One of the reasons I remember Death Inc
was that it announced
its campaign's launch ahead of time which was even less common to do back then than it is now.
Based on my experiences building reward structures for others, the reward tiers were not well incentivized by Ambient Studios. There needs to be reasons to support a project now instead of waiting for the game to be in a Steam
sale or Humble Bundle
. The rewards also need to scale to comply with the Law of Diminishing Returns; as a metaphor, a person who enjoys having one marshmallow may easily accept a second, but after ten marshmallows they start to not feel like they can't eat another one of the sugary blobs. Death Inc scaled very poorly.
I feel that a Kickstarter project needs to have a strong main tier that immediately draws in potential backers to it first and then people can decide to raise their contributions. Double Fine
has a very strong $15 and $30 tiers as do many of the other superstar campaigns. Delver's Drop
had very attractive $15 and $25 tiers. These tiers should be priced below $30 and the majority of funding should ideally come from these tiers. It is subjective but £15 felt too pricey for Death Inc's "main" tier and even with £10 early-bird slots open I did not feel like backing it. The £10 tier should have been the £15 tier with a £8 early-bird tier. All the various early-bird rewards for multiple levels added some confusion and there were too many available slots at the £25 tier. I could go on longer about how the rewards also should try to fit groups in the Bartle Test
One of the things I look at is how efficient a rewards structure is. A $1 iOS game is going to need a lot more pre-orders than a $5 PC game to reach $1,000 so the iOS game needs to try hard to upsell backers to higher tiers. Great reward structures try to balance getting the most out of each backer through upselling, attracting as many backers as possible with a lowering barriers to backing while aiming to be funded with a minimum amount of backers. For Death Inc to get funded would require them to aim to get around 12,000 backers based on some simple math that looks at averages for the Video Games category. In retrospect I can use the backers they did get as a population sample and get 9,677 as the number of people they needed to try to aim to convince to become backers. I consider a project "broken" if it needs more than 40,000 backers as that project would need to set new popularity records on Kickstarter just to reach its goal (I do see these launch occasionally).
Some other thoughts:
- Death Inc's second version of the pitch video was much better than the first. The first took too long to show gameplay.
- I can see that they were trying to use dashes to center text in the reward tier descriptions, but for some tiers the formatting didn't work making a mess out of the text.
- I do not feel lack of media exposure was a problem for Death Inc.
- They could have rebooted the campaign with a much lower scope like making the game in episodes.
- I remember that month Death Inc was up against a number of large campaigns like Project Awakened and The Golem that were both also struggling. It was a bad month.
It is disappointing to see Ambient Studios had such trouble after the campaign. Death Inc itself looked very fresh compared to other games being launched and I did give it the
spot for the active project that most deserved to be funded (I also gave Delver's Drop that
spot when it was active).