7 Quick Links and Observations About Kickstarter, Games, and More

3 February 2020 | 5 Comments

Largely thanks to notes from an array of astute readers, I’ve accumulated a batch of links and observations that are best shared in potpourri format. They’re noted below in no particular order.

Are Kickstarted Games Less Likely to Get to the Table?

On a recent episode of the Five Games for Doomsday podcast, we talked a bit about my perception–which could be totally wrong–about why Kickstarted games may be less likely to get to the table when they arrive than non-Kickstarted games (and how that may impact their overall plays and their BGG ranking). A quick scan of the BGG top 100 shows only 20 games that were originally Kickstarted. To be clear, I don’t think Kickstarter spells doom for a games’ longevity–I just think creators might need to work extra hard upon delivery and release to drum up the same level of enthusiasm as during the campaign.

Paying What You Wish to Rescue Santa Claus

Gabe at Barrett Publishing reached out to me to share something he did in December to celebrate backers and engage potential fans. After successfully funding a solo game called Hunted, Gabe rethemed the game for Christmas. He offered it as a free download for backers as a way of fanning the flames of their fandom, and then he put it on his website as a “pay what you wish” download to attract more people to the series. I think this is a really clever way of accomplishing both of those goals.

Delivering Fix Packs Respectfully and Without Breaking the Bank

My colleague Morten shared a link to a recent update for NSKN Games’ Snowdonia project in which they offered backer a choice regarding a fix pack of cards. Any backer can order the fix pack on their website for $0 or they can order a small expansion for $9 and get the fix pack with the expansion. I really like how NSKN worded this part of the update: “If you just want the Fix Pack — no worries, you will be able to order it at no cost to you! However, without deferring responsibility, if you enjoy Snowdonia, we would encourage you to give the new expansion a shot. By buying the expansion you will not only receive newly designed content for the game, but you will also help reduce the financial burden of fixing the cards issue. We are still not a big publisher and we still make mistakes. We try to take full responsibility for them while remaining in business so we can keep making great games.”

Play-and-Win Software for Conventions

I was just at a local convention, Geekway Mini, this past weekend, and I was reminded how effective play-and-win is at encouraging people to try a variety of games. Geekway does amazing things with their play-and-win system–they have scanners, software, tablets for reporting plays…it’s really impressive. But not every convention has evolved to that point, and Josh Ward recently shared a website with me that any convention can use to generate a play-and-win system. Well done to Jeff at Black Rhino Software for creating it.

Exploring Under-Represented Narratives and Other Marketing Tips

I really like this post from Tabletop Backer Party about marketing Kickstarter projects. Remember that marketing encompasses much more than advertising–it starts with product design. That’s why I particularly like the first suggestion about exploring under-represented narratives (and themes, mechanisms, etc) during the design process.

Board Games Atlas: A Rising Star

For years, I’ve only had BoardGameGeek on my bookmarks bar in Chrome (along with non-gaming websites and web apps). But for the last few months, another BBG-like platform, Board Game Atlas, has become another board game website to visit on a daily basis. Its creator, Trent, recently shared some of the reasons why more and more people are engaging on BGA every day in this video–I’d highly recommend checking it out.

Can Artificial Intelligence Predict Demand Before Production Begins?

A Harvard PhD student, Ben Kompa, recently tried to use advanced AI methods to see if he could solve my demand forecasting issue. He tested the AI against the actual first-run quantities of our games and what I wish I had printed knowing what I know now, combining information from reviews of 80 other games for which I estimated ideal print run quantities and data from playtests of our games. The results? Even the most complex neural network didn’t even come close to accurately predicting demand. Just something to keep in mind the next time you think a publisher didn’t do a good job of gauging first-run demand when they started production on a game 6 months ago. And yes, that includes first-run demand of Kickstarted games–they offer some information (backer totals), but they don’t give you distributor orders, especially not with 8-12 month lead times.

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Lots of topics today! I’d love to hear your thoughts on them in the comments below.

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5 Comments on “7 Quick Links and Observations About Kickstarter, Games, and More

  1. About the Kickstarted games not making it to table – that’s a big issue for me, especially with RPG’s. It’s so bad I’d given up hope backing a lot of games – especially as someone who moves around a lot. I just launched this Kickstarter for a solution – GameTree. It’s an app with 135,000 gamers that makes find and playing games with people easier so we can get more out of our games and friends.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gametree/gametree-find-your-tribe

  2. I love NSKN and the way they’ve handled the Kickstarters I’ve backed. But as happy as I am to finally have the game, I will say that I think Snowdonia might have been a case of a small publisher biting off more than they could chew.

    With over 700 cards and a 76 page book just for the scenarios, it was almost inevitable that a small publisher was going to have typos slip through that negatively affect the game and confuse players.

    I happily backed the expansion to get my reprinted cards, and I’ll print the corrected scenarios as needed, because, as you say, they handled it well. But it’s very sad that it’s now sitting on my shelf after only a couple plays because I can’t be bothered to print up replacement cards or go through every scenario to figure out what I need to fix. I’ll just wait for the fix pack to arrive and then it’ll go back into my play rotation.

  3. I’ll have to watch the BGA video because I’d never even heard of the site before now! Thanks for mentioning it :)

    I will say that my very first impression of the website itself is that there are a lot of affiliate links to buy games. There’s nothing wrong with making some money, but it feels unnecessarily prominent, meaning other more interesting things are pushed down or aside. It gives the whole site the feel of an advertising engine rather than a place for hobbyists to gather.

    Still glad to know about it now – I’ll dig deeper because alternatives are always nice to have.

  4. I started monitoring the forums on board game atlas a couple months ago and love the interaction and responses with other gamers. It’s a different venue than BGG and while I still use BGG for my game collection and whatnot, BGA seems better for the forum conversations.

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