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  • Writer's pictureIan

Kickstarter reflections: your data dashboard

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This is the next in a small collection of blogs drawing on my recent Kickstarter experience (my last game, Ukiyo, ran and funded during November 2020). In this one, I’ll focus on what data you can get from Kickstarter, and what you can learn from it. And this isn’t based on any fancy datamining or harvesting APIs or anything, it’s just what’s directly visible on your creator dashboard throughout and after the campaign. I’ll focus on four areas – your funding profile, where your backers are from, how they found you and lurkers vs backers.

First the funding profile – in other words, how many backers did you get on each day. This is really helpful during the campaign and can also drive you mad. The traditional ‘shape’ for a Kickstarter campaign is a steep start (the first 2-3 days), a flat middle, and a steep finish (last 48 hours), and those three ‘sections’ of time will often each account for about a third of your funding. Knowing this is helpful, because it allows you to manage your own expectations when the inevitable ‘flattening happens, because that’s completely normal. And it’s that middle part where the onus is on you to keep the campaign alive with new content, social media activity, stretch goals and more. Oddly, my game Ukiyo didn’t follow the traditional path at all, it was more or less a straight line throughout:

I think this was for a number of reasons. There wasn’t a massive following prior to launch, just enough to get it going; it was a very low-priced game (just £7) which meant it was an easy sell for casual browsers and an easy one to recommend to friends. Also, I ran a series of puzzles throughout the campaign to try and keep momentum going, and finally, I was lucky enough to have a handful of very enthusiastic backers in France and Germany who helped it build its own momentum on gaming forums on those countries.

So where were all these people from? Ukiyo attracted 416 backers from no less than 35 different countries, and the KS dashboard helps you see where they are from. These were the ‘top 10’ countries:

So roughly 40% from the USA, 25% UK, 20% from Europe and 15% from the rest of the world. I gather this isn’t unusual for a tabletop game, but it underlines how important it is to take a global approach in how you plan your campaign. Have you considered doing foreign-language versions for your game, or at least a translation of the rulebook? The KS stats helped me to realise that there was a good level of interest in getting French and German translations done (which I did for the rulebook and print&play versions), but that there may not be enough interest to justify translations beyond that.

Another consideration with your geographical distribution is whether you are actually able to service all of this countries. It’s wonderful that a very small business or designer (I’m regular-sized, but my business is very small) can reach so many countries, but it’s worth checking that you can actually fulfil rewards to those countries. For example, many fulfilment companies won’t ship to Russia or Brazil, because of the frequent problems with customs authorities there. But the UK’s national carrier will (Royal Mail), as will the US Postal Service. So there’s no point in actively marketing to a country that you can’t send games to – but with a bit of research and imagination, you may be able to open up a community that you’d never thought of before.

The same applies to reviews – if you know you’re going to get interest in Germany or Spain, why not get some reviewers in those countries to do an own-language review of your game?

So how did all these lovely backers find you? Kickstarter is slightly less helpful here, and will claim a lot of referrals that have originated elsewhere, but there are still some clues that can help you steer your campaign (see image above). Basically, if people have browsed to your project from within Kickstarter, it will look like that’s where they started – even if your own marketing has pushed them to KS in the first place. You’ll see that only two backers came to the project from my own website (this one), but that 13 backers found it through Kickstarter’s internal search – in other words they knew they were looking for Ukiyo when they arrived. Also interesting is the ‘email: last chance to back reminder’. When you view a KS project, you can ask to be reminded 48 hours before it ends, and as a project creator you can se how many people have asked for this, and how many of those have actually backed (or ‘conversions’). And how many, therefore, are lurkers.

This hovered around 5% for most of the campaign and is a tantalising statistic, as it leads you to believe that hundreds of backers are just waiting to leap on board the moment they get the reminder. Of course, it doesn’t work like that – in my case the conversion rate crept up from 5% to 16% over the course of the last 3 days, and from other creators I understand that that is fairly typical. So you can probably expect 10% of your lurkers to convert in the last couple of days, which helps you to set realistic expectations for yourself, as well as helping to position your last stretch goals. Of course, every lurker is still a potential backer, and although you’ll never know how many of those you have actively converted in the end, it’s good to know how many people are going to be checking back over your campaign when that ‘last 48 hours’ alert sounds.

Next time – why you might not need an external pledge manager after all (and when you might)…

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