Starting my thoughts on Kickstarter today with an idea that’s related to one of my old jobs: Editor. Years of being professionally picky makes me very aware of typos in anything I read, and whilst I’m sure I spot stuff most people neither notice nor care about, properly written rules are part of getting the best out of your project.
When you’re writing promotional copy for adverts or your Kickstarter campaign, it’s usually done quickly and so is even harder than usual to be 100% perfect. Those pesky typos will sneak in. Having said that, there are some areas of a Kickstarter page that need checking a bit more carefully than others. This example is from a how to play video – one area on a KS page you can guarantee a lot of traffic.
The moral of the story is simple: always use a spell checker. Also, remember that a lot of spell checkers ignore ALL CAPS words. Another good reason to be sparing with that ugly and unhelpful format. And, let’s not forget the humble proofreaders and editors. Spell checkers only look for some errors, and grammar editors are good, but not yet great. Skilled humans trump them all.
Other than that aside, things are relatively quiet on Kickstarter at the moment. 10% or so fewer campaigns than average; no vast campaigns. There are a lot of the smaller dice and RPG expansions which have limited appeal for me as a backer. As a lone creator myself though, it’s nice to see individuals and smaller teams using the space to get to an audience. It’s a tricky business, and Kickstarter has provided a far easier way for people to dip their toes in the water than ever used to be the case. Best of luck to them all.
Friends in the Right Places
Currently most popular game on Kickstarter, and second highest funded (it’ll be the top in a couple of days) is Escape the Night. This is an excellent illustration of how a creator can bring a non-KS audience with them and convert it into cash. Here, the prodigious Mr Graceffa has leveraged a large YouTube audience and readership of his books into a successful KS campaign despite no previous campaigns* and having backed zero other people. Received KS advice is to always back a few campaigns to make sure it at least appears that you’re part of the community. Clearly that’s not a major drawback if you can import your audience.
As a clear demonstration of this, look at the number of new backers for Escape the Night:
On most campaigns new backers make up a single digit percentage. For example, this is CMON’s Ankh.
The difference between a game that exists essentially within the KS bubble and one that can bring in lots of backers from the outside is striking. It’s also sobering when you consider how few of the outside audience makes it to being backers. Escape the Night is a programme on YouTube Premium with several seasons under its belt. Presumably that has quite a few fans. Mr Graceffa has 2.7m followers on YouTube, and his books are on the bestseller lists, and that’s not all he does (busy chap). He clearly has an audience. When you think of it like that, bringing in just over 2k backers from outside KS isn’t so impressive after all.
Just something to ponder if you’re thinking of running a KS yourself.
I’m Currently Backing…
The first one is the Petrichor expansion. Cows. I backed the original KS campaign, so I already have most of this. The new clouds are interesting, though I’m not tempted at that price.
A rather different project is the second edition of In Magnificent Style. I’m still not back to playing games with other humans, so solo is something I’m thinking about a lot, both in what does hit the table and what I’m designing. I wasn’t aware of this particular game before and even if I don’t back it, I’m happy that the campaign brought it to my attention so I can add it to my wish list.
I’ve been on a journey with it though. At first glance, I thought that a game about Pickett’s charge looked a bit limited. After all, it’s about one tiny piece of a single huge battle in a war that lasted years. Would it have any replay value? My initial thought was that I was very unlikely to back, but the more I looked at it, watched reviews, and saw how it actually played, the more I could see myself enjoying it (and playing it more than once). It has some clever core mechanics and looks quite exciting. It’s got a fair amount of random in, which fits the context well. All told, it’s a clever piece of design on an unpromising topic. However, I can’t say that I’m a fan of their new board. They’ve made it bigger and added all the reference sheets onto it. That’s not a bad idea in principle, but my eyesight is not good, and I just can’t read the small writing from any distance. I often have this problem with cards on the table as well. Having the reference on separate sheets (as was the case with the first edition), actually helps here as I can hold it as close as I like – not something I can do with a board. But then they’ve also updated some of the rules, and those sound like real improvements. So, pros and cons. Do I hunt down a first edition, back this second and print my own QR sheets, or give it a miss? I’ve got just over a week to decide if I want to jump on the KS.
The Turd in the Swimming Pool
Despite my interest in both of these campaigns, there is the problem of Brexit. One of the fallouts of that poltroonery is to increase the cost of many KS campaigns to UK backers. Until the end of the year we still benefit from companies that offer EU friendly shipping, having our VAT paid for by the fulfilment company. That’s great. However, virtually nothing physical that I back now will be delivered before then, so I need to check. EU friendly (probably) means nothing to UK backers after December, and VAT is 20% on pledge cost + shipping cost, and on top of that they’ll charge you another £8 (last I looked) for the privilege of collecting it. All of this can easily double, and in one case tripled the nominal pledge cost of a game on KS. Of course, this is not a new thing, but it’s gone from a few campaigns to nearly all of them. This additional cost has encouraged me to wait for the retail versions of several games recently, and I’m not going to be the only backer who does so. That doesn’t help creators of physical products to hit funding, and it may mean that some of those games don’t ever happen. It’s not the fault of the creator or the backer, but it is a problem. I suspect that this, and the ever-rising shipping costs, are major factors in the steady rise of digital product campaigns for STLs and PDFs.
Also of Interest
Finally, despite the shrill claims of marketing departments, most weeks don’t see technical innovations or genuinely new mechanics. This week has.
The campaign in question is the otherwise unremarkable and weirdly-themed Shaka Shredders. The innovation in question is two-part magnetic cards that can be reorganised before and during play. Fancy cards or no, the game does nothing for me, and judging by the response I am not alone. However, swappable magnetic cards sounds like a fun trick I could do some interesting designs with, and it feels like there is a gem waiting to be uncovered here, lurking somewhere in the concept. Worth pondering. Obviously, this isn’t going to fund, but I very much hope the idea survives.
Of course, I could have told him this before he’d gone live if he’d joined me on my Game Design Mastery Patreon. And he’s not the only one. You should come along too. Let me help you to make your game the best it can be.
*Actually, he has run at least one earlier campaign. It’s strange that he appears to have two creator profiles, with one campaign on each. Not the normal approach at all. Perhaps the new one was set up by one of his staff.