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Large Kickstarters should be more open about shipping costs

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This topic contains 25 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by  limburger 1 week, 2 days ago.

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  • #1640116

    jamescutts
    2750xp
    Cult of Games Member

    A discussion from the CoG discord around Kickstarters eventually got onto shipping, one of my points of annoyance with kickstarter.

    I raised the point that either Kickstarter or the companies should be more proactive in providing shipping estimates so that backers can more easily see the total cost of their pledge.

    Some good points have been mentioned about Kickstarters including shipping and going bankrupt and also that shipping is hard to estimate and providing a estimate that then increased would actually annoy people.

    Personally I understand that when I back a kickstarter I’m basically burning money so I expect to get hit with shipping fees, however for somebody new to Kickstarter and the process this isnt always clear.

    For example last year I backed a small Card game for about $15, the shipping was then estimated early this year to be $20 thats a significant increase on the cost. Personally for these small campaings from new companies i can understand the difficulty in providing shipping estimates as they probably have little experience.

    A good point was raised that shipping costs are hard to estimate if you dont have the product yet or can change based on world circumstances.

    However for Kickstarters from Larger more established companies I belive these should be more open and honest about the total costs of backing.

    A bad case in my view is Joan of Arc 1.5, while it states shipping costs they dont relate well to their complex pledge manager process. I dont think in this case they havent been open (though it is a bit hidden away) but have such a complex process the costs quickly rack up, it almost shouldnt be a kickstarter (but thats another matter).

    It does lead on to a point that I think these larger companies do know costs , Mythic state as much in the shipping estimages, and their costs roughly match. I got the equlavalet of three large boxes in joan of arc, at $75 shipping and Steamwatchers at $25 shipping, so they quite clearly have a pricing plan for shipping for a given size of game.

     

    A good example of what i think should be done is the new Hellboy Kickstarter, it clearly states estimated costs so you know what the cost might be (mantic are usually good at shipping anyway).

    Theres also the recent kickstarter change that allows you to add addons before the pledge managers.

    Anyway just a bit of a potential topic for discussion.

    #1640122

    theamazingmrg
    Participant
    2689xp

    While I agree in principle, I think there is one big issue that really affects shipping cost transparency:  due to a combination of the US leaving an international postage agreement, a shortage of shipping containers, COVID, random ships getting stuck in canals, etc., shipping costs have risen dramatically in the last two years.  So if something provides an estimate of costs, and I back on that basis, by the time to collect shipping fees rolls round, that estimate could have tripled through no fault of the Kickstarter owner.

     

    A few years ago, your suggestion would have been fine, but the international shipping arrangements have changed so much in recent years that it would be very difficult for anybody, even larger manufacturers, to accurately provide estimates.

    #1640125

    limburger
    16507xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Accurate numbers for shipping costs would be nice … but it would also reinforce the idea that Kickstarter is a pre-order webshop.

    I’d rather have the full spreadsheet with a breakdown in personell cost (what salaries? what 3rd parties? how much ?), materials, etc. …
    It’s what they’d have to do for actual investors if they weren’t doing crowdfunding.

    Why ?
    Because it might show the world that a kickstarter with 10,000 $ goal and at least a year of work by a team of 3 is not realistic.
    It would force companies to admit that they really need hit all of the stretch goals before they can have a chance of delivering with minimal cost overruns and delays.

    The only problem with that approach is that the average backer isn’t an investor … they are pre ordering (and no amount of ‘not a pre-order/webshop’ is going to stop that).
    And they might get scared if they even bothered to read.
    Not that scaring of those types wouldn’t be a bad idea …

    And while I’m on the subject. The 1$ investment level needs to go.
    At that level you don’t have money to burn and you shouldn’t be backing a kickstarter as you might not have the funds to deal with unexpected costs that get passed to you (like custom duty and handling fees).

    #1640126

    onlyonepinman
    13998xp
    Cult of Games Member

    It’s a touchy subject to be sure – I have backed enough that I am savvy enough now to know that you have to assume that there’s going to be an extra cost for shipping and that it could be a significant sum, especially if you back big.  However I can imagine for new backers it seems like a real minefield.   I Know that many Kickstarters do state that shipping isn’t included but they rarely tell you what shipping will cost.  I am not an expert on global logistics so I don’t know how realistic they can be with that, especially as costs can change wildly between funding and delivery.

    I don’t really know what the solution is to be honest.  Perhaps they could give you estimates but they would need to be very clear it was an estimate and that adding extras to your pledge will affect that.

    #1640128

    sundancer
    30642xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Anyway just a bit of a potential topic for discussion.

    …he says after a wall of text. Now, let’s see….

    My take on this: I agree, companies (or persons) who run a crowdfunding campaign (There is more in the world than Kickstarter) should do their best in giving shipping cost estimates early on. And to be fair most projects I look at closer do that. And that’s why I keep myself from pledging often. Most shipping costs are up to 50% of the product and that’s a bit steep for my taste. However there are things that are hard to calculate: sudden increase of tariffs, shipping costs and/or supply shortages (Brexit anyone?) or even when a project goes through the roof and suddenly the project leader needs to get thousands of copies shipped. But one thing projects could do better on: give shipping quotes on how much the maximum will be when every stretch goal is met. If anybody remembers the OGRE Designer’s Edition? That thing went from box to monster.

    Weight: 22 pounds (30lbs in shipping packaging) Dimensions: 24″ x 20″ x 7″

    So yeah: give as much info as possible but we don’t expect that the estimates will be 100% on point. But they should be in that ballpark.

    #1640154

    fightcitymayor
    Participant
    1086xp

    There’s also a deceptive “aw shucks, we didn’t know!” quality that some KS publishers like to use as an excuse to raise shipping costs late in the game.  If you are a business, and you plan on shipping product throughout the entire globe, here’s a helpful hint: It is your job to know the shipping costs and/or estimate those costs in good faith.

    But sadly people are so conditioned to get screwed over by KS publishers that few bat an eye at fraudulent behavior.

     

    #1640178

    limburger
    16507xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Not every kickstarter is done by a fully fledged business …
    And to be fair … a lot of businesses within this industry (tabletop games) are often little more than 2 guys in a shed who got lucky that their hobbyist product sold.

    If you’ve ever watched one of those ‘reality tv shows’ where an ‘expert’ helps a failing business then you’ll notice a pattern that holds true for a lot of them : not knowing why or how their business stayed afloat during the good days so they’re not prepped when disaster strikes or business dries up …

    Things tend to go wrong really fast when those teams need to scale up production when an outside factor causes demand to explode (like getting mentioned on the Weekender as ‘indie of the week’).

    Part of this could be prevented if kickstarters limited the amount of backers per tier … especially the ‘complicated’ variants.
    Heck, the math should be pretty easy … 50$ tier and a 50,000$ target means you only ever need 1,000 backers.
    A few more won’t be a problem, but a run away success has the potential to be lethal if you can’t handle the volume …

    I also suspect that a lot of them underestimate the realities of shipping world wide to hundreds of individual backers.
    It is one of my reasons why I tend to look for the ‘EU friendly’ markings in a kickstarter. It’s not guarantee, but it tends to limit unpleasant surprises as they at least have done some research into the logistics aspect.

    I’ve also noticed that there are plenty of companies out there that have specialized in doing the logistics for kickstarters.

    #1640209

    soulsorcerer
    Participant
    839xp

    Every KS should give estimates on shipping that are realistic…for the time of the KS campaign. Also, the clearly visible note that that can significantly change in the future depending on outside influences. It is their job to make that clear….not to have a crystal ball. Covid and Brexit with an increase of container cost rising 10x and more are extreme but even a “normal” 2 digit raise will kill most estimates. And that has rarely anything to do with honesty.

    Worth noting: Most KS that were more “accurate” with their shipping fall into 2 categories. The time to delivery was relatively short or they just got lucky that nothing seriously changed. Or more likely they “soaked up” the extra cost. This means that they “planed” for a possible extra cost and made the product more expensive…just in case. That does sound smart at first glance…but all it does is…you pay for something that might happen…and don´t get your money back if it does not. So…the “aw shucks” version is probably the more honest one 🙂

    #1640225

    soulsorcerer
    Participant
    839xp

    What I find interesting is the various different expectations for KS projects….like…KS is not meant to be for “big” companies…but those offering an idea on the platform need to be professionals…in this case regarding worldwide logistics.

    Even if they are a “professional company”… who says they have to be pros with logistics? They usually have distribution companies handle that for them. And no matter how “professional” you are…worldwide logistics is such a complicated matter that even pros can not give reliable rates for a year+ in advance…for reasons.

    Another thing often mentioned is the idea that crowdfunding is not a form of pre-order. Really..it does not matter if a romanticized one-man garage project is selling you their dream or a company with several employees their next product. It does not matter how sophisticated their pitch is, how many different packages they offer, how many minimum orders they need, or how far they pushed their idea in advance. They all do the same basic thing: you give them money now for something you will (hopefully) get later. Also known as “placing an order before availability to purchase”…in short: pre-order.

    #1640230

    jamescutts
    2750xp
    Cult of Games Member

    KS is not meant to be for “big” companies

    I think thats slightly leaning towards my thinking that some of these projects shouldn’t be on Kickstarter in the first place, I’m picking on Mythic games again but they are a prime example in my view. All of their kickstarters fund, they already have a huge set of “stretch” goals covered and designed so are just waiting on production and they clearly have their logistics organised. Your effectivly pre-ordering but with all the risk on you as a consumer with basically no rights and very little risk for them as a company except repetuationally.

    Dont get me wrong I dont dislike Mythic, I’ve backed enough of ther projects, i just think they abuse the sprit of Kickstarter.

    #1640238

    soulsorcerer
    Participant
    839xp

    I do not think there is a “spirit of KS”. It has always been a pre-order platform that wants to make money by providing certain benefits for the projects initiated. Just because crowdfunding began small does not mean that it was “meant” to be for small projects alone. It provides the same benefits for one-man basement projects and “large” companies alike. Visibility, community feedback, marketing, predictability, and more.  And it makes sense for both.

    Often there seems to be this notion that “large” companies do not need crowdfunding. What part of crowdfunding do they not need? The marketing? The community feedback? Oh…you probably mean the money, right? Sadly – wrong!

    Probably the only real large company in our niche hobby is GW. Just because there are several others that have steady releases doesn´t make them “large” regarding financial resources. In fact…most have trickle releases because they can not fund more at the same time. They need to earn money for the next releases! A bust will likely lead to people losing their jobs, the system dies, the company goes out of business! I am sure you can think of some names from the top of your head…easily!

    So here comes crowdfunding. Instant feedback on actual demand…reliable numbers for production…more releases simultaneously. If it blows out of the water it means even hiring more staff. WIN-WIN. So where is the “abuse”?

    Does that “shift” the risk towards the backer? Yes…but they get usually compensated for that. Does crowdfunding only have positive sides? No…and that is why not every company uses it. Does a company pay 10% to KS because it gets the money cheaper from a bank? Oh…so you want to launch a mass fantasy miniature range world wide with a huge number of products simultaneously because you miss “the old world”…what ever that means…and want a few million to get started….well splendid idea…please sign here and here 😉

    #1640452

    limburger
    16507xp
    Cult of Games Member

    I’d say that people claiming that crowdfunding is for ‘small’ companies have never tried to get any funding from actual investors …

    @jamescutts Mythic (and CMON) are good at getting their projects funded because they know or are somewhat in tune with what people (think they) want and they have found their niche within the industry … that isn’t a bad thing.

    And keep in mind that there are dozens of games getting released every week/month.
    Most you won’t even notice … that kind of environment forces companies to constantly sell ‘new’ things.
    You can’t sit back and enjoy the success of one product, unless you don’t want to grow beyond a certain size.

    #1642094

    ced1106
    Participant
    4054xp

    > Or more likely they “soaked up” the extra cost. This means that they “planed” for a possible extra cost and made the product more expensive…just in case. That does sound smart at first glance…but all it does is…you pay for something that might happen…and don´t get your money back if it does not.

    That’s exactly it, at least in the states. Cthulhu Wars ran over budget, but didn’t charge backers extra. Because they padded into the pledge costs enough funding for expansions. Consumers actually have a terrible way of judging “perceived value” in a product, and can only compare prices.

    So, to offer “free shipping” companies will increase the value of the product. If you’ve ordered for home delivery from a grocery, that’s why the online price of something will usually be higher than that of the store. You’re paying for shipping and handling, even if it’s not explicit.

    Back to KS. Shipping costs *are* a mess, and I also buy a lot of KS offerings at retail instead. First up, you buy the product, er, make a pledge, before knowing how much you’re paying for shipping. When’s the last time you did that outside of KS??? Then, on the creator’s side, they collect shipping *months* or even years before shipping product. Shipping prices inevitably are going up, but the creator doesn’t know how much, and backers don’t like paying shipping twice. I mean, when’s the last time you had an epidemic (and stuck cargo ship) in the middle of a KS??? That’s obviously not good for the project, and can even put the entire project at risk.

    That said, yeah, I’d like to see KS creators, at least experienced ones, do a better job with shipping estimates. CMON once only provided shipping estimates based on the base game, when they knew they’d be shipping almost twice as much stuff with the SG’s. After some backer response (eg. refunds for their Bloodborne KS where shipping jumped from $26 to $40 for yours truly), did CMON provide more accurate information.

    I’m curious how much inaccurate shipping estimates really do affect a KS. I’ve only seen it explicitly for said Bloodborne KS. But I’m sure the overall unknown costs of shipping has turned away a potential backer, it’s just that this information of why someone didn’t back a KS isn’t measured.

    #1642374

    noyjatat
    13406xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Without knowing the weight of each product and having a limited number of KS stretch goals this would be difficult to accurately estimate. For experienced companies, maybe they could provide an estimated weight for each pledge level based on their previous products but as most KS are still in the early stages of design and production when going live those without much experience wouldn’t have a past product to use as a guide.

    With weights, people could estimate the postage costs for their part of the world and the company could estimate the packaging cost. But without a final product to weigh and package and the fact that international postage often sees cost changes at smaller weight increment increases this will always be tough to do.

    #1642446

    soulsorcerer
    Participant
    839xp

    To “condense” some of my earlier points: A company could “guess” the exact weight of each pledge…and still have no idea or influence on what the shipping cost for that exact weight will be in 12 to 18 months…when it will actually be shipped. So what is gained with that “skill”? Not to mention other changes like tariffs, customs etc. If it were so simple everyone would get it right each time. 🙂

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