Learning & Sharing in the Board-Game Community
As a company still in its early stages, we have had a lot to learn in the process of designing and launching our first board game. As a family company, there has been a lot of love and enthusiasm put into our projects, and while each member of the team is adept in their own way, creating and selling a board game has been a completely new arena for all of us.
While there is certainly a plethora of information out in the world, it can be hard to find the right answers when you don't even know the questions to ask. This is where fellow board-gamers come in.
Something that has become increasingly clear is that most people who are part of the community as players, designers, publishers, reviewers, are always open to helping others and sharing their thoughts and experiences in hopes of lifting someone else's project.
This time we were lucky enough to connect with Dina and Johannes from Samsa Games, the company that created Kalewala: Tale of Sampo. Similarly to us, they had launched their campaign on Kickstarter, but had not gained the momentum they were hoping for. This game looked amazing and fun, with great art, a unique concept and elements that made it stand out. This made us wonder if there was a common element we were missing and what we could do to make both our games a success.
With the Samsa Games team in Finland and the See Forever team in Mexico/the U.S., our best shot at getting together was a virtual call on Zoom (which has now become the central hub for connections around the world in light of the pandemic), and this opened the door for us to invite more people who, like us, were in search of the key to bringing their board games to life.
Anyone who has ever worked on a project like this knows that it is a never-ending endeavor, and the likelihood of succeeding seems very low, especially with the fast-paced world we live in today. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, and what seems like the perfect recipe for success for one may be the downfall for another, but we've learned there are some common ideas that could be the difference between your game sitting on a shelf or making it out into the world.
Here are some important tips that we received from people who successfully launched (or re-launched) on Kickstarter:
Community, community, community: No matter how brilliant your ideas may be, if there's no one there to see them, they are unlikely to go anywhere. An integral part of a successful Kickstarter campaign is to have a community of friends, family and followers to support you and believe in you. While there are many ways to do this, organic growth (i.e. not through paid ads) is one of the best ways of building your community. This can be achieved through personal engagement and by involving others in your ideas. When you truly connect with the people you want to sell to, they will be much more inclined to support you regardless of what you're selling.
Reviews: Organic growth will only take you so far if you don't have the proverbial "seal of approval" from trusted and respected people within the board-game community. It's crucial to get feedback early on and share the positive notes with any potential buyers. Think about how you shop online: would you buy the product with 0 reviews or the one with 5 stars?
Feedback & Play-testing: Praise and positive remarks are awesome and will surely give you a confidence-boost, but there's something to be said about negative feedback. No one wants to hear that the project they've spent years working on sucks, although it's important to take a moment to listen to what others have to say beyond the simple criticism and if there's something useful in that. Gary Chavez, the creator of Saints and Scoundrels, shared with us a great article that talks about how even the most "annoying" play-testers can have something to bring to the table and why you should listen: Top 6 Most Annoying Playtesters and What They Can Teach You. In essence, it is that very criticism that will make you grow and improve, so it's still positive feedback in the end.
Price Point & Budget: It's hard to put a price on a project you've poured your life into, and no amount seems to ever be enough. There are also many "hidden" costs that come with launching a board game, such as marketing, team salaries, ads, production & manufacturing, artwork, etc., and though it would seem obvious, most buyers are only looking at the end product and gauging whether it equates to what they're paying. Niall Crabtree from Crab Studios explained how even elements like the artwork, the size of the box, or the components can have an impact on the perception of the value. One suggestion we got from the community on how to attract more backers was to explicitly lay out what percentage of the pledges will be used for what, and helping backers see what their money is really doing. It's essential to consider how the final product will stack up against the price in the eyes of our potential backers.
Building credibility on Kickstarter: Something we've heard a lot is that for companies to be taken seriously as launchers (especially first-timers), it's important to have at least a few projects that they themselves have previously backed. Furthermore, if you are thinking of launching a big project as your first, it might be worth it to consider putting a smaller one out at a lower goal and have a successfully funded project to boost your credibility. This doesn't mean that you can't succeed without these points, but many backers are looking at your stats and may be less inclined to support a company with no track record.
Staying authentic: One of the main selling points for See Forever games is that we are a family company that was started by 2 brothers, and came to include son, daughter and nephew. Our personalities fall on the "quirky" and "nerdy" side, and humor is part of our day to day lives; however, somewhere along the way we lost our voice and shifted to a more corporate style, which was never really who we are. Board games are about having fun, and to really accomplish that it's important to stay true to your authentic self and let it shine through.
Previews: As with most things, it's always a good idea to get people excited and make them part of what is to come. Although it may be scary to show the "dirty" version of your project, letting people see the evolution and give you their thoughts counts a lot towards making a better game in the end. It also doesn't hurt to get feedback before you launch; you'll have a chance to fix any mistakes before they're final and your potential customers will love being involved in the process.
Don't be afraid to reach out: As this post has proven, the board game community is a very kind and helpful one, so they can be some of your best allies in getting your game out there. By letting people in on your goals, sharing your story and asking for their input, you make them part of your circle and you'll find that there's a lot to be learned from one another.
Surely there are more tips that we didn't cover and are yet to learn, but these are some of the comments that we received from our fellow Kickstarter adventurers. We are very grateful to be part of such an awesome community and appreciate all the knowledge and wisdom that was shared with us.
Cybermancy was not successful in its first launch, but we're sure that its day to shine will come, and we'll be glad to know it was also because of so many wonderful people out there who supported and believed in us. We hope this learning experience can do the same for your games!
We'd like to thank the following people who were part of our first (but hopefully not last!) virtual Kickstarter talk:
Carl Cox (See Forever Games)
Woodward Cox (See Forever Games)
Dina Ramse (Samsa Games)
Johannes VVith (Samsa Games)
Niall Crabtree (Crab Studios)
Gary Chavez (GCRS)
Pavle Ilijasevic (Dazbog Games)
Andrew J. Smith (Gold Seal Games)
Matt Hayes (Soracte)
Samson Perret (This Way)
Eric Mathura (Board Gains)
Tyler Ottesen (Hardy House Games)