Behind The Joy #11: Standing Out From the Crowd-Funding Crowd


            You may have heard that Kickstarter is a busy market now for tabletop games. This article will explore just how busy the tabletop gaming side of Kickstarter is, and how to set yourself apart as a new project creator (Kickstarter speak for publisher).


The Noise


            According to numbers pulled from (a website that tracks tabletop game projects on Kickstarter), 2014 witnessed more than 2,200 tabletop game project. Of these, 55% funded (this hovers around 50% for the last 6 years). As of May 2015, almost 1,100 projects had been launched. While we were running the Commissioned campaign, there were more than 600 other tabletop projects live. More than 5 of those raised $500,000. History shows the total funds raised each year going up, but with more and more established publishers jumping into Kickstarter, the barriers to entry are rising. All of these stats boil down to one question for a new publisher, “What can you do to give your game a leg up in the competition for backers?”


Boosting Signal Strength


            Blogs like Stonemaier Games “KS Lessons” & podcasts like “Funding The Dream” have watched KS develop and mature as a market. They have lots of wisdom to share with new creators. Basically, these tips allow you to help your game rise above the others, attract attention, gain backers, and provide the funding you need. Here we go:


Build Your Crowd Before Crowdfunding


What? Did you think you would quietly launch the page and thousands of people would give you their money? Most people think that is how Kickstarter works, and most of them end up in the unfunded 50%. 1/3 of the money you will raise in a Kickstarter campaign comes in the first 48 hours. Why? Because those projects have worked for months to build a team that is willing to do two things: 1) back the game financially & 2) tell other people to do the same. For Commissioned, we spent 6 months compiling an email list from family, friends, church members, gaming groups, and conventions. It was a lot of work, but we raised our funding goal ($9,000) in three days, and established the momentum for our campaign that carried us to almost $23,000. Not bad for an unknown company!


Know Your Core Audiences & Design Your Marketing Around Them


Who did you design your game for? What do these people want? Where do they go? Who do they listen to? These are the questions you need to ask months before your campaign launches. The answers will allow you to focus your limited marketing resources and time on areas that will have the greatest chance of attracting backers. We knew Commissioned would pull backers from three groups: Christian Gamers, Non-Christian Gamers, and Christian non-gamers. We designed our Kickstarter page to quickly and clearly communicate to all 3 groups.


Get Reviewers To Play Your Game


This will probably require hours of your time, or lots of money, to get prototypes out to reviewers months in advance of your Kickstarter launch. Why go through the effort? Having an outside opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of the game will boost your campaign’s credibility. Also, it will add that reviewer’s listeners into your pool of potential backers. Start with reviewers who enjoy games similar to the one you designed, and then branch out.


Have Your Art Finished Before the Campaign Launches


Other Kickstarter blogs have mixed opinions about this. Having experienced a campaign with and without completed art, I can tell you that having your art done is critical to the success of a new publisher’s campaign. Established publishers may be able to run a successful campaign without art, but a new publisher can’t. People are trying to tell whether you are going to succeed, or just make off with their money. Finished art is awesome to look at, builds buzz, and shows potential backers that you are committed to seeing the project through.


The Secret Art of Stretch Goals


When you have done your research on the Kickstarter process, built your crowd, and play-tested your game at conventions, you will get a feel for roughly how your campaign is going to perform. You will want to build your stretch goals so that your campaign builds excitement as it builds. You want stretch goals to give your campaign something to shoot for, but not appear unrealistic. Also, you want to have everything you are going to offer in a stretch goal ready to go in case of success.


Next time, we are going to explore a bonus topic no on our original agenda. As we were writing, we realized we didn’t include the distribution process in our plan. Distribution is a tough nut for new companies to crack, and needs to be discussed. Next week is the perfect time. As always, fire away with comments & questions!



Pat & Kat Lysaght