Stretch goals! Everybody who goes to Kickstarter with hopes of publishing their board game desires to not only fund, but to achieve many stretch goals. After all, doing so means you make more money and your game ends up in more people’s hands!
The need for stretch goals is threefold. First and foremost, stretch goals help keep attention on your project. Kickstarter, by its very nature, is most compelling to backers when the fate of the project is on the line. Kickstarter provides, in marketing lingo, an extremely effective call to action. Once you reach your goal, at least some element of this magic goes away. Granted, it’s still time-limited and there’s a cost incentive for backers to back now instead of waiting for your game to be on sale later, but they’re not quite as compelling as the project ceasing to exist without funding. Stretch goals help recapture that magic.
The second and most altruistic reason for stretch goals is that they help you make a better project. As a general rule of thumb, you should focus on the minimum viable product at your Kickstarter funding goal. All the bells and whistles – thicker cards, linen finish, add-ons, bonus components, etc. – should not be required at the funding goal level. The reason for this is that they jack up the per-unit cost to print, making your goal edge toward the unachievably high.
The last reason is that stretch goals motivate more backers to get involved. It’s a weird quirk of psychology that people prefer an extraordinarily polished game with extra bells and whistles when it’s put together piece by piece. That is to say:
- Game A was funded and hit five stretch goals
- Game B was funded
If Game A and Game B were the exact same in terms of content and quality, people would prefer Game A. It sounds more impressive. It’s a matter of framing. No, it’s not necessarily rational.
Knowing specifically what stretch goals are for helps us to determine what the best ones are and how to implement them. Before you choose which stretch goals to pursue and promise, you need to do some research. You need to make sure you are able to fulfill your promises from an operational perspective. It’s true that as you gain more funding, your per-unit cost will go down…but never make assumptions with no intention to test them! Talk to your printer while you’re still developing your game and see how much various component upgrades and add-ons cost. Make sure to account for the shipping weight too.
If you’re adding elements to your game through stretch goals, you need to make sure they are thoroughly play-tested. You need to make sure there are no breakdowns in your rules. You need to blind play-test your stretch goals. You need to make sure the balance is right. Make sure that you don’t need additional art that you can’t get in a timely manner. Make sure extra game elements can fit in the box and that they won’t drive up the price to an unacceptable level.
With an understanding of why you use stretch goals and how you can implement them, the only question remains is: what exactly do you choose? Short answer: I can’t tell you that. I can’t tell you that because trends change, and popular stretch goals are always in flux. I’m writing this in 2018, and if I tell you what to do specifically, it probably won’t last to 2020.
I refer you then to a method I’d mentioned in a prior article on creating Kickstarter campaign pages.
No guide can ever detail exactly what the optimal Kickstarter [stretch goals look] like because people’s expectations are fluid and best practices change. The campaign pages that got funded in 2015 don’t necessarily look like the ones that will fund in 2018. No matter when you’re reading this, whether it be 2018 or 2038, you need to look at ten pages that funded. Ideally, you want to look at the pages of highly funded games for campaigns whose games resemble your specific niche – sci-fi, worker placement, etc.
Now with that said, here are some stretch goal angles that you can pursue that have stood the test of time:
- Component upgrades are always welcome. Gamers will hardly balk at nicer card stock, a linen finish, or more components.
- Extra player upgrades are also popular. These tend to be flashier than component upgrades.
- Likewise, solo player modes are very popular as well. One of the biggest trends in board gaming right now is the rise of solo player games. Giving your game a solo player mode is a good way to get gamers on your side.
- Add-ons. Sometimes, you just can’t get everything you want in the base game. If you find there is enough demand, you can always release add-ons.
Aspiring to achieve stretch goals is one of the most exciting things about Kickstarting a board game. They keep attention on your project, bring in more backers, and – most importantly – make your game better. Choose ones that you can realistically add from an operational perspective. Follow the trends and make sure you’re appealing to current tastes. Good luck!