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Day One: The Writing on the Wall

After the first day of our campaign, it became clear to us that we were not going to fund. While this may sound defeatist (and indeed, many of the people who were passionate about our game begged us not to give up), it was a simple acknowledgement of fact: if your game doesn’t generate a groundswell of excitement and participation on its first day, the chances that it will interest people over the course of the campaign are vanishingly small. But why?

The answer lies in how Kickstarter promotes projects: those that have a large number of backers right away will trigger Kickstarter’s algorithm about projects that are “hot” or trending at the moment. This, in turn, will lead to Kickstarter spotlighting that project: featuring it on the front page of product categories, sending out “Projects We Love” emails, etc., which in turn drives more potential backers to the project page, creating more excitement and engagement in a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Unfortunately for us, we had no understanding of this when we decided to launch our project. We naively believed that the platform was a case of, “If you build it, they will come.” We had done our research: we had created a game that everyone who played it thought was a ton of fun, we had filmed a project video that people seemed to enjoy, we had followed all the suggestions for layout and design of the page, and indeed, most of the feedback we got about our page was that we had done everything right. And yet, our number of backers was so small that we were perpetually buried around page 35 of the board and card game categories page. What had gone wrong?

In an effort to figure this out, we were fortunate enough to get insights into the problems with our project from none other than Jamey Stegmaier. Anyone who has even a passing interest in board games will recognize Jamey: he’s one of the most successful and well-respected game designers in the industry, with several of his company’s games at the top of the BGG rankings, including Viticulture, Wingspan, and one of my personal favorites, Scythe. After reaching out to him, he was gracious enough to bring his experience to our project and offer his insights into what had gone wrong.

After looking at our project page, Jamey pointed out several mistakes we had made that were typical of first-time Kickstarter creators (some of which I will cover later). Most of this was easily correctable, and not necessarily fatal to our campaign. However, in offering his feedback, he asked us the question that really crystallized everything for us: “How many backers did you bring with you?” When he heard the embarrassingly low number, he immediately pointed out that there is no way to have a successful Kickstarter campaign without having your backers already in place before you launch. Kickstarter itself will not do anything to bring backers to you: that responsibility is entirely yours, and we had come to that understanding too late.

In my next post, I will explain what it was that we had failed to understand, how it affected our campaign, and how we are working to correct the issues we encountered in preparation for our next launch.

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