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A Look at Kickstarter If You Build it, Will They Come?

By Garry J Donner,


Random Games & Toys

Kickstarter has launched some amazing successes in games, including Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens. So, we asked ourselves, “Is Kickstarter something for us?” We then asked ourselves what are the ingredients important for a successful Kickstarter campaign? We came up with the following.

  1. The game needs to be a quick get, with a name that fits really well.

  2. The game needs to have solid appeal, in a new and provocative way.

  3. The video demonstrating the game needs to be slick, short, and complete.

  4. There needs to be a following already in place which virtually guarantees reaching the goal within days, if not hours.

For Cards Against Humanity, the first two criteria were solid, the third was not a slick video, but scored points for funkiness. There was no following in place, and over the first 50 days of pledges, the total had not hit $10,000 yet. An appeal, with an additional bonus offer was made, and 10 days later the pledges totaled $15,570, and the rest is history. But that was November, 2010. Kickstarter is very crowded today, and this game would have likely failed to launch today.

For Exploding Kittens, all four criteria were exceptionally well met (The Oatmeal, who did the art, has a huge following from his cartoons). The game launched in January, 2015, set a goal of $10,000, and ended up with $8,782,571 in 30 days.

We have also watched a few recent Kickstarter products fail to launch. The ones we observed were done by industry professionals. These products all had quick gets and good names. They had appeal, but not in a provocative way as Cards Against Humanity, but still not bad. The videos were not as slick as in Exploding Kittens, but did communicate well. Some even had endorsements by appropriate, but not really well known people. They all had no significant following already in place, and that we felt was their biggest downfall, especially in today’s crowded Kickstarter field.

Sometimes you can get lucky. We witnessed an item that was solid in having a quick get and name, which also had solid appeal to a small audience (usually not enough to launch), the video demo was straight forward and serious, and finally, there was no significant following in place. However, by a bit of luck the product got an “in” with Reddit and ended up on page one of Reddit for a day or two. This quickly put it over the top, in making the initial goal, and ultimately ended up over 6 times the goal!

We have noticed that several of our manufacturing clients have been using Kickstarter or Indiegogo to either launch new products or to publish products that more than met their goal in launch. We view this as another valid source for manufacturers to acquire products, and more competition for us. So, we decided to take a really close look at Kickstarter, and whether we had what it takes to go for a successful product launch.

We looked through our existing unpublished game inventory, and took a closer look at the one that we thought might have the best chance of success. The game we decided to seriously consider fits the first two criteria very well – quick get, great name, unique and definitely provocative. It passed our game tests, as one of the best playing games we have come up with in years! And, some video right from the game tests will very nicely convey the great fun and edginess of the game. However, we have not figured out how to put a sizeable following in place, to ensure a successful launch. Hence, for now, we have elected to stay with what we do best: Design games to the best of our ability, and then license them.

(November 2016)

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