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The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary» Forums » General

Subject: What's He Trying to Sell? rss

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Kevin Outlaw
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Sometimes, after backing something on Kickstarter, I am inspired to write about it on my blog at www.alwaysboardneverboring.blogspot.co.uk This usually only happens when I am quite excited about something, or if I really believe in what the project creator is trying to achieve. So, yesterday I ended up writing about The walking Dead: No Sanctuary. I wasn't sure whether I should publish it here as well, because I was a bit worried about it sounding like a sales pitch. But whatever... here it is. Don't judge me for being excited about my little plastic Daryl.


IPs aren't bullet proof. Miniatures games on Kickstarter aren't guaranteed to generate $1 million in pledges. Sometimes even a Plan B isn't enough.

These are the things that the current Kickstarter campaign for The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary has taught us.

It's been a painful lesson, and much like a bite from a walker, has caused a lot of backers to groan, gnash their teeth, and develop a thirst for human blood.

However, unlike a bite from a zombie, it looks like this little incident doesn't end with a bullet to the head.

In fact, unlike most zombie stories, this one has a happy ending.

The story started with the sudden appearance of the aforementioned project on the Kickstarter site. Like a zombie invasion, it happened suddenly, without fanfare. And, at first blush, it looked like a campaign that couldn't fail.

It had zombies in it, which is already half the battle when it comes to board games; but more than that, it was based on AMC's hit television show (not the comic books - never liked those).

It had miniatures of important characters: Rick, Glenn, Andrea, and of course, Daryl. Who doesn't want to play with Daryl?

And I don't mean in a board game.

Seriously, that guy is smoking...

Where was I?

Oh right, zombies, AMC licence, miniatures... and a really good-looking game designed by Brady and Adam Sadler, who have previously worked on titles such as X-Wing, Descent: Second Edition, and Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game.

There was a slick introduction video, a slick "how to play" video, and an exhaustive playthrough video showing how it all worked.

And I'm not one to mix my metaphors, but with all those ducks lined up, it should have been a slam dunk.

But there were problems.

The initial pledge was quite high: $125 (or $115 if you got an "Early Bird" pledge) for the base game, one of two expansions, any unlocked stretch goals, and an exclusive version of Daryl.

Yeah, that's right, two Daryls.

Who doesn't want to play with two Daryls, right?

Seriously, that guy is smoking...

But like I said, problems: Not only was the pledge quite steep, the exclusive Daryl figure looked much the same as the one that came in the game (I joked the only difference was the camera angle - I'm such a card); and while there are two expansions available, the pledge tier forced you to take the expansion based on season two's storyline on the farm, while acquiring the expansion based on the prison in season three (when Michonne arrives) involved an additional investment.

And the worst part of all was the funding goal that we had to reach before any stretch goals unlocked: $250,000.

Initial funding was poor.

The project didn't shamble towards the funding goal. It stuck in place like one of those zombies fused to the road in Atlanta.

Eventually, it became apparent that despite the IP, despite the miniatures, despite the calibre of the designers and the solid track record of the publishers, Cryptozoic Entertainment, the campaign was in big trouble.

Cryptozoic reacted, creating a bunch of add-ons, opening up more "Early Bird" pledges, and throwing in some extra zombies to the basic pledge.

The campaign funded. But it wasn't enough.

Perhaps the nail in the coffin-dodger, or the hammer to the forehead, was the revelation that certain characters unlocking as stretch goals were actually being added to the retail box, meaning they were not an incentive to back the game now.

Bad move.

Like an infection, dissent spread among the backers, and many people pulled their funding. Within 24 hours, the project had dropped below its funding goal, and it looked like carpet-bombing the whole thing was the only option left.

The project was dead.

But this is The Walking Dead. Nothing stays dead for long.

In an incredible turn of events, Cryptozoic rose to the occasion, and they completely reformatted the pledge tiers and the stretch goals.

They introduced a lower value tier at $75 for people who didn't want to pay for expansions.

They changed the $115/$125 tier so the retail version of the base game included three types of zombies instead of one, eight major characters from the series instead of only four, and additional miniatures for allies and enemies. They also added in the second expansion, so you get both the farm and the prison for your investment, as well as any stretch goals that unlock.

Perhaps best of all, they changed the exclusive "hunter" Daryl figure for a "ride" version of Daryl on his iconic motorbike.

Who doesn't want to ride... you know what? Nevermind.

And it keeps getting better.

Through social stretch goals, Cryptozoic have added crawler walkers... wait.. crawler walkers? That can't be right.

They have added one of the most inspired stretch goals ever: A vision of Lori that moves around the board to freak Rick out.

They have added a playable version of the Governor, so you can play out "what if?" scenarios like, "What if the Governor wasn't such a complete bastard?"

And the new stretch goals are adding cool exclusive models: They have already unlocked Sasha, and they are close to unlocking Morgan. And not Zen Master Morgan with his staff; this is goat-worrying Morgan with his pointy stick.

Oh yeah, and a version of Glenn in his riot gear is on the cards too.

Frankly, it is one of the most startling transformations I have ever seen a Kickstarter go through. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of wasted time, and we are now fast-approaching the 48-hour mark; but even so, what was once a failure has turned into a very exciting proposition. The project has funded again, and is now unlocking stretch goals, and frankly Cryptozoic deserve it. They made mistakes, but they really worked hard to put them right; and what they have come up with is, in my eyes, a winner.

It's something fans of the television show and gamers alike are going to get a real kick out of.

And despite all the ups and downs, the failures and successes, behind it all there is, and always has been, what looks to be a very tense and exciting co-operative game for up to four people, with baked in rules for solo play. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the game is a leadership mechanism where each turn, the current leader draws two event cards in secret and selects one to be active for the turn. Every player in the group then chooses whether to play an action card of the same colour as the selected event (if possible) which represents following the orders of the leader, or a card of a different colour, which represents being defiant and causes the leader stress. (It's a bit more complex than that, but I really don't want to get into the details.)

This creates an interesting situation where the game distills the dynamics of social interaction into a purely mechanical process. There is no voting, , no hidden agendas, and no traitors. You simply have to decide if it is more beneficial to play a card that follows the leader, or a card that defies the leader to achieve a short-term objective of your own. For example, the leader may suggest you need to play cautiously this round; but if you've got a walker trying to chew on your neck, playing it cool may not seem like the best idea for you.

There is a lot more I could say about the game, but honestly, the best thing I can suggest is visiting the Kickstarter page and taking a look for yourself. At the moment there are still some "Early Bird" slots (pick the "Comic Con" one - it honestly doesn't mean you have to attend Comic Con, it's just a name), and the last few days of the campaign promise to be quite exciting.

And remember: I have no affiliation with Cryptozoic. I do not know if this game is going to be the best thing since the bread knife, or if it is going to be a total disaster. This is just something I'm backing; something which I believe deserves to be successful. And something which, to a certain extent, is already a triumph.

Caveat emptor.
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Patrick Heron
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Excellent stuff sir!!
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sacha cauvin
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Well spoken.
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Great post. Nice summary of the campaign and game for anyone who hasn't been following.
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Kevin Outlaw
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Thanks.

It might seem a bit like dragging up the past, but I felt it was important to explain where the campaign went, just to highlight what an exceptional job Cryptozoic did turning the whole thing around.
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Ken M
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Yeah, this Kickstarter has been quite a ride.
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Justin Baker
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Another part of the problem is that a large portion of their previous backers (GhostBusters) just got done shelling out $250+ a few weeks ago, and weren't expecting another big money dump. 97% of the backers for this new campaign are returning backers, so I don't think we've captured many "The Walking Dead" fans that weren't already boardgamers.
They really needed to have more publicity on this, especially from AMC's side.
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Kevin Outlaw
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rpgking111 wrote:

They really needed to have more publicity on this, especially from AMC's side.


Yeah. I guess the problem with that is it just doesn't pay AMC enough to care. I mean, they're going to care how Cryptozoic handles the licence, but they aren't going to care about the incredibly small revenue a niche boardgame generates. Certainly not enough for them to invest anything in advertising it.

I mean, I read that AMC generates about $11 million an episode just from advertising, and costs just shy of $3 million an episode to make. Cryptozoic's little game that could is barely going to register on the scales against those sorts of figures.
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Justin Baker
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Kevin: True enough. Even the most funded game ever on KickStarter only generated $8.8 million in pledges. However, I imagine that there are many sales of the product long after the KickStarter ends...

Their GhostBusters 1 game had a 19% NEW backer rate, instead of the tiny 2% new backer rate for TWD:NS. Imagine if TWD:NS had 17% more backers - it would be at their next 2 stretch goals already.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cze/ghostbusters-the-bo...
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Kevin Outlaw
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rpgking111 wrote:
Kevin: True enough. Even the most funded game ever on KickStarter only generated $8.8 million in pledges. However, I imagine that there are many sales of the product long after the KickStarter ends...

Their GhostBusters 1 game had a 19% NEW backer rate, instead of the tiny 2% new backer rate for TWD:NS. Imagine if TWD:NS had 17% more backers - it would be at their next 2 stretch goals already.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cze/ghostbusters-the-bo...


Don't get me wrong, it would have been great to get some more publicity. I just know that AMC aren't really going to see enough benefit in doing it.
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Glenn Kahley
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Great summary of the wild ride this campaign has been. Most amazing campaign I have ever seen on Kickstarter.
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Marlon Kruis
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Fantastic post dear sir. Very much agreed.

A quick start, a bad tumble down but on criticism which just were honest concerns, a positive and honest reboot, a nice steady flow through the SG's.

I do hope CZE takes a good lesson from this for the future.
This IP and especially the fantastic game mechanics from the Darker brothers could have done so much better!
On the flip side, I also hope CZE get rid of their current infamous reputation after this campaign. They deserve that!

If they start projects from scratch like they rebooted TWD their future is bright.

Also a big thanks to all those positive and cooperative backers, what a fantastic community in 99% of most cases (and people)
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Jake Rose
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el_crosso wrote:

Also a big thanks to all those positive and cooperative backers, what a fantastic community in 99% of most cases (and people)


I just want to point out that the negative backers who were vocal and dropped pledges are what forced Cryptozoic to unfuck themselves and fix the pledge levels and turn this around.

They are the ones deserving the big thanks. The YES! crowd who tried to stifle all the criticism and were upset at the folks dropping pledges don't deserve thanks.
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Kevin Outlaw
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jakecarol wrote:
el_crosso wrote:

Also a big thanks to all those positive and cooperative backers, what a fantastic community in 99% of most cases (and people)


I just want to point out that the negative backers who were vocal and dropped pledges are what forced Cryptozoic to unfuck themselves and fix the pledge levels and turn this around.

They are the ones deserving the big thanks. The YES! crowd who tried to stifle all the criticism and were upset at the folks dropping pledges don't deserve thanks.


I totally agree with this. It was definitely the people leaving the campaign that were the catalyst for change. If I hadn't already backed out of the campaign about a week before it happened (after a lot of posts to Cryptozoic airing my concerns), I am sure I would have left during the "exodus." Of course, once the campaign turned around, I jumped straight back in.

However, I wouldn't necessarily call the people who dumped the campaign "negative" or exclude them from Marlon's praise. The people leaving the campaign weren't just being negative, they were all giving advice, leaving helpful comments, and trying to turn the project around. I don't recall a single person slamming the campaign or spewing hate without reason; I just saw lots of people who cared about the project becoming frustrated while remaining determined to give as many suggestions as possible to turn it around.

Once Cryptozoic changed the campaign, those people flooded back, and have generally maintained a positive mood in the comments ever since (which could well be what Marlon was referring to).

The campaign now looks great, and at the moment, an Early Bird pledge of $115 gets you:

The base game
The farm expansion
The prison expansion
Exclusive Daryl on motorbike
Exclusive 5 rival generals
Exclusive 10 crawler walkers
Exclusive Governor playable character
Exclusive Sasha playable character
Exclusive Morgan playable character
Exclusive vision of Lori
Exclusive "Made to Suffer" scenario with 4 new double-sided map tiles, rival board, Governor board, and 10 event cards.

That's not a bad haul, considering we may still unlock Glenn in his riot armour, and two zombie "pets" for Michonne.
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The biggest problem this campaign had was that there was 0 pre-campaign advertising. Nobody knew about it at all until it launched. That was an epic mistake.

You also didn't mention the previous Walking Dead miniatures game, which got a bunch of money from people - many of which would probably prefer this game.

So, it wasn't just the setup of which extras were available when. If Mistake #1 didn't happen, or they had more distance from the other game, they would have had more momentum of funding to barrel through the stretch goals before people panicked that the value wasnt there.

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I don't really understand why Cryptozoic are being praised or how this campaign will improve their bad reputation.

As far as I can tell, they had a surefire hit - a popular IP by great designers. And they turned it into a disaster by trying to rip off the backers with overpriced pledge levels and "fake" stretch goals (pro tip - don't put characters on the box if you're trying to pretend they weren't always going to be included anyway).

From day one people were asking to be able to just back the normal core game, but had to spend a lot more for an expansion most didn't want just to get minis in a minis game.

They only improved the pledges because they had to. I'm not denying that the pledge is a much better deal now, but that only highlights how bad it was before. I imagine the main reason for the restructuring was to avoid the PR nightmare of a high profile game by an established company unfunding. If they could have gotten away with ripping off the backers they would have.

If the campaign had been honest from the start, this game would have easily topped a million. That's why games like Conan, Zombicide, dark souls etc make crazy money - because they offer a good core pledge that only gets better with sgs. This game originally had an incomplete core that had to be completed with sgs, a forced unpopular expansion and they wanted you to pay hundred and twenty bucks for it. Before I avoided Cryptozoic because I didn't think they made very good games. Now I'm going to avoid them because they only offer a good deal if overcharging their customers doesn't work.
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Kevin Outlaw
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stevelabny wrote:
The biggest problem this campaign had was that there was 0 pre-campaign advertising. Nobody knew about it at all until it launched. That was an epic mistake.

You also didn't mention the previous Walking Dead miniatures game, which got a bunch of money from people - many of which would probably prefer this game.



I mentioned at the start that the game arrived without fanfare, but it still pulled $99,000 on its first day; if they had set a reasonable goal, it would have funded on day one, and gained that momentum it needed anyway.

My reference to the comics early in the piece was alluding to Mantic's project. I didn't want to go into detail on Mantic's project because:

1. It was based on the comics.
2. It was a war game.

I personally don't believe there was enough cross-appeal to significantly harm the campaign. Besides, there was nothing Cryptozoic could do about an existing game, and I think one thing they did do right in the campaign was making it obvious what this game brought to the table and how it was different than any other zombie game, so I can't fault them for that.
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Kevin Outlaw
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kdc629 wrote:


They only improved the pledges because they had to.


That is the point of my piece: The original campaign was terrible, people dropped out, so Cryptozoic had to shake things up.

Of course, in a perfect world the campaign would have been right from the start, but they were naive and greedy, and they messed up. Everybody messes up sometimes. What is impressive is quite how far they went to put things right.

Some people were pushing for small measures, and Cryptozoic went one better each time:

Let us choose which expansion we get. They threw the second expansion into the pledge.

Add alternative zombie sculpts. They added more zombies, in more varieties, including zombies with new abilities.

Make the hunter Daryl exclusive more distinct. They redesigned the miniature so Daryl was on his bike.

Make the stretch amounts between characters lower. They automatically unlocked all the characters.

Even the social stretch goals were great: A playable version of the Governor, and now a full scenario expansion with new tiles and card decks.

Yes, Cryptozoic messed up. Yes, they only changed because they had to. I never denied these things.

I can see why their behaviour may encourage people to avoid them, but that's for each individual to decide. And let's be fair - no Kickstarter is "honest," it's just some companies are better at it. Massive Darkness had a buy-in of $120, but the initial pledge contents weren't worth anywhere near that. It only became worth it because they blew through stretch goals to add to the pledge. Those stretch goals weren't free. They were pre-purchased.

I think this has been a big learning exercise for Cryptozoic, and if (when) they run a Kickstarter for the The Walking Dead II, they will remember this lesson.

You don't blame an alcoholic for being an alcoholic. You praise him for joining AA.
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Marlon Kruis
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I wasn't clear than, with that 1% I meant the real negative people and bullets. The criticisms which was coming from the community were honest concerns and yes they saved the campaign!
 
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RedMonkeyBoy wrote:


You don't blame an alcoholic for being an alcoholic. You praise him for joining AA.


Fair point. I guess I'm just feeling bitter because I've spent all week watching the beautifully designed and well run Giga-Robo! struggling to attract backers, while obvious cash grabs like evil dead 2 can't fail.

For what it's worth, I think the walking dead game looks pretty great and I hope this encourages Cryptozoic to run better campaigns in the future.
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Kevin Outlaw
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kdc629 wrote:
RedMonkeyBoy wrote:


You don't blame an alcoholic for being an alcoholic. You praise him for joining AA.


Fair point. I guess I'm just feeling bitter because I've spent all week watching the beautifully designed and well run Giga-Robo! struggling to attract backers, while obvious cash grabs like evil dead 2 can't fail.

For what it's worth, I think the walking dead game looks pretty great and I hope this encourages Cryptozoic to run better campaigns in the future.


It is horrible when something you believe in doesn't do as well as you would like. I had that experience with the Fireteam Zero campaign, which was successful, but still lost quite a bit of funding towards the end.

I actually like Cryptozoic, but at the start of this campaign some of what they were doing did upset me a bit. Hopefully they can see how their improvements have lifted the campaign, making it so much more fun (and profitable), and they will do better next time.
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Nice writeup! In the beginning, it was Cryptozoic and the high price tag that had me turned off. They've since turned things around and really upped the value of the pledge. They've managed to change my opinion of them completely and I'm really happy with what they've done. I'm sure the game is going to be good so I'm happy to pledge how.
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