The Kickstarter Blog

Kickstarter Is Not a Store

It's hard to know how many people feel like they're shopping at a store when they're backing projects on Kickstarter, but we want to make sure that it's no one. Today we're introducing a number of changes to reinforce that Kickstarter isn’t a store — it’s a new way for creators and audiences to work together to make things. We’d like to walk you through these changes now.

Creators must talk about “Risks and Challenges”

Today we added a new section to the project page called "Risks and Challenges." All project creators are now required to answer the following question when creating their project:

“What are the risks and challenges this project faces, and what qualifies you to overcome them?”

We added the "Risks and Challenges" section to reinforce that creators' projects are in development. Before backing a project, people can judge both the creator's ability to complete their project as promised and whether they feel the creator is being open and honest about the risks and challenges they face.

The new section will appear below the project description of projects that launch starting today.

New Hardware and Product Design Project Guidelines

The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and seductive to backers. Today we’re adding additional guidelines for Hardware and Product Design projects. 

They are:

  • Product simulations are prohibited. Projects cannot simulate events to demonstrate what a product might do in the future. Products can only be shown performing actions that they’re able to perform in their current state of development.
  • Product renderings are prohibited. Product images must be photos of the prototype as it currently exists.

Products should be presented as they are. Over-promising leads to higher expectations for backers. The best rule of thumb: under-promise and over-deliver.

We've also added the following guideline for Hardware and Product Design projects:

  • Offering multiple quantities of a reward is prohibited. Hardware and Product Design projects can only offer rewards in single quantities or a sensible set (some items only make sense as a pair or as a kit of several items, for instance). The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and offering multiple quantities feels premature, and can imply that products are shrink-wrapped and ready to ship.

These guidelines are effective for all Hardware and Product Design projects that launch starting today.

We hope these updates reinforce that Kickstarter isn't a traditional retail experience and underline the uniqueness of Kickstarter. Thanks for reading, and thanks as always for using Kickstarter.

UPDATE (Monday, September 24): We just posted an update answering follow-up questions from this post. We've also pasted the content of that post below.

Kickstarter announced that it's prohibiting product renderings in the Hardware and Product Design categories, but "rendering" can mean a lot of things. What does Kickstarter mean?

To clarify, we mean photorealistic renderings of a product concept. Technical drawings, CAD designs, sketches, and other parts of the design process will continue to be allowed. Seeing the guts of the creative process is important. We love that stuff. However renderings that could be mistaken for finished products are prohibited.

Do the new guidelines mean that Kickstarter will only accept Hardware and Product Design projects with finished products?

Not at all. We simply ask creators to share with backers exactly what’s been done so far, show how the product currently works, and explain how it will be completed. In short, we expect creators to show their work. Backers have shown that they're happy to get involved in projects that are in earlier stages when the creator is clear about the remaining work and their ability to complete it.

Do the new guidelines apply beyond Hardware and Product Design projects that are developing new products?

No. The new guidelines only apply to Hardware and Product Design projects that are developing new products. These guidelines do not apply to Design projects like the LowLine and +Pool or Hardware projects like Stompy: The Giant Rideable Walking Robot. Why? They aren’t developing new products that backers are expecting in their mailboxes.

How will Kickstarter know whether something is a simulation or rendering?

We may not know. We do only a quick review to make sure a project meets our guidelines. If an obvious simulation or photorealistic rendering is spotted during that review, that project will not be allowed to launch. If a simulation or photorealistic rendering is discovered after a project launches, that project will be canceled. Everyone should continue to use their best judgment when deciding whether or not to back a project.

Kickstarter announced that Hardware and Product Design rewards could only be offered in single quantities. What if my product works best as a pair or as a set of five?

As we noted in the announcement, sensible sets are fine. If your piece of hardware is best offered as a set of five, that's okay, however you couldn’t also offer it as a single piece. Creators will have to decide what works best for their project.

Final thoughts?

We created Kickstarter so more creative work could exist in the world, and last week's changes are in service of that mission. We're confident that these updates will lead to an even better Kickstarter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, and thanks for being a part of it!

Comments

    1. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Matthew Titelbaum on September 20, 2012

      So, a board game can't have a rendering of what the board or box might look like? Do I have that right? If so, this one-size-fits-all policy seems too narrow.

      I actually think this might make it harder to discern which games are riskier than others. If I see a polished rendering of box art, I know that the creator has thought enough about it to be able to make a rendering of it.

      If all games start being demonstrated with just hand-drawn cards, boards, and tokens, I don't know how, as a backer, one could easily pick one over another.

    2. N514912166_1559226_5265.small

      Creator Cindy Au on September 20, 2012

      @Matthew The new guideline prohibiting renderings applies only to projects categorized as Product Design or Hardware. Other categories, including Games, are not affected.

    3. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Matthew Titelbaum on September 20, 2012

      For instance, does this box art violate the new guidelines?

      http://kck.st/T1pEOF
      http://kck.st/PRI3j7
      http://kck.st/UgJ8kS

    4. Jeh_bday_2013.small

      Creator Jeh Cranfill on September 20, 2012

      I think this new rule about renderings is a bad one. Force them to add a disclaimer if you feel you must, but renders should be allowed for ALL projects. We are visual creatures and renders assist greatly in imagining what the product/project could be.

    5. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Matthew Titelbaum on September 20, 2012

      @Cindy Sorry. Should have read more closely. My bad.

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      Creator Cindy Au on September 20, 2012

      @Matthew No worries! Happy to be able to clear things up.

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      Creator Riley Dutton on September 20, 2012

      Welcome changes.

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      Creator Bryan Sweeney on September 20, 2012

      Alright, not sure how you were going to notify the folks whose projects were submitted days ago, like ours, but we went ahead and filled in the Risks and Challenges for our project. Hopefully it's good to go now, it's already been a long 4 days of waiting anxiously.

    9. Missing_small

      Creator Super Random on September 20, 2012

      I welcome these changes. Explicitly knowing the risks involved will make me more interested in funding things. It will make the model 'funding' instead of advanced order.

      For example, SuperMechanical's Twine has not shipped even after many many many months. They promised a lot, and delivered nothing. Had I known the risk involved, I would have not funded. But here was a group of MIT educated geniuses who claimed they would change the world.

    10. Missing_small

      Creator Ricardo Tomasi on September 20, 2012

      @Techgnostik @Matthew it's not hard producing a good-looking prototype, especially for board games. This will make sure the creators are really invested in the project and have put the time in to make it happen, not just throwing a gamble before any real work is done.

    11. Missing_small

      Creator Peter Cohen on September 20, 2012

      Are products going to be forced into one of those categories? I think the boundaries are often interpreted by project owners in quite a fluid way. Looking at the most funded page, there are entries under both Food and Games that strike me as being similar to the hardware and product design projects you are restricting but the owners categorised them with the idea of attracting backers who are interested in what their products will be used for.

    12. Missing_small

      Creator Matt on September 20, 2012

      Very nice new guidelines. It sure is lucky for the Ouya team that they made it in before this.

    13. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Gregory Magarshak on September 20, 2012

      What if we are developing a social network like Diaspora? Does that fall into the categories of product design or hardware?

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      Creator Matt Kerr on September 20, 2012

      I think sketches are OK but maybe very realistic looking renders are not.

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      Creator Richard Sim on September 20, 2012

      Action from Kickstarter on this issue is very welcome - I was very disappointed when the trend to exploit Kickstarter as a store started. Thank you!

      As a developer, the risks-and-challenges requirement plays to my inner nerd perfectly. :)

      However, the remaining changes I really think go far too far, and will seriously harm the viability many future projects. Product renderings and simulations are standard-fare during product development for a good reason - to get buy in from MOST people, you really do have to show them something shiny and cool - and demonstrate when it does in that setting.

      An old coworker once told me a story from back when he worked in military simulation software, and there was a big demo for the brass. The missile simulation worked perfectly. Physics were spot on. Nothing went wrong with the demo, at all. However, the General was severely disappointed in the team - because the missile was the wrong colour (the coworker didn't have the correct art assets to use yet, which made no difference to the simulation/demo).

      Visuals are very, very important to us.

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      Creator Matt Ford on September 20, 2012

      Are there any plans to extend similar guidelines to other categories?

    17. Missing_small

      Creator Bruce on September 20, 2012

      Rather than the multiple quantity hardware restriction, I'd rather see hardware projects limited to shipping actual relevant full or partial products as rewards instead of posters and t-shirts and other junk that doesn't help the producer focus on the product they're supposedly developing.

    18. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Ed Hurtley on September 20, 2012

      Bruce, that's exactly the opposite purpose of this change!

      Re-read what Kickatarter is about. It is about backing emerging PROJECTS and getting some rewards in return. Yes, for physical items, those rewards may include the physical item; BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT!

    19. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Zac Bowling on September 20, 2012

      Preventing product simulations and renderings is silly. A disclaimer is better. Multiple quantities restriction is also silly. The extra quantities helps bring the project to their goal of getting funded. This seems very short sighted and not well thought out.

    20. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Ed Hurtley on September 20, 2012

      P.S., Thank you Kickstarter for making this clarification.

      I only back projects at monetary amounts I am willing to completely lose with no "return on investment" at all. I back projects knowing full well that the majority of them are from first time creators. I back projects understanding that delays are inevitable.

      I do *NOT* back a project expecting to get a polished, full-retail-ready item developed by an experienced company. If I happen to get that, hey! Bonus!

      To date, four hardware projects I have backed have had their deadlines come and go. One I got yesterday - it was supposed to have shipped in June. Am I angry? No. The creator explained the delays the whole time. Did I get a retail package? No. Am I angry? No. I fully expected that the backer-shipped items would be the very initial run, not up to full production standards.

    21. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Nathan Whitehead on September 20, 2012

      In the Hardware and Product Design categories, are blueprints generally allowed or are they considered renderings? What if the blueprint includes isometric 3d views? What about 2d control panel blueprints with colorful finish art that have not been prototyped? Sorry if these are stupid questions, just trying to see what the restriction means.

    22. Missing_small

      Creator Bruce on September 20, 2012

      We may disagree Ed, but there's no need to shout. I just think that building a product (the end goal of a hardware project, generally) is hard enough without adding a bunch of random, unrelated hurdles. Presumably a kickstart should make the creative process easier rather than harder, no? But the creators are big kids, so they can make their own decisions I guess. (Within Kickstarter's rules, of course.)

    23. 527660_10151510692687332_980985538_n.small

      Creator John Kelley on September 20, 2012

      I like what you're trying to do here but I don't think the rules you're implementing will have the intended effect.

      A lot of hardware projects need minimum orders to enter into mass production economically and allowing someone to order 2 or more can make it much easier / cost effective to reach that goal.

      Prohibiting renderings is less of an issue for hardware but it's often useful to render a board in your design program of choice (Eagle, Allegro, Altium) to give your backers a sense of what the assembled PCB will look like. I could see how this might be more tailored towards design projects.

    24. Janaavatar_big.small

      Creator Max Temkin on September 20, 2012

      This policy update will help me as a backer and a project creator. Great changes all around.

    25. Missing_small

      Creator Kevin Brady on September 20, 2012

      I agree with @John Kelley.

      In addition to minimum quantities needed for production, limiting the inability to receive something similar in value to the degree of your investment in a project will limit the potential scope of investment. I personally have ordered multiple quantities of projects that I wouldn't have invested in otherwise. In many cases with the Hardware and Design categories, angel investors and/or charity isn't the goal, nor is it desired.

      In regards to renderings, I'd like to add that renderings can be a helpful compliment to photos. I agree that renderings alone are an issue.

      I don't just want to complain here. I understand an appreciate the goals and intentions of all the new policies. I just think the letter needs adjustment in order for the spirit to survive.

      In regards to multiple quantities, perhaps require submitters to add a minimum quantity needed in addition to a raw dollar amount. Further, the submitter should be required to stipulate that volume is a fundamental requirement of a successful project, and then reserve the rights to inquire about the reason modify the benefits and/or terminate the project if the reason is insufficient. This is imperfect, but please don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good here.

      The rendering issue seems easier to deal with. Perhaps you could require a photo be uploaded before a rendering is and require project owners to flag renderings as such. Some sort of ratio of photos to renderings could also be implemented, though that may have to be flexible, as one if each could be ok, but 4 of each or more renderings than photos seems undesirable. Again, not perfect, as PNG/JPG/GIF/etc. don't tell you what is what, so policing would need to accompany this, but don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      I think this is a good sign. The business needs to evolve and adapt to changing situations. I think you're doing exactly that, and you've got the right idea. Keep up the good work!

    26. Dungeonsep1_poster.small

      Creator William McDonald on September 20, 2012

      Wow... These ideas are terrible. Renderings should of course should be allowed, with a disclaimer. This is ridiculous. So without multiple items, goodbye upper tier pledges. This is just depressing...

    27. Missing_small

      Creator Wessel on September 20, 2012

      While I appreciate Kickstarter's effort to improve upon things, I think this is a bit on the harsh side for hardware projects. Most projects show what they intend to create, for example: games and movies have trailers or renders. Hardware projects are now no longer allowed to show what they intend to create, only what they currently have.

      I appreciate the intend to try and make sure projects are honest about what they can do, but to completely disallow them to show that they intend to create with the money is a bit too much, especially considering hardware is singled out here. I bit of a revision would be in order, in my opinion.

    28. Dan2.small

      Creator Daniel McGauley on September 20, 2012

      These are pretty bad changes. Just hire more people to police campaigns.

    29. Johnheadshot.small

      Creator John Fricker on September 20, 2012

      This is a great change and will push some vaporware out of KS. Concept art is easy, but getting to a prototype is hard. No one should be ripped off by a pie in the sky promotional video from a team with no track record and no clue how to actually build something. Thank you for these changes.

    30. Photo.small

      Creator Brian Todoroff on September 20, 2012

      I dispise the rule about no multiple quantities. I go in knowing full well that this is likely my only chance to acquire one of these items as the chances are low that they will really become a product. If I want more than one and am willing to risk losing that money then get out of my way. I'm a big boy and don't need a nanny to protect me from myself. If you want me informed, great, make me agree to a very clear statement that I may lose all my money when I back multiples, but let me make my own informed decision. Inform but don't overly constrain the informed.

    31. Logo7.small

      Creator Mercenary Games on September 20, 2012

      We feel a bit ambivalent about this.

      First off, some products like "custom shaped USB drives" or hand crafted clothing may still be in the concept/sketches stage while a project is going through Kickstarter.

      Some items may require a massive amount of re-tooling, and may be unfeasible / costly to produce 1 physical prototype.

      I'm not talking about really complicated physical products; I'm talking about simple stuff that can be reasonably represented through prototype sketches. Clothing, simple accessories, custom shaped keychains, many others.

      Will there be some flexibility for such small scale items?

    32. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Jon Kimmich on September 20, 2012

      Cindy, I think adding a risks section is a huge improvement. I hope teams invest real time into evaluating their risks, their scope and impact, and what mitigations they can identify now, that will prevent these risks from actually occurring. I think that backers will reward teams that do so honestly and realistically.

    33. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Kirsty Stark on September 20, 2012

      Great changes - Kickstarter should never be perceived as a store, and I like what you're doing to align reality and achievability with what is offered.

      However, is it allowable to use renderings of prototypes that exist (and have been made in real life), to complement the images?

      One example of this would be a spinning, rendered model of a product in a video, rather than a shaky, hand-held shot that gives a 360 degree view?

      For products that need to present a professional image to potential backers, this will make a huge difference in the perceived quality of the project and professionalism of the project backers.

    34. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Jason Alexander on September 20, 2012

      Yeah, I appreciate the effort, but this seems like some people over thought this a bit. These changes make no real sense to me. While you make the theme of the changes "we are not a store", I think it's a real reach.

    35. Newbwimage.small

      Creator Kirill Zubovsky on September 20, 2012

      Although I can understand the reasoning for these changes, I don't think the steps are appropriate.

      You are trying to protect consumers from backing projects that would eventually either fail or not meet expectations. That's an honorable goal. However, challenging each project isn't the answer. What consumers need is to understand that backing KS projects is risky, period.

      Your rules basically prevent any sorts of visions from getting backed by Kickstarters. Most cool projects that I backed - Pebble, Boosted Boards ... had prototypes at the time of launch on KS, but they promised more than their prototypes and I believed in their teams to deliver. I realized they might not deliver, but I'd rather get nothing at all, than a half-assed product.

      By forcing developers to only showcase their current hardware products and not their visions, you are actually making Kickstarter more of a store than it is right now. You will outright kill the hardware section with the new rules.

      Taking a risk should be my choice, not yours. If someone wants to put a Mars Rover on KS and convince me they can successfully launch it to Mars, all the power to them.

    36. Newprofile.small

      Creator Ed Lewis on September 20, 2012

      Great stuff for no renders. A decent render can be made in an hour. Showing a prototype shows that you're much further along and know what you're getting into.

      Besides, it's not a big leap to go from a 3D model to a 3D-printed item. Upload a file to shapeways or ponoko (or others) and wait a couple weeks. This is especially true for small items that are cheap to print.

    37. Kevin.small

      Creator Kevin Fairchild on September 20, 2012

      Just toss a basic "Backer, Beware" disclaimer on there and call it a day...

      Or, before a user's first project backing, have them answer a small set of questions, showing that they understand what they are getting into...

      If you get too heavy-handed with the regulations, it's going to take away a lot of the good things about Kickstarter that brought us all here to begin with.

    38. Missing_small

      Creator Carl Price on September 20, 2012

      Having backed multiple projects on here, I am very disappointed with the new rules. There are a lot of hardware projects that multiple item rewards are very nice, and generally allow a project to get the momentum to reach the goal needed to fund. The most recent one I funded I opted to go to 7 pieces of HW, being limited to one would have been a pain to me, and made me less likely to fund it.

      I can also see the drawbacks of the other restrictions, take the OUYA, without renderings, all they would have been able to do was post a pic of a proto board, and say "trust us, it will be pretty". With the render, they were able to show what their engineers were working on, how it would look (ie you could envision it next to your TV), and represented what the product would be. Only allowing pics of existing prototypes would have made the product less appealing, because no one would have an idea of what it would be when delivered, and proto boards can be ugly. I can understand being upfront, and having everything labeled clearly, but to forbid them will just cause good projects to go un-funded.

      As someone who funds, these rules seem too much, and will do more harm than good. Please re-think them.

    39. Fb2011_small.small

      Creator Frank Buss on September 20, 2012

      Well, the new rules say "offering multiple quantities of a reward is prohibited". This doesn't forbid that someone just pledges multiple times the amount for a single reward and assumes to get multiple items for it..

    40. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Martin Haeberli on September 20, 2012

      Thank you for your policy clarifications. I would recommend that you consider re-allowing small multiple quantities; frankly, people can still multi-order under separate IDs if you make this barrier too strong. I wonder what you might learn from regression analysis on funded hardware products to see what mix of single orders vs multi orders you had, and what difference that might have made to whether projects met the funding goal.

    41. About-eric-square.small

      Creator Eric Jennings on September 20, 2012

      I agree with the other commenters here regarding multiple quantities. We are about to launch a campaign, and we are relying very heavily on being able to offer multiples of the product in various rewards--partially because we want to offer a small quantity discount, but more because we simply won't be successful unless we hit a certain number for volume.

      As has been mentioned already--specifically in hardware--the volume discounts when manufacturing something can mean the different between a successful campaign and a failed one.

      If we're making 250 of an identical item, we already have the tooling and manufacturing in place to make 2500 at that point. Why artificially limit it and risk less projects funded?

      Please reconsider the multiples rule. It is not a good idea, and harms more than it benefits.

    42. Missing_small

      Creator Emmanuel Greene on September 20, 2012

      I appreciate what you are trying to do here, but I think some of these restrictions are a bit heavy-handed.

      The Risks section is a great idea and makes absolute sense.

      The rule prohibiting renders strikes me as too limiting, for the reasons many commenters above have already mentioned. Perhaps it would make more sense to require people to include pictures of the current state of the project in addition to any renderings, and to make it more explicit which images are not real. That way, project owners could show users what they intend, but users could still easily see what the current state of the project is.

      Finally, the restriction on multiple rewards seems short-sighted. Many manufacturing projects need a minimum number of units in order to make production feasible and cost-effective, and allowing for high-tier rewards that include multiples of an item is a good way to handle this.

    43. Spark-vertical-square.small

      Creator Spark Devices on September 20, 2012

      A follow up question - if we have a complete physical prototype, can we *also* show renderings (assuming they look the same as the prototype)? If we wanted to, as an example, show how the product is installed in the video with an animation of the rendering. Renderings may serve other purposes than showing the "future design" of a product.

    44. Missing_small

      Creator AMS on September 20, 2012

      Two of the best Kickstarter projects I've seen (Stompy http://projecthexapod.com/blog/) and the Teensy 3.0 would fall afoul of these new rules. I would never back a hardware project that's asking for money if I can't see that they have real work done (this includes 3D renders of boards ready for fab, MCAD models of mechanical hardware, simulations of control systems). Also for projects asking for backing to achieve minimum quantities for production (especially for PCBA projects) it should be allowed to order multiple or setup some way to facilitate this.

    45. Fb2011_small.small

      Creator Frank Buss on September 20, 2012

      @Martin: I'm not a Kickstarter employee, but this is how I interpret the multiple item rule.

    46. Missing_small

      Creator Tanya McHenry on September 20, 2012

      Kickstarter, your're making a mistake. I don't know if you have a disaster brewing behind the scenes, but the ability to buy more than one item is crucial for a producer and in some cases the consumer.

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      Creator Richard Bliss on September 20, 2012

      Thank you for adding these changes. Too often I have heard from backers and from project owners that Kickstarter has simply become their preorder system and they do treat it like an online store. The Risk/Reward is a great addition to help backers understand they aren't buying something, they are helping someone fund an idea and in return they may get something back but they may not. The Risk/Reward also helps project owners go through the thought process of writing down what could go wrong.

      There have been so many projects where a well intentioned project owner simply gets in over their head, especially with the hardware and product design. Helping a project owner think about failure as a possibility helps them more clearly prepare to limit it as a probability.

      The minimum order limitation is also a welcome relief. Kickstarter is not a pre-order system. If a project needs large amounts of cash infusion from outside resources, which is what multiple copy pledge levels is doing, then the project needs to reevaluate what they need for success.

      Thank you for making these changes even if they 'appear' to be unpopular.

    48. Missing_small

      Creator karl on September 20, 2012

      -I think they make very clear, kickstarter is not a Store.
      -Pledging in quantities gives the idea to be one.
      ie. if someone need a minimum of 2500 for backing a production, well they need 2500 people interested in their product, its seems fair to me. If you want more than 1, first wait to even receive the first one, then buy all you want.
      -The render rule prevent people promise air. Maybe just 1 render WITH a (video/photo) working prototype must be allowed.
      New policy welcome

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      Creator Josh Holloway on September 20, 2012

      A very incomplete list of successful projects that couldn't have existed if these rules were in place:

      Capture, The Oona, TikTok + LunaTik, Infinite Loop, Isostick, Trigger Trap, Elevation Dock, Nesl, Brydge, Synergy Aircraft, Taktik, Nifty MiniDrive, OUYA, POP, Oculus Rift, Slim, Instacube, SmartThings, LIFX, and of course, Pebble.

      That represents about $1.5MM in revenue for Kickstarter.

      Just an observation.

    50. Missing_small

      Creator Creidieki on September 20, 2012

      The multiple item rule seems very restrictive for small products. Look at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1838656053/nano-cache , for example. They're an established machine shop selling small machined storage capsules, and most of their customers bought 2-4.