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Business Development

Setting a Campaign Pledge

Board games are one of the most popular types of crowd funding campaigns. Kickstarter is an especially common crowd funding platform among board game creators. The pledge amount is critical to a successful campaign. How do we set the backer pledge level for a board game campaign?

I’ll present two perspectives from which to estimate a campaign pledge for a board game. It’s an estimate because although we’ll do some calculations, they’ll be rough calculations. The first approach is bottom-up: identify all of the steps along the way and estimate the costs of each step. The second approach is top-down: assess the value offered for your board game against others. Not other KS campaigns, but other board games. Search the nearly exhaustive list on boardgamegeek.com.

Bottom-Up

You’ve got an idea. It’s up on Tabletop Simulator. You’ve play tested it. You feel you’re ready to bring it to life. What should the backer pledge level be for a copy of your game? We’ll need to list all of the steps from a playtested idea on TTS to copies of the game in backer’s homes. Let’s divide these steps into two categories: before launch and after launch.

We’ll need some professional artwork to replace the patchwork of free downloads. We can use that artwork in the Facebook (FB) ads. We’ll also use that art in a physical prototype, box cover and rulebook. We’ll need the physical prototype before doing videography.

The artwork, the videography, and the reviews go into the campaign page. So there’s some more graphic design. The graphic design would also be included in the rulebook and the box cover.

Therefore in no particular order, we have a before launch list:

  • artwork/graphic design/videography
  • FB ads
  • reviews
  • physical prototype

The artwork, rulebook, box cover, etc, goes to the manufacturer. The manufacturer produces many copies of a product to specifications that you prescribe. Those games are put into cartons. Cartons stacked onto pallets, and pallets shipped to a distribution, or fulfillment, centre.

The after launch list looks like:

  • campaign fees (KS fees)
  • manufacturing
  • customs
  • pledge managing
  • shipping (manufacture to fulfillment)
  • fulfillment
  • unexpected expenses & cost overruns

These steps, and the associated costs, are all for multiple games: a production run of 500 or 2000, or whatever we think is necessary to fund a successfully campaign to deliver our product.

Simply dividing the total costs by the amount of games produces will not give a realistic number. Let’s say we have game that’s all-in for $12.50 /game. That’s both before and after launch costs. Our manufacturer has a price break, or MOQ, of 2000 games. You might think 2000 * $10 = $20,000 a funding level. Great deal for the backers. Not so great for the creators. Here’s why.

Not all copies of the game produced will sell. Some will be damaged (not because of “no shrink-wrap”, which you shouldn’t have anyways. Get over yourself.) Some will go to distributors and eventually end up at your FLGS. But in any case, you cannot expect to immediately sell all the copies of a MOQ. There will be copies sitting around waiting to be sold in the future. That sitting around has storage costs.

A rule of thumb, that’s been challenged in the board game designer circles, is to multiply “landed costs” by five (x5). “Landed costs” include manufacturing, customs, and shipping. For a more in depth analysis check out this book. This is designed to provide funds for a second printing.

Copies Pledged

How big is your email/contact list? How engaged are you followers. Is this your first campaign? Or are you established as a board game creator? Take a look around the KS site and see how many copies of similar games were backed during their campaigns.

Have a trusted friend/colleague give an educated guess based on these factors. Oh, you think you can be objective about your own creation. Great, make your own estimate.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you come up with a range of 550-800 games sold.

Light Calculations

How does this range of quantities of games-backed, by campaign pledge, fit with the MOQ, or price break point, for your preferred manufacturer. Take Ludo Fact in Germany which uses FSC certified paper products and has a minimum order of 2000 games as an example.

You’ll have 1200-1450 games that could go to distributors and FLGS. Maybe look for a manufacturer that has a MOQ of 1000, which will mean that you’ll have 200-450 surplus games for other sales channels.

Now your total costs are

2000 * $12.50 = $25,000.

What is the price /game of what you expect to sell on in your crowdfunding campaign? To find out divide total costs by expected number of sales:

$25,000 / 800 = $31.25
$25,000 / 550 = $45.45

A campaign pledge of $45 looks like it will be sufficient to cover expenses, but a higher price will mean fewer backers. The lower end would open it up to more backers, but you run the risk of coming up short. Can you personally make up the difference? Be sure to include this in the “Campaign Risks” section.

Top Down

Take a look at the market. What size and style of game do you have? How does that fit into the market. For this example, we’ll say that similar board games are priced at $35-$40. A pledge point in that $5 window would fit right in the middle of the “Bottom-Up” range.

Funding Level

How many pledges would be needed if the pledge elvel was set at $40 vs $35 for a campaign funding level of $25,000?

$25,000 / $40 = 625
$25,000 / $35 = 715

Here you have some choices? You could set all rewards for a single game at $40 and target fewer supporters, or at $35 and hope to widen your support network. You could set the early bird ones at $35 and subsequent rewards at $40. You have a difference of 90 pledges.

This two-fold approach double-checks your analyses, both from a manufacturing angle and from a market perspective. How do you set the pledge level in your crowd funding campaign?

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