Secret Base Blog

Do Kickstarter early birds really get the worm?


The upside of controversial Kickstarter early bird discounts, usually a limited pledge tier with a 10 - 20% price discount for the first 24 or 48 hours hours or the first 250 backers etc, is that they can ensure funding goals are reached within a few days and an instant buzz is generated for your hot project.

There is a cost to early bird rewards, and I'm not saying I support them. But lets not underestimate how appealing they are to first time creators who have slaved away at their thing for years and built up a nice stockpile of 'will I fund / what if I have a bad first 3 days and start on a trajectory to failure' angst. I share that angst and some of the temptation. But many wise kickstarter heads say "Kickstarter projects are the early bird". So should creators use early bird rewards?

Or do the wyrms kill the early birds?


The downside of financial early bird specials on Kickstarter is that they really irk many of those who miss out, who then think they are paying more for something than others do. Its the opposite effect that early bird backers feel, it's all negative and it potentially affects every backer that comes late to the party. Jamey Stegmaier explored these issues in detail long ago and its fair to say that early bird reward tiers still have a certain stigma about them.

Lets look at the not-so-early bird backer's experience taken from a real experience I had yesterday. I've chosen not to mention the project (you shouldn't either if you guess and comment): 

Step 1 - First Exposure

Watched best in class kickstarter boardgame video pitch on Facebook somewhere. I seriously went straight to back it IMMEDIATELY... Positivity vibe: +++

Step 2. Check KS page and funding info

It's funded already! It's a sure thing! Now how much is it (mentally expecting the $40 - $50 price point)... Positivity vibe: +++

Step 3. Check Reward Tiers and Costs

Checked how much I had to pay and saw I'd missed a 48 hour $4 early bird discount that took the $52 base pledge down to $48. I was instantly irritated and the 100% positive had swung negative and made me pause and think more critically. Positivity vibe: +

Step 4. Check Shipping

Saw there was an additional $39 international shipping charge. More than I was expecting. Positivity Vibe: -

Step 5. Extra Costs vs Core Cost Comparison

Logical justification accountancy brain phase step: $4 + $39 = $43 in extra costs VS $48 early bird tier. So extra costs are nearly the same as the core cost... Positivity vibe: -- That's 2 negatives so that's an instant pass.

After watching the video, that process took under 10 seconds. The negative weighting of the $4 early bird to the $39 shipping was probably about 1/3 even though in money terms the lost early bird discount is only 1/10 compared to the shipping. That's because other people had gained and I perceived a monetary penalty for no good reason except time. At least I can work out if the shipping cost is reasonable based on the game's weight.

I decided I'll wait for retail and get it if reviews are good. 90% of any desire I had to evangelize is gone too.

So the key point here is that there were 2 negatives for me. One negative puts my backing dollars at risk. 2 is a deal breaker.

However, the real issue is not how I feel about it, but what % of possible backers feel this way or close to it too?

One poll suggests around 50% of Kickstarter regulars do NOT like financial early bird reward tiers, & only 25% like them. So I guess missed early birds are likely to irk between 25 and 50% of your potential backers. No one knows how many people really hate early birds enough to back out entirely.  But we can look at the data:

backers per day 

This game project is excellent in many ways and did fund early for a number of reasons. I have no doubt that the early birds helped because after 8 days nearly half of their backers seem to have backed in those first 48 hours. But the rate of new backers has dropped significantly since the first 48 hrs. It will be interesting to see how this ends up.

The creators conundrum

So as a Kickstarter project creator the question is this:

Go with an early bird discount and significantly increase my chances of funding in the first few days. That will:

  1. reward the backers who put faith in the project early
  2. build confidence for later backers that the project will overfund and get into stretch goals. This should increase the backing rate.
  3. help start early buzz which should also increase the backing rate
  4. make me happy and successful

Or weigh those positives against the negative experiences felt by 25% to 50% of later potential backers who have 'missed out' on something. And avoid the early bird altogether?

How much will either pathway hurt my total funding?

Will early birds kill my buzz because later backers are a little irritated?

Will early birds hurt my reputation because I've irritated some potential backers?

Are there any other issues to consider?

Or is there another type of early bird that might keep all the positives and not have the negatives?

'True' early bird tiers - first wave shipping

One of the reasons kickstarter is successful is that people in the know take a risk and get their new toys before all the other kids on the block do. 

Tesla-vs-EdisonThe Tesla vs Edison campaign has a day 1 only early bird level which simply guarantees those backers' games will be shipped out in the first batch of games fulfilled. They had 900 out of their 3500 backers as day 1 backers and are now a 200K board game project, 10 times their 20K funding goal.

SO I LIKE THAT IDEA! Here's why:

  1. It's a reason to back early - granted, probably not as powerful as saving $5. But its there.
  2. It rewards backers who put their faith in the project early.
  3. It's a reward in proportion to the action taken, makes perfect sense and follows the spirit of kickstarter - "I backed this on KS so I get it before everyone else does" becomes "I backed on day one of the KS so I get it shipped to me on day 1 of the fulfillment phase so I probably get the game before most people on planet earth. Cool."  
  4. It removes that monetary frustration which really really annoys some people beyond all reason.
  5. It saves the creator thousands of dollars in discounts.

Most Kickstarter backers get their games fulfilled in a completely random pattern now. Its honestly a 2 - 4 week crap shoot in terms of where your copy gets fulfilled in the whole sequence. This would inject a logical and justifiable order into that chaos. 

With the Send From China method you send games to everywhere in the world from China by airmail. Delivery time is a little variable at 1 - 4 weeks (average 2), but you can batch load specific sets of backers into the system to be processed together and sequence fulfillment by one or more early bird tiers. You kind of have to batch upload and process backers in chunks of a few hundred backers at a time anyway. So why not inject a justifiable sequence into it?

I'll look into how much of a hassle this is for data handling.


So I'm strongly considering doing it with MONSTROUS in May when I launch it on kickstarter in MAy. Would that grab you?

Maybe I can go with an Early Pegasus tier? 

What do you think of 'True' Early Bird reward tiers that get you the game fastest - would they motivate you at all? Do they seem fair? Would you be annoyed if you backed later and got fulfilled a week after the early birds?






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Rampaging through stores in early 2016.

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