Kickstarter Relaunch: A Learning Experience | Casual Game Revolution

Kickstarter Relaunch: A Learning Experience

DeDeuce board game

The Dream

Two years ago I had a dream. It was Saturday morning and this dream happened right before waking, so I was able to lay there thinking about it. It was a concept for a card game. I had never developed a game before so this was new territory for me, but by that afternoon my wife and I were playing the game on a grid that we drew up on a big piece of paper, and forming the rules. We kept playing it and by the end of the weekend we had a game that seemed to be engaging and fun.

I soon began making efforts to contact game companies and tried to interest them in our game. At the same time, we found an artistic game development company called Fun Hub and engaged them to have the game professionally developed. We selected the name DeDeuce for the game because of the special role that the deuces play (the game uses two decks of standard playing cards). Fun Hub did a great job for us and also helped get 20 prototypes made.

We made a big effort to contact various game companies, trying to find one that would like to evaluate the game and consider publishing it. The thing I learned during this time is that game companies are busy evaluating an endless queue of new game ideas, so a game inventor has to be extremely persistent. Honestly, my energy level was high for a while but did not remain high for long. So, DeDeuce did not go forward for a couple of years, except that we gave out the prototypes to friends and relatives and a lot of playtesting took place. We were pleased with how well it was received by our playtesters.

The Launch

Then along came Kickstarter. I discovered Kickstarter a few months ago. I was excited by the success that many of the Kickstarter projects seemed to be experiencing and I could see that one of the reasons they were doing so well was simply because they were pre-selling their product. That’s when it struck me that this could be a great way for me to self-publish DeDeuce.

It takes a lot of money to launch a physical (non-electronic) game. There is the tooling and the need to order a rather large quantity in order to get the unit cost down. I could see, in Kickstarter, the means to raise this capital — or a least a good portion of it — by pre-selling copies of the game. There was also the publicity factor — the fact that lots of people come to the Kickstarter website every day and take a look at the project ideas there. I thought maybe that would bring us a lot of customers. Plus, in the back of my mind I even thought that maybe a game company would make contact with us after noticing DeDeuce on Kickstarter.

You see, we are not completely set on the self-publishing approach. We could still consider a royalty agreement with the right company. Yet, self-publishing represents the most exciting approach as it means starting a new company: Yates Games. Starting a new company is something that I am familiar with and would enjoy. Importantly, we have a good income and for that reason we are not under any pressure to develop income from DeDeuce in the short run.

The Failure

And so, with great excitement and anticipation we prepared and launched a Kickstarter project to raise $30,000 for DeDeuce. With $30,000, we could pay for tooling and a batch of 4,000 copies of the game. Naturally I checked the project frequently during the early going. It seemed to be getting off to a slow start, despite the fact that my e-mailing and other promotional efforts were in high gear. The e-mails I was sending were to my relatives and friends, and a good number of them responded right away. Others were not responding and I wondered why. After a few more days the pledges almost completely stopped coming in. I also noticed that only 3 strangers pledged. My heart began to sink, and for about a week my mood was down in the dumps. I continued my promotional efforts to relatives and friends, but not with much fervor. I was in the midst of a big adjustment – reconciling reality with my former big hopes and expectations.

Around 20 days into a 60-day project, pledges totaled just under $2,000 and I could see that there was little to no possibility of reaching $30,000. Once I was able to accept that, I began a process of finding out why. What happened? Why are so many Kickstarter projects successful while mine was not?

The Answers

One big help that came along during this time is that a couple of strangers wrote to me. They had noticed my Kickstarter project and had seen that it was floundering, so they each wrote me a long note with suggestions. Most of these were suggestions about how to promote my project through social networking and other online approaches, and they both emphasized the importance of building up awareness (a “buzz”, if you will) for my project in advance of the Kickstarter launch, as well as during.

They spoke of setting up a website and setting up pages in Facebook and other social networks — not just using a personal page but setting up a separate page devoted to this purpose. They spoke of joining groups on Google and LinkedIn, finding blogs and forums, and beginning to get involved in conversations there.

I came to realize that just posting the project on Kickstarter is not enough publicity. In fact, unless your project stands out within the Kickstarter community as a totally unique concept, or unless the Kickstarter staff happens to pick your project as one to be highlighted on the home page, Kickstarter provides very little publicity.

I wondered if it was okay to cancel my project and start it up again later, with a lower goal. I checked into this and found that it is perfectly okay. So I began to think in terms of doing just that. I also did a lot more reading and learning about social networking. I became more familiar with Facebook, as I had never really become comfortable with it before, and I began to pay for advertising on Facebook in order to build up the “likes” on my Yates Games page. This is now an active page. That is, I post a new photo or video at least once/week that helps build the “buzz” and increases the number of “likes”. In case you’re not familiar with Facebook, every time you post a new photo or a notice of any kind, all of your “likers” receive a notice and are prompted to go take a look.

I am hoping that a lot of these “fans” will pledge when I re-introduce the Kickstarter project. During the project, I plan to step up the frequency of my posts and keep trying to guide them to the Kickstarter project page.

Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn are also good platforms for social networking and promotion. However, the time that I can devote to this is limited, and for that reason I have chosen to focus mainly on using Facebook. Plus we have our own Yates Games website, of course. In my opinion LinkedIn is oriented to careers and career networking and is not as appropriate for promoting a product or idea.

As for relatives and friends, what I learned from talking to a few of them was that they were busy with their lives and had simply not taken the time to go in and give me a pledge. I was worried that maybe I had written my appeal badly and that they were taken aback by my request for support. All kinds of thoughts went through my head as I tried to figure out how certain people, even a few who are rather close to me, were not supporting us. I still don’t have this totally figured out, but just let me say this: After making your appeal to relatives and friends, you just have to step back and let the chips fall where they may. It’s probably best not to think about it very much — that is, why some people don’t respond. Also, keep in mind that while it makes more sense in your mind that they should take action sooner rather than later, a lot of people respond better to a deadline. So be assertive and give them a couple of reminder e-mails near the end of your campaign or shorten the campaign length to encourage action sooner.

One more thing, many of my relatives and friends were not familiar with Kickstarter and needed a better explanation than what I provided in my first e-mail. One person even had the vague notion that I was asking for a big investment and therefore did not even click the link to the site. Also, when going in to make a pledge, some were surprised that the process involved setting up an Amazon Payments account. This takes a few minutes and requires the person to give out personal information to (yet another) company database. Because of the extra time involved and the possible hesitancy to give out information, this does represent an extra hurdle that some may not get over. I started warning people that they would encounter this and I think it helped.

The Relaunch

The new Kickstarter project has now been relaunched and we feel much more prepared this time. We now have almost 600 “likes” on Facebook, and it will be interesting to see what percentage of them become supporters. The campaign length has been shortened to 30 days and the funding level has been decreased to a more competitive level. We sent the game out to two key reviewers in hopes that we will get some extra publicity if their reviews come out during the campaign. I also realize the importance of organizing parties or gatherings in which I can demonstrate the game and let people have a chance to get familiar with it. In addition, I will take a more personal approach with some of my relatives and friends, contacting them in person or over the phone, urging them to act sooner rather than later but doing so in good taste.

The Game

DeDeuce uses two decks of standard playing cards (one deck for each player or team). Players start with 5 cards off the top of their deck, and take turns placing cards from their hand on a cloth playing surface that has a grid pattern which allows lines to be formed in three directions. With each card that a player lays on the grid, a colored plastic token is placed upon the card to indicate possession. To win, you must form a straight, flush, full house, or 4-of-a-kind that is in a straight line and completely in your possession as indicated by the markers. While building your own winning set, it will be important to block or otherwise disrupt your opponent’s efforts.

The deuces are special (hence the name of the game). A red deuce can be played to take possession of a card that is currently under your opponent’s color. When playing a red deuce, you simply show the card, replace their token with one of your own, and retire the deuce from play. A black deuce can be played to remove any card from the board, opening up that space to receive another card later. A lot of the game’s strategy revolves around the deuces.

The game is recommended for ages 8 and up, and can be played by 2, 4, or 6 players. A typical game lasts about 10 to 40 minutes.