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Coming up Short: 10 Kickstarter Campaign Pitfalls to Avoid

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I’ve spent the last few weeks going over Kickstarter projects and critically analyzing them to find shared elements between successful campaigns; my first couple of posts in this section detailing the Tiny Epic Kingdoms and Eternal Dynasty campaigns share some of my initial thoughts on the subject.  There are some great examples I’ve found and lessons I’ll share in the weeks to come, but for this post I’d like to share a list of the top 10 pitfalls I’ve noticed unsuccessful campaigns fall into.  After all, it’s just as important to consider the elements that contribute to a project’s failure as it is to figure out what makes others successful.

Note: you”ll notice a lack of pictures this week.  Although examples would undoubtedly prove worthwhile, I’d like to try and avoid singling out specific campaigns at this point.  As a result, I’ve decided to forego images and to keep my comments general.

1.Uninspired Project Name and Imagery

The first interaction potential backers have with your project is its name and list-page image they see on the Kickstarter campaign list. Unfortunately, not everyone takes this as seriously as they should; I’d say maybe 1/4 of the projects on Kickstarter at any given time actually have a project name and picture that pique my interest enough to click into the campaign.  Don’t get caught with uninspired list-page contents.

2. Bad or Missing Video

After clicking into your campaign page, the first thing that will greet potential backers is your top-video.  At least, that’s what they’ll see if you’ve taken the time to make a video.  Some projects opt to forego the video, and this is a huge mistake since it’s an easy way to relay the most critical information about you and your project.  Just as bad is if a campaign has included a video, but it ends up containing worthless information.  Don’t clog your videos with superfluous information, and don’t make the video so long that people lose interest before the end.

3. Poor Pricing Models

Unnecessary pledge levels or additional items and poor price points are a surefire way to sink your campaign and scare off potential backers before they even read about your game.  Asking $15 for a Print n Play for a card game?  I’ll just click off of the page and go spend my $15 on a game that’s already fully manufactured for the same price.  Trying to make me invest more in the game by including extras like a baseball cap with your company logo on all the pledge levels is also not a marketing gimmick that’s going to work.  Don’t overprice, and don’t include un-necessaries on primary pledge levels.

4. Wall of Text

If you’ve gotten people far enough into your campaign page to where they’re ready to learn about the actual game and what you’re producing, don’t erect a wall of text they’ll have to slog through for information.  I clicked into a campaign a few weeks ago that was literally 3 word-processing pages worth of text.  That’s it.  I didn’t even bother to start reading because I lost interest as soon as I saw the page.

5. Lack of Information

Related to number 4, you don’t want to go to the other extreme and just include a couple of paragraphs of text and call it good.  I’ve run into multiple campaigns that had 2 paragraphs of 3-4 sentences each and that was it.  How is that supposed to inspire me to give you my hard-earned money?  How does that tell me anything about what you’re trying to do?  The answer to both is it doesn’t, and those campaigns all ended up with 2 backers each.

6. Over-Saturation

You’ve spent a year or more developing a game and the lore surrounding it.  You’ve gone Tolkein on it, inventing parts of languages, back-stories, cultures, and you’re excited to share all of that hard-thought information with everyone who may back your campaign.  The problem is, it’s too much.  If a backer has to read through 2 full page-scrolls of text just to find out what genre your game is in, they’re probably not going to even get that far.  Don’t over-saturate people with information before you’ve covered all of the critical elements they’re going to need to start thinking about whether to back your project.

7. Lack of Substantive Images

Concerning some of the previous points, it’s obvious that images can do a lot to help a campaign convey information, liven up a campaign’s page, and break up the text segments.  Just because there are images, however, doesn’t mean they’re worthwhile.  Don’t include poor-quality images or ones that mis-represent your product, and don’t include images that have no point or will not convey purposeful information.

8. Lack of Communication

I often won’t back a campaign right off the bat if it isn’t a slam-dunk for me or if my wallet is tight that month…I’ll wait a week, maybe even two, and see how the campaign compares to others I’m considering.  If a project creator is unresponsive to messages, or if there are hardly any updates throughout the time I’m watching, I’ll un-star the campaign and won’t take another look.  Don’t cut yourself off from your backers…they’re not only necessary for your success, but they’re your greatest asset you have for spreading the word about your campaign.

9. Lack of Effort

This is somewhat related to my previous point…if you’re not communicating with backers, you certainly aren’t putting in the effort you should be.  Putting your campaign page up and then sitting back and hoping enough people find you isn’t going to do the trick.  It is obvious when campaigns do this…usually you can tell because there are, as described in point 8, very few updates for the campaign that indicate the creator is doing anything to promote their own project.  Don’t stop putting in marketing and production effort after your campaign kicks off.

10. Don’t “go it alone”

You have access to board game sites, blogs, reddit, social media, and kickstarter or other crowdsourcing sites themselves.  Look for information, request information, and use that information.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve got everything figured out for yourself or that you will figure it all out on your own.  If you do, you’ll probably end up being one of the campaigns that makes mistakes 1-9.  If you really take this to an extreme, you’ll actually make the same mistakes 2-3 campaigns in a row and continue to fail like a couple of more recent, notable board game kickstarters(unfortunate, as both games were of the quality to succeed).


Have you seen a crowd-sourced campaign that you disliked for one reason or another?  Did a campaign do something particularly wrong you just didn’t like?  Please share your experiences and thoughts!



Author: bduerksen30 I have an m.a. in history focusing on naval and maritime history in the Atlantic from the seventeenth-early nineteenth centuries. I've worked as a website consultant, and am currently employed as an analyst. I also run the COG Gaming blog for board game reviews, news, and kickstarter highlights. COG Gaming also offers playesting and editing services for new designers, and we're in the process of developing a few titles of our own. Contact me if you're interested in having your game reviewed, previewed, or in one of our other services!

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