4 December 2014 | 62 Comments
This post is going to be a little different than what I typically write on this blog. The purpose of this blog is to help other Kickstarter creators by sharing my mistakes, insights, etc…hopefully this post will serve that purpose. I feel like there is something to be learned by what I’ve experienced over the last few days, but I’m not quite sure what those lessons are yet.
Also, just so it’s clear, this is not a self-congratulatory post. I’m really just trying to sort out my thoughts to figure out what the hell just happened and what I need to do about it.
On Monday morning (a little over 3 days ago), I sent out our monthly e-newsletter to our 8,451 subscribers. This particular e-newsletter contained some big news: I’m designing a game called Scythe in a world being built by an extremely talented artist named Jakub Rozalski. You can see the cover art on the right–click it for full detail on BoardGameGeek.
If you missed the full story, you can read it on the archived e-newsletter.
Going into this announcement, I knew we had something special–that’s why I pursued the Scythe board game rights. Then again, we all think we have something special. That’s why we spend time and money creating things. We think our ideas are unique and special.
So I didn’t really know what to expect after the announcement. I certainly did not expect what happened.
From my perspective, it felt like Scythe broke the internet. I’ve never seen that many tweets, likes, comments, etc about anything we’ve done, even on Tuscany’s remarkable launch day on Kickstarter ($158,000 pledged in 24 hours) or Euphoria’s opening week, when it crept close to the top of the hotness list on BGG. Euphoria is the closest comparison, because the image I posted of all the components in the game (the retail components) on BGG went on to garner over 400 thumbs, the most of any BGG image in 2013.
Here are a few stats from what’s happened over the last few days regarding Scythe:
- Scythe was #2 on the BGG hotness chart on the first day it was eligible, and it’s been #1 on the chart the last two days.
- The box art on BGG is the #1 image there, with 256 thumbs.
- The announcement image on Jakub Rozalski’s Facebook page has received 1,106 likes and 73 shares.
- The announcement image on the Stonemaier Games Facebook page has received 156 shares.
- The Scythe page on our website has received 8,198 views in the last 3 days, which is more than any other page on the website in the last 30 days (this website averages 1,454 page views a day).
- Our e-newsletter subscriber total–which usually goes down after an e-newsletter when a dozen or so people unsubscribe–has increased to 8,584 over the last three days (+133 subscribers).
- Not to mention the countless tweets, e-mails from people, reviewers, other publishers, etc.
All this for a game still in very early development! A huge amount of credit goes to Jakub’s art–there’s no way this announcement would have made a splash without it. It also helps that Jakub has been fostering his fanbase for a while now. He has over 10,000 followers on Facebook (compared to 2,675 Stonemaier Facebook fans).
Needless to say, the last few days has been a whirlwind of activity–it takes a lot of time to keep up with all the comments on BGG, Facebook, this site, and Twitter. In fact, ironically, for a game that doesn’t exist yet, because of all the excitement over the last few days, I haven’t had any time to finish up the preliminary design.
So on top of all this attention Scythe has been getting, now there’s a ton of hype about it…no pressure on me to design a great game, right? I wonder if there’s such thing as too much hype. Does it only lead to people getting let down in the end if their sky-high expectations aren’t met?
Writing this has been very cathartic for me, and I think I have three insights to share from the experience that might benefit other creators (particularly tabletop game creators):
- Hype can hinder creativity. I think this is the first time I’ve ever thought, “Oh, this is why some companies have people whose sole job is to handle social media.” Social media is such a great way to connect with people, and I love it, but it’s also a huge impediment to creativity if you aren’t able to tune it out for a while. Until today (and especially the first two days), the noise about Scythe online was so loud that I wasn’t comfortable tuning it out, so I wasn’t able to work on the game at all. So I think the key is to be able to tune in and out at the right time…or hire someone to always be tuned in when your company gets big enough.
- Capture e-mail addresses when you have the chance. A few hours after the Scythe announcement (around the time it hit Reddit, driving tons of traffic to this website), I realized that I had made a crucial error: There was no link for e-newsletter subscriptions on the Scythe page. I was missing out on all the people who might subscribe just to find out about Scythe when it launches on Kickstarter in 2015. So I quickly added a link, and I saw subscriptions exponentially increase.
- Announce with art. Around this time last year, Plaid Hat Games announced their new game (in partnership with Rob Daviau’s Ironwall Games), Seafall, by placing a single iconic logo on BGG. The logo says everything about the game–it’s the perfect marketing tool. So for Scythe, I wanted to use the same technique of giving people something tangible to associate with the game (hence the use of the cover art for the announcement). Jakub’s art sells the game even when very little is known about it. If you use this method, make sure to get that art on BGG with plenty of time to spare–sometimes it can take a day or two to process, and if it isn’t final cover art with full graphic design, it will get rejected from the “Games” category on BGG (the most visible category).
That’s all I’ve learned so far–it’s a work in process. If you have any thoughts, insights, or feedback, I’d love to hear it in the comments.