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Subject: the Kickstarter adventure rss

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Rudy Seuntjens
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A lot of people asked me to write a diary during the Kickstarter project. But to be honoust, I didn't have time for it.

But here are some thoughts about the things we learned by doing our first Kickstarter. Maybe these thoughts can be useful for others.
(We're talking about a 'small' Kickstarter project here, with a funding goal of 25.000 € and 639 backers with 8 hours to go when I'm writing this. The standard KS price of the game is 44€.)

1. Be happy with the result. During our Kickstarter we witnessed several colleagues who didn't succeed in making their first Kickstarter a succes. We consider ourselves lucky that Pixie Queen made it. I promised myself I would be satisfied with any result. And although we probably could have reached higher stretch goals if we didn't make any mistakes, I am very satisfied now and we learned from these mistakes. And even if we wouldn't have succeeded, I would have been satisfied that we tried it.

2. It's a though investement. It's understandable but also a pitty that you can't convince backers to support your project when it's just a good idea or a vague dream. You need to invest money. I invested in prototypes, game fairs, BGG advertisements, facebook advertisement and, last but not least, a decent illustrator. Without these wonderful illustrations and a good project movie we would have failed, that's for sure. But I considered this as a one time chance. It's a big risk that you take by investing several thousands of euro's, but for me it was all or nothing. I probably invested too much in this project to make any profit from it. But we started with the idea that we didn't want any profit, we just want our first game on the shelves. Once people get to know us and we build up a fan base, promo can probably be cheaper in the future.

3. Kickstarter is time consuming. Much more than I expected it to be. Daily I spend almost all day writing comments, answering mails, making new contacts, asking more quotations, editing the project, ... But it's all worth it. And also before and after the Kickstarter it was and will be time consuming, we know that.

4. Aim high enough. We started our calculations with the idea that if our Kickstarter succeeded, we could produce 1500 copies of the game, which is about the minimum that you can produce. But with a good product it's better to aim higher, 3000 copies should be a minimum, because that's probably the minimum amount to see some return on investement. Above 5000 copies, you start making a little profit, above 10.000 copies your project is a succes. All in case of a high-end product like Pixie Queen.
(To be clear: I'm not saying you need 3000 backers. You need Kickstarter to raise enough money to have your game produced in at least 3000 copies.)

5. It's also best to know in the beginning which components you definitely want in the retail version of the box. This might determin the order and level of your stretch goals.

6. The length of the campaign. Our campaign was too long (40 days), because we started it together with a local game fair and ended just after Spiel '16. That was a huge mistake. A campaign should probably be no longer than 25 days. It's impossible to keep a campaign 'alive' during 40 days.
And it's probably better to be able to sell your game at Spiel instead of ending your campaign at Spiel. You won't get an immidiate return by being at Spiel, only if you can sell your game there.

7. No secret stretch goals. We kept our final stretch goal a secret for a long time, because we simply were not ready with it. But this is not a good idea, especially if you have a miniature in mind as the final stretch goal. I'm now convinced that it's better to be clear about all the stretch goals from the beginning of the campaign.

8. Use BGG the best you can. It is wise to have some extra images that you only reveal during the campaign. When you reveal them, post them only on BoardGameGeek in the beginning, so that people can give it a thumbs up and your image appears on the front page of BGG hopefully.
If you ask me, advertising on BGG is overrated and too expensive. You can't do it without them, but don't exaggerate. According to BGG the Kickstarter statistics are not completely correct and the return is much bigger than those statistics show. I don't know if that is true or not.
A diary or other forum material is probably a good idea as well. We simply didn't have the time to do that. Also other platforms in other countries can be intresting, we'll definitely study this for the next campaign.

9. Shipping cost. I hope I don't offend anyone by saying that Americans seem to be spoiled when it comes to shipping costs. Europeans are used to paying 20-25$ shipping cost for KS games, as most of these products are US based. To ask 20€ shipping cost of US citizens caused some commotion at the beginning of our campaign. And also people from other parts of the world complained. For some parts of the world, the complaints were legitimate, I must admit.
But for the US, the complaints were not legitimate. You can simply not ship cheaper from the EU to the US. Our cost is like this: 6€ per game to send all the games in bulk to the USA, 2.5$ per game to have them packed and handled in the US. And last but not least: an average of 10$ per game to send the games locally throughout the US. Above that: insurance, taxes, handling fees, ...
The strange thing is that people compare the shipping cost with the price of the game. For a game of 200€ with miniatures people don't hesitate about paying 20€ shipping cost. But when a game costs only 44€ (or 39€ during the earlybird), 20€ is suddenly almost half the price of the game and people start complaining. Both games might be the same weight and size though, the only things that matter to determin the shipping price.
So what we will probably do next time is hide part of the shipping cost in the price of the game.

10. Early birds. The early bird has advantages and disadvantages. Earlybirds can definitely help to cause a buzz in the first days. What helped us enormously was that we were in the KS top 10 of most popular games in the first 3 days. But a lot of earlybirds will change their minds later and will leave again. That's the disadvantage.
We will probably not offer discounts anymore as an earlybird. We'll probably offer a free add-on for the earlybirds that the other backers can optionally buy.

11. The rulebook has to be online the first day of your campaign. Period. All backers made that perfectely clear to me. A draft version is enough.

12. Talk to your backers and stay positive in your comments. This seems obvious, but I can assure you that it takes a lot of patience and skill to stay positive all the time in your comments. Comments and updates are very important to inform the people who support you and a lot of backers will 'guide' you if you make mistakes. You will even get personal mails with hints and shared experiences, from which I learned a lot. Thank you backers

13. Create a local fan base. Before you go to KS, be sure to visit enough local conventions, participate in prototype contests, contact local press, visit local boardgame clubs, and so on. Almost weekly we had an event somewhere in Belgium or the Netherlands during the past 6 months. After the first 3 months we had to decline offers because our agenda became too busy. But the result is that 26% of our backers are from Belgium. And of course, if people don't like your game, you'll know before the KS (if you listen well enough).

14. Prototypes and reviewers. Most famous reviewers clearly state that they don't do Kickstarters. Others just don't reply to your mail or - in case of Pixie Queen - don't like the small take-that part in the game.
It's my intention to produce 100 prototypes of our next game and send out 50 of them throughout the world to reviewers at least a month before the KS campaign launches. Hopefully we'll get some decent reviews then.

15. Kickstarter exclusives. A lot of people like them, so you should add some KS exclusives. It's also a way to show some gratitude to your backers, they deserve it.


I'll probably think of more lessons I've learned later on. Maybe I'll add them.

It's been an exciting journey. And my name will be on a boardgame box! Yeaahhh!!!

Rudy





















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Þráinn Gunnlaugur Þorsteinsson
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It was really cool to get some insight on the inner workings on having a KS project. Thank you for writing this up and good luck in the final hours of the campaign!
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Joost Billiet
Belgium
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First off, congrats with the successful campaign, it must be a great feeling to seeing it succeed and getting your own board game published.

Also, thank you for this great article with tips and tricks. I can see it helping lot's of people thinking about launching anything on kickstarter.

In 7 hours we can all start looking forward to the moment the games are ready and we will be able to play them. After the 3 rounds I've played in Essen i can't wait to dive into the full game.
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Milan
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6. The length of the campaign. Our campaign was too long (40 days), because we started it together with a local game fair and ended just after Spiel '16. That was a huge mistake. A campaign should probably be no longer than 25 days. And it's probably better to be able to sell your game at Spiel instead of ending your campaign at Spiel.


I agree about selling a game as Essen, isntead of campainging, but I think you were one of top 6 games everyone was also talking about.
I think that must have generated a lot of pledges over the last few days.
I know my LGG was defintely talking about it.

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Rudy Seuntjens
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True Milan, we were number 5 on the geekbuzz Saturday morning. But then BGG removed us from the list because someone told them we were not there (probably caused by the fact that Merz Verlag gave us another booth without letting us know). BGG tried to make up for their mistake by doing an interview with us, which resulted in 3000 extra page views on BGG in one day. There was a bit of an Essen effect noticable on KS because of that, but that was nothing compared with the 1000 game boxes other small publishers sold in a few days time at Spiel. We'll get into the geekbuzz list again next year I'm sure.
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Henk Allaert
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Mistakes were made, but all things considered, I think you can be really proud of what you did in your first Kickstarter campaign. Daily I see kickstarters that are much worse prepared than Pixie Queen was.

But everyone should be allowed to make mistakes, the good thing is to learn from them and improve in the future. And you are clearly up for the task !

Good luck in the final hours, really looking forward to get the final products in my hands !
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Chris Hainz
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I really have to say it in the words of one of the foreposters: "Thank you for this great article with tips and tricks. I can see it helping lots of people thinking about launching anything on kickstarter."

One more suggestion though:
The real shit are "Kickstarter Exclusives" - you back the thing eventually and this is kind of a personal reward. When you look at "Blood Rage", people get crazy about the exclusives there...

I really had fun playing at your booth with one Swedish (Mat) and one British (Stewart) guy, the perfect mix at Essen is always a decent game along with nice people who are trying it with you. Thank you and regards, if someone of these is reading this!

And now I'm gonna back that thing...
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Bernhard W
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First, congratulations to a successful campaign and your dream to produce a game coming true.

It's a great read about your lessons learned during this KS. I think it's paramount to get this sort of insight before anyone starts a campaign. The best source (as mentioned before) is Jamey Stegmayers blog which is IMO a must read to be prepared for the road ahead.

Rudy Seuntjens wrote:
4. Aim high enough. We started our calculations with the idea that if our Kickstarter succeeded, we could produce 1500 copies of the game, which is about the minimum that you can produce. But with a good product it's better to aim higher, 3000 copies should be a minimum, because that's probably the minimum amount to see some return on investement. Above 5000 copies, you start making a little profit, above 10.000 copies your project is a succes. All in case of a high-end product like Pixie Queen.
(To be clear: I'm not saying you need 3000 backers. You need Kickstarter to raise enough money to have your game produced in at least 3000 copies.)


There are some thoughts from LudiCreations about the amount of copies to produce in one of their CRISIS updates which is another good KS thought process. Have a read of other publishers' info too and how many extra copies they produced - extra copies have to be stored somewhere and tie up a lot of your money. Spielworxx for example produes 1000 copies or less in their initial print run for that reason. GMT has their P500 and Tom Vasel mentioned a few months ago on Boardgame Breakfast how much their best sellers sold (it was way less than you'd expect).

Cheaper production helps if you can sell the games. I remember reading that "League of Six" is sitting in the bargain bins forever due to overproduction (couldn't find the article I read a long time ago). I'm sure you'll make the right decision.

Congratulations again and all the best to Game Brewer. I'm looking forward to playing Pixie Queen and seeing what comes next in the following years.
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Rudy Seuntjens
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hey Bernhard. Don't worry, we won't print 3000 copies if we don't sell most of them upfront. But we have good hopes that PQ will be co-published in many countries. In the next weeks, this wil be negotiated.
In Essen League of Six was for sale for 6€. Wonderful game though.
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Hassan Lopez
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Great list of KS lessons. A lot of these resonate with me, and our Kickstarter for Clockwork Wars. Thanks for sharing.
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Bernhard W
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Will there be a chance for late pledges?

I see them on several KS projects where you can add the game at a slightly higher cost but still benefit from the KS bulk shipping discounts.
 
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