At this very moment there are over 150 active tabletop gaming projects on Kickstarter. 150! That means you need to make your project stand out. I get to look at loads of Kickstarter projects and there’s nothing worse than looking at a project and knowing that it isn’t going to fund. The game itself could be absolutely awesome but if your Kickstarter project is terrible then its chances of funding are severely reduced.
Now I’m not pretending to be some form of Kickstarter expert here, and I can’t promise you millions, jet skis and Kickstarter success but I do see the same mistakes happen over and over again. Here are the top 8 mistakes I keep seeing and what you can do to fix them (I couldn’t think of two more and no number 7 won’t shock you).
Your game isn’t ready yetWhen board games first hit Kickstarter you could go on-line with just a concept, a simple dream and you could get people to buy into that dream. The problem is the emphasis of Kickstarter has shifted and now you’re looking at Kickstarter as a means to fund the manufacturing of that dream. That means your game has to be finished.
You can’t start a project with some half complete concept sketches and barely tested rules. Instead you have to be going on-line with a complete product; along with artwork, fully play-tested rules, graphics and even the design of the box complete. Anything short of this and you’re going to be in competition with projects that are much further into their development cycle. Not only does having a nearly finished product look visually appealing on your project page, it also installs confidence in your backers and shows that you’ve been willing to put the hard work and development time in.
You haven’t built any hype and you haven’t engaged with the communityWith every Kickstarter project you need to hit the ground running. The first few days are key and many games get a big funding spike at the beginning of the project. Your funding may plateau after a few days but that initial spike is what you need to get you going.With that in mind you need to get the knowledge of your project out there before you hit Kickstarter.
A blockbuster film’s biggest take is on its opening weekend and just like said blockbuster you need to generate awareness and hype about your product. This means setting up facebook, twitter and even google+ accounts (you never know). You need to ensure there is an entry on www.boardgamegeek.com (with plenty of images). You then need to start contacting bloggers and board gaming websites to build up a buzz. Not sure where to look, then head to www.boardgamelinks.com and just look at the hundreds of gaming websites and blogs out there. If you’re looking for even more promotion then services such as Thnderclap and Prefundia are there for this exact purpose.
|There be dragons (from http://xkcd.com/802/)|
You don’t have any game-play examplesI’m sorry but if you’re Kickstarter page doesn’t have a video of how the game plays, or at least a finished copy of the rules, I think you’re hiding something. If you’re running a boardgame Kickstarter then you’re going to be targeting board games fans like you, me and all the readers and we all want to get a good idea of how the game actually plays. It is true that awesome artwork and a popular theme can carry a game through but a game that plays great will win and have longevity.
However, it does appear that if you’re running a miniatures game you can completely ignore this rule. Loads of big miniature games have been funded, in fact massively funded, without the barest whiff of information about how the game plays. I can only assume people are buying the game for the miniatures alone. I think that’s why there have been some notable disappointments with miniature game Kickstarters.
Which leads to...
There aren’t any reviewsIf you’re a new company or a new games designer, then how do we know if your game is any good? Simply, reviews. There is no doubting that the biggest form of marketing for your game is a review on a popular website, video or podcast. Polyhedron Collider is hardly the most popular website but the most popular pages are always game reviews. It’s a double whammy in terms of marketing your project, not only do you get an honest opinion of your game from someone completely outside of the game’s development, and hopefully a shining endorsement, but you also get the extra hits from their website or YouTube video sending potential backers your way.
You have to be careful in how you approach your potential reviewer. I could write an entire article on this very subject but here are a few basic tips:
- Target your game to a reviewer who likes games similar to your own. If you are approaching a reviewer who mainly covers children’s and educational games then they’re unlikely to be interested in your raunchy party game.
- Be personal. Try and find out the name of the reviewer and don’t just cut and paste the same email to every site. Another blogger told me how he immediately deletes any email that doesn’t start with his name; its plastered all over his blog so anyone asking him to promote their game for free who can’t even be bothered to read his website gets immediately deleted.
- Always be polite. An email that simply says ‘review my game’ (and believe me I’ve had a few) is going straight to the trash.
|Xenoshyft Onslaught is a brilliant example of a project that did everything right,|
You’ve initiated radio silenceYou’ve done all the prep work and now you have an amazing Kickstarter page up and running. Now it’s time to sit back and watch the pledges roll in. Or not.
When the project has gone live then your work has only just begun. You know all those bloggers and reviewers you’ve been chasing, well you need to keep at it. You need to be demoing your game at conventions and game stores but most of all you need to tell us about all of this and you do this by using the updates section.
There needs to be updates otherwise I think you’ve just left your project there to die. You need to be keeping us informed of the funding’s progress, notable reviews or events where players can play the game. These all need to be shared on all of those social media sites we mentioned earlier. You need to be adding this to the updates section and things like reviews need adding to the main page. You should also be replying to as many of the comments as possible. It’s all about making me comfortable that you are suitably invested in your project.
You’re asking for too much moneyOne of the trickiest aspects of setting up your project is working out how much money to ask for. Only you know the true number you need to fund your print run and we don’t want you to lose your house but there are too many projects where I look at the funding goal and just think it’s never going to happen. Personally, if I like a project I’ll back it, but there’s a weird psychological effect where many Kickstarter users don’t want to be associated with a project that failed to fund. Some users will even back out of a project in the final hours to prevent their record of being tarnished so if a one of these ‘perfect score’ backers thinks your goal is too high then they’re unlikely to pledge.
There are methods that some seasoned project creators use to artificially lower the goal. One is to simply set the goal lower and hope that the momentum of a funded project brings the value up to the actual amount they need. Another is to strip out some of the features or components that should really be present in every version of the game and set them up as stretch goals. Either way it’s a gamble.
|Could Lords of War have been even bigger if it funded in US dollars?|
You’re pledge levels are too complicatedWhenever I first look at a Kickstarter project page, the first thing I do is find out how much a basic copy of the game will cost me but some projects don’t half make that difficult. Whether its wading through separate pledge levels for every country, skimming past hundreds of pins badges and t-shirts, or a multitude of early bird pledge levels, it shouldn’t be difficult for me to work out what my outlay is for the most fundamental aspect of your project; a copy of the game.
The worst offenders for this are those games where you can’t even buy a basic copy of the game, it’s all super deluxe all expansions included. Now personally I’m rather risk averse, so I don’t know why you’d back a game with 50 expansions when you haven’t even played the base game yet.
Make the game the star of the show, don’t confuse it. Sure have add-ons and stretch goals but make it perfectly clear what you’re getting at each pledge level.
You’re not funding in US dollarsI hate to write this, especially as a proud Brit. I love to see home-grown games make it big on Kickstarter but the problem is you’re not going to be making as much money in British pounds as you are in US dollars. For some reason the Americans, the biggest board game market in the world, really don’t like buying in foreign currency. Lords of War was a very successful Kickstarter yet had only a handful of US backers and that was even after Eric Summerer had given the game a ringing endorsement on the Dice Tower podcast.
So dear US reader, help me understand why this is the case. Is it because of shipping and import taxes (believe me we know that pain)? Is it national pride? An unfavourable exchange rate? Or is it simply that you’ve not seen a foreign game that takes your fancy yet?