So, after a lengthy buildup and a month of actual fundraising, the Play With This Too Kickstarter was, sadly, a close miss. Coming within $8400 of the goal with 406 backers, the Lost Protectors will, for the moment, remain lost. So what happened, and what could be done about it if - hopefully when
- they try again?
In our opinion, the main issue that may have existed with this campaign was simply the sheer scope of it. In what we can perceive as an attempt to give a measure of accessibility to anyone, the project may have become so overwrought as to be intimidating or outright off-putting to potential backers. In the end, there were a total of 38 pledge levels ranging from $1 to $900 and even a $1600 level for those especially enthusiastic about particular aspects of the toy design process. The problem is, it was hard to tell by this point what one needed to pledge to in order to get exactly what they might want. For each figure they planned to offer initially, there was a separate pledge level of equal value, and also packages of multiple figures offered that featured a variety of combinations of the individuals. Besides having such a volume of options as to be overwhelming, the redundancy in the presentation made it difficult to figure out how to get to the end result you were after. And I think that was a cyclical problem. If they had removed the exacting specificity of pledging for a particular figure as its own level, and instead made it a blanket $55 with the understanding that the backer could choose the figure he or she liked later, the number of explicitly presented options would have been cut down significantly.
We understand the enthusiasm that would lead to the decision of including what practically amounted to stretch goals to make an entire toyline, but the actual pursuit of that came off as simply unrealistic. Plus by presenting a fixed selection of figures for immediate pledge levels and showing others that would be available later, a sense of “holding back” and even trying to push for more stretch goal levels to be reached might have given a negative impression of the campaign in itself. Keeping those in reserve is not wrong, but presenting so much potential product at the start was likely a mis-step. But they may have felt that by showing so many concept art pieces prior to the Kickstarter, that there was an obligation to show that all of it was at least theoretically ready to be produced, if the price was right. Keeping most of that out of sight and just focusing on an initial offering may well have smoothed a lot of edges, both in the campaign’s own presentation, and the general reception it got.
So, at the higher end was a $900 pledge level, which promised the entire first run worth of figures, among additional rewards. With 150 of these slots, had all of them sold, the campaign would have been funded and at least one stretch goal reached. When looking at the numbers involved, it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that they might have been wanting that specific outcome. We’re left to wonder if counting on such an expensive level to sell completely to make sure the project reached its funding goal - and so perhaps taking any other pledges as being gravy and fodder for more stretch goal - was that a component in the campaign not making it’s minimum requirements?
And the greater cause may be that the first level where one would receive a toy, the clear intention of this project in the first place, might have been priced outside a general comfort level. While practical concerns, such as possible gang-molding of parts might have prevented some options for lower-priced toy tiers, we still think that the option should have been explored more to find a compromise to make it work. If not the Tech Drones, then the Headshots. Something tangible with a toy-value that doesn’t cost $55 to help get people on board that want a playable reward but may not be comfortable going as far as the full figure’s worth. There were so many $55 level pledges out there, but none of them addressed the basic problem of accessibility.
A Steep Curve
And the accessibility problem shows very clearly in how the rewards were structured. As we mentioned before, actual action figures don’t come into the picture until the $55 level - the sixth
tier. Beneath that are a series of ancillary items - a T-Shirt, prints, desktop backgrounds - and how much are those going to mean to those who can’t or won’t pledge the $55 for a figure? The most toyetic reward is a glow-in-the-dark button at the $15 level that was promised to be compatible with the figures (and anything else that uses 5 millimeter pegs). But tellingly, on a page full of concept art for every conceivable figure and stretch goal, there is no art for the button at all.
Unfortunately at this stage of their life, the honest truth is no one cares enough about Play With This Too as an entity to simply pledge for a shirt or art print just as a means of showing their support of this start-up. Had PWWToo managed to release some kind of product beforehand and developed a real presence as a toy-maker, that might be a different case, but ultimately filling in the low-end tiers with these kind of items was never a wise choice in anything but consideration of production costs. Making them all available as add-ons to standard pledge tiers may have tipped the scale to their favor a bit more, but using them as standalone incentives was misguided at best.
Should they try again? Yes, absolutely. The beauty of a Kickstarter versus alternative forms of initial funding is that the ability to simply try again is very much on their side. And while this campaign didn’t proceed as smoothly as anyone would have hoped for, it doesn’t mean that the project itself lacks merit. The products they intend to bring are very interesting and in drawing from a wide variety of sources can easily attract interest from a diverse range of people, making eventually developing a traditional market for these that much easier.
But this will depend largely on what lesson they’ve taken away from this attempt. If any of the Play With This Too crowd are reading, here are our suggestions:
- Fewer pledge options. You don't have to massively limit the choices
that can be made, but make that choice a later element. It should be enough
to let someone pledge $55 to get "a figure" which they can
specify at a later time.
- Lower-cost accessibility. Develop some level of toy that can fit at most
a $25 pledge tier. Your main figures can't budget down that far, and
that's okay, but let people come away with a toy even if they
can't commit $55 or more to this.
- Save the stretch goals. Focus on getting the first figures done and
building an actual customer base before growing any farther. It looks bad
on all fronts having numerous stretch goals, and worse still when none of
them get met.
- In short: simplify your pitch. It's obvious there's
a lot of cool things you want to do - and we know from your individual work
histories that you're more than capable of doing them. But all of it
taken together - pledge levels, stretch goals, reams of concept art - is
- And also, maybe try to focus more on making your goal with the modest
packages. Selling a few high price packages and being done with the basic
requirement is great, if you can get it. But at this point it's
probably time to think about approaching from a different direction.
But again, and above all, we sincerely hope that you guys try this again. We’re rooting for your success because we like what we see in the pipeline. We just really want to see it have the best chance possible at actually getting made.