Development Diary #7

Indifferent Strokes for Indifferent Folks*

*This is a soapbox blog post

During the development process I will take a break from Kingdoms of Immacus updates to talk about something I learned or saw along the way in my journey to finish the game. Any time this happens I will notate these blog entries as soapbox entries. This way, if the reader is uninterested in a non-Kingdoms of Immacus related rant, they can skip ahead to another post. With that being said, here comes the soapbox.

If there is anything I learned over the last few weeks, it is that the universe doesn't care about your card game. It doesn't care about a lot of things, and maybe it should, but until it does, whatever your project is, it's your little red wagon and you have to pull it. Not in a Miranda Lambert way, but a Jenny Lewis kinda way. In my research into the industry as a whole, I've found a few Kickstarters and creators that have bemoaned over why their projects weren't successful or as successful as they wanted them to be. To be fair, to make and successfully fund a Kickstarter now is a lot harder than it used to be. As I go back and look at what was typically funded back in 2011 to 2018, the quality is night and day. Games are overall nicer looking now. Thus, the standard has been raised to a point where you almost need to be a small company with a small team to do all the things necessary to make a game successful. Not everyone can be a Ryan Laukat. Instead of feeling sympathetic to the complaints I hear from the creators, I felt a little irritated.

My irritation to the cries of unfairness comes from the obvious lack of checking all the boxes necessary to put a game up on Kickstarter. There are plenty of people out there giving great advice on how to make a Kickstarter successful and what to avoid. Now, don't get me wrong, you can check every single box on a how to make a Kickstarter successful list and still fail. I have seen some super-polished games that crashed and burned spectacularly. And here's the thing:

1. Nice art doesn't guarantee funding.

2. Nice graphic design doesn't guarantee funding.

3. Having a mega license from a phone game doesn't guarantee funding.

4.Connecting with people that do a lot of Kickstarters doesn't guarantee funding.

5. Awesome game play and a beautiful rule book doesn't guarantee funding.

6. Doing the convention circuit doesn't guarantee funding.

7. Having 17+K Facebook followers doesn't guarantee funding.

There's a few more, but that was enough to scare me once I realized how difficult it is to be successful at this. So what the hell guarantees you a funded game? The only thing I have found that guarantees this is having a following in a field outside of the board game industry. HERE. HERE. HERE. HERE to name a few. Is this fair? Sure it is, these people spent a lot of time building themselves and their fan base to make something like their games even possible. Does it suck for everyone else? Sure it does. If your passion is board games, you very well shouldn't make a web comic for a decade to eventually make the game you want to make. So where does that leave us? Well you have to make the best game you can.

This feels like a cop-out, but it's the best thing I can suggest. Though there are games that can check all the check boxes, and still fail (this should frighten you to your core), this percentage of failure is much lower than not doing it all to begin with. So here's some things that I found that might help people in this new ultra competitive environment in addition to checking all the boxes.

1.Build an online presence-I'm not talking about making a Facebook. I don't know what's worse, no online presence or a dead one. I've seen way too many dead Facebook accounts (paying for followers doesn't help either). A Facebook account for a game with no information is a sad and terrible thing. Here's the thing. If in your Kickstarter video you say that this game has taken X years, and I cannot find X years of online presence for the game, it makes me think you weren't passionate enough to talk about it or expose the world to your baby. You don't have to have years of presence, just make a six month-1 year effort to build one before release. No advice here is a one-shot solution. I have followed people who have vlogged about their game for over 2 years to then put it on Kickstarter and only get a whopping 20 backers.

2. Name your game something unique but not obscure-For all that is holy, please name your game something unique. Something that when googled will only bring up links to your game and not 100 other games that have built an online presence long before you. There have been so many games that have been hampered by the simple problem of SEO. I am just a normal person googling your game. If I cannot find information about it, then no one else can. Using Kickstarter as your SEO go to is a really bad idea, and a ton of projects do it. Also, don't name your game something obscure where it is difficult to spell. If you do, make sure you make it so search engines can correct for common misspellings etc. this usually just comes with time and adwords. My game may also have this issues, so if I find a nice fix, I'll post about it.

3. Don't go dark if the first campaign doesn't fund- Why does this happen? If your game does not fund the first time around. Don't go dark! Don't shut your website down, stop engaging, and ghost yourself from the internet. It makes it seem like you don't care. If you really cared about the game you would stick around for a round two and engage with the people who did support you. This is such a turnoff to me, and I'm sure it must be for other people wanting to back your project or who wanted you to succeed.

4. Theme ain't mainstream? Find your audience- If the theme is not what typically sells on Kickstarter, this can be a benefit if it is unique and refreshing. However, this can work against you. I don't want to call a game out, but there is a school-themed game that is super polished and did the checklist perfectly, but it is struggling to fund. Why is this? I don't think the same people who are playing Cthulhu and zombie games are lining up to play a game about reliving the awkward teenage years and getting into a good college. When you are making a game, it is best to target the marketing and energy to people who you think will buy the game. A school-themed game (especially one with a lot of luck) would probably do well with tweens or a teenager getting ready to go into high school. I'm not sure if they are the ones scrolling through Kickstarter and pledging. The data seems to support that idea. Basically, if you are targeting an audience outside the standard Kickstarter demographics, you need to be clear why the people on kickstarter should buy the game for your intended target.

I'm certain I'll come back to this, but these 4 items have stuck out to me most when things go wrong with good-looking projects. What this all comes down to is that it's hard to get people to care about something that is so close to you. That's why you have to do everything you can to polish your project as much as possible. You have to create the excitement and the buzz because everyone is indifferent to your project. Even family members haha. If you can't sell the excitement who is? This is your ittle red wagon and you have to pull it.

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