Kickstarter: What we did right and what we did wrong

Now that Hogger Logger’s crowd-funding campaign is over, we want to share with you the ups and downs of our first campaign. We successfully overfunded our goal of $9,500, but not without our share of issues along the way. We had been researching and planning this campaign for 2 years, yet as beginners we still lacked in a few areas. Lets talk about what we did right and what we did wrong.

What we did right #1 – We got ourselves out there and playtested

The finished version of Hogger Logger is drastically different than the game that we created 2 years ago. The original version was full of imbalances, poor mechanics, and weird rules. All of the changes and improvements we made were a result of playtesting and getting ourselves “out there” into the community.

In order to find people to playtest the game, we frequented meetup.com and visited our local gaming stores. The tabletop gaming community is one of the friendliest communities out there, so we had no problem meeting people who were more than willing to play our game. Each time we playtested, we learned something new about the game.  We revised the rulebook over 50 times, removed and created hundreds of action cards, tinkered with gameplay elements, and so much more.

While you are playtesting, respect everyone’s opinions. You will occasionally meet people who hate your game. And that is totally fine. Try to find out why they hate it and what you can do to address their problems. Yes, some people will hate you and your game for the sake of being negative, but there are plenty of people who will dislike your game for very valid reasons. Analyze those opinions in as unbiased a way as possible.

What we did right #2 – We had an attractive Kickstarter page

When it came to designing our Kickstarter page, we did our homework. We researched many other Kickstarters and compiled lists of what we liked and did not like about them. We consulted several blogs including Jamey Stegmaier’s seriesMeltdown Games Post-Mortem, and James Mathe. We found that most of the successful Kickstarters out there had a number of things in common: they were well organized, had visually appealing headers, game play videos, well designed pledge levels, and a short, but attractive promo video. We made sure that our Kickstarter had all of those things.

The most controversial part of our page was our video. We found that viewers either absolutely loved it, or hated it to the point of disgust. After surveying people who watched the video, we identified the parts that people did not enjoy and removed them. Not only did it make the video more fun to watch, but it cut the run time to from 2:45 to 2:28.  The completion percentage of our video rose from 29% to 39% after making that change.

What we did right #3 – Our game is awesome

Lets be honest…it’s a really fun game.

What we did wrong #1 – We did not contact enough reviewers prior to launching our campaign

Getting reviews written about your product is essential. A well-written (or well-recorded) review will enhance your game’s credibility’s arguably more than any gameplay video or player testimonial. Unfortunately, we did not realize this until after the campaign launched.

We had a single review lined up for Hogger Logger prior to launching the campaign. We still don’t know what we were thinking. We realized our grave mistake a few days after launch, and scrambled to find reviewers.

We quickly researched review sites and began contacting dozens of reviewers who would hopefully be interested in playing our game. Luckily, we managed to line up 14 reviewers who agreed to not only review it, but post their review within a couple of weeks in order to accommodate our Kickstarter-imposed deadline.

Once the reviews started coming in, our funding picked up. If you look at our daily funding chart below, you will see small spikes at certain points during the campaign.

dailypledges[1]

Were those spikes the result of the reviews? Possibly. One thing is for certain, the reviews coupled with our advertisements certainly contributed towards our strong finish.

What we did wrong #2 – We had to adjust our pledge levels mid-campaign

We love and hate JR Honeycutt. We hate him because of the amount of work we had to do because of him. We love him because without his advice, we may not have funded. Let me explain:

We met JR at Gen Con and played Hogger Logger with him. He loved the game but did not love our price tag. When the campaign started, we were charging $20 for one copy of Hogger Logger. JR told us, in no uncertain terms, that $20 was too high of a price for a game of our size. He pointed to similar sized game such as Fluxx or Hanabi and told us to look at their price tags.

With a print run of 500 copies, a $20 price tag fit for our budget. However we realized that unless we dropped the price, there wouldn’t be a print run. We decided to take a risk and not only lower the cost to $14, but increase our planned print run (higher print run = less manufacturing costs per deck). In order for this strategy to work, we would need to sell over 500 copies via Kickstarter.

Seeing as how you can’t alter existing pledge levels that have backers, we created new pledge levels to accommodate the new price. To make sure that backers at the original level weren’t being screwed, we messaged our backers and informed them that a $20 pledge would now get you two copies of the game.

Although the strategy ultimately worked out (we sold 516 copies of the game), we may have lost out on backers on day 1 who thought the price was too high.

What we did wrong #3 – We didn’t get staff picked

Getting staff picked on Kickstarter means that the staff decided they liked your project enough to place you in their “featured” section. This used to be a huge deal in the early days of Kickstarter, but since they altered their search algorithms it is now more of a distinction. It still, however, offers extra visibility that you would normally not be able to get.

There were several projects we researched months earlier that managed to earn a staff pick despite looking like it was created by a group of chimps banging their heads against the keyboard. We figured we were a shoe in for a staff pick. However, as each day passed of our Kickstarter, our inbox remained void of any messages from the Kickstarter staff. After the first 2 weeks we gave up hope and were left to wonder “why?”

Honestly, this is more of an annoyance thing. Yes, a staff pick would have netted us more backers. But we spent a lot of time preparing for this Kickstarter and we really felt we had a very compelling product, video, and page. It is like being good all year long and finding coal in your stocking on Christmas morning.

 

So here is the moral of the story: do your research, go out and meet people, and get ready to make mistakes. Not everything will go as planned and you will succumb to Murphy’s Law at one point or another. But if you put in the work, good things are bound to happen.

If you have any questions, comments, or personal anecdotes, feel free to post in the comments below.

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