The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

Learnings from the First Few Days of the Mayan Curse Kickstarter (how did I screw that up?)

Last week I talked about the final 24 hours before your launch and what tasks to focus on so that you’ll be ready to go.

Now that Mayan Curse has launched (hitting our funding goal in just over 2 hours) and a few days have passed, I wanted to reflect on and share what went well and what we could have done better.

So, let’s dissect the first few days of the campaign.

A Great Start

Day one was amazing! We had 246 backers and brought in $19,816, which was higher than any of our previous campaigns.

We received pledges at all levels, from a single copy of the game to bundles with Relics of Rajavihara (and bundles with the expansion, Montalo’s Revenge), retail pledges, and even one pledge for a 6-pack of games!

All in all, we were very happy with the results on day one. All our promotion and advertising paid off with a great showing on day one, plus we had a lot of positive comments about the art and table presence of the game.

We built an audience and they showed up!

It was also really helpful that we had a lot of happy backers from our previous campaigns, with a good number of folks coming back for the next game.

I felt that the main things that helped the campaign get off to a great start were:

  • Building a community of people who loved the look of the game before launch
  • An existing fanbase
  • Some helpful reviews
  • A visually appealing and easy-to-understand campaign page with clear pledge levels
  • A great looking game with amazing table presence

However, day two didn’t go as well as expected and some legitimate questions came up from backers.

What Was I Thinking?

In our previous campaigns, we offered translated rulebooks in French, German, Italian, and Spanish, but I didn’t give as much thought to this for Mayan Curse.

Part of the reason was that we had some other publishers interested in the game and they will be evaluating this very soon. If all goes well, we could end up with licensing deals to have the game printed and sold in other languages. So, I was holding off in a way to see what was going to transpire.

However, there was no guarantee that this was going to happen.

So, when backers and potential backers started asking about translations or availability in other languages, I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. I reached out to my previous translators for help and then vowed that we would at the very least provide rules that were downloadable in each of the languages mentioned (fortunately, Mayan Curse is language independent other than the rules and backpack card, which is explained in the rules). In the best-case scenario, Mayan Curse will be available in those other languages and backers will be able to select the language version of their choice in the pledge manager after the campaign.

We also had a nearly finalized but not formatted rulebook available for download and review on day one but were able to provide a much-improved final rulebook on day two.

One additional blunder I made when making the changeover in our ads from pre-launch to post-launch was using a general link to the Kickstarter campaign rather than a custom referral tag. Without this, we didn’t have accurate data on how many people backed our game directly after seeing the ad in the first 2 days. That has since been fixed!

In addition, we blew through our first stretch goal overnight after day and this gave us high expectations for day 2. However, I feel that we set our second stretch goal too high. It’s always difficult to predict exactly what to expect from one day to the next in a campaign, but if we had set that second one a bit lower, we could have tailored the remaining goals based on the expected trajectory after the first few days. Now it will take a while to unlock this.

That’s the thing about stretch goals. If you set them too low, you’ll blow through them too quickly and may not have anything cool to offer later in the campaign (or go overboard trying to outdo what you’ve already added). But if you set them too high, it can take a while to get there and you may lose momentum.

Changes for Next Time

There are definitely some learning opportunities we’ve picked up from the launch of Mayan Curse.

We were working right up until the campaign launched to get the last of the Kickstarter graphics and the final rulebook ready.

I was also struggling with Facebook ads the last couple of days before launch, trying to get the tracking right and make ad adjustments. I think this added stress led to the mistake I made related to the custom referral tag.

We’ve started talking about our next Kickstarter campaign – not in-depth, mind you… we’re only in the early days of the current one! But we agree that we want to start getting the art, graphic design, and rulebook finalized well before the launch, including Kickstarter graphics, etc.

We want to get onto this shortly after our current campaign ends to give us lots of time to get prototypes earlier so that we can get them out to reviewers and potential licensing partners much earlier.

We’d love to know in advance if the game will be licensed and translated or if we will work with our translation partners to make this happen well before we go live.

We’ll start building our audience earlier as well. This includes more and better advertising, if we feel there will be a good return on investment.

We’ll also be more cautious with stretch goals. If you hit some early, you can always spread others out further once you have a few days of data and a better idea of where your campaign is heading.

Lots of things we can improve upon.

At the same time, we also want to celebrate our successes. Not all games hit their funding goal. Certainly not in less than 3 hours. The campaign is going well and we’re going to keep focusing on this and our backers, to make Mayan Curse the best experience it can be!

What’s the one thing that concerns you most about crowdfunding your own game?

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.