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The Slow Death of the Thirds Funding Predictor


odinsgrandson
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A few years ago, I proposed a funding pattern prediction model for big board game Kickstarters.  It goes like this:

- A project does about a third of its total in the initial surge which is usually concentrated on the first day.
- The end spike (usually spread out in the last three days) brings in about as much total as the initial spike.
- The slump days in the middle of the campaign tend to bring in about the same total as the first or last day.

So I've been calling this the Thirds Prediction Model.  Since I proposed it, I've tried applying it to many different Kickstarters, and I've discovered its limitations:

- It is usually accurate to within about 10%.  When I first started using this, new Kickstarters were as likely to be over by 10% as under.  However, it seems as though more and more were under by 10% as time went on.

- It does not work at all if you retroactively apply it to early Kickstarters- back when Kickstarter board games were just finding their audience.  Those Kickstarters had much smaller initial spikes relative to their ending spikes because they were building their audience as they went.

- It likewise does not work well for smaller board games- who also seem to build their audience as they go.

- It does not work for non-board games.  Video games, gadgets, clothing, etc. do not follow the same funding patterns at all.

- It doesn't work if something goes horribly wrong.  Kickstarters with many days of decreases in funding don't follow the pattern (like LOAD or Confrontation).
 

 


- Starting in 2019, very few Kickstarters have followed this pattern. Most have had relatively smaller slumps and end spikes compared to their initial spikes.   There are a number of potential reasons why this has happened. 

- It is possible that the Kickstarter audience has gotten more savvy- which might mean that a higher percentage of backers are whether to pledge right away, rather than waiting until the end to decide.

- Timed Early Birds may be a factor, and they have become quite a lot more popular this year  It is possible that many backers are grabbing timed EBs and deciding to drop them later.

- Many of this year's Kickstarters have not been as add on heavy (end spikes are usually fueled by add ons).  This is supported by the fact that Bones 5 is one of the few that did make it to within 10% of the prediction.


- Better pre-launch advertising is very likely to be a factor in the larger starting spikes.  Even many unknown companies have a good advertising strategy to get the word out ahead of time.  I'm not sure why that would have changed this year, but it might have been gradually building in this direction.
 

- Many Kickstarters this year have been following in the footsteps of Sprawling Campaign games like Kingdom Death: Monster, Gloomhaven and 7th Continent.  Because of this, those campaigns keep quite a lot of aspects of their game secret.  If the excitement is primarily about unknown entities rather than the next stretch goal, this could be the cause of the changed funding pattern.

 


UPDATE- I just had another look at Zombicide 2nd edition's Kickstarter page, and it looks very likely to end within 10% of the prediction model (prediction was 3 mil, and it looks very likely to end between 2.7 mil and 3.3 mil).  I have thought that Bones and Zombicide were the two most traditional Kickstarters from this year, which might indicate that it is the projects, and not the audience, that has changed.

Edited by odinsgrandson
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1 hour ago, Bob Hazlewood said:

I wonder how well this hold up when you take first-time creators vs multiple project creators.  I know for myself, I've grown very leery of first-time creators, and am more likely to wait towards the end of a campaign for those.

 

 

Ah.  Good that you bring that up.

Most first time creators make what I would call "smaller projects."  I don't really have a number value to give to this, but first time creators tend to not to reach multi-million dollar levels unless their name and brand are well known and very trusted.

First time creators of 'smaller projects' fund OVER the prediction of their initial burst.  Meaning that they have relatively smaller starting spikes and build up to larger end spikes.  This pattern is similar to what we saw in the early days of Kickstarter- on day 29 of your campaign, there are still a lot of new people just finding out about it and jumping in.
 

(If there are red flags other than being a first time creator, then the funding pattern is very different.  Look at LOAD, Overturn and Controntation for extreme examples of backers losing trust).
 

 

- When a first time creator DOES manage to pull off a really massive Kickstarter, it is usually because they're a well known company that already has a strong audience or at least an easily recognized brand name.

 


 


- The only example I can think of of an unknown first time creator this year is Shadowborne and their game:Oathsworn.  The initial spike put funding over a million, but since then they've only drawn in $800k.  Keep in mind that end spikes tend to be spread out over the last three days, so there's really no chance that it will approach the $3 mil that the thirds model predicts by the time the campaign ends.

They also used Timed Early Birds (you get a mystery extra thing if you pledged in the first 24 hours).  Most Early Birds do not change the funding patterns, but EBs on a timer is a common factor for a lot of the Kickstarters this year that have not followed the prediction model.

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1 hour ago, pinkymadigan said:

I think Reaper's Pledge Manager, while a great thing for Reaper, and those without a lot of upfront funds, probably hurts the end surge as well. Those of us who just don't want to keep up with the final day or two can tune out if we want, knowing we can catch up later.

 

 

I can see that.  Mind, that's just taking the end surge and spreading it out throughout the middle days.  Which might have changed the pattern around, but it didn't change the prediction (since I was just tripling the initial surge).  Of course, Bones 5 was one of the few Kickstarters this year that actually followed the model (10% below prediction, which is pretty normal). 

I do think it is telling that the only Kickstarters that have followed the model recently seem to have been 10% low.  This makes me think that we're slowly moving toward larger starts and smaller finishes.

 

3 minutes ago, lowlylowlycook said:

I wonder if this means that Kickstarter is becoming less useful as a marketing tool.

 

 

Possibly.  One of the ways in which Kickstarter works as a marketing tool is by having a carthartic arc (the tension of "will we make that last goal?" and the release at the end).  The shared story of a campaign can help to build an audience with a sense of unity and seriously ramp up excitement.

If end spikes start to drop lower, then we might start losing some of that aspect.

On the other hand, Kickstarter will remain as a good way to make direct pre-sales with relatively low risk.  The increase in the starting spikes is evidence that the Kickstarter audience is ready to pledge right away for games they want.

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40 minutes ago, odinsgrandson said:

 

On the other hand, Kickstarter will remain as a good way to make direct pre-sales with relatively low risk.  The increase in the starting spikes is evidence that the Kickstarter audience is ready to pledge right away for games they want.

 

I guess that I was thinking that companies had to do marketing (at least through previous KSers) to get those get those 1st day pledges. 

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There are examples of complete unknowns doing incredibly well on their first KS, but that's less and less likely to happen these days. 

 

The first 3D printing pen did 'rather well'. 

One thing that made everyone feel more comfortable was that they had planned for a flood of backers by staggered waves of pledges, something that very few others have done since.    

 

Timed early birds with massive discounts is actually something that will make me more cautious about backing. 

 

Most projects have the 'mid-project doldrums' in their backing. 

Reaper manages to partially avoid it by introducing add-ons throughout the backing period, and with so many initial backers that adds funds as those add-ons becomes available they manage to keep the activity up and the enthusiasm and social chatter high.    

 

The opposite approach is Oathsworn's short projects, usually a week or so(everone remember the 24hour project? that was... fun... )  

They probably don't expect many new backers, but are basing their projects on returning backers and word of mouth in tabletop gaming circles. And then you don't need a long funding period.     

 

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On 11/4/2019 at 12:35 PM, lowlylowlycook said:

 

I guess that I was thinking that companies had to do marketing (at least through previous KSers) to get those get those 1st day pledges. 


I think it is the other way around.  Established companies are the ones behind the biggest Kickstarters, brand new brands that no one has heard of are a lot less likely to have those huge day one numbers.   And established companies are the ones who need to do the least work marketing themselves (since their audience is actively seeking them out, rather than the other way around).

23 hours ago, Gadgetman! said:

There are examples of complete unknowns doing incredibly well on their first KS, but that's less and less likely to happen these days. 

 

The first 3D printing pen did 'rather well'. 

One thing that made everyone feel more comfortable was that they had planned for a flood of backers by staggered waves of pledges, something that very few others have done since.    

 

Timed early birds with massive discounts is actually something that will make me more cautious about backing. 

 

Most projects have the 'mid-project doldrums' in their backing. 

Reaper manages to partially avoid it by introducing add-ons throughout the backing period, and with so many initial backers that adds funds as those add-ons becomes available they manage to keep the activity up and the enthusiasm and social chatter high.    

 

The opposite approach is Oathsworn's short projects, usually a week or so(everone remember the 24hour project? that was... fun... )  

They probably don't expect many new backers, but are basing their projects on returning backers and word of mouth in tabletop gaming circles. And then you don't need a long funding period.     

 

 

 

CMON started doing 14 day Kickstarters because it makes the slump in the middle less tiresome.  And I think it works for them pretty well (at least their 30 day projects don't seem to do better than their 14 day projects).

I can imagine that having a long funding period might be good for a campaign.  Kingdom Death 1.5 did pass through several pay periods, and I know at least some folks were setting aside that money for some of the new expansions they unveiled.

The length of the campaign has never seemed to change the pattern of funding very much- at least down to two weeks, they still do a third of their finished funding in the initial burst.  I haven't tracked many campaigns that were shorter than two weeks (they are pretty rare) but the ones I have followed did not keep the same funding pattern.

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