Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Kickstarter update #7: The end of the beginning

It’s official: the funding campaign for Fire and Flora has come to a close. Although the campaign was financially unsuccessful, it was useful in other ways. During the long process of game design and game development, I’ve been collecting new skills, gaining experience, and building connections. I’m sad that this campaign was financially unsuccessful, but at the same time, I feel like I have a solid foundation for future work. More on that in a minute.

First off, I want to thank everyone who helped support this project and this campaign: friends and family, playtesters of all stripe, my artistic collaborators (MarkMatt, andVISCOM), and the 73 adventurous visionaries who backed the project here on Kickstarter. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that there are others who share my vision of games for good, and who are willing to help me turn that vision into a reality.

Then, there’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that I must now put this project on hold. Perhaps, sometime in the future, I will be able to bring Fire and Flora out to the world. However, for now, I simply don’t have the funds to do that.

The good news is that Fire and Flora was only the beginning. Over the last year, I’ve roughed out ideas for a variety of other serious gaming projects, covering subjects from weather to geology. One of these projects, the Puzzle of Life, is a perfect complement to Fire and Flora.

One of the key features of Fire and Flora is that it was a highly focused outreach tool. Compared to most mainstream board games, it’s relatively complex. On the good side, that complexity means that the game provides an unusually thorough and accurate picture of landscape dynamics. On the other hand, that complexity requires that players be somewhat older (12+), and that they have significant time to both learn and to play. Those age and time requirements limit the range of places where the game is fun and effective.

Where Fire and Flora is complex, with lots of in-game text, and a lengthy rulebook, the Puzzle of Life is simple, and entirely visual. It can almost do without instructions, which means it’s easy to pick up and play. It’s also very flexible. When working with younger kids, or with limited time, you can simply assemble the pieces as with a regular puzzle. However, with older kids, or a longer amount of time, you can use PoL to explore the structure of ecological communities, to tell stories about changing environments, or even extend the scope of the game by creating your own pieces to add to the puzzle. The combination of simplicity and flexibility makes this a game with a much wider potential audience. In turn, that wider audience makes it a better business proposition.

I’ve worked through several playable prototypes, and over the next few months, I’ll be finishing the design for the first edition, and developing a new launch strategy, possibly in partnership with a new friend. In short, rather than using Kickstarter to begin with a bang, we’ll instead take a slower, evolutionary approach. We’ll establish a strong relationship with a quality print-on-demand service, and aim to get a finished product into a single retail outlet. That outlet will provide a small trickle of income and publicity, and we will use that trickle to expand our reach into other outlets, building the trickle into a stream, and then building the stream into something bigger.

Whew!

Again, thank you all for your support. I’ll be posting regular updates to the Mindful Mammoth blog and on Facebook. Please keep an eye peeled, and keep in touch. Good things are on the way!

Kickstarter is coming: 2013.07.09

On July 9, I’ll begin my Kickstarter campaign for Fire and Flora. This has been a loooong time coming, and it’s both terribly exciting and terribly stressful.

As of today, I have a solid draft of a campaign package. It’s got all the important pieces, though it still has some typos, and could use a little more polish. I’ve started circulating it among friends and business advisors. I’ve asked them for help in catching errors, and in figuring out where I should focus my time, so that I can make this campaign as successful as possible.

Keep your eyes open! More cool info, coming very soon!

 

Kickstarter strategy

I’ve been talking with my friends about Kickstarter, discussing different possible strategies. I had planned to break up this project into a series of small pieces, and ask for separate funding for each. I thought this would be the most transparent method, as donors would know exactly where their dollars were going, and could see quick and concrete results from their donations. However, I’m being persuaded that this is the wrong strategy.

Opinion is that if I have multiple, small project-pieces, then I risk alienating donors and fans through too-frequent requests. Opinion is that this is a one-shot deal. That I would be more likely to win successful funding if I figure out what it will take to get this to completion, and then post a single project with that single goal. That strategy is also more in line with Kickstarter guidelines.

I estimate that it will take 1-2 years and about $20K to finish the game design. If I then choose to partner with an existing publisher, I could hand-off the business side of things to them. If I choose to self-publish, then I estimate that it will take another $20K to print and assemble 1K copies. So this project could reasonably be split into two large pieces.

Hmmm.

Kickstarter and Swag

As I move forward, things will become more expensive. For a group of 20 players (e.g. a small classroom), I will need 5 copies of the game. At $20 each, those five copies will cost me $100. Over time, this will add up. I can cover these sorts of modest design costs, but looking ahead, it’s clear that I won’t be able to cover the production costs. I estimate that a first printing of the game, and the associated business-type machinery (orders, shipping, taxes, etc), will cost in the range of $5K to $20K. This is well beyond my personal financial means. When the time comes, to be successful, I will need to find some significant outside funding, or develop some sort of business partnership.

This got me started thinking about Kickstarter. It’s a sort of patronage 2.0: patronage via crowdsourcing. I was thinking that I could post regular small project requests, like that $100 to print five copies for a series of playtesting sessions. On further thought, I realized that a Kickstarter presence would bring more than a welcome sort of micro-funding. It would also be a good investment for the long term. A presence on Kickstarter could generate some positive word-of-mouth, and a positive reputation. Both of those will be important if I am to get the sorts of funding or partners required to make this real.

Yesterday, Kickstarter notified me that they have accepted my project. Now it’s up to me. I’ve always hated selling myself, and been somewhat shallowly prejudiced against marketing in general. But now I am become my own marketer. So I must apologize to those in the advertising industry. I apologize for lumping you all together, and failing to treat each and every marketer and publicist as a unique human being.

Kickstarter works, in part, by swag. The expectation is that project creators will offer a set of rewards. Each reward is linked to some donation level, and backers who provide donations at a given level will receive the reward that corresponds to that level. Rewards come in various forms such as personal emails, a signed copy of a book, invitation to a cast party, etc.

What kind of rewards would I offer? Well, the first thing that came to mind was special-edition foil or holographic cards. Folks familiar with Pokemon will know what I am talking about. Unfortunately, this turns out to be very pricey. This week, I talked to two local printers. The Pokemon cards appear to have used ink-over-foil.  First, the foil was stamped into the paper. Next, an image was printed on the card, using special inks that will adhere to the foil. These inks require an offset printer, which uses actual metal plates, and those plates must be carefully etched. Lastly, getting the proper balance between the image and the holographic effect requires either lots of experience, or some modest experimentation. My printer suggested it would be $2K to $3K to print some tens of cards, simply because the setup was so expensive. While this would be super-cool, it’s financially impractical. For Kickstarter to work, the swag needs to be significantly less costly than the project. To give away $3000 in swag, I’d have to be asking for at least $10K. And, at least for now, I’m not.

However, there is a simpler alternative. Rather than ink over foil, I could do foil-over-ink. In this process, the ink is printed onto the paper, and so the printing can be done with a digital printer, which is fairly cheap. The foil is then stamped into the paper, on top of the image. So parts of the image would be replaced with shiny-metallic foil. The stamping of the foil still requires a custom-made plate, but this kind is not so expensive. My printer suggested it would run in the ballpark of $300 to print tens of copies of one type of foil-over-ink card. This is more than I’d hoped, but it’s just barely in the range of possibility. If I were to ask for $1000 in funding, then $300 of swag would be acceptable. Plus, it would be cool. I, myself, would be excited to have one of these cards.