A while back I had the opportunity to speak with Joel Colombo, who has backed 180 different Kickstarter campaigns (he has since broken the 200 mark). I wanted to talk with Joel to gain insight from a backer perspective. What makes him click the pledge button? Or maybe more importantly, what scares him away? As always, you can listen to the podcast on iTunes, or via the embeded player right here on our site, and the excerpt can be found below.
RICHARD MILES: Hi! This is Richard Miles of Board Game authority and today I’m with…
JOEL COLOMBO: Joel Colombo.
RICHARD MILES: Hi, Joel. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. We are in quite a few Facebook groups together. Facebook groups about board-gaming in general, some on the design aspect but a lot of groups focusing on Kickstarter, and from those groups I have learned that you are, for lack of a better word, a ‘Power Backer’. I don’t know what to call it.
JOEL COLOMBO: It sounds weird. But yeah…
RICHARD MILES: Yeah. You back a lot of Kickstarter games. How many Kickstarter projects have you backed to date?
JOEL COLOMBO: As I looked, preparing for this, I’m at a hundred and eighty (180), and what’s even crazier is I think my first one was backed around mid-2014, so, the last two (2) years.
RICHARD MILES: Wow, wow, wow! That is a lot of projects backed. Today on the show, I would like to just go over what it is from a backer perspective of what you’re looking for in a campaign. What makes you click that pledge button? What is desirable? What campaigns do you pass over? Things of that nature.
JOEL COLOMBO: Sure! I would love to.
RICHARD MILES: Do you ever back any games or projects on other platforms other than Kickstarter?
JOEL COLOMBO: Honestly, no. I haven’t. I’ve maybe popped over and looked at a few that I’ve seen shared on the boards but I’ve never… There’s just something about Kickstarter being a hub that I’ve been drawn to. It almost feels off going to some of the other networks that just don’t have that same board game community already built in.
RICHARD MILES: Yeah. It’s the same for me, and I think you hit on a good point there and that’s community. I think that Kickstarter does have a very nice community surrounding it for board games. But why pledge it all? Why not wait until games hit the retail shelves?
JOEL COLOMBO: So, there’s a couple things really with this. This is a big question with it because a lot of times you’re not getting a super sweet discount deal so it’s not about the money. It’s really, I am a business owner myself. It’s a software industry thing. But when I put down my money I know that it’s going directly to the publishers, especially the indie publishers. When I look at it, it’s just one of those things where I know that I’m supporting them. There’s no middle man. There’s no distribution retail cuts, all of these other stuff. A hundred percent (100%) of what I’m giving them is going in to their business, and that they’ll apply that towards the game, towards building their business going to the convention so they can promote it and really start something.
As an entrepreneur, I really am a big believer in trying to help people get off the ground. I moderate. I’m one of the couple moderators on the Card and Board Game Designers Guild. I’m seeing six thousand (6,000) designers on there all sharing their stuff. You start to build relationships. You start to see what they’re going through developing to get to that point. When they launch, sometimes, if it’s somebody I’ve seen that’s really been working hard at it, I don’t even dig in to it. I’m like, “You know what, I’m backing this one. I see what this guy’s got going.” Worst case, somewhere down the road it doesn’t work out, I can trade it out or something like that, on a BGG trade.
RICHARD MILES: Right.
JOEL COLOMBO: That type of thing. I look at it as saying, the games don’t all make it to retail. They don’t all get funded. So, if I can help somebody realize their dream, the same way I would want somebody to help me with mine if I get there, it really is what drives me to make that pledge early.
RICHARD MILES: I commend that. I applaud that. I really like that mentality, helping others. I think it really all comes back and even if it doesn’t, it feels good. Right?
JOEL COLOMBO: Yeah.
RICHARD MILES: So, I applaud that.
JOEL COLOMBO: Well, you get something for it. You get a chance to… Maybe you were able to contribute early on in the design phase with them. But then it really is helping to see something come new that may not happen without something like Kickstarter. I mean, I know we always see the arguments about who is too big for Kickstarter. Who should not be using it. That type of thing. But the reality is a regular gamer that maybe isn’t as involved in the design community and stuff, may not feel it the same way. They definitely, a lot of the times when I see some of the negative comments about Kickstarter, they definitely don’t realize what a lot of these guys have gone through to get to the point where they can even get it up on Kickstarter. So they’re just bashing it around, component costs or different things. The reality is there’s a lot more that goes into these than what a lot of people realize.
I guess being able to look under the covers a little, being so involved in the community, I have an appreciation for what it is I’m backing before I get there. Unfortunately, when people just look at it as a retail sale, they’re not seeing the whole picture.
RICHARD MILES: Right. I agree a hundred percent (100%). Yeah. Let’s switch gears a little bit and get into the meat of a Kickstarter campaign page.
JOEL COLOMBO: Yeah.
RICHARD MILES: When you’re backing games that come from someone who’s not known to you. They’re not a friend. They’re not a forum member. What do you look for on that just standard, typical campaign page?
JOEL COLOMBO: One of the things that I look for is if the creator, the campaign owner, really did their homework. There are enough resources out there to know if they read Jamey’s blog or gotten the book. There are so many things that are out there to, I guess, to find some best practices, that if they don’t even look like they’ve tried. I have seen so many that have come up after you see a huge success, like ‘Exploding Kittens’. You just see them get fired up there. That look like they maybe did over a couple hours on the weekend, and then said, “I got a game.”, and you put those up. Those ones are just right out the door. If you don’t look like you actually have been working on this for some time, and putting the effort in, I’m not going to give you that money upfront. That to me is an issue of effort, and saying most of what you could do to make this work is free. It doesn’t cost you anything extra. Maybe you need some graphic design or something. But if you can’t even apply that element of stuff to things, I really have to worry about what’s going to come out of the back end, what the quality of the deliverable is going to be. That’s one of the first things I’ll notice. It’s just the general quick scan over quality. Obviously we can go into some more of the specifics, but that one’s the quick one. If you look like you fired it up over a weekend, and that’s what you’ve done with it, it’s probably not going to attract anybody.
RICHARD MILES: Right. Because of my position at Board Game Authority, I get a lot of emails just saying, “Hey, I’ve launched my campaign. We’d like you to help spread the word.” This actually is really a dime a dozen . There’s a recent one that’s in my mind. It’s a text wall. There are no images, zero. No images whatsoever, just a wall of text of “I have an idea for a game and I would like you to give me money for my idea.” That’s it. I don’t know. I have a lot of feelings about this. For me, it’s not so cut and dry because on one hand, they seem to be a little confused and out of touch about what Kickstarter is, and why people would give you money. They seem a little misguided. But at the same time, like you’re saying, they haven’t done their homework.
JOEL COLOMBO: The resources are free. They’re there. If you just go to a Facebook search for ‘Game Design Group’ or ‘Table Top or Board Game Design Group’. It’s right there, and it’s a really welcoming community. You have that. Then you have the Kickstarter advice group. They’re all right there to get into, and everybody in there is pretty helpful. It’s the ones that will come in afterwards to promote their campaign, like after they’ve launched they come in to the group and they’re like, “Hey, any advice?”, and everyone’s “Yeah, stop this campaign, ask us that again, and in a month launch it after you get the…”
But to change your campaign after you’ve launched? You’re already too late. Your first seventy two (72) hours are really going to set up the tone. If you don’t have traction in the first three (3) days, or some other sort of higher end marketing plan for later, you’re dead in the water, honestly. That’s just out of essentially watching every table top campaign for the last two (2) years. Sure, there’s a few that can get past that, but…
RICHARD MILES: Yeah, most are going to die in the water…
JOEL COLOMBO: Yeah.
RICHARD MILES: …die a slow painful death.
JOEL COLOMBO: Like you said, I found myself sometimes where I’ll see somebody and I’ll put it up and I can honestly tell that they didn’t know what they were doing when they put the page up, and they were a little bit out of it. So, I will personally message them through the Kickstarter message and give them a few tips, usually link them over to some of the groups, and just say, “Hey, I think you’re on to something, but I think you’re still early. I highly recommend you check this stuff out.” Some show up and some don’t.
RICHARD MILES: Correct.
JOEL COLOMBO: Unfortunately people who are probably listening to the podcast here are not people that need to listen to this stuff.
RICHARD MILES: Right. There’s certainly the calibre of person who decides, “I’m going to do this. That means I need to research it.”
JOEL COLOMBO: Yeah.
RICHARD MILES: Right. Then there are people who live in their bubble.
JOEL COLOMBO: Yeah.
RICHARD MILES: …and they for whatever reason, do not seek outside assistance. They’re in their bubble and they think they can do it just fine. The reality is if you have not looked at a Kickstarter campaign page and/or if you have, but you decide, “I’m going to ignore that because I know best.”
JOEL COLOMBO: Right.
RICHARD MILES: Hey, if you do know best and you can prove us all wrong, great. But from what I’ve seen, the best practices are best practices for a reason. Speaking of those, can you touch on some of the things that you specifically look for?
JOEL COLOMBO: Sure. Yeah. One of the questions you had sent to me earlier about one of the first things I notice on a campaign page. Yes, overall, generally just “Does it look like you put the time into it?” We got that. But the second one is, and I don’t know how many people realize it or not, I as the level of backer I am, and I know not everybody is, I pretty much use Kickstarter exclusively through the native app on the Iphone. I maybe, once a month, pop it up in a browser. So you better be sure that you’ve checked your campaign page in a mobile browser or in the actual… I know you can’t check it in an app before its launch, but at least check it on a mobile browser to see when you have such tiny text or things along those lines. They might look great on a full-sized screen, but again, being in a web software company I know that over fifty five percent (55%) of web visits now to anything are on a mobile device. So, you’re talking half your people seeing it in a possibly poor light.
So, that’s one of the first things I’ll notice too is, “Am I able to navigate this thing? Was it a whole bunch of graphics that were just slapped on to the page so the font is not scaling to my device? It’s just a big image, and that image doesn’t change in size. It just becomes very hard to read. That’s one that being on the mobile is huge but second to that is, because I’m on the mobile, I’m not seeing much of your campaign aside from your title, your cover picture, and possibly your short description. That’s really all I have to go on for the three seconds if I decide that I’m going to click in and go. I don’t think you can do anything better than a great cover picture, and we’ll get to the video I’m sure later, but the cover picture is a huge piece to me.
Am I your audience? I don’t back RPGs, the new Star Wars RPG stuff. I’m a fan but I am not an Indie RPG guy. So, if you’re in RPG, make sure it’s clear right there because honestly, I just would pass by it. But your RPG people would notice it and go into it. There are those elements that I give it three (3) seconds when I look at it because I’m looking at so many, and I think they propose for somebody who’s just browsing around casually too. Are you catching their eye with the short piece you have?
RICHARD MILES: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I think most people because they do not come from a web-design world probably are not looking at it from a, “How does this page look on a mobile device?” What about the project video? Since you back so many games, do you even watch videos anymore?
JOEL COLOMBO: I have out of the hundred and seventy five (175) games, I can honestly say, I’ve watched maybe eight (8), maybe ten (10). Here’s my perception on it. It’s your advertisement, and unfortunately like to me, I’m already at your page. It’s like I walked into your store and now what I see in most videos, it’s an advertisement to come to the store. I’m not saying all are. Some do a good play through. There is sometimes some good personality, whatever. The point of it is, I usually am not on video. Because of experience backing, I’m going to go the elements that I do look for right away to see things like components picture. It’s huge to me. I want to see what you’ve got in the box. I want to see if this is fifty (50) cue cards and a board. Does this thing have all kinds of bits?
Things like the video, I don’t want to be having to walk through it. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t work, and I’m not saying don’t do a video. I just don’t use them. I don’t go to them. Your description below is what I’m really counting on to tell me if this is going to fit me or not, not like your sales pitch version of it up top. But on the other side is that having videos from previews or run throughs or walkthroughs or whatever you want to play throughs, that’s mandatory. If I can’t see how the game is played, then I’m extremely hesitant to put money down on it. I want to see it played but not necessarily up in the two (2) minute header video
RICHARD MILES: Right.
JOEL COLOMBO: where you can do a thirty (30) second overview. I need to see if that gameplay style is going to work with me, my groups, things like that.
RICHARD MILES: Yeah. I’m pretty much the same way.
JOEL COLOMBO: Yeah, and like I said. I’m not trying to downplay the video as a value to attracting especially the more casual backers, like you said, the ‘Under 10 Projects’ or even first-timers because that’s definitely going to peak their interest. But, then again, think of it like your television ad. You’re getting them to hook and then, they come to your store so to speak they scroll down, and now they’re left wanting because, “Oh this seems cool.” Then down below there’s nothing that takes them to the next level. Maybe it’s just this short and summarized what was in the video. The video is your summary recap that pulls the whole thing together in two (2) minutes so that you can get the person who just wants to pop-in, check it out real quick. It doesn’t fit them in that initial sales pitch. They move on.
But once they do, and again like you said, like yourself or even myself too, we don’t go through the pitch anymore. We just go on right down to the meat. It’s like, “Okay, I understand how this works so I can go right into the store. I don’t need to be sold on coming in the store.” So definitely don’t take that as, the video doesn’t matter. I think it totally does for attracting the masses to go to step two (2), but I go right to step two (2).
RICHARD MILES: Right.
JOEL COLOMBO: …and that is the page itself.
RICHARD MILES: Right. Let’s talk about reward tiers, and where do you normally back? Do you look for the deluxe tiers? Are you adverse to them? Do they affect how much you pledge when you see a game that has this special deluxe Kickstarter version or some kind of special bits that you’re not going to get in stores? Shed some light on how you look at reward tiers.
JOEL COLOMBO: Okay. Yeah, the reward tiers it’s such a difficult subject when it comes to how different people set them up because you’ll see some that set their tiers up for the international levels and all the different things. That can be extremely confusing if it’s not super clear. What’s where? When you start mixing in multiple zone pricing with a couple different tiers of actual pledge backing, you end up with nine (9), or twelve (12), or fifteen (15) different levels, and it’s really crazy. The campaigns that typically work best for me that really sell me on it are, you have to have your token dollar pledge or five (5) dollar pledge, or whatever it is so that you can get friends and family that don’t want your game…to give you some amount or something like that.
But really I want to see the game. I want to see the game level. If you have a special edition, sure, put it in there. I am hesitant, usually, to go to that level if it’s a first time publisher, almost exclusively. If you’re a first time publisher, and you have two (2) different tiers to your game, I’m almost never going to take the deluxe tier because I have no idea if you’re actually going to deliver the thing at all. I have not been burned. I have gotten one (1) or two (2) cancelled and refunded which is good but the deluxe tier for a first time publisher is tough. What I would rather see and what really does it for me is half the game pledge level, at the tier that you need it to be. Call it the basic tier, whatever. Then add your stretches in to get to the deluxe level that everyone can afford. Whatever your number needs to be at for that, price it out. There’s just a lot of math that has to go into figuring out where your costing and everything is to get to that deluxe level.
But I’d rather see your basic game with cardboard chips punched out and ready to go. The game’s there. You set your goal to be at the level needed, based on the quote for your cardboard pieces. Then if we get five thousand ($5,000) or ten thousand ($10,000), whatever your margin you need to get to the wood bits or whatever. Then you upgrade it to it because the reality is, okay, somebody pays an extra ten ($10.00) or twenty dollars ($20.00) for the deluxe tier, then you’re building this basic game. You’re getting it published. You’re ordering your fifteen hundred (1,500) minimum or whatever. Then you’re getting the extra components for the three hundred (300) or two hundred (200) people that need wood bits now. It just seems like there’s way more moving parts
RICHARD MILES: Right.
JOEL COLOMBO: So for a first time designer, I’m hesitant to do a deluxe. Once you’ve got some proof that you’ve delivered, that the quality came in the way you originally proposed on your first project or your second project, now I’m much more inclined to look at it and say, “Yeah. You know what, they know what they’re doing, and they put this together to do this right.” If the deluxe looks cool and the game is speaking to me, I’ll go with the deluxe. But I’ll look at what’s the real difference between the two (2). I might get actual little gem bits and stuff like that. You look at it and you’re like, “Okay, I know that there’s a shipping cost attached to this extra weight. I know that it’s going to cost a buck ($1.00) for the gems but if there’s a twenty-five dollar ($25.00) difference between your basic and your deluxe, and it’s so that I have twenty five (25) plastic gem chips. No, I can pick those up afterwards and throw them in the game if I need to. So really, you have to think of what your value of your deluxe does for the actual thing because now you’re really creating something that people can judge the value of your game on because your basic was forty bucks ($40.00), and now your deluxe is sixty-five ($65.00). Most people can look at that and say, “Is there a $25.00 actual value difference between A and B?”, where if you just had one (1) level that increased in value as you got more profit, you can price your game at what you should honestly price it at.
If it’s a sixty dollar ($60.00) game, and I don’t care about the component cost, some people do. But I look at it, I’m like, “Yeah, there’s a lot more that goes into a game than just its wood bits inside.” I love splutter titles and they are for the components you get, and that type of stuff. It’s pricier, than what you would say if I would just add up the cardboard. So I think that if you want to command a better price and have people buy into it, when you start creating more disparity between your levels, you start to create more questions. More questions means more thought. More thought means more waiting. More waiting means something else comes up, and no backing happens.
So simplify, simplify, simplify. Get down to three (3), four (4) levels. Maybe you have that high level where you’re giving them a caricature or something, whatever on the card. But for the most part, try and keep it to your friends and family pledge. Your base game may be a deluxe if you have that credibility and then your five hundred dollar ($500.00) super pledge, or whatever you want to call it. But don’t go twelve (12), fifteen (15) pledge levels. When I look at that, I’m confused. I’m like, “I’ll star this, and I’ll look at it later.” And sometimes later doesn’t come. There’s a lot to think about when it comes to it but take away confusion is a huge piece. Some of the ones that I’ve loved the best, they have one (1) pledge level. It’s the game, fifty bucks ($50.00), the US shipping included, go.
RICHARD MILES: Yeah. Right. Click it. You’re done. You don’t have to think about it. Yup. Exactly. You mentioned ‘starring’ a project. For those who are not familiar with Kickstarter, you can ‘star’ a project and that essentially sends out a reminder. It keeps it in your profile under your ‘starred projects’ so you can go back and see everyone that you’ve clicked that button. But it also sends you a reminder forty eight (48) hours before the end of that campaign. For me, I almost a hundred percent (100%), this is very rare if I deviate from this, but I almost wait until I get that reminder. That’s for me, it’s just because I want to see how the campaign is doing. Is It funding, is it not funding? How many stretched goals did they unlock? That sort of thing. If at that point, I feel like I’m getting a really good value, at that point I back. But it’s usually after I get that email. When do you typically back a campaign?
JOEL COLOMBO: Well, I guess that starts with how I discover campaigns, and we can go there. So I installed a RSS news app on my phone just know you can find them for any device. Right? So an RSS news reader app. Then I went over to Kicktrack, and I grabbed their latest release RSS feed. I stick that into the news app, and it’s the only feed in that particular app. So I know when the notification alerts come up, every ten (10) minutes Kicktrack does their updates, I see when I get a push notice from that app that it’s a board game. I am literally getting board game notices usually within the hour of their launch, for every single game, every single day.
RICHARD MILES: Nice.
JOEL COLOMBO: So with that said, I am usually by the evening, finish up work, come home, whatever. I will look through the six (6), eight (8), ten (10), whatever launched that day, and I’m clicking on each one. I’m looking at the photo, the title. If it seems interesting I go in. So at that point, that’s where I make a decision usually on that. I look at it and the game speaks to me, it’s got a lot of the points I like. I look at it, price point is reasonable, all that other stuff, and I will usually back it. I’m usually a first twenty four (24) hour backer for most of almost all the campaigns I backed.
The other thing would be that I would look at it and I would ‘star’ it. So I’ll click that star. “Hey, I’m not sure yet. I have to look more. I have to watch the play through.” Because I always look at them. I back it now and then later, it will be in my back list. I’m already in there. I can watch the video. If I don’t like it, I can back out. It’s the first day. So I have plenty of time to do this but I also want to help promote the momentum of it. By backing it early and keeping an eye on it every day, it’s just like ‘starring’ it but I am also helping create momentum for the campaign because campaigns typically feed off of itself. The better it’s doing, the better it does. When you can get momentum, I like to help that. “You know what, I’m thinking about it. I’ll put it on there. I’ll go.”
RICHARD MILES: How important to you is a third party review on a Kickstarter page?
JOEL COLOMBO: Well, two (2) different things. Kickstarter, I don’t think there’s really anything on Kickstarter that can be considered a review. You can call it a preview but they haven’t made the game yet. Is the cardboard going to be garbage? The reality is that they’re previewing what it should be. I’m of the school that it’s hard to be objective especially if somebody’s paid to do a preview. They might say some negative points or something, but you know it’s designed to be around promotion. So if they put it on their page, it’s probably positive, right? You’re not going to put a, “We hated this game.” on our Kickstarter page. The reviews, I rarely will look at one and say they’re a review.
The ones that are previews, though, and even though he only plays certain types of games and certain things, the Rahdo Run Throughs to me are a huge thing. I bet you I back about eight (8) out of ten (10) that he does a run through on. Not because it’s him or anything like that but because the way he previews it, I can put myself in his seat, and I can actually visualize how that will play with my game group, with me, and I rarely ever listen to his final thoughts or things like that because I really just want to see him play the game with the real cards, with the real bits type of thing. He does a preview or a run through. If you get somebody to do that where they’re just playing the game and showing me how the mechanics and all that stuff goes, that’s really important to me.
Afterwards, when I’m going to retail and stuff, when the game is available and people are spending their own money to buy the thing and don’t have any obligation or expectation, that’s when the reviews typically will be a little more important to me because I’m looking at it with a sense of, “Yeah, somebody probably spent forty bucks ($40.00) on this.” You have to be careful. Because in this space, there are a lot of times, you don’t want to pan a thing you never get another title from a publisher, those types of things. So previews. Preview, preview, preview, play throughs super important but again, other people probably do like reviews. This debate goes on at forums all the time. I would say get some reviews. If they have some name recognition, that’s great. But for me, I just want to see how it plays, and I’m going to make my own opinion.
RICHARD MILES: Right. No, that makes sense. Yeah. So before you back a project, you take any other information into account that might not be specifically game-related. I’m talking about things like the amount of the funding goal. If that to you, since you’ve backed so many games, you can see that, “This game has a $1,000 funding goal.” But it’s going to cost them closer to twenty ($20,000.00) or thirty ($30,000.00) to create it. Do you look at things like that?
JOEL COLOMBO: Yeah.
RICHARD MILES: Does that throw up red flags?
JOEL COLOMBO: Well, yeah. Being as experienced now as I am, when I see something really falls out of the typical range for what they’re proposing, I really have to dig in to the campaign because maybe they are using gold plated maples. I don’t know. But something is off. When they’re doing a basic euro, and the funding goal is seventy five thousand dollars ($75,000.00), something’s wrong. I mean, I looked at the components. I looked at this. That is a high minimum goal you need to do. Why? That’s where inexperience could come in. Maybe they’re trying to publish it stateside, okay, that’s respectable but I have to know why. Because if it was just a number you picked, that worries me that you don’t know exactly what you’re getting in to. So as long as you can explain why your goal is what it is, and I don’t mean getting down to how much you’re spending on individual mailing envelopes. But the reality of it, look. You can see the history of every game ever run on Kickstarter. So look at ones that are comparable in scope, and say, “Oh, most euros go between twenty ($20,000) and thirty five thousand dollar ($35,000) goals. Am I way off? Am I at five thousand ($5,000)? Well, people aren’t going to believe that I know what I’m doing when I’m saying I need five thousand ($5,000) when it’s twenty thousand ($20,000). So yes, the goal is one.
Another one that is somewhat controversial in discussion is your profile history. I am one that does it. Whatever you want to say about it, I’m honest. I go almost immediately after I look at your very basic campaign overview, I look at your history. So I look at your ‘zero created’, ‘zero backed’. And yes, there is the possibility you just created this for your new game company but I need to know that. I need to know why because I want to know that they went through what I’ve gone through. I want to know they’ve gone through sitting through the updates, knowing what this whole process is like. If the only thing that’s in their entire profile was them backing ‘Exploding Kittens’, and they just came out with a game, that worries me a little. I’m not saying I haven’t backed ‘zero, zeroes’. I’m fine with first time creators if they’ve got their stuff together, but people who have never backed a table top of a similar quality or calibre of what they’re about to sell to me, it worries me unless you have some explanation.
RICHARD MILES: For me, I look at it as well, and I’m a little bit the same way where I may back a project that has ‘zero, zero’ but I hesitate a little bit.
JOEL COLOMBO: I’m not saying I expect them to have 180 games backed. But if you don’t have a handful , if you couldn’t over the last year that you’ve thought about your game, and if you haven’t even thought about your game for a year well that’s another problem. But you know that you couldn’t back a twenty dollar ($20.00) card game just to understand what it goes through, to me it’s just a red flag. It looks at it, and I’m saying, “You know, I really worry that I don’t know if they know what they’re getting themselves into.”
RICHARD MILES: Understood, yeah, completely. When you’re backing games, is shipping a factor for you?
JOEL COLOMBO: Yes, absolutely, shipping in general. I am not going to pretend that shipping doesn’t happen. I am not one of the people that, “Free shipping, free shipping.” I understand there’s a significant cost in delivery of these so I am not going to tell you you shouldn’t charge shipping. How you present it, shipping, is super important to me. There’s the old school way, right? Roll it in and make it a pledge level, and that’s your US shipping. I’m going to be selfish in the sense that I’m going to be typically talking about US-based shipping. When it gets to international stuff that’s a free for all, and I guess you have to decide how you want to handle that. But as a US backer, which I still think there’s a huge portion of backers that are US based, having it rolled in is always great because I don’t have to click through that second screen, and I know exactly what I’m in for. It makes it way easier to say, “Oh this is fifty bucks ($50.00) and it’s all in. Nothing else? Done. Go.”
If you’re using the zone shipping so that you can handle the international levels and all that other stuff, then at least have that in so when I click the pledge level, I have the five bucks ($5.00) or the ten bucks ($10,00) or whatever next, and I can judge the whole thing. One of the problems though, whenever you add shipping on, and for me, I’m a more aggressive collector, I’ve reached the top tier of Cool Stuff Inc, whatever discount club they call it.
RICHARD MILES: Right.
JOEL COLOMBO: So, when I look at that I am like, “Well, I am used to getting those levels where I get the shipping for free so if the shipping does appear to change that value up to what would become significantly higher than if I do wait for retail, and I know that the game’s going to go to retail, you know it’s not a total independent first-timer (that) has no distribution channel, I may stop and say, “Okay. Well, I was willing to pay ten bucks ($10.00) more but now ten bucks ($10.00) more on top of that for shipping. Do I really want it now? I’m not even getting it now, I’m getting it two weeks before it shows up there anyway. But do I really need to be in on it now or not?” But when it’s rolled in to the initial pledge level, and it’s just forty five bucks ($45.00), I am just as easily tricked as a marketing tactic as the next guy. It makes me just say, “You know what, $45.00. Okay. Good. I’m done.” Or “Thirty five bucks ($35.00)? Good. I’m done.” So your game of twenty five ($25.00) I threw ten ($10.00) in there and it’s thirty five ($35.00), I’m able to justify that and go. That’s the easiest way. But at least have it as the add on, then they can justify the whole thing and say, “I’m willing to do that.”
What I hate and I see it trending, and just not at all a fan and is definitely going to slow me down, is any offline need to do anything after Kickstarter because I absolutely don’t want to pull my credit card. I haven’t pulled my credit card out in whatever, year and a half. It’s all in Kickstarter. I just push done and then it’s on there. I don’t have to enter it. But now I’m going to have to go in to a Pledge Manager. Then I’m going to have to hope that you’ve calculated this right and the shipping isn’t turn out to be fifteen bucks ($15.00) when you said it was going to be five ($5.00) on your page but, oh, something changed. Now, I’m at risk to have a variable amount that I didn’t account for. It’s super distracting from what it was, and I get that from a business perspective. I’m a business person too. It makes the most logical sense but it’s the most inconvenient and it’s extremely distracting from what we’re trying to do.
I hate Pledge Managers. I’ll say that now. I hate, hate, hate Pledge Managers. I get a few who have super complex minis game, all kinds of addons and things that you really sort out. Fine. But man, these Pledge Managers are the worst. Their emails constantly get sent in to spam folders. I only find out I missed one. Now remember, at any given time, I’m backing five (5) to seven (7) active projects. So with the ones that are still outstanding, plus the backing ones, plus the old ones announcing more, I get up to twenty (20), twenty-five (25) updates a day. I have to know. I have to be glancing through these to say, “Oh, shoot. I missed a shipping pledge thing and I might be late on my delivery because they announced it. The Pledge Manager went live today but it got stuck in spam.” So, anything that creates that confusion afterwards is just a major turn-off as far as getting me to just go with it. But that’s one, just use the Kickstarter survey. It’s built in to the app so when I log in to the app, it pops up and gives me a nice, “Hey, respond now.” If you want, collect it there, and if you want you actually have other people jump in to your Pledge Manager doing more than what the basic pledge is for, fine. Then do that. But I don’t want to be forced to go in there just to confirm what’s my already saved Kickstarter address.
RICHARD MILES: Right. Yeah. I’m largely the same way except where like you said, for miniatures game square, it makes sense and there are just gobs of things that I can add on later. We haven’t talked about updates really but you mentioned them a few times in that because of the number of games that you back you get quite a few updates a day. Do you read the updates that you’re getting?
JOEL COLOMBO: Okay. That’s a good question. The games that I’m super excited for, I will usually read them. Most though, I just read the titles. So when you do an update make your title super clear. Sometimes they’re funny or whatever, but if they’re just casual updates and they’re funny, that’s fine. Make it a comical title, that’s fine. If it’s just a “Hey we just want to check in to tell you how we’re doing.” But if there’s anything of importance in the update that I need to know, or should know, make it very clear in the title. Pledge Manager is open, get your submissions in. That should be your title of your update. Then if it’s a long update, do a ‘TLDR’ at the top (Too Long Didn’t Read), bullet point what’s in this thing because I just want to look at the top three bullet points, and say, “Okay. This is shipping info for Australia and blah, blah, blah.” It doesn’t matter to me. I can move on to the next thing. So it’s great to just get the index at the top. Yeah, titles, summary or short thing up top, and then you can go in to your full thing; pictures of your miniatures and eighteen (18) various stages of moulding
RICHARD MILES: Alright.
JOEL COLOMBO: And that’s fine. Sometimes I look at them, like I said, when I’m really excited and other people are super, super crazy about reading every word in an update, and commenting on every update, and all that stuff. That’s fine. They could do that. But for the most part where we’re just getting through it, “What’s the meat of this thing? What’s the point?” Just like the video does for your thing is if I feel that compelled, I should go further, and I want to know that you have the details below. Then another one with updates is frequency. That’s always a topic. Frequency of when you should, and how often, and all that other stuff.
During the campaign, whenever a milestone is hit like a stretched goal or a backer level, there’s something like that. Sure share something out on that. During the campaign, all bets are off. Some people will post all of the time. You definitely want to be in communication. You definitely want to be responding to comments on the comment thread real time. That’s the first sign of a dead project is if two (2) days go by and the creator hasn’t responded to the comment thread. But updates, anything goes during the campaign, as long as people feel you’re communicating with them.
RICHARD MILES: Well, Joel, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I think all of our listeners have learned a lot. They have been able to glimpse a little bit of what goes in to the buyer’s mind, the backer’s mind when they are staring at a campaign page. I think it’s important to distinguish that from a fellow designer’s perspective. The reason I wanted you on the show is just to have that, the backer perspective.
JOEL COLOMBO: Yeah thanks. Someday maybe I’ll be back on with the game that I finally push out of play testing.
RICHARD MILES: Yeah. That would be awesome.
JOEL COLOMBO: I appreciate it.