MMO Kickstarter Rewards

I can’t decide if Kickstarter is just a new fad for proving a concept, or marketing tool, but I know for sure it’s simply a dang useful tool for developers with good ideas.  Other than wanting a game I support to to be funded so I can play, the one thing I care about most are the rewards.  Now that MMOs are starting to make their way onto Kickstarter, I’m beginning to wonder what great MMO Kickstarter Rewards can be offered to entice players into parting with their cash early.

What would entice me? I tend to think that’s the best place to start because I think we’re all a little bit different and value our money differently. MMOs are different than other games or other Kickstarters (at least in my mind) because there’s so much more that can be done to reward you in lasting and meaningful ways. Here are some rewards within, a reasonable price range ($1-$200), I would expect if I were to back a game:

  • Alpha and Beta access – I gave my money, let me participate in the development process. I think this one is a given, but I’d hope the developers would genuinely be interested in hearing what the testers have to say.
  • Copy of the game – Time value of money.  Getting my $60 now is worth soooo much more than getting my money later.  Give me the game if I give enough.
  • Founder’s Plaque – If the game has housing, I want to put right on the front of my house that this is the house of someone who helped fund the game.
  • Titles, emblems, etc – Let me show I donated, give me the ability to show my support cosmetically, but these are extremely uninteresting.  Titles get turned off, and are mostly ignored.
  • Vanity armor and weapons – Things that make me look cool.  Skins to go over my gear that look like flaming swords, ridiculously cool looking armor, and glowing effects.
  • In-game statue of myself – Ya, it’s vain but it’s permanent.
  • Guild recognition of some sort – If a community can pool enough money, some permanent way of recognizing that guild and letting others know that guild played a part in funding the game.

Helping to fund a MMO should yield rewards insensitive to time.  These should be long-lasting, apparent, and bestow status.  Then of coarse there’s the whole meet the dev team in RL, etc., etc.

Rewards I don’t want to see are those types of rewards that give advantages in the game.  Shroud of the Avatar is offering property tax immunity to the first 5,000 people who donate a certain tier — that’s ridiculous.  That’s not a reward since it punishes more people than it benefits.  Oh, you weren’t as giving or didn’t give fast enough?  Guess you miss out on what could be a major boost in-game.

Camelot Unchained‘s Kickstarter will begin soon.  CU will be the first time I actually back something on Kickstarter, and I’m a bit anxious.  I’m hoping for in-game rewards that convey gratitude and status rather than the tchotchkes and gimmicky rewards.  I have a feeling Mark Jacobs knows he needs to get this one right in order to hit that $2,000,000 goal.

I wasn’t in a particularly creative mood while writing this up, so I’d love to know what kinds of rewards you would expect for giving $1-$200 to a MMO Kickstarter.  You never know who you might influence.

  • I think pretty much the only thing that would influence me is beta/early access. I much prefer to play MMOs (any game really) in a normative stance. Having extras at launch diminishes rather than enhances the experience.

    I find Kickstarter intriguing but, as a consumer, rather purposeless. It’s useful to see what might be in development but I’m more than happy to wait until things actually launch and then pay whatever entry fee is required. There are already far, far, FAR too many MMOs that I want to play and don’t have time for. There are so many great ones around that I just haven’t made a dent in yet that I absolutely don’t need any new ones for several years yet, so whether anything on Kickstarter or off it actually gets made is practically irrelevant.

    Now if someone has a feasible proposal on KS for a device that gives me 48 hours in a day, that I would back!

  • My favorite reward I’ve gotten is The Banner Saga letting me design my own crest that will be used in game.

    I think a no brainer for an MMO reward would be early name reservation (ouya had this)

    Some other ones could be:
    A unique emote/animation. Maybe pulling out a flag and planting it in the ground? Something to signify being a pioneer.
    A head start, even ahead of preorder people. After all, you’re funding the game.
    A cloth map! I will always love those.
    A preferred customer support level. In game your tickets will be given a higher priority than other players.
    Free premium services for life: character transfers, race changes, etc.
    A unique customization… a kickstarter moustache, or ponytail, or something like that.
    A unique spell effect – for example, if there is a fireball spell, give kickstarters a blue fireball spell that does the same thing.

  • From Mark Jacobs, in particular, I would want barely playable early versions and constant feedback without secrets of any kind … including the infamous … we want to surprise people with this one. I don’t want to be surprised.

    As far as actual rewards for donating, the only game I ever donated too was Path of Exile. For me it was perfect, I got full access to play the game while they were still developing the content. For Camelot Unchained I expect them to have a client and server quickly and start producing content that at least can be observed, even if it’s just walking around in a still empty land.

    I might very well donate, but I do not trust Mark Jacobs at all and I already have issues with his excuse for delaying the kickstarter campaign … maybe I just don’t like his writing style. 🙂

  • @Jenks: Okay I really like some of your ideas.
    * Head start

    * Free premium services – I think race change is a bit much if race matters, but I think other premium changes are cool.

    * Unique spell effects are what I’m talkin’bout.

    * Name Reservation = awesome.

    @Mark: I think delaying the Kickstarter a little bit is a very good idea. I would delay to put a window between me and Shroud of the Avatar; not that they are similar games, but they are both high profile.

  • I think one of the most agitating feelings you can have as a gamer is to become invested (emotionally or literally) in a game, and then watch the game go in a direction that is so obscenely against what you would perceive as interesting that you simply cannot hold your tongue, and then finding that you have no voice with which to state your concerns anyways. So you watch, silently, as the game fails, because you know that no one will hear you speak.

    So speaking personally, I would just want to have some kind of testing access. I would love to be able to test and give feedback on every facet of the game. I honestly don’t care about any other kind of reward. For me, the reward is having the game come out successfully.

  • Maybe I’ve become really pessimistic, but I’d be okay with a money-back guarantee if it turns out the game sucks or half the stuff the devs said they were going to do turned out to be lies.

    But that’s just me.

  • @Keen: I actually think it might help to launch before the end of the Torment and Shroud of the Avatar campaigns.

    Kickstarter campaigns are not zero-sum. Having other large campaigns around at the same time likely increases your chances of getting funding, because when their backers get bored waiting for updates, they visit other campaigns and get enticed into backing those as well. This has happened to me quite a few times.

    Most people don’t put everything they have into their favourite campaign – they treat it like a preorder, pledging the minimum amount needed to get the game. These people will likely have plenty of money to burn on other campaigns, and they’re more likely to do so while gripped by the “Kickstarter fever” that tends to run rampant during high profile campaigns.

  • What I expect with a normal pledge would be real tester alpha access. Considering that the company is getting money upfront while many of the features are undisclosed or may change means that a normal pledge must get you somethign more than the game. Otherwise I could just wait until later. The game is supposed to piss a number of people off by providing features that go against the mainstream MMO trends…does that make it a high risk pledge?

    I could see up to $75 for the earliest access. However, is that fair to have an increased price for providing free testing service – doesn’t sound fair but I am sure people would pledge extra for this. However, if you do not raise it then everyone wants to get in on that super early access.

    What about stretch rewards? Kickstarter campaigns often provide extra rewards for going beyond the asked for pledge amount, e.g. if we raise $2,500,000 then we give out this reward, at 2,750,000 it will be that etc. What would be interesting stretch rewards?

  • I am really torn by the whole Kickstarter thing. On the one hand, I think it’s a fantastic idea in theory. But I have seen so much vaporware over the years that I’m extremely wary about funding any game in this way. I’ve wanted a real space combat MMO for well over a decade now — no EVE does not count because it plays nothing like a sim. When I first heard about Star Citizen I was thrilled, and I’d be more than happy to pay $500 for that game if it was really good and really well supported. Even though it’s achieved it’s funding goals, I am still very skeptical of how it will actually turn out. I’d love to be wrong, but I suspect that for every kickstarter success there will be many more failures. Until I’m proven wrong, I probably would not fund a game kickstarter regardless of the rewards offered.

    That said, I like a lot of the ideas that have been mentioned and generally agree that cosmetic/status rewards are better than in game advantages.

    One thing that would be really nice to offer to people who fund the game heavily would be to extend them a permanent invitation to a special closed feedback forum that the company would weigh heavily when making decisions about the game going forward. I think that the most likely success stories to come out of kickstarter are niche games that have a smaller but dedicated fanbase. This kind of closed feedback forum would allow the developers to have a clear sense of what their core audience wants and stay true to that design. One of the big problems that many MMOs face is that their forums become a giant complain fest with different factions getting upset no matter what the company does — and unless there is some sophisticated back end going on that I don’t know about, the company can’t easily distinguish between the 9 posters that are dabblers and the one guy who is a potential long term customer who would be happy to spend $500 just for the box because its EXACTLY the game he has always wanted. The company SHOULD be listening to that one guy much more carefully than the other 9, and providing a closed and moderated forum would be a great way to facilitate this. I would also expect the communication on this forum to be two way, for what it’s worth.

  • I’ll probably be ostracized for this, but…

    I never liked “Pay to BetaTest”, I liked “Pay to AlphaTest” even less… and I’m quite certain that I would enjoy “Pay to Make Bullet Points” even less than both of those combined.

    I want a product when I throw money at something. I guess I’m just not big on “investing” in potentials when it comes to online gaming. We could all collectively throw billions of dollars at a game, but that doesn’t mean it will turn out even remotely the way we want.

    I prefer to buy games that exist, so I know exactly what my money is getting me.

    Kudos to you folks that do invest, but I have been let down so many times with released products in this industry that I can’t ever see myself putting money into something that is only an idea. Ideas change a whole hell of a lot from conception to release. And almost always in bad ways, because reality trumps desires every time. 🙁

    I may be a bit jaded. Or maybe I’m just getting old. Probably both lol.

  • @Rawblin: I think this would be less of a pay to get into beta and more of a pay for the game early and as a reward get allowed to play even before major public groups.

  • This made me think that there are at least two separate types of kickstarter mindsets, that is, a practical/cost-efficient “exactly what do I get for my investment?”, and an idealistic “I’ll give as much as I can to see this project come to fruition” type.

    I was admittedly a bit skeptical that people like “swarmofseals” actually existed (no criticism intended, I admire your “money where your mouth is” dedication to maintaining a high standard of quality in the field) that would be “happy to spend $500” to help their theoretical ideal game come to market, but sure enough a visit to the Star Citizen website demonstrated that was indeed the case.

    1651 backers have pledged >$250, which is ~5% of the total pledge population, with one person who has pledged $10,000. Wow!

    I am curious about the psychology of this group of gamers, especially given the propensity for disappointing launches in this genre of entertainment.