How to Price Your Kickstarter Board Game

You don't know what you don't know. Before you launch your first Kickstarter board game, there are a lot of questions you might not even realize you need to ask. Kickstarter has become the de facto standard for independent board game funding, but that also means that the market is now saturated. How can you make your game stand out? What mistakes do you need to avoid?

Well, you may want to begin with the pricing.

The Importance of Pricing

Today’s backer has literally hundreds of choices. But most of them don’t have infinite income to match. If the average backer backs one game a month (and that’s being extremely charitable), it’s going to be one that’s within their budget.

Small box games are usually priced between $20 to $30, while medium to large games seem to have settled at a price point of $50 to $60. Big box games can push the envelope, landing between $80 to $120. These prices, while not immutable, have been anchored into everyone's mind as “about the right price for a Kickstarter game.” Games that go beyond these amounts are generally a hard sell.

That means that you have an upper limit: you are actually working backwards. You know how much you can sell the game for, and it’s your job to reduce your expenses until you can meet that price point and still make a profit.

Often, first time developers move in the opposite direction: “I can produce for $25 and I want to make $15 off each box, so I’ll price it at $40.” But first: people may not be interested in your game at all at $40. Also, you aren’t going to be making $15 per copy.

Economies of Scale

How much do you expect to make off your game? First time developers are often surprised at exactly how little they make. Game designers working with big distributors make between 3% to 5% of the wholesale value of a game, which is about 1% to 2.5% of the retail value -- not much at all. On Kickstarter, game developers have more control over their profits. But the numbers actually don’t pan out that well.

Consider the Exploding Kittens Kickstarter, which made a record breaking $8.7 million. Boxes were sold at $20 and cost $15 to manufacture; a profit of $5 per box. That’s not factoring in Kickstarter’s own fee of 5% of the funds raised, or its 3% fee per transaction. And, of course, it isn’t only the manufacturing cost you need to consider; it’s also the cost of labor (designing, testing, boxing, and shipping), and the cost of advertising.

If you’re producing 1,000 games for $50 each, you may make about $8 per box. Your Kickstarter, if fully funded, will bring in $50,000, and your profit will be $8,000. Cut your costs down $2, and you’re making $10,000 without having to increase your price.

And this is where economies of scale come in. It’s much cheaper, per unit, to produce 1,000 games than it is to produce 10. To sell your game at a lower price (and to capture more profit), you may need to require more sales to fully fund. It’s all a balance.

The Ins and Outs of Shipping Costs

There are two things developers tend to forget about shipping costs: 1) that they exist, and 2) that they are exceptionally high for international buyers. In general retail, there’s something called “shopping cart abandonment.” It’s when a customer begins to purchase an item online, and simply leaves.

There are a lot of reasons for “shopping cart abandonment,” but one of the most common is shock when seeing the shipping cost. Shipping costs can be a make-or-break item. And that becomes something very interesting

It’s actually often better to sell an item for $30 (if that’s its ordinary price point) with free shipping than it is to sell an item for $22 + $8 shipping. It’s counterintuitive because that’s the exact same amount of money, but it’s a psychological difference.

Paying $30 + free shipping makes a customer feel like they’re getting a good deal. A study in 2013 from Compete found that 62% of customers wouldn’t have made a purchase if not for free shipping. Paying $22 and then seeing that there’s an “extra” $8 charge gives a customer a chance to think again about committing to a purchase.

The Goal is to Get the Upgrade

It’s common in software: the base model is $20, the improved version is $50, and the premium model is $100. But, oh wait - the improved version is 50% off right now. So for just $5 more, you can get twice the value. Who wouldn’t do that?

You aren’t getting a deal. The truth is that there’s really one version of the product: the product is worth $25. No one is expected to either buy the base model or the premium version of the model. They only exist to make the $25 version seem more appealing.

Pricing a Kickstarter game can be similar. Your goal is to get the upgrade: to get more people to chip in for a slightly upgraded version of your game. And while no one may buy your “deluxe model,” that isn’t the point; the point of a deluxe model is to anchor a higher value in their mind. They may be buying your game for $60, but at least they’re not spending $120 - that would just be crazy.

Being an independent developer means you need to be a lot of things in one, and that includes a marketer. The above covers some very basic insights regarding marketing psychology, but it’s by no means in-depth and it isn’t applicable to all situations. If you are going to be putting a game (or anything) on Kickstarter soon, it is important to take a look at marketing-specific information and psychology. It’s not enough to have a good game: you also have to be able to sell it.