The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

Lessons from a failing Kickstarter campaign

Have you ever thought about putting your game up on Kickstarter?

It’s definitely one way you can use to gauge interest and see if there’s enough demand, especially before committing big money to get it manufactured.

But frankly, it’s not easy. Running a Kickstarter campaign is a whole lot of work. Being a designer working with a publisher who is running a Kickstarter campaign, as I am, can still be a lot of work, and you can learn a lot from this experience.

It’s also really nerve-racking.

You’re probably going to want to check in on it every hour (or maybe more frequently) to see how your crowdfunding campaign is doing and if you’re getting close to funding or reaching that next stretch goal.

No matter how much time and effort you put into your campaign ahead of the time, you’ll always be thinking you could have done more.

So, let’s talk about ways you can increase your chance of success and put your time and effort to best use.

 

If you build it, they will come (hopefully!)

One of the most crucial things you can do to be more successful with your campaign is to build an audience before you ever launch.

In the 3 to 6 months leading up to your Kickstarter campaign, you want to demo your game at every convention and gaming event you can get to.

Make sure to have an email sign-up sheet and once players have played your game, ask if they would be interested to know when your game is available. Collect their names and email addresses to notify them about the launch, but also make sure to keep in touch with them regularly as you work up to your launch date, so they don’t forget about your game.

Send them an initial thank you message to warmly greet them and thank them for their interest in your game. Then, whenever you have an interesting update, such as new art or images, share this with your audience, along with a Kickstarter launch date once this is determined.

Set up a free email account at Mailchimp or with another provider. This will allow you to collect an email list of hundreds or even thousands of subscribers for free. You can even set up an automated welcome email if you choose. This can save you a ton of time.

Keep in mind that people don’t mind frequent messages as long as you have something worth sharing. Just be sure to make it relevant, interesting, and/or entertaining.

Maybe you can share something cool behind the scenes that others don’t often get to see.

But if you just keep shouting “Look at my game! Look at my game! Look at my game!”, then you’ll be met with a low open rate and a lot of unsubscribes.

These early followers may turn into your best supporters and can help you get off to a great start, which makes funding your campaign so much easier.

Having an email list is also way more effective than a Facebook group, a bunch of Instagram followers, or any other method. You own the list, you can get right into people’s mailboxes, and you’ll get a much higher rate of success turning these followers into backers.

Despite the fact that I have an existing email list from previous games and also either playtested or demoed King of Indecision at numerous events (Protospiel Michigan, Protospiel North, Breakout Con, Proto TO, Tabs Con, Fan Expo, Origins, and local board game cafes and game stores), I didn’t use these opportunities as well as I could have to build this email list much further.

In hindsight, I should have scheduled demo events at Origins and made this a higher priority. I also had many pitch meetings with publishers set up already for other games and wanted to focus much of my remaining time on playtesting games with other designers, but I certainly could have dedicated more time to King of Indecision.

If I could go back in time, I would have also have built up a more dedicated email list and engaged my existing followers more to get them excited about my publisher’s upcoming Kickstarter campaign for the game.

 

Getting eyeballs on your campaign

 

Kickstarter page and video

I think most people realize now that you have to create a great video and page layout for your Kickstarter campaign to get any attention.

Long gone are the days where you can put out an amateur personal plea video and still have any chance of meeting your goal.

Now, you need a good, concise video (usually no longer than 1-2 minutes long) that not only tells people what your game is about, but also excites prospective buyers.

Your page has to be attractive and showcase the art and design. Even if everything isn’t finalized, it’s critical to have at least a good representation of what your game will look like.

 

Reviewers

You’re also much better off if you have reviewers, previewers, and other influencers showing off your game.

These individuals will lead others to your campaign as well as making you more trustworthy in the eyes of potential backers.

The greater reach and more influence these reviewers have, the more support you may be able to achieve.

But also realize there is a distinction between these services.

Previews are generally paid, give an overview of the game, and don’t voice an opinion.

Reviews on the other hand are usually free (although some reviewers do charge for their services) and always provide an opinion.

Understand exactly what you are getting from anyone who you’re considering working with.

 

Contests

What about running a contest?

This is a great way to bring more attention to your game. There are multiple groups that will do this for you (Everything Board Games, Unfiltered Gamer, Giveaway Geek, Board Game Revolution, and others) or you can set one up yourself on Boardgamegeek or wherever your audience hangs out.

But you’ll have to make sure do this the right way, otherwise your time and efforts will be wasted.

What I’m really talking about here is relevance.

You want to bring people in who may actually back your game.

If they are just entering a contest so that they could win a prize, you might be building a following of people who don’t give a care about your game.

Hint: Don’t offer an iPad if you’re promoting a board game!

So, if you plan on running a contest, make sure it is targeted at an audience that would actually be interested in your game, and the reward is either directly related to your game (such as a free copy if it funds – with a backup prize in case it doesn’t), or maybe another somewhat similar game that would also appeal to people who would like your game.

There are lots of things you can do to improve your chances of success on Kickstarter, but the main thing is to get your game in front of people (physically if possible, otherwise online) and build a lot of interest and anticipation before and during your launch.

 

Are you thinking about launching your game on Kickstarter? If so, what are your biggest concerns?

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