Teasing Information Before a Big Announcement (KS Lesson #270)

5 August 2019 | 10 Comments

Over the last few days, I’ve been teasing images on Instagram for our August 7 announcement. I’ve had fun with it, and the response has been good, so I thought I’d talk today about this strategy and methods used by other companies.

First, some quick context about the current Stonemaier Games strategy for announcing and releasing new games:

  1. We don’t use Kickstarter, and I don’t share details about new products until the official announcement. We go to production on the product around 4 months before the announcement day.
  2. I share the progress of various products on our monthly e-newsletter and here using a series of codenames and fairly broad dates.
  3. At a certain point–typically on my weekly Facebook Live appearance–I reveal that I will be making a new product announcement on a specific date.
  4. On announcement day, I reveal the box art for the product. Every day for the next 2 weeks, I post a design diary post (in the corresponding Facebook group and on our website) that reveals information about the product. This culminates in a full rulebook reveal.
  5. A few weeks later, we open preorders for the product (this is when I reveal the MSRP, SKU, and retail release date). At this point we have the product in stock at fulfillment centers around the world, so we start shipping to preorder customers within a few days (unless there’s some unforeseen delay).
  6. Around 7-9 weeks later is the retail release date. That may seem like a long time, but we like to give retailers and distributors some time to gauge interest from their customers, and then a fair amount of time is needed for freight shipping and processing (from our warehouse to distributors, then from distributors to retailers). We’ve learned to emphasize to distributors that they need to communicate quantities to retailers as soon as they receive the product (typically 4-6 weeks before the release date) so there are no last-minute surprises.

Let’s focus on the space between steps 3 and 4, because that’s where I’ve tried something new with the upcoming game. On last week’s Facebook Live video, I said that over the next few days on Instagram, I would be revealing partial images from the game to hint at what it is.

So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Instead of my usual morning Instagram post (a game I’m playing, cats, sometimes food), I’ve posted a very close-up image of the game. I’ve invited speculation and sometimes ask questions (“Who do you think the illustrator is?”), but I haven’t answered any questions about things I’ve yet to reveal (which is pretty much everything). Here are the 4 images revealed so far:

The response seems to be quite good so far, with the first three posts accumulating over 2500 likes and nearly 200 comments. The most interaction happened on the hex photo, perhaps because it clearly reveals a game component. It’s also been fun for me to show these little hints, because they all toe the line between the two themes of games I’ve been working on (or they could even be something else…).

Will everyone like this strategy? Probably not. It’s meant to be fun, but passion manifests in different ways for different people, so I can see how this “teaser” method could frustrate some people who are anxious to know hard facts and details.

Also, not everyone is on Instagram (though anyone can click here to view Instagram photos–you don’t need to be an Instagram member to peruse the website). I choose Instagram instead of Facebook because I don’t create Facebook groups for new games until the announcement day.

What about methods used by other companies? I’m specifically talking about companies that build up to an announcement and don’t say much before then. The main method I’ve seen is simply to announce that you will be announcing something, like John Coveyou from Genius Games posting on FB, “Tomorrow I am announcing some big news… I can’t believe it” or Renegade Games noting a few years ago that they would soon be announcing something big (it was for Clank in Space). Another method is to simply post an image of your company logo and the date of the announcement. Can you think of other methods that companies in any industry use to tease an announcement without spoiling the product?

One small word of caution: I would suggest avoiding superlatives in regards to the product. Like, it’s one thing to say that you have an announcement and that you’re excited about it. But you enter the realm of “hype” if you say something like, “The most epic product of the year will be revealed tomorrow!” If you do that, you’re potentially inviting people to be disappointed, as it’s up to them to decide what’s epic or cool or beautiful, not you.

What are your thoughts on these pre-announcement teaser strategies? Which work for you, which don’t, and why?

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10 Comments on “Teasing Information Before a Big Announcement (KS Lesson #270)

  1. Love the idea of teasers, the mystery they create, the guessing, the build up, everything!

    Roughly i would do it the same way you are doing it, my concern is though how far from the official announcement for the KS project (from memory the announcement should be 3 months prior the KS) should we start with the teasing. Personally i would start around 3-4 months before the announcement.

    Valuable information shared here Jamey, cheers!

  2. Often I think that for smaller creators, such as on Kickstarter, a longer drip feed of details can be useful. In the end, its hard to do a big release announcement when no-one has heard of you, and secrecy is a bigger deal when people are trying to leak/find out about your project. When a smaller creator is getting bits of artwork here and there and looking to build up their first mailing list and create a community that is already invested in their game, do you think its a good idea to post bits and pieces as they’re being developed, or would you still stick with a single ‘official’ announcement a few months before, for example, Kickstarter launch?

  3. I will be on the lookout for the big reveal today! I see the release date for Clay is Q3, will it be available at Spiel?

  4. I absolutely LOVE anticipating an announcement about something a publisher is doing. Even the smaller publishers who are on Patreon (like myself), or who rely solely on the word of mouth from their customers and fans, are doing themselves a big favor when they tease that something is coming.

    I’ve also seen people spread the word on social media by telling them to sign up for their email list if they want to be included in the announcement. That’s not only a great way to gather email addresses of potential customers, but also a way to ensure your announcement gets seen by more people. I mean, who doesn’t like being among the first to hear about the next great thing?

    This has personally helped me, as a consumer, learn about new stuff coming out, and the stuff I’m truly excited about is what I share with others. As a content creator, it’s also something I’m looking forward to for when I launch my website & store — I want to see how much traction I can get from making the pre-launch announcement, and by finding other ways to spread the word.

    Antici– . . . . “Say it!!” . . . . –pation.

  5. Hi Jamey,

    Did you forget to mention reviewers in step 5, or Clay won’t have reviews at launch?

    The art looks wonderful.

    The first image (trade or diplomacy) looks like the art of Jacqui Davis (Euphoria).

    The second image (territory or discovery) also looks like the style of Jacqui Davis, or if Ryan Laukat did Scythe.

    The third image looks like the style of Miguel Coimbra (7 Wonders), or the artist that did B2CMKL’s cover.

    The fourth looks like the style of Matthew Mizak (Tang Garden) or Ryan Laukat.

    1. There’s a lot of little details about launch I didn’t mention–my spreadsheet has about 20 things to do on launch day! But yes, revealing reviews is one of them. That’s the case for all products.

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