29 November 2015
One of the hardest questions a creator must answer during a struggling or failing crowdfunding campaign is: Do people simply not want this, or do people want it, but my presentation isn’t good enough?
On this blog I talk a lot about successful crowdfunding campaigns. Today I have something different: A guest post from a creator whose project has failed to fund not once, but twice. Douglas Symon of Kyy Games has generously volunteered to talk about this vulnerable subject, and he also authorized me to chime in with my thoughts throughout the post. Thanks Douglas!
Having launched two unsuccessful campaigns (first project and second project) to fund the production of Cabals: The Board Game, we know what it is like to fail on Kickstarter. So we thought we may be able to share some of the things we did wrong in the hope that others can avoid doing the same.
Advertising on BoardGameGeek
From the perspective of board games, BoardGameGeek is undoubtedly one of the most important and most useful websites online. However, from our experience, adverts on the site were definitely not the be-all and end all for a successful Kickstarter campaign. Having now spent over $1000 on adverts there, we can only report 17 backers directly originating from the site. That’s over $60 per backer and the average pledge we received was less than that. In fact in the second campaign, we only gained 3 backers after the adverts went live.
Why was this? Maybe our presence and activity on BoardGameGeek wasn’t enough and that needs to support the ads? We certainly tried, but that was probably true that there could have been more community based activity there. That doesn’t excuse such a low return on the ads, though, so perhaps the adverts were bad? Unlikely with the amazing artwork we have at hand. You can see the basics of the ads we used during this text so please feel free to give feedback in the comments below. Also are you a BoardGameGeek regular, did you notice any of the adverts for Cabals?
[Jamey’s Thoughts: I think it’s important to remember that no matter how good the banner ads are or whom they reach, when someone clicks through the ad, if they don’t find something they want, the ad doesn’t matter. This isn’t a criticism of Cabals, but rather an important reminder to creators that we’re the ones responsible for converting click-throughs to pledges, not the sites where the ads were featured.]
Another respected avenue for building awareness of a campaign is using Thunderclap. First time round we had a Thunderclap setup at the very beginning of the project and we think that aided to help a good start. However, in the second project we had a slightly better start, without a Thunderclap. No doubt because of the backers we had built up from the first project.
We ran a Thunderclap during the middle of the campaign instead to try improve momentum during the project. Unfortunately that turned out to be pretty fruitless and, in hindsight, a mistake. With Thunderclap being a trending based service to boost exposure it would have been better to use it again at the beginning like we did in the first project.
[Jamey’s Thoughts: My personal opinion is that Thunderclap doesn’t really do much at all for Kickstarter creators. It’s a cool idea–leverage your fans to create visibility on Twitter at a specific time–but I’ve really seen no evidence that it does anything other than bother the people who see the same tweets clog up their feed for a few minutes.]
That leads to the topic of “buzz”. It seems like we simply did not create enough. We did, what we thought, was a lot of contacting press in advance, and in different manners to try and build up a relationship, but the coverage there was not enough.
Perhaps spending the wasted advertising money on other popular board game websites would have been more effective, as well as strengthening connections we already have. We had even arranged for video reviews from Undead Viking and Board Game Brawl to be ready in the first week of the campaign.
However, it was here that we managed to make the most fatal mistake.
Launching Without Third-Party Reviews
We did not delay our launch date when it became apparent that the prototypes may not arrive on time. In the end it delayed the reviews so much that they were not available until pretty much the last week of the project and it didn’t have the same impact as their expert opinions would have usually.
The reason for that is probably the large number of initial people who saw the project, at the very start, were not exposed to those videos. They would have provided a much more reassuring account of the game than the videos we had showing the out of date prototypes with different artwork.
Launching Without an Online Demo Prototype
A second red light to our scheduled launched date was our plans to unleash a desktop version of our game on Steam’s Greenlight. The intention was to have this launched in the first week of the campaign and it may have exposed the Kickstarter project to over 10,000 gamers. However, quickly after launch of the Kickstarter it was apparent that this wasn’t going to be ready in time.
[Jamey’s Thoughts: After seeing the impact of the Tabletopia version of Scythe during my Kickstarter campaign, I think online demo prototypes have the potential of making a huge impact on tabletop game campaigns.]
If We Launch Again…
As I write this we haven’t decided if we will have another run at crowd funding or will we simply focus on other options. This post, though, would form a good basis should we wish to relaunch the campaign a third, and final time.
Should we launch the project again, the following things really need to be ready for Day 1:
- A mailing list of people interested in the campaign. Our e-newsletter had just over 100 people when we launched Cabals. Ideally it would have been 1000 and we would have been funded day 1, but that’s maybe hoping too much. (KS Lesson)
- Third-party video reviews. In hindsight, at least one should be a really popular reviewer with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of viewers. (KS Lesson)
- Key press coverage (KS Lesson)
- Back other projects on Kickstarter. We definitely lost some backers because, although team members have individually backed projects, our Kyy Games account for the project had not backed any. (KS Lesson)
Other Points of Confusion on the Project Page
If we relaunched Cabals, we would fix the following elements of the project page (KS Lesson):
- Convert long chunks of text to lists, short paragraphs, and explanatory images.
- Make it very clear that Cabals is an Expandable Card Game not a Collectable Card Game.
- Improve the project video to show more about the game and better convey our passion for it.
There are no doubt other things to do as well. Perhaps we can add more as we realize them or if you clever people comment below, but those are a few that are clear right now.
If you have any thoughts or questions you’d like to ask Douglas and his team, feel free to post them in the comments below.