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Scarcity And Ubiquity

Sorry for the late posting; been doing a lot of thinking in opposite directions today.

On the one hand, I heard a throwaway piece on the local cut of Morning Edition yesterday¹ about how 50 New York City taxis are going to be part of a pilot program where they get rid of the adutainment-heavy “Taxi TV” screens in the backseat in favor of iPads with Square credit card readers — the same one every webcomicker and thon² dog uses at conventions to take payments — so that you can play games or engage in commerce while hauling from the airport to Midtown.

A custom system was almost certainly considered that would do about the same thing, but off-the-shelf is easier and robust enough that it became the preferable solution. Look for Square to move from “ubiquitous” to “it’s weird if you don’t have one” sometime this con season.

On the other hand, I want to draw your attention to Jon Rosenberg’s Kickstarter to print color volume four of the sadly-hiatused Goats. Blah, blah, halfway there before he wrote it up on his site, blah, blah, 100% funding³ in less than 18 hours, standard stuff. No, what I wanted to mention was something that caught my attention about six hours ago, when Rosenberg’s total:contributors ratio was running an astonishing US$91.09.

By contrast, Rich Burlew’s just-concluded blowout finished at a ratio of US$83.33, and the Double Fine record destroyer sits (with, admittedly, 20 days to go) at US$33.16. What makes Burlew and Rosenberg’s readers more likely to drop the big bucks?

Better question: why is Rosenberg’s ratio (as of this writing) down to US$79.24? I believe it’s because of high-value rewards Burlew had more than two dozen different tiers above his average donation, and Rosenberg has approximately 2/3 of his tiers above the average (which is a moving target, so take it with a grain of salt). More to the point, all of Rosenberg’s high-ticket items are limited-availability, and the ones with the biggest take-ups aren’t the ones marked ___ of 500 remaining or even ___ of 100 remaining, they’re the ones marked 0 of 3 or 6 of 10.

I think that scarcity prompts a True Fan (who’s already primed by a lack of Goats lo these 18+ months) to think, I’d better jump on this now or I’ll miss out entirely, even if that’s more than I wanted to spend. Rich Stevens saw a similar effect in some of his extremely limited (typically to of 3 or of 6) Lego creation rewards, which have prompted him to dole out very few re-stocks of those rewards, which were promptly snapped up.

Takeaway — it’s not just the dollar value (and not undervaluing your work), it’s also making the audience think the equivalent of This is a limited-edition, con-exclusive variant which they fear they’ll have to buy on eBay after at tremendously jacked-up prices. Watch Rosenberg’s campaign closely; I suspect that ratio is going to edge back up with just a little careful expectation-prodding.

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¹ WNYC represent.

² It’s growing on me.

³ About 30 minutes ago.

Honestly, I think it is a lot simpler than that. With the OOTS Kickstarter (and the Goats Kickstarter as well, it looks like), many of the higher level reward packages include direct products – books, games, etc. The lowest-level tiers mainly get you bonus stuff.

With the Double Fine Kickstarter, the lowest-level tier gets you the game itself. Anything above that is basically a bonus.

Now, I think that the presence of limited rewards also certainly has an impact. And I suspect that both at the start and end of a drive is when you will see the most dedicated fans making sizable contributions.

But I think the fundamental difference is just what is being offered in terms of the Kickstarter options and the product itself.

[...] Marketing | Following a couple of Kickstarter campaigns that raked in big bucks for the creators, Gary Tyrrell takes a look not just at the bottom line but also the average amount per contributor, noting that by that measure, Jon Rosenberg’s Goats campaign is hot-hot-hot. What makes the difference? Tyrrell sees contributors snatching up the high-value premiums that are limited in number, creating a sense of scarcity: “Takeaway — it’s not just the dollar value (and not undervaluing your work), it’s also making the audience think the equivalent of This is a limited-edition, con-exclusive variant which they fear they’ll have to buy on eBay after at tremendously jacked-up prices.” [Fleen] [...]

It also matters what time you check the average. That initial opening is when most of your hardcore fans buy stuff, and they buy off the top shelf. Then as the project goes on, the average drops as more casual fans sign on. Monster Alphabet went from an average of $200/backer, down to an average of $19, then with a rewards adjustment, back up to $21.51 (and this was with the $12 reward being the biggest seller).
Scurvy Dogs had a much steeper entry price for good rewards, so it’s average was $95.72.

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