Why I Back Kickstarter Projects

Scythe Components

I love Kickstarter.  I’ve backed a fair number of projects now, but until recently, I’ve never really analysed why I do it.  Projects can vary enormously and my reasons for backing a project may differ substantially from project to project.

Obviously, I have to want the core product (usually a boardgame).  I’m not talking about why I like certain games though.  Very often I will look at a Kickstarter project and ask myself, do I need to back this?  Can I just wait for it to be released at retail?

If I’m going to back a project on Kickstarter, it has to offer me more than a product I could buy in a shop when it is released.  So here are my reasons for backing.  They are in no particular order.

  1. Upgraded components

There was a time when you could tell a Kickstarter version of a boardgame apart from a retail version because the components would be so nice.  This is becoming less common as publishers are making more of an effort to produce high quality components, but I love a game with bling.

Metal coins, realistic resources, component trays – these things used to be the signature of Kickstarter games and I was always very happy to pay extra for these upgrades.  They add to my enjoyment of the game.  The tactile nature of handling real metal coins rather than cardboard chits is very satisfying.

  1. Exclusives / Add-ons

Now I’ve been thinking about this one for a while.  Many Kickstarter projects offer components, miniatures or expansions that are exclusively for Kickstarter backers.  If you don’t back the project, it won’t be possible to get these extras later.

These exclusives are never required; they’re bells and whistles.  Like upgraded components though, they can be very attractive.  However, when I think about exclusives, it’s not the exclusivity that sells it for me.  It wouldn’t bother me if these extras could be bought as an upgrade pack alongside the base game at retail.  It’s the value for money.  Usually you get much better value for money when backing the project on Kickstarter rather than waiting for retail, particularly when getting extras.

So maybe exclusives aren’t really a reason for me after all.  Add-ons might be more accurate.  I like to have the option of adding extra stuff that would cost me more if I waited for retail.  It’s that feeling of getting a bargain.

  1. Stuff

Some projects just offer the world of stuff.  Whether it’s miniatures, cards, tokens, expansions, I look at all the stuff and the materialistic side of me drools.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to have everything?!  Think of the replay value!

I don’t often back projects for this reason, mainly because they cost a fortune and I never seem to have a lot of spare cash lying around.  Every now and then though, it can be great to spoil yourself and splash out on a decadent pile of stuff!

  1. The Journey

When you back a project, you get regular updates on the progress of the project.  You get to see new artwork as it’s produced, you see how and where the components are manufactured, you get an insight into shipping, customs and all the other aspects that form part of making a boardgame.

A good project creator will make you feel part of their journey of creation.  You experience the highs (“The first miniatures have arrived at our offices!”) and the lows (“I’m afraid the shipment has been held up by customs”).

When the game finally arrives at your door, it’s the culmination of an epic journey and is all the more satisfying for it.

  1. Support

Some companies use Kickstarter as a pre-order system.  It reduces their risk.  They’ve already made the game and they just want a guaranteed number of pre-orders before manufacturing.  While I understand their reasoning, it’s not very inspiring as a backer.

Other projects are clearly passion projects.  They are started by individuals who could never produce their game without your help.  Sometimes I back a project purely to see somebody’s dream come to life.  The reward here is spiritual rather than material, but it is no less satisfying.

  1. Community

This one is rather nebulous.  In many ways it is a combination of some of the other reasons.  Getting involved in a project, contributing to discussions, voting on artwork options or stretch goals – all of these things lead to feeling part of something bigger than yourself.  You’re not just watching someone else’s journey, your taking part.

In many ways, you need a project creator who facilitates this.  Some Kickstarter projects don’t develop any community around them at all.  But when you have a creator who engages with people, listens to their views and shapes the project according to backer feedback, something magical can happen.  Jamey Stegmaier is excellent at this.

  1. Not available at retail

Some project creators make the decision (usually for financial reasons) not to make the product available at retail.  If you don’t back it on Kickstarter, you will never be able to get it (well, until the Kickstarter for the reprint).  This can be a pretty compelling reason and occasionally contributes to some incredibly successful projects.

Those are my reasons.  What would your reasons be for backing a Kickstarter project?

If you don’t back Kickstarter projects, why not?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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