Up Side

But there are probably more good things than bad that have occurred in the year between our Kickstarters. With Numenera, I spent a lot of my time just explaining to potential backers what Kickstarter was, and how it worked. There was none of that with The Strange, and we could focus on pitching the idea for the game itself.

A lot more people now have Kickstarter accounts, and so a barrier to pledging is gone. People have seen that we can deliver on our Kickstarter, and produce the amazing, beautiful book that we pitched. That makes selling the idea of The Strange a lot easier.

There are new tools and services available now. When we launched Numenera, we had to create our own method of keeping track of backers, addresses, and all the various rewards to ship out. (Kickstarter’s ability to manage that kind of information is… lacking.) Now there are wonderful services like BackerKit, which we are using, to help us gather and manage info. It even allows backers to add-on additional items after the Kickstarter is over, which I think is good for everyone.

And of course there’s all the lessons we’ve learned in fulfilling Numenera that allow us to avoid pitfalls and come up with new innovations. The way we’re handling shipping expenses, for one thing, with shipping credit provided for each physical reward to be delivered, is a vast improvement on having us try to make guesses about shipping costs a year or more before the products get sent out. And the real truth is, we made huge mistakes with Numenera in this regard, and ate tens of thousands of dollars in extra shipping expenses. (As one of the co-owners of the company, that means that tens of thousand of dollars came–and is still coming–directly out of my pocket to pay for the shipping of Numenera rewards.) With The Strange, we’re still paying for most people’s shipping, but in a way I think that is equitable for everyone, no matter where they live.

So in the end, I think there are still a lot of things that I’d love to see fixed in the process, but overall I’m really, really happy with how Kickstarter helps our business and helps us get products and rewards out to people who want them.

If you backed either Kickstarter, thank you for your support. You’ve helped make Numenera a reality and you’re helping build The Strange.

Monte Cook
Monte Cook

Monte Cook has written hundreds of roleplaying game products, along with numerous short stories, novels, nonfiction titles, and comic books. He is probably best known for his work on such notable titles as Planescape, Ptolus, the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons (which he codesigned with Jonathan Tweet and Skip Williams), Arcana Evolved, and of course Numenera and the Cypher System. He is a cofounder of Monte Cook Games, and is our lead designer.