February 17, 2016 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 are currently in the middle of our first Kickstarter campaign for the tabletop miniatures game Shattered Earth.
In this ongoing series – the previous entries of which you can read HERE – our aim is to write about all the steps we’ve taken along the way, and to create an ongoing discussion with the community about what it takes to launch a brand new game into the market.
23. Shifting Gears
This article series is evidence of the amount of preparation we have put into our campaign and we have also spoken to many experienced people who have warned us of how hard the campaign itself would be. We thought we were prepared, but it still came as a surprise how quickly things escalated after we hit the ‘go’ button…
“Are you replying to that message?”, “Have you seen the comment on that forum, we need to respond to that”, “No, I’m on this blog explaining something”, “Okay, have you edited my draft of the backer update yet?”, “No, I’m going through the costings spreadsheet to see what we can change”
It’s a bit like when I imagined what it would be like being kept up at night by my kids, compared to the reality of holding a crying child at 3am, begging it to go to sleep. Perhaps nothing can fully prepare you for the campaign itself other than experiencing it. The main thing that we’ve learned is that you need to find some way to clone yourself!
There are so many plates to spin, so many places online and in the real world that you need to be aware of, and commenting on and keeping up to date with that can make you dizzy.
24. Know Your Market (And Admit Your Mistakes)
As we have covered in previous columns, there are different types of gamers: those who are interested in buying and painting miniatures, those who are only into the game itself, those who love to immerse themselves in the background fiction, and all combinations of the above. Simon and I are both advocates of all three areas being equally important and so that is what we set out to achieve with Shattered Earth.
While there are many gamers out there just like us, there are obviously significant numbers who fall into different categories, favouring one aspect over the others. Probably the biggest mistake we made in our research and preparation for the game was calculating the ratio of these groups incorrectly. We knew that we’d attract the painters as our models are, objectively, high quality, but we had assumed that the gamers and the readers would also want to buy into our ruleset and lore.
The issue here is that while we’re really happy with our rules and fiction, it’s much harder to instantly demonstrate their quality to others. We’re working on more gameplay videos and releasing some more fiction during the campaign, but these do not have the immediate effect of showing a photo of a beautiful model. And we now realise that many of the people interested in the lore and ruleset are not necessarily interested in paying resin prices for top-end resin miniatures.
We have had many people tell us that they would love to get into the game if we have metal miniatures. During the campaign we are going to focus on our original resin-only business plan but this is something we’re going to look at very closely after the campaign to see if we can serve both markets simultaneously without needing to make any compromises on quality.
We also now realise that we will get no allowances for being a new company that has to outsource its production and build up its business from scratch. Very few people know, or care, that companies in our position can’t compete on pricing with much larger businesses that have their own in-house casting facility.
One final thing that we had not envisioned was the subconscious prejudice that many gamers (ourselves included) can sometimes have, based on certain aspects of the game. For example, have you ever looked at a reasonably-priced box set and assumed that the miniatures inside might not be the greatest?
Or at a rulebook with hundreds of pages of background fiction and assumed the rules themselves might be secondary to the story? In our case, it seems that a number of people have seen our miniatures and assumed that we are a boutique model company with a tacked on ruleset and backstory. This is the impression that we are going to have to work hard to dispel.
25. Making Decisions On-The-Fly
Maybe on your campaign, you’ll get nothing but positive comments, your pledges will be perfectly spaced out, and everything will go exactly to plan. Great! If not, you’ll have to make some important decisions while your campaign is live, which adds extra pressure to everything you decide. Of course, when you get feedback, both from your campaign backers but just as importantly from people yet to back your campaign, you have the choice of whether to listen to them or not.
Firstly you need to find them, and this can be difficult as they will be commenting across multiple sites. Then you have to filter out the signal from the noise; paying attention to comments like “I was going to back but decided not to when looking at the pledge levels” and trying to get to the bottom of the reasons why.
In our case the negative comments were aimed at our prices. We decided a few hours into the campaign that we either had to stick to our guns or make a change very quickly, as the longer we waited, the more people would back each of the pledges and the harder it would be to edit them later [Note: Pledges cannot be altered in Kickstarter as long as they have any backers]. We discussed the three main options we had…
- Do nothing
- Lower prices
- Add more value with extra content in the existing pledges
We quickly decided against option one as despite the campaign starting very strongly (we were 40% funded within a couple of hours of going live), we thought that ignoring legitimate feedback seemed counter to the open and collaborative way we’ve tried to run this entire process. This left us with lowering prices or adding content.
Both of these options have pros and cons but we felt that a price reduction was the cleanest and least likely to cause confusion. Adding more value for backers is also something that we are looking into doing later in the campaign, whereas we can’t really do it the other way around: adding content early and lowering prices later.
Studio Painted Jormungandr Miniature
Because we have a comprehensive financial plan, we were able to adjust prices down on the fly and see exactly how it affected our bottom line. We knew we were able to trim the prices and still cover the production costs and so we did just that the same evening we launched.
Yes, it will take longer for us to recover our initial investment but we figured three years of being in debt and 1,000 players was a better prospect than only two years of debt and 300 players.
(Simon: As John mentioned we are looking at ways to add more value to each pledge level in addition to the price reduction. In fact, we’ve just announced that if we hit 200 backers we will give every person that backs us a full-colour, small format printed rulebook for free.)
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"We thought we were prepared, but it still came as a surprise how quickly things escalated after we hit the ‘go’ button..."
"Of course, when you get feedback, both from your campaign backers but just as importantly from people yet to back your campaign, you have the choice of whether to listen to them or not..."