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Kickstarter Lessons: How to build your brand and grow your audience

In my last article, I talked about how to keep your backers excited and engaged, both during and after your campaign. Today, we’ll be discovering how to build on the success of your first game in order to build your brand and grow your audience.

Have you ever noticed how some creators and publishers do really well on Kickstarter, raising more funds and increasing their number of backers with every campaign, whereas others stay stagnant or have one hit and then a series of less-successful campaigns?

What are the successful publishers doing differently?

One thing that sets the big successes apart from the others is consistent branding. Rather than jumping from a light family game to a heavy euro to an adult party game, they stay on brand, building on their previous successes.

Let’s have a look at how they do this so well, including several examples. 

How building your brand helps you grow your audience

It’s much easier to sell to existing customers than find new ones. If they know you, trust you, and enjoy your products, they are more likely to take a chance on your new offering than spend that same money on an unknown creator. That’s just the way it is.

If you’ve delivered a great experience, people will expect that you are capable of doing this again. You just have to prove them right. 😊

That’s why it’s so important to understand your audience and what they like. Then make more games that are like this. Not copycat games, but rather games that will give players a similar experience.

Restoration Games focuses on nostalgia. They bring back and modernize classic games that many people enjoyed as children or always wanted to try.

Companies like Gamewright and Kids Table Games concentrate on games that are fun for kids and families but adults still want to play them after the kids go to bed.

Buttonshy Games makes 18-card wallet games exclusively. They use no other components and everything must fit into their standard wallet game holder.

Cephalofair Games, run by Isaac Childres, makes games like Gloomhaven and Frosthaven, which are cooperative scenario-driven tactical games. You can see that Frosthaven, which broke the record for the most-funded game ever on Kickstarter, followed up on the success of Gloomhaven, appealing to the same fans.

Then there’s Gamelyn Games. They are almost completely focused on small box games that pack a big punch through their Tiny Epic series, created by Scott Almes. It’s interesting to note that Scott does design other games that he publishes with outside publishers as well. However, the Tiny Epic series is part of the Gamelynn Games brand. [Note that this paragraph has been corrected, as it previously stated that Scott Almes ran Gamelynn Games. I apologize for the error.]

Smirk & Dagger makes “back-stabby” take-that style games. They actually started to branch out to other types of games but found their fans were let down, as this wasn’t what they expected from the publisher. They subsequently opened a new line called Smirk & Laughter to keep the different types of games separate.

By building on your successes and drawing in many of the same fans to your games, you will have a steady stream of backers, who tell others about your games and share them with their friends and gaming groups, further growing your audience.

How to figure out your brand

It’s not always easy to determine what exactly your brand should be. You should definitely always be thinking about what makes your game innovative and unique, which is the reason people will buy your game over the plentiful options out there.

You can then use this uniqueness to think about what your brand and future games could be.

Do you focus on narrative-driven games?

Games for couples?

Party games or gateway games that bring non-gamers into the hobby?

I’ve thought about branding a lot since my campaign for Relics of Rajavihara. I even polled my backers to ask them what the main reason was that they backed the campaign.

I asked them whether the deciding factor was the art/theme, nostalgia (it reminded them of a video game or mobile game), or the puzzle-y nature of the game.

While some said it was a combination of 2 or 3 of these things, the majority really said they really liked puzzle-y games and this one looked like a good one. This is what I had been thinking as well, but I wanted to validate this.

So, I have determined that my brand will be puzzle-y games. While Relics of Rajavihara is a solo game, I don’t plan on focusing solely on solo games, however, I do plan on at least including a solid, well-thought-out and playtested solo mode for all my future games where this makes sense. This will help to appeal to those who backed this Kickstarter campaign because they were looking for something they could play on their own. This is just smart to consider anyhow, as solo gaming is a growing market (one which I take part in quite a bit as well).

You’ll have to think about what makes your games unique and stand out, along with how this relates to a brand for your company. It can help to talk to others who have played and enjoyed your game(s) to figure out what sets it apart.

You might want to also read this article on how to build an audience.

What is your brand? What types of games does (or will) your company focus on?

Please leave a comment and share your company’s brand.

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