Going back as promised on this year’s game events and their media coverage, today I am looking into the early results of the Paris Games Week held from 28th of October to the 1st of November.

This year’s event was particularly interesting as it was chosen to host the Sony media conference instead of the one usually held during gamescom.

Last time around I used a formula looking at the key 20 days of different events, so the numbers I am showing today are a bit short for the Paris Games Week (PGW). I had to make a choice about getting the same numbers but publishing in a few weeks (I am away in Korea to attend Gstar and have meetings with clients) and publishing this week with a partial outlook. Considering the partial numbers are already very telling, it seems like a better idea to make this post while the event is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Scale of PGW 2015

Using the same numbers for all the recent events as the last time, the results are very interesting:

events_scale_tillPGW2015_articles_b

The PGW 2015 edition has seen a massive growth in its media coverage – it has grown over 500% compared to last year alone. There is no doubt the Sony press conference played a key role (more on that later), and its takes the event close to the size of the main GDC event.

However, it is still a way  from the  media coverage we can see out of gamescom or even the Tokyo Game Show (which has still about a 1/3 more coverage than the PGW) despite the fact that the event happens on the other side of the world and the media that we track are Western media. But for its first edition, backed by a major media event, this is an outstanding performance.

 

Sony events

With the Paris Games Week behind us now, we have a great opportunity to look into the effect the event had on Sony’s game console media presence in comparison to its other recent media events.

events_sony_tillPGW15_articles_3days

To focus on the media dedicating time to the Sony conference, I limited the sample to 3 days – the day of the conference and the following 2 days. Longer period give more weight to the media initiatives on the show floor, or other unrelated announcements. Also bear in mind that articles only related to the console, but not the specifically about the event, are also counted.

The result was surprising to me. While Paris Game Week was the event this year that had the least coverage, it came surprisingly close to the Tokyo Game Show, but even more surprising, it had more media coverage than its direct European predecessor, the Sony media conference at gamescom last year.

Sony obviously did a great job in its media outreach around the event as well as efficiently managing the invites to the event itself. There is probably a positive effect from the company being on its own at the event, with no particular major announcement from its console competitors at the same time. An effect that Microsoft benefited from this year at gamescom as we saw earlier.

In many ways, this validates Sony’s decision to feature its media conference during the Paris Games Week. As each event is unique in many ways, the value of certain announcements not being equal, it is impossible to say if the number would have been better at gamescom, but the fact that they look so good, even compared to the closer Tokyo Game Show, is a feat in itself. It looks like a small repeat of last year’s brilliant Playstation Experience.

Talking of which, it will be the next milestone in this series on the impact of events on the media coverage.

The PGW’s paradox

Running concurrently with Paris Games Week is Game Connection – a special networking event where industry professionals can make appointments to meet. Last week, I also attended the Game Connection side of the event, and on multiple occasions I discussed with the people I was meeting the overall presence of the media (including a few journalists) at PGW.

There was a clear lack of international journalists at the Paris Games Week itself. It appears that many media flew over for the Sony conference and left right after it. In a few discussions, it seemed like they were not aware of the fact that they could attend PGW as well, nor that they could easily get newsworthy content from the exhibitors. And to be honest, they were not totally wrong. In many ways, the event is not structured to include media. The Game Connection, which is the only B2B space at the location, isn’t historically structured to host journalists. They have made specific efforts to be more inclusive of media, but we are far from the gamescom equivalent of the B2B area which hosts business meetings as well as media meetings in a dedicated environment.

But even the showfloor, which at gamescom is used for many media meetings and hands-on experiences, wasn’t set-up with media in mind. The space was almost always totally open, with very few meetings rooms there, and from what I could see, no booth had an identified location to find staff for a professional enquiry. Add to this the fact (reported to me, being fluent in French, it didn’t come to mind to actually check on this the couple of times I went to the showfloor) that the hosting staff were not selected with their capacity to communicate in English in mind. As a result you have a very consumer driven event, not very welcoming for the few international media that were present.

Local media were there though, and with a strong presence, but that doesn’t answer my questions in regards to what I call the PGW’s Paradox:

The PGW has stated its international ambitions many times. This is taken from their October press release:

International scope

The first Paris Games Week was held 5 years ago. This event tailored for all gamers has quickly and firmly established itself in the world’s top 5 video gaming fairs. Today, Paris Games Week is one of the world’s essential gaming industry events, for gamers as much as for professionals. The 2015 edition will host international speakers and exclusive releases, brand new to Paris Games Week. Members of SELL, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, are delighted to see the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre become home to everyone involved in video gaming, a place where the industry comes together to discover the new products that will be the stars of the end-of-year season.

While the Game Connection is very international, the PGW showfloor wasn’t. And its management of media lacked significantly in providing a strong basis for coverage outside of France.

This is by no means an easy fit. You would need a number of publishers and studios to play along, to provide multiple key beats during the event to attract international media, and the date of the event doesn’t make this very easy as October/November is usually more about the seasonal blockbusters and AAA-titles than new, upcoming announcements. But, if there was a perfect opportunity to do this, it was this year, and if there was one organisation in France able to coordinate this, it would the SELL, the PGW’s organizer, a trade body representing the videogame publishers.

There is a missed opportunity there, and depending on what Sony does next year in regards to its European media conference, this might have been a unique chance. With gamescom later in August, Sony might move back the conference there and depending on how happy they are of the Paris conference and how they want to situate the important announcements compared the competition. It is interesting to note that nothing prevents Microsoft to look into making its own announcements during PGW next year. However, I doubt the two companies will share their thoughts on what they will do…

Paris Games Week – picture @icotom

Note – you can find out more on the methodology on the dedicated blog post.

While I had some requests to look into the Tokyo Game Show the way we looked into gamescom or E3, I thought that with the event being at a different scale (on this side of the world, the tool doesn’t track very well coverage from Asian media and they are just excluded from the data on these posts) it could be the opportunity to look at the coverage of different game events instead of an in-depth look at just TGS.

The usual disclaimers from the articles on the media monitor apply, but on top of this, I need to remind everyone that we can’t currently properly track E3 specifically in the media coverage (hence the slightly different methodology applied in the E3 coverage article).

Methodology for events – the Key 20 days

When looking at the way events are covered in the media, there was an interesting pattern on the timing of the coverage. There is some media attention as the event is getting closer and the hype is ramping up. You have rumours of the reveals you can expect, announcements about what to expect on site, this sort of things. Events also happen with very different timing in terms of the week of the day they happen. Business events will take place during the work week, consumer events will usually continue during the weekend. Then, you have such a density of information being thrown at the audience that you also see a good amount of coverage happening the week following the events when some interviews that couldn’t be put formatted properly during the event itself, or some change encounter that could only probably followed up on afterwards, can finally be published.

To cover all those aspects, and looking at patterns of media coverage across different events, I decided on a formula that seemed to apply fairly for all events. Taking on the first day of the event, I take the media coverage of the 9 days preceding the event, and the 11 days from the day the event start. I called them the Key 20 days, for lack of a better terminology.

As you will see, I also consider the media coverage on a daily basis, but this formula gives me a component to compare the events with each other.

Tokyo Game Show

This year’s Tokyo Game Show had a Sony press conference ahead of the show. And comparing the media coverage of this year with the coverage of last year, there is a very interesting effect that immediately noticeable.

tgs14_v_tgs15_daily_articles

The total amount of media coverage is not massively different from last year. But a lot of the media coverage shifted to a few days earlier, coinciding with the Sony conference.

It seems that the Sony conference had no effect but to displace when the media coverage happened. To be fair, over the key 20 days, there has been a marginal growth year-on-year, but nothing incredibly significant.

There are two possibilities:

  1. The Sony conference has just shifted when the media coverage is happening and there wasn’t an impact on the volume of coverage.
  2. The general coverage of the event decreased, and the Sony conference is hiding that decrease of media coverage.

I would tend to align with the second option, if only because the Sony Conference happened at a much more convenient time (during the work week). Of course, it shifted a lot of the Sony specific media coverage earlier, but I would have expected to see a more significant growth due to the more friendly timing. This hidden decrease could possibly be related to a weaker lineup of titles at the show this year compared to 2014.

This is just a theory though – at the end of the day TGS this year still had more media presence and any growth is a good sign for them.

 

Video Game Events scales

Events around video games seems to be multiplying every year, be they business events or consumer events. More and more local events are organised, conferences multiply as the industry diversifies.

In a marketing budget, events can represent very significant investments And not just because of the actual cash cost, but also in terms of the human resources that need to be allocated for it, and the disruption they can have on the development of games in order to have playable builds for them.

Getting a sense of the ROI for events is incredibly difficult – and while media coverage is one element to look at, it is definitely not the only measure to take into account. Still, this is the tool I have at my disposal, and one that can provide some interesting frame for references.

events_articles_k20daysb

To clarify this graph, both PAXes in there are the PAX Prime event in Seattle, the largest of the PAX event. PGW is the Paris Games week and I didn’t put the 2015 numbers because the event hasn’t happened yet (it’s at the end of October). I will post the 2015 numbers on Twitter and might do a follow up of this article on it.

The reason the PGW was included, despite being a pretty “small” event from a media coverage point of view is because Sony will do an international press conference ahead of the event. It was presented as the replacement for its gamescom conference that didn’t happen this year (leaving Microsoft alone to take the lead on the event media coverage).

What is very revealing with this graph, is the difference in the magnitude of each event for media coverage. Keeping in mind that the tools we use don’t properly cover Asian media, the TGS is a significantly smaller event compared to gamescom, and it makes sense in that regard. What is more impressive is the difference in scale between those 2 events and PAX Prime.

PAX Prime is a consumer first event, but it saw more and more announcements being made there the years. Cliff Bleszinsky’s upcoming LawBreakers used that event for its first reveal for instance (and to great effect IMHO). There is an impressive discrepancy in the media impact between the premiere shows, with established brands (and strong support from the largest actors) and the rest. While I expected a big difference, this is bigger than I would have expected.

If E3 was in the graph, it would dwarf gamescom, and everything else would look even more ridiculously smaller. If anything, I feel this shows there is probably too much concentration at the moment in terms of the media coverage of events. It will be incredibly interesting to see if the PGW can show the impact of the Sony conference move for the event coverage – it could prove that spreading the communication across more events is a worthy strategy, the way they brilliantly orchestrated the Playstation Experience last year.

Summer 2015 events

With gamescom, PAX and TGS within 2 months of the summer, I thought I could show how they get covered in that period.

events_aug15_articles_daily

It is important to remember that gamescom was unusually early this year. It will be back to the 2nd of August next year, and closer to PAX Prime again.

In the graph, the fact that PAX Prime runs over a weekend is quite apparent. Where gamescom and TGS both peak around the large conferences and the first days, PAX main day is on the Monday (and the last day of the event).

I also went and looked at the media languages of those 3 events:

gc15_paxp15_tgs15_k20days_languages

gc15_paxp15_tgs15_k20days_languages_domains

The first graph is looking at the total number if articles in each languages. The second graph at the number of unique websites in each languages.

For all languages, both in volume of articles and number of unique media, the gamescom is the largest event. It is a lot larger for Germany though, unsurprisingly as the event is hosted there, and a lot more local media is likely to pick up on related news.

It is interesting to note though, that there are more English media covering PAX Prime and the TGS (again, PAX being in the US, they benefit from the locality), but more articles are written in English about TGS. It shows they are just more news announced there (which is also logical considering the events profiles). However, the fact that about the same number of German media are covering PAX as TGS is more unexpected. I suspect the stronger PC profile of German media makes a larger proportion of outlets interested in PAX news, than say French media (about half of the number of websites covering TGS covered PAX). Looking at number of articles in French for the TGS compared to PAX Prime also shows a strong interest in the Japanese event compared to the other languages (and France love history with the Japanese culture could be at play here).

A few more thoughts

Large events are very unique beasts, they concentrate a lot of the communication happening in the game industry. But looking at the data for the smaller events, it is clear they are growing in terms of their media coverage too. They can play a very interesting role for companies that cannot compete with the large budgets the big shows are commanding. I will keep a close eye on those data and likely do a follow up, with a focus on events outside of the “blockbusters” of each continent (E3, gamescom, TGS).

 

We are hiring again! This time, we’re looking for a native English experienced PR executive with equal amounts of writing skill, creative flair and love of video games. Prior PR/marketing experience is required, but the role could also suit someone with a different background in online communication, like a community or social media manager.

If this sounds like you, and you’re interested in joining a small, fun-loving (but hard-working) team based in Brighton, please send your CV to jobs@icopartners.com and/or drop us a line for more info.

Here’s the job spec:

________

Who we are: ICO Partners Ltd., a small but fast-growing online games services consultancy and PR agency based in Brighton, UK. Find out all about us at www.icomedia.eu.

Who we need: A flexible, experienced and motivated communications professional with a passion for video games.

Skills and requirements:

  • Native English speaker with very strong spoken and written communication skills
  • Minimum 3 year’s experience in a position involving direct contact with the media
  • A background in PR, journalism, social media or community management is desirable
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  • Proven organisational and planning skills, including PR planning and strategy
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  • Managing relationships with journalists across selected European territories with primary care for English media.
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  • Assisting with market research projects
  • Participating in product testing as required

Remuneration : TBD

Location:  Brighton, UK
Reports to:  PR manager
Hours:  Full-time, 37.5 hours per week

Contact:  jobs@icopartners.com

Last time, I went over how a campaign should plan its stretch goals and communicate about them, but I didn’t say much about the nature of stretch goals themselves. So it is time to discuss that.

And before I go into my thoughts on the topic, I think this requires an extra disclaimer. While I have a strong opinion about how stretch goals should be planned and announced, the nature of stretch goals is a much more complex topic, one where the nature of the game, the profile of its communities, the capabilities of the studio play such big roles that it would be hard for me to establish rules the way I did in the previous piece. For this reason, take all of the below as general guidelines and if anything feels inappropriate or odd for your own project, it is probably because it is and you should ignore what I say. On with it.

Read more

The dust has settled and it is time to have an in-depth look at the media coverage that gamescom received this year. I think you would all benefit checking out my article from last year. I will compare a lot this year and last year, but a proper refresher can be found in that post.

gamescom 2015

This year’s gamescom was particularly interesting due to a number of differences from the previous years.

New dates

gamescom 2015 was 2 weeks earlier than the previous editions. It took place from the 5th of August to the 9th of August. I have heard multiple theories as to why the dates were changed, but couldn’t confirm any of them. What is certain is that on the industry side, I haven’t met anyone who liked those dates. They are in the sacrosanct first half of August during which most of continental Europe is on holidays. While it might have been a motivation, in order to make it easier for consumers to attend the B2C side of the event, the business side hated it. Another point was the proximity with E3 which is further explained below. This said, it didn’t seem to affect much my own meetings (anecdotal evidence there) or the attendance numbers. But it probably impacted the second change from previous years:

No Sony conference

While Sony was present at gamescom and had a massive booth, there was no media briefing the day before the event started. Microsoft was basically on its own this time around, with no other comparable media briefing to face it.

The reason for this is more than likely due the proximity between gamescom and E3 this year. With an extra early gamescom, there were only 6 weeks between the two events and Sony decided to skip gamescom and to have a media briefing ahead of the Paris Games Week this year instead (late October, in Paris as the name suggests).

Expanded halls

This was the first time in a while that the exhibition halls were moved at gamescom. It meant some extra space for the B2B area with Hall 2 and 3 for the first time used at gamescom. The B2C section was also expanded, with the usually only partially used Halls 10.1 and 10.2 better populated, and Hall 5 taken from the B2B for the first time. Hall 1 was also secured for a one night event around German Youtubers.

Riot Games wasn’t present this year, after having occupied half a hall in 2014, but the space they left vacant was filled in with more exhibitors this year.

Numbers

Here are the numbers as announced by the gamescom’s organisers:

  • 345,000 visitors (+10,000 from 2014)
  • 33,200 trade visitors (+1,700 from 2014)
  • 806 exhibitors (+106 from 2014)
  • 6,000 media reps (same as 2014, but according to the organizers they were stricter than previously with the requirements for a press accreditation)

There is a growth for the event, even if it is not a massive one (were are talking about +3% for visitors and +5% for trade visitors). Considering the size the event has already reached, this is not necessarily surprising. I wonder though if the change in dates helped or made it harder for the growth.

Photo: Koelnmesse

Hallendurchblick Halle 7

In short, this year gamescom was again massive. But enough of this, let’s look at *our* numbers.

gamescom in the media

All numbers here are taken as usual from our media monitor. They cover the whole week of gamescom, like last year.

gc14-vs-15_dailies_articles

With only one media briefing taking place on the Tuesday, the peak of the media coverage didn’t happen on that day like last year. Wednesday is an important day at gamescom as this is the one day where the show floor is open to professionals-only. A lot of media meetings happen during that day, and somehow, this year saw a lot more output than last year.

So, despite no press conference from Sony this year, there were more articles published on the Tuesday and way way more articles on the Wednesday. Overall, this year’s media output was significantly bigger than last year.

gc14-vs-15_articles

More than 25% articles published in the week mentioned gamescom. That’s a very significant increase, especially when Sony didn’t have a media brief to announce something major.

gc14-vs-15_languages_articles

Looking only at the 5 top languages, there was some growth across the board, but the largest part of this year’s growth came from German and Italian media outlets.

gc14-vs-15_languages_uniquewebsites

Looking purely at the number of unique websites covering the event, it is interesting to see that there is almost no growth – the increase in the number of articles is coming from a generally bigger output by the media attending, rather than more media attending the event. This is particularly striking when considering the Italian media, where fewer sites covered gamescom, but still had close to 67% more articles than last year.

Platforms

With no Sony media brief this year, the results for the platform with the largest media coverage shouldn’t be very surprising.

gamescom2015_platforms_articles

What is quite striking is how the Playstation 4 performance is still strong in regards to its main competitor. A lot was happening for Sony at gamescom, their booth was large and busy, but it also speaks for the strength of the brand (especially in Europe) to keep such a strong media presence.

gc14-vs-15_platform_articles

Compared to last year, where they were holding a press conference, Sony didn’t seem to lose much media presence. It is good to bear in mind that this year was a very strong year in terms of the media output, though. Less media coverage, during a year that saw a significant growth, could well hide a much bigger missed opportunity for Sony.

In the case of Microsoft, the net gain is incontestable, with almost +50% articles on Xbox One from last year’s event. Also notable for them, is the very strong showing of Windows 10 in the media, even though this is across kind of articles and a number of them might just be related to the release of the OS and not be connected to gamescom. By our metrics, it is still a very strong week in terms of media presence.

Nintendo’s consoles performed better than last year as well, following the general growth of the event in term of media coverage.

Finally, while closer than ever to its consumer version launch, Oculus doesn’t seem to have grown massively its media coverage from its presence at gamescom.

Comparing E3 and gamescom

For reference, this is the same comparison I did last year:

09_Week-of-E3-vs-gamescom-2014-of-articles-per-platform

 

Those numbers from last year show a significant difference of scale between the two events, with E3 taking a much more prominent role in the calendar of all actors in the games industry.

gc15-vs-e315_platform_articles

The number for this year are very instructive. Where the Playstation 4 had a similar coverage at E3 year-on-year, the Xbox One had a great E3 compared to last year, and an even greater gamescom. The media coverage it received was at a similar level as E3 last year.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft having free reign at gamescom paid off – but I think it is important to highlight that it didn’t happen purely because of the absence of serious contenders. This year’s gamescom conference was, to me, the best Microsoft has organised in years, across the different E3s and gamescoms. If you ignore the incredibly cringey eSport moment with the commentators going on about a pre-recorded match, the overall line was very strong, quite varied, and had a surprising number of first announcements, without too much of the forced-down-your-throat “we are awesome” lines that are usual for Microsoft (and that I believe is not as well received in Europe as it is in the US).

It is a welcome strong performance and sets up for an interesting gamescom next year, when it will be held at a more usual time of somewhere in mid-August.

Games

Like last year, I have prepared a graph with the top 30 games mentioned during the gamescom’s week. All games highlighted in green are titles that were featured during the Microsoft press conference:

top30_games_articles_gamescom15_b

 

The star of the show last year was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (with about 1,700 articles). This time around, the Call of Duty game ranks 19th. The change of privileged partner from Sony to Microsoft is surely playing a big role (and we should see how it pays off media-wise after Paris Games Week).

EA and Blizzard also both holding press conferences had a big impact. World of Warcraft, while having a very very steady amount of coverage normally, rarely breaks into the most covered in the media. Star Wars Battlefront, FIFA 16 and Mirror’s Edge all benefitted from Electronic Arts media conference.

Metal Gear Solid 5 shows the incredible strength of the brand, and Konami did put a lot out during gamescom to promote their game.

Another very notable performance is DOTA 2. Totally unrelated from gamescom, this is thanks to the final phase of The International 5 taking place the exact same week as gamescom. I am not sure this was ideal for the game, but it still managed to be very present in the news cycles.

Concluding thoughts

While there is already a very interesting picture appearing from this year’s gamescom, the story won’t really be complete until we see how the shift to Paris Games Week will do for Sony. The lead that Microsoft has created in its media presence during gamescom is very real, but it hasn’t translated in something durable so far:

aug2015_ps4xb1_articles

 

Following up on my medium.com piece on the Yooka-Laylee campaign, I feel there is a need for a dedicated blog post on the most common mistake I see on crowdfunding campaigns, both large and small alike: the management of Stretch Goals.

Stretch Goals?

For those who are not familiar, Stretch Goal is the terminology now commonly used for the additional goals creators add to their campaign for actions and features they will implement once they raise beyond their original goal. They became more and more common as crowdfunding soared in popularity. I believe their origin lies with the tabletop campaigns, where adding new rewards to a campaign became a popular formula to expand beyond its initial objective. The first campaign I saw use this very efficiently was the original Zombicide campaign, which raised $780,000 in April 2012.

Stretch Goals are not just creators trying to keep their campaign going strong after reaching its initial goal. There is also a strong demand from backers, who wants to see the project they support expanded on with the extra cash raised. The pressure to promise more content is very real and can become a very insidious trap. But more on that later.

How to manage Stretch Goals

Beyond the few campaigns I got directly involved in, I have provided advice for a lot of campaigns over the last 3 years. I have also now run 3 workshops with creators on how to properly manage a crowdfunding campaign. I have put my most frequent advice from these experiences below:

DO NOT ANNOUNCE ANY STRETCH GOALS WHEN YOU LAUNCH YOUR CAMPAIGN

There is nothing to gain from announcing as you launch, and everything to lose. I will use a very extreme example to illustrate this: Zombie Playground

Zombie Playground was a campaign launched in May 2012, right on the back of Kickstarter’s first big wave for video games. It had its initial goal set at $100,000, and in the middle of that first wave, might have been deemed as easy to reach by the creators. From the very beginning, they set a series of Stretch Goals, that they called Milestones. They had 5 Milestones, starting at $100,000 (for the basic pitch), to $2,000,000.

ZPG_01

ZPG_02

 

And this is the description they had for $2m:

ZPG_2m

And right here, in the first sentence, you have the biggest issue with announcing your Stretch Goals early: “Complete vision of the Zombie Playground school world.”

The campaign didn’t go well (lots of reasons for that, you can read the updates if you are curious), and it raised “only” $167,000. If you follow this blog regularly, you know that raising more than $100,000 is not a small achievement for any campaign, but here, it was seen as a big failure by the backers… And rightfully, they were more than $1,800,000 short for the “complete vision” of the game.

Like I said, this is an extreme example, but this is very true for any project with Stretch Goal announced from day one.

Stretch Goals are moving the backers’ perception of what is the goal of the campaign

I will go a bit further:

There is nothing to gain by announcing Stretch Goals early

Let’s go through what might happen to your campaign. For the purpose of this article, imagine you are trying to raise $100,000. To make my point, let’s say that you have roughly three potential outcomes:

  1. Your campaign fails to raise its objective. The Stretch Goals you have announced are useless, and if anything they might have convinced some backers that the game they wanted wasn’t the one at $100,000, but the one you would do at $150,000 for instance. It might have convinced them you would not reach that goal and decided them in not backing you altogether. Following the 20/48 rule, you have shot yourself in the foot there.
  2. Your campaign is successful, but not by a vast margin. You might have reached your goal midway through, after the momentum of the first few days, and many people have moved on from your campaign to other things. While announcing you have reached your goal is a nice beat, announcing your Stretch Goal is not. They were already announced. If anything, you are inviting data-driven people to make their own back of the envelope calculations on your chances to reach those Stretch Goals, dismiss the ones they deem as out of reach. Re-igniting interest is difficult during a campaign, and you don’t have the announcement effect to help you here. Potentially, you have anticipated your success the wrong way, and all the Stretch Goals look out of reach to your backers and have no beneficial effects.
  3. Your campaign is widely successful. You reach your objective in the first few hours of the campaign. You might have suddenly passed through a number of Stretch Goals that will now be taken for granted and provide no benefit to your campaign promotion. The pacing you have set for your Stretch Goal might be very off – there might be too many small Stretch Goals that are too easy to achieve and you need to keep them coming (especially as you have set a precedent for them), or they might be spaced too far from each other and run into pacing issues. This is clearly the best problem to run into, but again, you leave yourselves in a situation where you lost control of an important aspect of your campaign.

There is simply not a scenario where you benefit from having your Stretch Goals at the beginning.

IMHO, the best way to present your Stretch Goals at the beginning of a campaign is as follow:

  • Acknowledge that in fact, were you to reach your goal, you have made plans to add Stretch Goals to expand on your projects
  • Do not give too many details about those goals (like the exact content of those Stretch Goals or the amount at which you want to set them)
  • If you know that there are some elements in your campaigns that people will want to see and you have planned them in Stretch Goals, it is ok to hint at them being considered as Stretch Goals, if you were to be lucky enough to reach your goal

The objective at the beginning is to keep all the focus of the early campaign to be on the initial goal, and the initial goal only, and to keep Stretch Goals as new beats to keep the momentum of your campaign.

There are backers that will always be asking about them. Some will in fact demand them, holding their precious pledge hostage if you don’t promise X, Y or Z. And you know what? That’s fine… Tell them you are not comfortable discussing these things while your campaign is still not funded, and things will come in time. And if they don’t want to pledge now, they shouldn’t. Invite them to keep an eye on the announcements you do as the campaign advances (“Hey, why don’t you follow us on Twitter or Facebook to make sure you don’t miss when we announce the Stretch Goal to port the game on N64 as you have been asking?”).

 

Let me give you some examples with a couple of current campaigns.

Everspace

The campaign was launched on August 6th and will end on September 11th. They are asking for €225,000 and have currently raised €156,000, and by all metrics, this campaign is going well.

This is what they have on their page about Stretch Goals (they changed the order of some the goals, but they announced them from the very beginning):

Everspace_Sg

For a €225,000 campaign, they already have announced Stretch Goals going up to €725,000; and the goals range from €50,000 to €125,000 each. The campaign is probably going to settle around €7,000 on average per day, taking them 10 more days to reach their initial goal (likely a bit less as getting close to the goal usually helps a campaign). Then, with 15 days to go, they will likely reach 2 or 3 Stretch Goals.

They won’t go to the point where they will reveal those goals 06 and beyond. They are missing out on announcing what the most exciting Stretch Goals are going to be.

Holding on their Stretch Goals, they would have had been able to announce them mid-campaign, they also most likely wouldn’t have changed their goals in the first few days, as it would have given them some time to understand what were the most important requests from the community and plan accordingly.

Pauldron

The campaign was launched on August 10th and will end on September 9th. They are asking for $5,000 and have currently raised $4,000. It’s very likely this meet its funding goal.

This is what they have on their page about their Stretch Goals:

pauldrong_Sg
At their current pace, they might raise $20,000, an excellent performance considering their objective. But if you look at those Stretch Goal through the lense of a potential backer,  I cannot see them as positives. Why not wait for the game to be sure to have “better art” before backing it. Surely, the devs think their current project is going to be ugly if they phrased it that way?

This is clumsy and the exact same plan could be a positive if only presented differently… Keeping the goals secret, to only announce the $10,000 “art boost” after you have reached $5,000, it suddenly becomes an awesome new feature, instead of an admission of sub-par art as it stands now.

The project is also at a stage where it is not safe from sudden success. With such a “low” objective, a simple featuring in a large media outlet could take it beyond all those Stretch Goals in one instant. Not that it would be bad, but as you have to re-plan all your strategy for Stretch Goals in that instance, everything that has been announced cannot be used anymore as part of your plan. $10,000 to port the game to both android and iOS sounds incredibly low to me for instance.

Going to a recent, but completed project:

Bloodstained

Concluded on June 13th this year, the campaign’s goal had been set at $500,000 and raised $5,545,991 after 33 days.

And this is what their Stretch Goals are looking like, after the campaign:

bloodstained_Sg

They met all their announced Stretch Goals, all 27 of them.

While they did announce Stretch Goals from the beginning, they only had Stretch Goals to $850,000 initially (4 Stretch Goals), and opened new Stretch Goals, but only to up to $2,000,000 on their second day (when they were at $1,500,000). This is what their Stretch Goals were looking like when they made the first update at the time:

bloodstained_Sg_update1

 

Passing all their initial Stretch Goals was a non-issue, they even gave away 3 Stretch Goals that had been unannounced at the time (showing generosity, as they should in such circumstances). But they only set 2 new Stretch Goals. After 2 days of campaigns, being at $1,500,000, it was obvious they would pass those in a breeze (they passed $2,000,000 on day 5).

But they kept very much in control of the pacing and the promises made (something you need to be very careful about, it is oh-so-tempting to over promise during the high of a campaign).

Here is the rhythm at which they unlocked their Stretch Goals:

Bloodstained on Kickstarter

As you can see, the longest they went without a Stretch Goal being met was 3 days. They also didn’t meet multiple goals per day very often. This was limited to the very beginning, where they had momentum, the very end, where a huge additional momentum also happens, as well as on Day 16.

You will notice I highlighted Day 12 to Day 16… These Stretch Goals are very interesting, they were for the 8-bit music Tracks. The Campaign broke down from its usual $250,000 on average per goal, to do 6 smaller Stretch Goals every $40,000 at that time. They could have easily packed them all together, but by breaking them down, changing the rhythm pattern at the moment of the campaign reached its slowest point, they guaranteed things were still happening at a decent rhythm. There is no doubt the team behind the campaign has very deep understanding of how crowdfunding campaigns function.

I won’t want to go too much into it, but they also put together an achievements system, a parallel system to the Stretch Goals to unlock more content, not based on meeting financial goals, but on meeting some other metrics, mostly based on community activities, an excellent way for them to motivate the existing community to spread the word on the campaign (and stay engaged with them after the campaign):

Bloodstained_achievements

An excellent addition to a campaign, as long as you have the critical mass to make it work (I wouldn’t consider it for a campaign raising under $500,000).

Planning your Stretch Goals

Enough looking at others, how should you plan your own stretch goals?

The same way, I was looking at 3 possible outcomes for your campaign in regards to the announcement of Stretch Goals, you should consider 3 scenarios when planning them:

  1. Your campaign is going to make it, but just about. You don’t need any stretch goals in that case. Or maybe one, to announce towards the end, in case the last couple of days go very well. But this is a scenario you should look at outside of considerations with Stretch Goals. If you just make it, will you be able to make the game you promised? A very very important question to ask yourself, throughout your planning phase.
  2. Your campaign gets funded, but only mid-way through. Your Stretch Goals need to account for the fact that you are going to be in the mid-campaign “death valley”. You probably need those Stretch Goals to be relatively small, in order to meet some of them before the end, where you may want to have one a bit more ambitious, counting on the last days momentum to meet it.
  3. Your campaign is funded in a matter of hours. Hurray. You have the best problem in the world. Plan to have a few nice Stretch Goals that you can easily give right away, and more planned to space nicely along the rest of the campaign. You probably want to have Stretch Goals of different (financial) sizes, that you can swap around as you announce them to fit with the current rhythm of your campaign.

Armed with those 3 strategies, keep them close by, and see what happens at launch. And adapt. One of the great strengths of a crowdfunding campaign is the actual feedback you get from your backers. Your well thought out plan might be going to the gutter when the initial feedback for Stretch Goals is not about a port for your game to the N64 as you had planned, but to have more hats added to the game. By planning well you can rebound more easily. As you can reshuffle what you had planned, and be more prepared in terms of budget estimates if things unexpected get massively requested.

All games are not equal

This said, this is an ideal scenario. One that doesn’t account that each campaign and each game is its own unique snowflake. There are many games that don’t have a lot of flexibility in terms of what you can add to them, and the granularity at which you can go.

Narrative games for instance, don’t lend themselves for that unique hat for in-game characters that only backers can have. This is the kind of thing that will get you further in a multiplayer game though. You may want to add extra chapters for example, but those don’t come cheaply.

Don’t try to shoehorn a specific piece of content just for the sake of having the right Stretch Goal

It is important to embrace your game identity and make sure everything you promise during the game fit its nature.

Let me illustrate this with the Strike Suit Zero campaign, that I collaborated on.

The campaign was very specific. It was put together not to fund a new game, but to finish one already in production. Because of this, we had some very specific constraints: we couldn’t add any Stretch Goal that would compromise the release date. And because the game was already relatively advanced in production, adding new content wasn’t an option (we had already added some risks there with some of the rewards for the backers).

The Stretch Goals for the campaign we couldn’t pace ideally, so they had to be quite chunky as it meant adding resources outside of the core team who were working on delivering the game.

The studio ended up meeeting its objective mid-way through the campaign, and missing its second Stretch Goal not by much (the Mac and Linux versions were done in the end though). There was just no margin of maneuver by which Stretch Goals could have been added in a more granular way at the time. And that’s okay. The main goal was to fund the end of the development, and that happened.

No Stretch Goals

Stretch Goals are now seen as component of any campaign. I spend a lot of time discussing with creators about to launch their campaigns, and they all have them planned out (even if too many of them also plan to explain those extra goals from day one). But… it doesn’t have to be. Some projects are very complete by themselves, and it shouldn’t be a mandatory step in your campaign if that’s the case.

Exploding Kittens had a great approach to this. They blew their goal almost immediately, they were very happy they could make the game they had been working on, and just didn’t care about Stretch Goals (they went with a campaign achievements system, which Bloodstained’s took inspiration from). And some backers might get angry about this, the logic being “the money you get from the campaign should go towards making the game”, but that’s simply not true. If you set the right goal, that’s what should go towards making the game. Everything extra, you can dispose of the way you want. Stretch Goals will get you further money-wise, but also will make you commit to more development. Ponder what you really want to do, and choose your battles wisely. Sometimes, less is more.

 

TL;DR

Don’t announce any stretch goals. Be humble about your initial goal, be focused on the early days of your campaign.

Plan for different scenarios.

Don’t feel like you need to have Stretch Goals because everyone else have them.