3 April 2017
Learning the Japanese language for 10 years and studying abroad in Kyoto and Hiroshima has left me with a love of Japanese culture, people, and mythology. When I learned this past summer that one of the most successful game designers ever, Eric Lang, was working on a game called Rising Sun, I was incredibly excited for it.
Plus, as someone who writes about crowdfunding, I thought I might have something to learn from backing a CMON campaign, especially one that I’m personally invested in as a backer. So I marked my calendar for March 7 and became a $100 backer a few minutes after the project launched. I read every update and occasionally glanced at the comments. The campaign will end in a few hours with over $4 million in funding.
The following is a list of my observations and commentary about the project. It should be abundantly clear that this is not a list of methods I endorse for other creators, but there’s still something to be learned in these techniques:
- Kickstarter vs. no Kickstarter: Some would say that CMON didn’t “need” to do a Kickstarter for Rising Sun. I think that type of statement focuses on the money, and honestly, I have no idea what CMON’s cash flow looks like. For me, Kickstarter is just as much about building community, raising awareness, improving a product, and gauging demand as it is about the money.
- Use of Facebook group: CMON uses a strategy similar to what we do at Stonemaier in that we have different Facebook groups for each of our games. I’ve had a group for Charterstone for months now, a game that won’t be released until late 2017. It’s a great way to build a crowd in advance of the campaign and to demonstrate consumer interest to retailers and distributors. I’m noting this in particular because the Rising Sun FB group had over 10k members before the product launched.
- One reward level: I thought this was an interesting strategy. There’s no $1 level and no premium level. Just one reward for $100, plus optional add-ons.
- No early bird: This really impressed me as a backer. The vast majority of previous CMON campaigns had early-bird rewards, but not Rising Sun. In the FAQ they say, “No, there are no Early Birds this time. We are tweaking our campaigns all the time to better service our fans.”
- Frequent Updates: Man, CMON sends out a lot of updates! There were 15 updates during the first 9 days, and in total over 27 days there have been 35 updates. I’m on the fence about how I feel about this. Most updates were short and mostly visual–their purpose was either (a) to announce that a new stretch goal had been reached and what the next stretch goal was or (b) to announce a new add-on. The updates worked well to keep me engaged and excited, and they made me feel a part of the entire journey (this is a great way to compel backers to join on Day 1). But I probably could have done with slightly fewer updates–no more than 1 a day.
- Satisfying stretch goals: I really liked that every stretch goal feels like a big addition. Most are monster and kami miniatures, and even a new clan was added. I’m finding that there’s something really satisfying about a substantial new component instead of an upgraded component.
- Strategically timed add-ons: This was quite brilliant. Every time the campaign slowed down a little bit, CMON would send out an update about a new add-on. Usually within hours the new momentum would push the campaign up to the next stretch goal. Addendum: Even though I haven’t added anything to my $100 pledge, I appreciate the behavioral psychology involved in asking people to spend $20-$50 more after already committing to $100. “If I’ve already spent $100, what’s another $20?”
- Interesting funding levels: Rising Sun has stretch goals at $1020k, $2040k, and $3010k, and $4079k, but not at $1, $2, $3, or $4 million. My best guess for this method is that million-dollar landmark amounts are something to celebrate themselves, so why not separate them from stretch goals? It’s nice to have more things to celebrate instead of less.
- No reviews: There are a few play-through videos on the project page, but no third-party reviews. I think CMON can get away with this because they’re a trusted brand (as is Eric Lang), but this is one of those things that I hope first-time creators don’t try to emulate, as it will not be good for your project.
Unfortunate exclusives: Okay, I’m going to share something with you, and this is very much my personal reaction–I’m not saying you’re right or wrong for liking KS exclusives.
I, Jamey Stegmaier, cringed a little every time a new Rising Sun KS exclusive stretch goal was announced. It did not feel good. I did not feel more satisfied because I was getting something no one else can have. I did not feel more invested in the project because I was avoiding the fear of missing out.
While I appreciate CMON finding a way to celebrate the Kickstarter backers like me who pledged our support a full year before the game is released, and I take no pleasure in getting 21 exclusive miniatures that other people won’t be able to get.
I have a proposal for CMON’s next project big project. I propose that they feature two nearly identical $100 reward levels:
- ($100) 1 full copy of the game with all stretch goals.
- ($100) 1 full copy of the game with all stretch goals. For every pledge at this level, CMON will make 1 extra set of all KS exclusives and sell them at a fair price on their website.
It’s like TOMS Shoes, but for KS exclusives. I don’t think CMON is going to stop making exclusives–in fact, a vocal number of backers in the Rising Sun comments wanted even more exclusives– so this method would let backers like me increase access for that exclusive content to people who don’t buy the game until later. I guess I could just buy another copy of Rising Sun for this purpose, but I’m not going to do that. :)
Who knows, I might be the only person in the world who would back at that second level. Let’s see what the poll indicates:
Did you back Rising Sun? What did you learn?