July 18, 2017 by crew
Massive Awesome is Simon Barlow and John Taylor, friends and business partners whose shared love of gaming and a desire to make something awesome prompted us to set out on our own. We have just completed fulfilment on our first Kickstarter Campaign for the tabletop miniatures game Shattered Earth, shipping many boxes of rulebooks and models to backers.
In the final part of the series – the previous entries of which you can read HERE – our aim is to look back at all the steps we’ve taken along the way, and to continue the discussion with the community about what it takes to launch a brand-new game into the market.
The Benefit of Hindsight
The public have highly variable perceptions of pricing and value. I would imagine that if you showed your non-gamer family and friends a boardgame full of great plastic models and an intricately detailed resin miniature next to each other and explained that both cost about £75, they might not appreciate why you legitimately consider both as ‘good value’.
There is a law of diminishing returns for almost everything in life, models included. If you imagine a row of fifteen single models costing from around £2 and increasing in £5 increments up to around £80 – which is about the upper limit for regular sized figures – you would expect to see tangible jumps in quality and detail up to about the halfway point. Above this the differences become more subjective: the dynamism of a pose or the facial expression, more thought given to how the model will accept paint etc.
Every single spot on this imaginary line has an audience, from the cheap and cheerful tin soldiers at the bottom that will make up the bulk of an historical gamer’s huge armies, to the highly detailed resin centrepiece at the top that you might buy to enter into a painting competition. The reality is that as you rise in price and quality, your audience gets smaller. In hindsight, we had assumed this was a linear drop off (i.e. twice the price, half the buyers) but we discovered otherwise over the last year.
The drop off is negligible for low to average priced models, in that there are large audiences at all of these levels. Then, above a certain point, the price of the models pushes you into ‘boutique’ territory and the player count drops off dramatically as you pick up a more specialist audience.
We had hoped to attract a cross section of both of these groups but the circle of hobbyists that want the absolute highest quality resin and those who want to dive head first into a new gaming universe do not fully overlap, and hence you need to position yourself to target one more than the other.
This presents an interesting position for us going forward. Do we continue expanding the range in the same quality at the same price and slowly grow our audience, or do we offer a more mass-market version of our figures (let’s say in metal) to draw more gamers in?
We couldn’t be happier with the way our models turned out and so for now we have resisted the urge to create a parallel metal line. Ideally, we would like the game to be so much fun that we forge our own market but we have to be prepared that some things are beyond our control and be ready to react accordingly in the future.
The ‘Quiet’ Period
Post campaign, pre-fulfilment is the time when you take in the backers’ funds and fulfil your promise to them. Given that we had completed the majority of our art and sculpts prior to our campaign, we assumed that this period would be much easier than the preceding two years had been.
While we were right that there was less actual work on our part, we were wrong to assume that this meant we would glide through production with no delays. When you back a Kickstarter project, you generally assume that there will be a bit of a delay to the final fulfilment, unless you are dealing with a massive company with several campaigns behind them. We calculated our production estimates and added an additional 25% to give ourselves some leeway. We should have added 100%.
Whilst you can plan for certain eventualities like printing delays or needing to redesign elements of your website, there are a million little things that can creep up on you, especially when you are a very small company. When there are only two of you, any personal issues can cause a complete halt to your progress. You also have no control over your production partners and their schedules, as they will constantly be dealing with orders from other, bigger companies which might delay yours.
Simon and I both have young children and have both started new jobs in the last year. Now, we’re not asking anyone to play the world’s smallest violin for us but if you are planning on launching a product, you have to ask yourself what you would do if you needed to move house or your partner gets offered a new job during your campaign. Would you still be able to devote enough time to your project?
We eventually delivered our product exactly as advertised but with a six month delay to our original estimate. In hindsight, we could potentially have hit our target if every single model had been perfect on the first pass, none of our art needed retouching, neither Simon nor I had had any changes in our personal lives, and typesetting our rulebook had been as easy as we naively assumed it would be (as opposed to the 100+ hour monster it turned out to be). Writing that list out now, it seems obvious that we should have pushed our original estimate out…
So far we have had no problems with fulfilment but we are assuming a few packages may go astray or arrive with a missing figure, so our priority for the next few weeks is to ensure that 100% of our backers have exactly what they ordered in their hands. Once that is done, we have officially finished our Kickstarter campaign. This seems like the end of a huge project with a lot of work completed but, in truth, it is hopefully only the beginning for Shattered Earth.
Once people start playing the game, our main job is to provide them with up to date rules and FAQs, to expand the factions by designing and building new models, and to continue growing the Shattered Earth universe.
We feel that one of our most important duties is to engage our players, through forums, websites and live events. We’re currently funnelling everyone to our Facebook page as we’re too small to need a full forum structure just yet, but we will also have to cater for those users who don’t have Facebook or like using it.
The next thing that we will figure out (mostly through user feedback, but sometimes trial and error) is the best way for us to grow the game. The two main options open to us are…
- To concentrate on producing more figures for our current factions or…
- To introduce our (hinted at) sixth faction
While we actively have plans for a number of new factions and their backgrounds, we are certainly going to spend anything we make through our online store in the next year or so on modelling the next few units for each of our current factions, to enable players to field larger, more varied armies.
Over the last couple of years we have discussed plans for additional units, extra factions, new rules, how we will expand upon the storyline of the universe, the composition of our hardback rulebook, board games, spin-offs etc but we need to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves. With the help of our players, our aim is to prioritise all of our plans in a way that best serves our playerbase, and be prepared to change direction if that is what the community deem best for the game.
So that’s it – our Kickstarter journey has ended. We hope these articles were an interesting and informative read and if any of you try your luck on Kickstarter, you can hopefully learn from our successes and mistakes. If you have any further questions for us you can always get in touch with us on Facebook, and we look forward to your continued support. Thanks for reading!
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"We hope these articles were an interesting and informative read and if any of you try your luck on Kickstarter, you can hopefully learn from our successes and mistakes..."
"We feel that one of our most important duties is to engage our players, through forums, websites and live events..."