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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 month, 1 week ago.

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    Cult of Games Member

    Can we say ‘people are the worst’ ?
    They are the reason kickstarters are ‘forced’ to have stretchgoals, because the #1 complaint for those that don’t have ‘enough’ is that isn’t enough ‘free’ stuff … so everyone tends to follow the CMON model of loads of silly stretchgoals in order to keep the idiots happy. Make a mistake in estimating stretchgoals vs amount of backers buying those extras … and you can kiss your company good bye.

    I’m pretty sure that kickstarters would fail to fund if they had (1) realistic targets and (2) zero stretch goals, because people are stupid.

    That’s why we get projects with a nearly empty box and 10k as a target and stretchgoals like ‘two more cards’ at intervals that allow for daily updates until it reaches the x times ‘over funded’.
    I’m willing to bet that a project with all of the content in the box at the start and a higher target would have more trouble funding … despite promising to deliver exactly the same thing.

    All of this nonsense means silly unneeded estimates have to be made (what does printing 2 cards extra cost? does it justify the ‘extra’ money in the stretchgoal ?) …




    Sorry that isn’t exactly true.   At least not any more.  SFG just launched and finished their kickstarter for Monster Hunter.  It did not have stretch goals at all, it had daily unlocks (six or eight?)… and they where stupid and pretty shitty.   The KS made like 4 million dollars.  Also they are not the only ones to do it that way, and profit.

    Stretch goals are much more of a choice now then ever before.  Most companies still use them, cause they work, but it is not a must do anymore.  Which is only going to become more and more normal.

    Also, stretch goals are now a very much and understood “science” these days.  In the early days, yeah they screwed a few of the smaller companies that got in over their head.  However, today they are pretty much down to exactness that isn’t surprising considering how effective they are.

    Honestly I think, in the early days, it was the idea of the company paying shipping costs for the backers that caused far more KSers to fail then over doing stretch goals did.  But that’s only my theory.

    I didn’t back SFG Monster Hunter because it lacked real stretch goals, and the KS exclusive stuff wasn’t enough to warrant paying the price.  You almost always will need incentives to get people to give up hundreds of dollars and wait for years to get their stuff.  Monster Hunter has a huge fanbase, it was able to jump over that need.  Nearly everyone else has to pay the toll.

    Make no mistake,  stretch goals are not “free” by any means.  You pay higher pledge prices.  You usually pay higher shipping costs.  You have to wait for a year, or usually more.   You may have to pay custom fees.   Online shopping can have better discounts.  The money adds up.   So yes, companies have to make sure that it is worth it.  Backers deserve to be realistically rewarded for those higher “costs”.

    Big companies are trying to skip distribution and sell direct, that is why they use KS.  They can make two or three times the money selling direct to backers over selling to traditional distributors/stores.  That is a big deal.

    Kickstarter was never forced into doing stretch goals.  It embraced them eagerly.  Stretch goals are the single biggest reason KS is what it is today.  With out them it would never have been anything but a foot note in history.  I would never have drawn in the backer base it has today.   With out that backer base then there wouldn’t be the vast ocean of potential backers for all those tiny niche KSers to draw backers from.







    Cult of Games Member

    Its worth pointing out again that there are other Crowdfunding platforms out there other than kickstarter 😀

    Also the “board/gaming” side of kickstarter is only a small part of that one platform, admitidly a popular one but its still a subset. Stretch goals, unlocks etc arn’t excatly a kickstarter make or break that you must do, a lot of kickstarters for things from bikes to plastic bottles that cost $30 but can fold are as much about funding a idea or a product as including a load of “free” extras, It just seems our hobby makes excessive use of them.

    My biggest issue (in the UK at least, im guessing the same applies elsewhere) is you tend to get very little consumer protection from a kickstarter and crowdfuning platfoms in general (at least now, previously credit card companies covered you) , you combine that with the mystery shipping fees its very much not something in the consumers favour because you are “pledging” support, not purchasing a product.

    Which is sort of my issue/concern that the shipping stems from, a lot of these kickstarters are pre-orders in all but name, in most cases going back to games, the design has been done, the sculpting has been done for those “free” “stretch” goals, and its just awaiting production and distribution. If the $50 kickstarter suddenly has a $75 shipping fee you have no right to refund or cancel, even though you might not have been aware of that at the time, in effect your held hostage.

    There are some genuine crowdfunding cases out there, take that small indy developer who raises $2000 for there first minatures sculpts, that seems reasonable, you helping them kick”start” that business or idea that they possibly couldn’t do without support.

    That “large” company who raises $2-3,000,000 in crowdfuning for games they churn out every few months or quaters is basically operating a low risk pre-order system.

    Now i dont have a huge issue with that pre-ordering funding coming from crowdfunding as such, but coming from a system where you are pledging rather ordering a product is all in that companies favour, removing your consumer rights and placing all the risk on you.

    Sorry rant over 🙂



    Cult of Games Member

    @jamescutts – rant away. I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said; it’s like companies are using shipping as a way to obfusicate the final price to pay. And as you say, once your pledge has been taken, you’re “pot committed” (a fallacy many poker players know only too well, but still fall for).

    In an ideal world, Kickstarter would be a kick-starting platform (the clue is kind of in the name) for people looking to get off the ground, but the way “larger” companies use it as a no-risk pre-order system is disingenuous. I mean, I understand why they might do it, but it’s not really in the spirit of kickstarting. But the current fashion of using Kickstarter as a pre-order system, but hiding shipping costs (or, possibly even worse, inflating the final price, recouping more in shipping than it reasonably costs) really stinks. When buying anything online, you take shipping into consideration as the final “pay now” price. If people are going to use Kickstarter as a pre-order system, it should be only fair that they allow customers (not supporters or investors, but customers) to see the full final price before committing.




    >  it’s not really in the spirit of kickstarting.

    It’s perfectly in the spirit of KickStarter. KickStarter, the company and their bank accounts.

    >  hiding shipping costs

    Welcome to online shopping. Amazon’s prices for the same product are different for Prime vs. non-Prime members. Walmart prices for the same item are different for In-Store vs. shipping product. Prices for produce and other items are different for grocery delivery vs. in-store. There’s only one reason for it — hiding shipping costs into the product and fobbing off “free shipping” or a low delivery fee.

    > you tend to get very little consumer protection from a kickstarter and crowdfuning platfoms in general

    That’s absolutely correct. And that’s why many gamers (they were particularly vocal on BGG) will not use crowdfunding. Retail is MUCH safer, and sometimes you can get the same base game item (not SG’s) at half the price of the pledge plus shipping, mostly CMON items, during holiday sales. Consumer beware.

    > If the $50 kickstarter suddenly has a $75 shipping fee you have no right to refund or cancel

    THAT is true (although I guess you could contact your cc to see if they can help) and happened to me when Maki’s disastrous KS wanted another $50 for a second wave, and CMON upped their shipping during Bloodborne. While I’ll still back KS, for CMON, I’ll only pledge $1.

    Showing my age here, but “Cut out the middleman” used to be a thing when I was growing up. But, evidently, selling direct to the customer has its risks through KS. I do believe that KS lowers the barrier for companies to offer product and more of it for the customer, and much of it wouldn’t hit retail. (Just ask Monolith and their Conan boardgame.) Still, I doubt anyone really loses out for not participating in crowdfunding. All it’s done for me is make my painting queue longer. 😛


    Cult of Games Member

    @slayerofworlds I have noticed more kickstarters use ‘daily unlocks’ … and of course those ‘free’ stretchgoals are part of the cost (at least they should be if they did the math).
    I just get the idea that the inexperienced feel tempted to include them, because a minority can get very vocal and nasty when there’s nothing except the thing that’s being funded.


    @blinky465 I think the long ‘delay’ between “end of funding” and “actual delivery” makes it difficult (and almost impossible) to give accurate shipping costs across the globe.
    Kickstarter certainly has the user-interface to do all of that (including a pre-selection of ‘add-ons’).
    It’s up to the projects themselves to use them.
    And I’d say it is up to the backers to set their own spending limits.
    Just because something has a pledgemanager afterwards that doesn’t mean you have to spend extra.
    It also helps to read … because (at least in my experience) the average project is very clear about when and how shipping is estimated.
    We as potential backers need to take our own responsibility and simply not get lured into paying more than we want because we got promised more shiny …

    As I said in one of my earlier posts … the actual problem is that none specify exactly where they are planning to spend their money, which means they can ‘cheat’ as we can’t verify actual costs.
    I kind of wish projects would do that and provided transparency throughout their project.
    However such things also require extra admin that the small teams barely manage …




    That is true, unfortunately.  However, when dealing with those small obviously inexperienced companies I feel less inclined to go all out and invest  a lot of money.  While that is me personally.  I dont think I am alone in that thinking. Which perhaps can keep them from getting to “big”.  I don’t know.  Really small KSers have to be really really cool to draw me in.

    At the end of the day, it will always be a gamble for backers.  Like many have said, there are no consumer protections.  It can be akin to the wild west at times.  I try to always remember to never spend more then I can afford to just plain up lose and never see anything from ever again.

    I was part of the Palladium Robotech debacle.  Lost far more then I’d ever wish to say.   Lots of issues with that KS.  However, I have never seen anything like that since.   Its been over a couple years now since I backed a failed KS.

    If you are going to back KSers you really have to temper your expectations, be willing to roll the dice on what you will or wont get.  Understand things will change, and not for the better.  Mostly you just plain have to be willing to just walk away unsatisfied.  Not a great thing for sure, but it is reality.

    If shipping is too high, customs fees are to much, or just plain shady shit going on… you gotta just walk away with whatever you can get.  Seek a refund, even its a fraction of what you paid… failing that just don’t pay shipping and walk away.  Ive had to do that before.   Its not right, feels bad.  But better to end things on your own terms, then be taken for a ride.


    Cult of Games Member

    Refunds … lol
    I get that there can be refunds within a relative short time after the pledgemanager closes , but reality is that most of the money is likely to have been spent already (or has irrevocable spending attached).

    You could really screw a company over by getting them to ‘refund’ when they have committed to production …

    I’d argue that the real shady shit is often obvious miles before the kickstarter finishes its funding period (if you do a bit of digging … before jumping on the hype train).
    Some backers have a hard time accepting that (a) there will be changes and (b) not everything will look like the initial plans either.

    Especially once something is ‘new’ to those involved.
    First time boardgame with minis ? Expect things to go wrong at any level.
    Electronic device ? Even experienced teams will suffer if they only ever had a prototype …

    That is part of the kickstarter experience …

    The few post kickstarter failures I’ve had were all down to reality wrecking the plans the creators had made.
    None of them made me feel bad, because IMHO all of them did attempt to create the promised product.
    Sure, some of them were bad at communicating things to backers. But that kind of thing takes time, man power and experience to do right. You can’t expect a small team to do both the project as well as manage the idiots in the community.



    It’s 2021 not 2015 a lot of what has been said in the thread so far should be reasonably common knowledge and no great revelations. The wider Kickstarter issues go beyond the initial question a bit 😉 Companies enticing backers with deals that are to good versus backers wanting the undeliverable. I am not a particularly prolific Kickstarter backer, but have got everything I backed and had no bad experience in part because I look at projects realistically and don’t get caught up in the hype (much).

    I did bail on one Kickstarter and ask for a refund and shipping costs were one factor in that decision. It probably wasn’t even a wildly inflated sum in proportion to the weight and volume being shipped. For me though the sum total I would have had to pay for everything I might have wanted to do with the game wasn’t worth the cost in the end. Rereading @jamescutts first post again – yes it was Joan of Arc 1.5 .

    Could/should such large kickstarters give a reasonable guestimate up front? I would say yes it is in their interest as otherwise customers are going to bail on them at the pledge manager phase – or the calculation is many might grumble but few will ask for refunds.

    But if you are going to be backing one of these mega games with X expansions and X add ons you have to be realistic. With shipping, just like everything else, you get what you pay for. The same goes for online purchases in general. The perk of free shipping is something that draws people into buying from one shop over the other. Shipping things around isn’t cheap or easy and it’s going to cost someone somewhere in the chain. Heavy or bulky items get pricey quickly.

    And part of that is packaging too which is something often not considered because we throw it away. There is a difference in materials and cost of a large shipment versus a small book in a jiffy bag. And the overheads/time involved in sorting 100s or 1000s of parcels as opposed to 10. Just because I right now can ship you something really reasonably with courier X does mean company X gets the same rate on 1000 packages in 18 months.

    Trying to exactly determine the shipping costs of say 20kgs of stuff split between two largish boxes 18 months in advance is near impossible. As someone who occasionally, but regularly has shipped the same weight/volume of stuff on the same route across Europe over the past 6 years I can say that prices fluctuate with the best courier by about 50%.

    The past year has shown how different factors have an impact – eventually it will all normalise again, but people are going to/should insure themselves against this sort of thing. So either that cost is built into the product or into a vague and modifiable shipping charge.

    Bottom line sure as a customer I’d like things super precise and transparent.  With all the factors at work with a Kickstarter I don’t think that can actually work and to think otherwise in my opinion is an illusion. As others have said nobody is being forced to back anything, do your homework, be realistic, set out what you want and what you want to pay for it and if something goes beyond that walk away.


    Cult of Games Member

    There’s also the psychology of paying for various elements, including shipping, over several hits that appears to soften the up-front hit that would otherwise put some off.

    We’re currently living with low interest rates and inflation, but a concept of Net Present Value (NPV) also applies… The cost of sinking that money into something that won’t return you any real value (except the experience of expectation) for quite a while. What else could you have spent that money on in the meantime against paying a slight  premium later on at retail, where shipping costs can be properly measured as part of total cost.


    Cult of Games Member

    I’d say that even if they could predict the total costs to the last decimal they’d lean on the psychology to lure in people.

    The biggest problem is that (a) it is very hard to prove and (b) crowdfunding platforms have nothing to gain by enforcing total honesty (less money in projects means less profit for them … ).
    Never mind the added cost in manpower needed to check and verify every project …

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