How NOT to Run a Kickstarter Campaign: Small World 2


Days of Wonder recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for their sequel to the fantastic, but feature limited, SmallWorld iPad app. Unfortunately, it’s a textbook example of a bad campaign. Why?

For a start, it’s basically a pre-order system; the game would made even if the kickstarter failed. It’s not like Days of Wonder particular need the funding for their poor devs, nor would they be able to make any less of the product without funding and economies of scale. There’s not even a particular benefit for pre-ordering though; the price is $15, which is about as much as they could charge for an iOS game when it’s finally released. On a similar vein, why are they even releasing a completely new version with features that should be in the existing app – like multiplayer? Wouldn’t it be less scammy to offer the upgrades as an in-app purchase?

Secondly, a the time of launch, one of the stretch goals was development of the game on a second, mystery platform. It could be Windows Phone, it could be Steam, it could Android (which is notoriously less profitable than iOS). By keeping it a mystery though, it’s basically worthless; Android owners weren’t going to kickstart an iPad game in the remote hope that maybe an Android app would also be made. If they had simply made a Kickstarter for an Android version, that would be ok; look, we’re considering Android, but we can’t guarantee it’s going to profitable, and therefore we’re asking for community support to test viability and fund the project. They have since announced the first mystery platform to be Android tablets and the Kindle Fire, if funding reaches $300,000. They would have goten better press if they had just said this straight away though, instead of leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of so many backers.

Thirdly, the reward tiers are inconsistent and confusing; the physical tier prices are just downright extortionate. $312 – a recommended level for existing board game and iPad app owners – includes digital upgrades and a designer edition of the board game. No other physical rewards, or even the digital download. $180 meanwhile will net you a standard board game, digital edition of the new one, 15 deluxe token sets for all current upgrades, a concept art book, t-shirt, some metal pins, and mention in the credits. What the f***?


They had also initially blocked international backers from any of the physical reward tiers; luckily, they made a swift update with more tiers to cater for international shipping.

I expect the game will be successfully funded anyway, so my rant probably means nothing; but there is a chance that an awful lot of Android owners will withdraw their backing if the stretch goal isn’t reached.

What do you think? Will you be backing it? Do you think it could have been handled better?

There are 10 comments

Add yours
  1. MattC

    I may back it. I think you are missing an important aspect of the higher end rewards, though. While the lower end rewards seem a bit steep, the high end ones are pricy but not unrealistic. Premium, designer versions of popular board games can easily sell for 100s of dollars.

  2. kentbunn

    I looked at it briefly, and moved on.  I own the board game, and all the expansions.  I was never even tempted to buy the single player board game.  And the high end version of the board game is nice, but WAY too expensive.  And at $15 the iPad game will be too expensive too, by far.

  3. andsoitgoes

    If you look at the description, it seems pretty clear that they are not making a new game, but adding this into the existing game. As seen here:
    “Small World 2 is being offered for the flat backer contribution of $15 (and free of charge to existing owners of Small World for iPad!). We believe that beyond the reward of receiving the finished game, the ability to participate in our private forums during the remaining development of the game makes this a unique opportunity.”
    The only way that works is by updating it.
    The problem is that the rewards aren’t incredibly enticing to us. $15 for owners gets access to the forums and 3 “powers”. $30 seems to be the best solution, as you get the powers, expansions and 3 new races.
    Wait, huh. So if you already own the 2 expansions you get only the 3 races and Be Not Afraid, plus anything else they add in.
    I think the biggest issue is for those of us who already own Small World and especially the expansions. There’s not enough value to it.
    If you don’t own the game, spending $30 isn’t a horrible deal at all. Figuring the game is $7, the expansions are $2 each, $12. You’re getting 3 new races and powers which are exclusive. How much are these worth is the question. You can’t buy them separately and can only play them online if the other person has them. Playing on your own they’ll be locked and unobtainable. If you own the game, is that worth $28?
    The physical rewards are also a toss up, as I prefer digital only. No lost pieces, no setup time, ease of playing in the way you want, so as cool as the book and physical game looks, it’s not enough.
    But ive seen much crappier KickStarter rewards, this isn’t great but it’s also not a complete swing and a miss if you’ve never experienced Small World, which really didn’t get a ton of pull, and was just left to rot once they had a hit with Ticket to Ride. Is a worthy game, and deserves support, I just wish it gave a bit more. Still glad it isn’t a whole new app though.

    • James Bruce

      @andsoitgoes That doesn’t make sense either. The game is $7 on iTunes now – wouldn’t someone who wants this just buy that and wait for the “update”? That’s $8 for 3 new random powers then? Hmmm. Also, why call it “small world 2”? It’s still small world! 
      Nope, sorry, something reeks here. 
      I agree though, I love the game, but don’t agree with using kickstarter like this to update a game they should have done ages ago.

  4. DukeRitenhouse

    @majmitch Not sure what KS you were looking at, but the funding was going very well — roughly 100K in 10 days. They would have made it easily. That’s most definitely NOT the reason it was cancelled.
    It was, in fact, cancelled because DoW came to agree with what many commenters were saying: 1) the rewards and stretch goals were very confusing, and 2) they were essentially running two KS campaign on one page — one for a digital game and one for a physical game. To the benefit of neither.
    They’ve decided to clean it up and relaunch on March 12 with a digital focus. Although the entire episode was somewhat disappointing, it’s a good decision from DoW.

  5. Yohan Launay

    Hi James, I’m a bit late to the party but being myself in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign I can totally relate: (mobile game adaptation of the HeroQuest board game from the 90s) 
    On my end, I tried to keep the rewards reasonable or with real value behind it (except for the usual virtual currency reward). It all depends on the campaign goals as you mentioned indeed. As long as you make it clear to the supporter what the campaign is for, then whoever is backing can decide for him/herself. 
    On my side I made it through most of the development phase and just looking for additional funds to self-publish the game as well as get traction for the game when it’s released (it’s much easier if you have already gathered a community around the game before it’s even on the stores). Since half of the goal is to gain traction I set the budget really low and most of the money going to the rewards will actually be burnt in the reward itself (+transaction fees and platform commissions). Seems like this approached worked because I got 45% funding (on a 3K budget) within 3 days.
    Well luckily I don’t have a big studio of 15 people to feed 😉

  6. majmitch

    Even if they would have made the funding DOW is a big enough company to release an update without a KS campaign. I think it’s just a cynical way to avoid risk and shows a lack of confidence in your own product.

Post a new comment