Publisher Perspective

Design & Publishing Discussion from Designer / Publisher Byron Collins, owner of Collins Epic Wargames, LLC.
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Our First Kickstarter Project - It ain't as easy as people think

Byron Collins
United States
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Kickstarter. It's got this magical reputation doesn't it? Throw a game, a film, a musical work, a piece of art up on as a project- and it'll magically generate thousands of dollars! Right? You read success stories about projects that are funded 1000% beyond their goal, and funded projects are featured on the front page of the site as recently successful! But what makes a KS project "a success"? Is success defined simply as "generating the funding goal"? In the most distilled form, yes- since the site is all about getting projects funded. But there is a longer answer- and a better definition in my opinion. Along with some tips you may be able to use if you're considering launching a project on Kickstarter.

I knew alchemy wasn't behind Kickstarter well in advance of launching our first project there (which is ongoing at the time of this post).

Here it is if you'd like to take a look. Please do! And here's the game entry on BGG.

What drove me to try it anyway? Kickstarter is a great site. Crowd-funding and the whole concept of it is kind of magical. It's all about bringing together people to support a creative work- whatever that may be- a game, a film, a performance of some kind- and it's the thought that a wider audience may be interested in your project- that I think drives people to try it out- including me. Many projects get the funding they need in order to be successful. Many do not. But define success...

KS would most likely define it as a project that achieves its funding goal. That's a pretty good, basic definition of success as it relates to a KS project.... I'm here to confirm that printing boardgames is not cheap. Taking the risks to do so is not for the faint of heart- and it's not easy to sort through pre-press worries, production details, artwork prep, and everything else it takes to "do production" right. This being my third title, I know what to expect with production and everything that goes into it, yet I'm surprised by new production curve-balls with each title I print. As a publisher, I know that anyone who backs a game of mine (whether through Kickstarter, P500, a retail store, or online) is depending on me to follow through, get it done, get it out to them, and it better do what it should do-- provide hours and months and years of entertainment. And I better be available if called upon in order to answer questions, provide that missing piece, replace a lost shipment, etc. If this were my first game and my project received the funding it needed for printing, I may be on cloud 9 for awhile- but I would honestly be scared to death without the backing of a publisher. So many backers- all expecting me- to deliver on what I said I'd provide. So I'll offer a bit of an expanded definition of success as it relates to a KS-funded project--- a project that achieves its funding goal and is fully realized, executed, and supported by the project's creator well beyond initial fulfillment.

So here are a few tips that I've learned so far to hopefully get this project there... some provided graciously by Mark Walker of Lock N' Load publishing and designer Larry Bogucki who recently had success on Kickstarter with the game Warparty. Here is that title's KS project page by the way. Check it out- it's a great looking game.

1. Word of mouth. You must generate it. If not, your project will likely not be known by others. Social media is key here, as well as sites like BGG, forums on other sites, conventions, etc. Politely ask everyone to share your project link.

2. Advertising. Banner ads are important in my opinion. You've seen them on BGG. We're running 200,000 impressions here ourselves targeting wargame pages. We're also running ads on external sites at the same time. All link to our game's project page. This isn't cheap- so be prepared to consider it a 'sunk cost' if your project's funding goal is not attained.

3. A good video. I shot my video one day that I set aside specifically for it... set up the lighting, set up the table, and got the prototype out and up-close-and-personal with it in the vid. Then spent about 6-8 hours editing it. To give you an idea of the amount of editing-- the original was about 45 minutes.. cut down to about 19 mins.. which is still long. It's not the greatest video ever, and I'm no pro at creating videos... and there may or may not be an outtakes reel. The point is spend lots of time on that video and do the very best you can.

4. A good variety of incentives and cool rewards. Signed games, backer's names in the rules, letters of thanks, combo deals, etc., all accounting for the appropriate shipping rates all help. Some backers want just the game and some cool tangible rewards. Others simply want to help your project out. One cool (I think) limited reward I'm offering for the game we've got on there right now is having the backer's name worked into various fictional scenario intros. Another cool item we're including is a custom line of sight tool with our company logo on it. Hey, gamers love that stuff (I know I do).

5. Updates that are pertinent and well-timed. How many should you do? Well, how many e-mails do you like to receive about a given topic over the course of 2 months? Each time you send an update out, it is e-mailed to all backers. This is great for previewing more about the game (I think), but maybe a bit much if you do it daily. Don't be spammy. I've only issued one update so far, but went in detail on how some of the rules work regarding line of sight in the game. Knowing how important they are, more are planned, including more artwork previews, an interview with the artist, and other cool stuff. Think hard about those updates and think about what you would like to hear/see as a gamer first- before you push out an update.

Still learning as I go... a cool ride so far... stay tuned to see if this project crashes and burns or if it gets a touch of that Kickstarter... eh... okay I'll say it... magic...

Want to stay up-to-date with this project's updates? Well, the best way to do that is to back it. If you've never done so via Kickstarter, please come along for the ride, and if successful, you'll get a great game out of it, some cool perks, and also help us out along the way.

Also, I'd love to hear your comments on this project or on Kickstarter in general.
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