It's been a while since I last posted. Longer than I wanted, really, but activity on the Manaforge front has been progressing very slowly.
The artwork is still crawling along. I've gotten concept sketches for the remaining seven Talent cards. Once those are complete, the Talent deck will be done. That makes two of the game's four decks completed. :D
The updated price quotes are coming along nicely. So far, I've contacted nine game manufacturing companies for quotes. All of the companies have responded in some manner, with six of them giving me quotes. Of those six, four are cheaper than the company I was going to use for my last Kickstarter. That is an encouraging sign; I really need to get my costs down for the relaunch.
And speaking of lowering costs, I've also been chatting with a new shipping company, different that the one I was going to use before. This particular company only directly does fulfillment, meaning that I'm going to need another company to ship the games from China to the warehouse. But the price quotes I've gotten from then so far are very encouraging.
Overall, between getting the artwork budget out of the way, and reducing both the manufacturing and the shipping costs, I'm hoping I'll be able to shave about $5,000 off of my Kickstarter goal. $18k sounds like a somewhat more attainable goal than $23k. :) More specifically, that puts us much closer to the target of being able to offer a $40 game tier instead of a $50 one.
In other news, I've been focusing my playtesting efforts on a different game idea, Suicidal Cabbages. If you haven't heard about it before, it's a card game about heads of cabbage trying to shred themselves into coleslaw. It's meant to be a light, tongue-in-cheek humor game consisting of hand management and action timing. You're trying to get your hit points to zero using implements such as knives, food processors, and dynamite, while filling your hand with 'ingredient' cards that give you points, and at the same time preventing your opponents from doing the same. It's still in early playtesting, and has a lot of balance issues, but at least there is the spark of a game in there somewhere.
And that's about all I have for now. I'm still waiting for a fresh infusion of funds in order to be able to finish up the game's art before the next KS launch; saving up the money for artwork and printing another batch of prototype copies is really the main problem I can see that might delay the relaunch.
Whew. It's been an eventful week.
For those of you who didn't know, Mystic Tiger Games is located near Orlando, Florida. And this past week, Florida had a drive-by encounter with a large bundle of weather called Hurricane Matthew. So this past week was spent preparing for the storm, getting supplies, watching weather reports, and hiding in the bunker we call a house, waiting for the mess to pass.
I'm happy to say that we emerged unscathed. No damage to the house or to the complex (besides everything being covered in leaves). The best part is that we didn't even lose power a single time. I am thankful that we were so lucky; several friends of mine lost power, some for more than a day, and I don't even want to go into what happened in other countries.
I've been accomplishing minor odds and ends on Manaforge over the past week. My most interesting accomplishment, however, is starting on getting new production quotes for the second Kickstarter run. I've contacted no less than ten production companies, with almost all of them contacting me back within a couple of days, and I've already gotten quotes back from two of them. (Hint: They're lower than what I had. :)
The artwork is chugging along, but very slowly. I don't have a lot of funds at the moment, so I'm not able to get both of my artists up to speed right now. I expect that will change soon, but at the moment that what I'm stuck with.
I've made some minor tweaks to the Manaforge's cards. Nothing big, just balance and usability updates. One notable change is to the Mancer series of Talent cards. (Pyromancer, Hydromancer, etc.) Previously these cards stated that 'when you spend an [element] die, you may ignore what's printed on it and get a gem instead'. However, that was confusing to a lot of players. The wording was often misinterpreted as 'when you spend an [element] die, gain a gem in addition to its effect'. Not good. So, I just changed the effect on those cards to 'flip an [element] die onto its gem side'. Basically equivalent; it still gives the player the ability to always gain a gem, and it still costs one dice usage to get the benefit. This particular incarnation is very slightly stronger than the previous one, but it's a negligible difference, and the intent is much easier to understand.
I've also done a little bit of rearranging to the website. One main change there is the moving of the mailing list signup form onto a separate page. I don't know that much about web advertising and I certainly have never made a 'landing page' before, but I'm hoping to slowly evolve this page into something that will grab people's attention and entice them to add their names to the list. It's definitely a Work In Progress. (Oh, and if you're so inclined, go to that page and add your address in if it's not already there. I'm making plans for using my mailing list more frequently for updates and announcements.)
And that's about it! It's been crazy here, but we're definitely still in one piece. Looking forward to getting this game done! Oh, and if you're interested in having the game demoed, I added a list of gaming hangouts within a reasonable driving range to the About page; send me an email if you'd like to meet up to see Manaforge.
Part 1 of this post is here.
Part 2 of this post is here.
So, now that I think I have at least a little idea of what I did wrong, now I need to focus on what to do right. Here's what I can see:
Goal: Relaunch the Kickstarter campaign.
This one's a no-brainer. There's no way I'm giving up on Manaforge after the amount of work I've put into it. My target is to relaunch sometime in February of 2017. I figure that the end of the Chinese New Year festivities would be a good time to go again.
Goal: Lower the funding goal.
When I launched the previous campaign, I firmly believed that what I was offering was a fair price. Sure, the $50 price tag was a little high, but that number included the shipping costs. (The game itself was $35, shipping was $14.) However, I'm thinking a lot of people did not agree with that assessment. So, I am going to be working to lower the funding goal. By extension, that will also lower the tier price, since I'm probably going to keep the target number of backers approximately the same. If I can get the one-game tier down to $39 instead of $49, I think a lot more people will jump on the game. I know I can reduce the goal by at least $2,000 by having the art finished before I relaunch. The question is how much more can I shrink the amount by. I will be getting lots of new quotes to help with that.
Goal: Add more pledge tiers.
I believe that I need to come up with more ways for people to throw money at the campaign. Create goodies for people to get in addition to the game, or ways to help even if someone doesn't want a copy of the game at all. I know I'll keep the one-game tier, probably create a two-game tier, and rebrand the six-game tier as a 'retailer pack'. I will keep the dice-only tier, and probably add a 'PC wallpaper' goodie, both as a separate tier and a bonus for higher tiers. I might do a tier for a signed copy of the game. I also might do a separate print-and-play tier, though someone suggested that I tie that into the dice-only tier; I think I like that idea better. Beyond that, I don't know what else I can offer. I will be researching this more.
Goal: Get more attention on the game before launch.
This is part of the problem; I don't know of the 'best' way to do this. I've been advised to start contacting game reviewers and bloggers, see if I can get more people to spread the word about Manaforge. I don't have any review copies of Manaforge left to send out for review, though, so I'm limited to demoing the game myself to people in my area, and having players try the game out at conventions (wherever the IGA crew goes, one copy of Manaforge follows). I know I need to work on growing my social media presence; I need more Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers. I know I can get those up a little bit by posting more pictures and hints of the game, but I'm going to need something more significant to get to the volume of people I should have for the next launch.
Goal: Better determine what backers want to see in a KS campaign.
I thought I had all of the bases covered. Introductory videos, eye-catching graphics, examples of the game, photographs, game rules, videos by reviewers, the ability to play immediately, explanations of costs, and relatively frequent updates to the campaign. Apparently that wasn't enough to hook people. So I have more work to do to determine what else everyone is looking for in a Kickstarter. The Facebook ads I took out got me a lot of eyes on the campaign, but none of those turned into backers. I need to do something else.
Goal: Print more review copies.
Once the artwork is closer to done (preferably 100% done, but we'll see), I will be printing more review copies of the game. As expensive as they are, I'm going to have to research cheaper ways of getting those printed. But with those in hand, I should be able to send games out to have more videos made, plus getting the game into the hands of more people that can help demo and spread the word.
Aaand that's all I have for right now. I'm certain I can come up with more, and I know there are a lot of implied steps in each of these, but they are all doable goals. (I just need to figure out the advertising thing. :)
Thanks to everyone who backed my Kickstarter campaign. And thanks for reading this far; I know there's a lot of babble in here, but I had to get it all recorded before I start forgetting any of it. :)
We're not done; this is just a delay. Look for Manaforge again in February. And, as always, stay tuned here for more information and updates.
Part 1 of this post is here.
Part 3 of this post is here.
Choice: My campaign did not have a Print and Play.
Reason: I wasn't sure how to approach this. It's one thing to have the game publicly playable, it's another to give people the capability to make copies of the game themselves. Especially since the final game contains a large amount of valuable artwork, I was kind of skittish about the idea of giving people the ability to easily reproduce it. Having a Print and Play available freely before the campaign finishes gives players the ability to try the game before they buy it. And backers concerned about the price can get the Print and Play version for free, or perhaps a full-art version for a significantly lower cost. The way I see it, though, having the game freely playable on Tabletopia at all times should mitigate both of those concerns.
Result: Hard to say. I got very few comments with regards to having a Print and Play version of the game available. If I had offered a high-quality PnP as a pledge tier, I don't expect I would've gotten all that many backers. 100 cards, 100 tokens, 40 dice... I don't think many players would want to go through that level of effort. But then, this is another instance where there's just not enough information.
Choice: I launched the Kickstarter on Monday, August 22nd, at approximately 12:05am Eastern time.
Reason: While there are theories and statistics abound as to the best time of year to run a Kickstarter, the best bit of advice is to launch a campaign 'when the product is ready'. I felt like I had hit that milestone by August. For personal reasons, I wanted to launch the campaign on the 19th of August. However, I was told by a few other people that the best time to launch a KS is on Monday or Tuesday, because apparently a popular time to browse Kicsktarter is early in the week when people are at work and bored. So I delayed by a couple of days.
Result: Inconclusive. I got almost half of my backers in the first 24 hours of the campaign, so I'd like to think it was a good time to launch. However, looking back, I could've seen waiting a month or so. Apparently around 'convention season' everyone already has their game board budgets tied up elsewhere and they don't really pay much attention to Kickstarter games. I also could have pushed a little bit more of the art through. Ultimately, though, the 'perfect' time never comes; I picked what I thought was good timing and ran with it.
Choice: I made a couple of attempts to do a 'thumbs-up' campaign on BoardGameGeek, posting pictures of the game in an attempt to get them on BGG's front page and therefore exposed to more people. I sent out links to the pictures I posted in the Kickstarter campaign updates and n my Facebook page, asking people to click on the 'like' buttons by the images.
Reason: BoardGameGeek is used by many people as a window into what's new and interesting in the board gaming world. There are a couple of 'hot' lists on the front page of BGG: there is the 'hot game' list on the left side, which shows which games are getting the most attention, and there's 'hot image' section on the right, which shows images that have been getting a lot of attention, measured by how many people press the thumbs-up button next to the image.
Result: Extremely disappointing. The first set of images I posted got misclassified as 'Creative' instead of 'Game' on the BGG site. While there's a lot of technical bits behind that, the end result was that those images were ineligible to show up on the front page. I lost a week of campaign time to that glitch. The second time I tried the same trick, I got the image classified successfully, and was able to get a large number of likes focused on the image, causing it to show up on the BGG home page for a couple of hours. However, it wasn't enough. When I was setting this up, I figured a goal of about 30 to 35 likes should have gotten me on the front page. The problem is that as my image's popularity increased, so did the number of likes on the other images on the front page. The number I needed kept climbing, and I bounced between on and off of the front page. There was even one image on there that had well over a hundred thumbs-up, seemingly overnight, and all right as I'm trying to run my campaign. If I was more into conspiracy theories, I'd say someone was doing it deliberately, but really it was just a case of bad luck. Lots of campaigns getting launched at the same time, I guess.
Choice: I made an attempt to get the backers involved in the campaign by posting a survey allowing everyone to help name one of the cards in the game.
Reason: Just on a whim, I suppose. I figured if I keep backers involved, they're more likely to feel like they're contributing to the game's success and less likely to cancel their pledge. I didn't expect to gain any new backers that way, except perhaps those people looking for an 'active' campaign where there are frequent updates and discussions.
Result: Insufficient information. Judging by the number of people that participated in the survey, I know it got a lot of people to participate. I did get several cancellations during the campaign, but perhaps it could have been worse without that.
Choice: When I launched the Kickstarter campaign, my Facebook page had roughly 100 likes, and my Twitter account had maybe half that many followers.
Reason: No specific reason, really. I suppose I thought that would be enough for an initial push, especially since we had been giving out advertising flyers like mad and I figured I had enough of a following among people I knew to at least get me up off of the ground.
Result: Looking back, I'm thinking this was not nearly enough. I posted like crazy before and during the campaign, but it certainly felt like my message just wasn't getting out there. It did help that I'm a member of a large number of Facebook groups that focus on board games; between groups where advertising Kickstarter campaigns is generally allowed, and those where I got explicit permission to do so, I'd like to think I got a lot of attention on there. However, apparently it wasn't enough. Two points of curiosity came up during the campaign, though. It seemed like a lot of my Facebook posts weren't reaching their targets (I actually got complaints that people couldn't see my posts), but of all places, my *Instagram* posts were generating a huge number of likes and follows. It appears to me that there is a shift occurring of where the best place to advertise is.
Choice: I didn't have any stretch goals related to social media activity.
Reason: I'd seen other campaigns do this, but I didn't really think it was that vital. That, and I didn't have any good ways to reward backers for doing that. Coming up with perks like 'unlock xyz card if we get 200 likes' or 'like this page and write a comment for a chance to win something' seemed like it was more effort that it was worth.
Result: This probably hurt me, though it's difficult to say how much. Perhaps if I had had more Facebook followers, I wouldn't have had as much trouble getting my posts and updates noticed.
And that's enough of that. I'm sure I could find other aspects of my campaign to babble about, but I think I hit all the major points. I will have a Part 3 to this post up in a few days, but for that I want to focus on what I'm going to be doing next. Stay tuned!
Part 2 of this post is here.
Part 3 of this post is here.
It's been a very long time since I last posted. My apologies for that. Running a Kickstarter pretty much took up all of my attention. I had no idea that keeping on top of a campaign took that much effort, especially one that wasn't doing so well. I guess my friends make it look easy. :)
I've been going over the entire campaign, trying to figure out what went wrong. Complicating the process is not having all of the information. Which of the advice that I got from other people was correct, and which was wrong? When someone viewed my Kickstarter page, why did they not pledge?
Here is my perspective of some of the decisions I made, rationale behind each one, and a critique of how effective it was. I'm doing this for my own edification as well as for anyone else reading this; even the very act of organizing my thoughts like this is enough to try to coax some order out of the chaos.
Be warned: this will probably be very long.
Choice: Make the base game tier $49.
Reason: This was how the math worked out on the campaign. My calculation spreadsheet had entries for multiple price points ranging from $30 up to $55. The price point that was closest to the target number of backers was $50. One dollar didn't make a significant difference in the math, so I dropped it by that much.
Result: I'm guessing the price point was what drowned the campaign. I went with the number because I had several people tell me that it was a reasonable price for my component list. However, after I launched, I had a lot of people complain about the tier price. Even though the amount included shipping ($35 for the game, $14 for shipping), it was still too high for most backers.
Choice: I incorporated the shipping cost into the game tiers; I offered 'free' U.S. shipping and discounted international shipping.
Reason: Kickstarter backers like free shipping, even if it's not actually free. Since they pay the same amount either way, I guess it's just a psychological thing. I had originally wanted to do the shipping as a separate number, but I got complaints about that.
Result: I believe that people looked at the Kickstarter, saw the $49 pledge tier, and walked away. I don't know what the result would have been if I had advertised the one-game tier as $35, and had '$14 shipping' in the fine print. Historically, backers like it when the shipping costs are incorporated, but recently there has been a trend of moving away from that. I'm guessing if I had the shipping separate, I might have gotten a couple more backers, but I don't think it would've made a huge difference.
Choice: I needed to sell 466 copies of the game to successfully fund.
Reason: From talking with some more experienced game publishers and Kickstarter creators at Dice Tower Con, I was told that 400 backers is a good 'target' for a campaign. Therefore when selecting a game price, I picked a level reasonably close to that number. The way the math worked out, 466 was it.
Result: Very little direct effect on the campaign, though this influenced some of the other spreadsheet math.
Choice: My Kickstarter goal was $23k.
Reason: Again, math. Production was $11k, fixed cost. Factory-to-depot shipping was $2k, fixed cost. Art budget was $2k, fixed cost. KS fees were approximately 9% of the goal, which worked out to about $2k. Depot-to-backers shipping was approximately $6k, calculated as 466 backers times $12 per backer, about $5.5k.
Result: I think my goal was too high, which is the reason why the tier price was too high. I could've possibly fronted the money for art budget myself, removing the $2k from the goal; that would've brought the tier price down to $45. I possibly could've shopped around quotes a little more, though I'm not confident that would've accomplished much.
Choice: My campaign only had tiers for one and six games, plus the obligatory $1 level.
Reason: Also from talking with other Kickstarter creators. I was told that people don't often have much confidence in first-time campaigns from new creators. So, one way to help mitigate that is to make the campaign as simple as possible. No add-ons, no KS exclusives, no bells and whistles that aren't directly part of the core product. Reduce the number of points of failure for the campaign.
Result: Selling just copies of the game might have been enough, had I gotten many more backers. As it was, I'm sure more tiers would have brought in more people, but I'm not convinced it would've been a significant amount. I could've added ways for game backers to spend a little more money, and I could've added ways for people that didn't want the game to at least get something. But I don't think it would've gotten me from 35% to 100% funded. For example, I added a dice-only tier in the last couple days of the campaign, just to see what it would do. I got almost four backers immediately, but at $20 each, it wasn't a significant amount. So, I don't actually think the lack of goodies hurt me that much.
Choice: I did very little paid advertising. 1000 physical postcard flyers, plus a couple of Facebook ads.
Reason: Since I didn't know the best way to advertise, I figured if I really had the money for a lot of ads, I probably didn't need Kickstarter and I could've just funded the production myself.
Result: Hard to say. We managed to give out all of the flyers, between placing them at various game stores and handing them out directly to people. I have no way of telling if those translated into backers. The couple of Facebook ads I did pushed a lot of browsers onto my Kickstarter page, but I can say with reasonable certainty that those didn't gain me any more backers. Overall, I think my free social media advertising, plus demoing the game at conventions, and the couple of review videos, are what got me the most attention.
Choice: I printed ten review copies of the game.
Reason: Those things were expensive! $700 for the batch of ten. They get cheaper the more you order, but ouch it's still a lot of money.
Result: Definite plus. Three went to reviewers (Radho Runs Through, Just Got Played, The Thirsty Gamers). Three to the Indie Game Alliance, so they can show them off at conventions. One to the guy that made the intro and how-to-play videos for my campaign. One to my graphic designer. One has a permanent home in a game store, available for play anytime. And the last one is mine, so I can demo the game myself. That said, I wish I could've made a few more. During the campaign, I had a couple people offer to demo the game for me or make gameplay videos in exchange for a copy. I would've agreed to that, if I actually had any copies left.
It's getting late here. I'm not done, but I think I will wait to continue this until I'm rested and my head is a little more clear. Look for a Part 2 in the next few days.
It's been a little over a week since my Kickstarter launched. My activities over the past week have been a frenzied whirlwind of trying to spread the word about Manaforge, answering questions, keeping up with social media, and wrestling with various little problems that have cropped up.
Since there's too much to go into any great detail, I'll just post another list:
That's all I have on my mind right now, just trying to keep up with everything. If you haven't already, please take a look at my Kickstarter campaign and consider backing it.
In order to try to give our Kickstarter campaign a little push, I've added some newly-illustrated Talent cards to the Manaforge page on BoardGameGeek. What I ask of everybody is to take a look at the new cards, then give them the BGG equivalent of a 'like'. If the images get enough positive attention, this will cause them to start showing up on BoardGameGeek's front page, which attract even more attention to the game.
Check out the images here, then give them a thumbs-up by clicking on the green button in the 'recommend' box:
Fire and Water Enchanter:
Earth and Wind Enchanter:
If you happen to not have an account on BoardGameGeek, then I'd suggest signing up for one. It's free, and if you're at all interested in board games (and really, if you're here, you probably are), then it will be a valuable resource for you to learn about what games are out there.
Mystic Tiger Games is happy to announce that Manaforge, the game of creating magical items, is now live on Kickstarter!
Click here to go to the Kickstarter page: http://goo.gl/jwiVXi
Let's make Manaforge a reality! Are you ready to get crafting?
So I've been jumping around like crazy trying to make sure everything is ready to go for my Kickstarter. It seems like a lot of things are coming together at the last moment, and for a few I can only hope that they will. I know I'm worrying over what will probably be nothing, but this is such an important thing for me that I don't want anything to go wrong.
In no particular order, here is my 'checklist' of stuff I'm dealing with:
KS Page is here: http://goo.gl/jwiVXi
Almost there! We're launching in four days. Stay tuned!
So, I've been kicking my 'advertising' (if you can call it that) into high gear. I spent most of yesterday going around to various game store locations and handing out flyers announcing my Kickstarter. Today I've been concentrating on the electronic equivalent, sending out emails and prepping to blast out announcements on social media. My Kickstarter hasn't started yet, but it's just two weeks out, and I know I'm going to need to get as much attention as possible for when it starts. Every view counts. :)
I apologize to anyone that is caught up in this and doesn't want to be; in my efforts to spread the word, I'm pretty much guaranteed to annoy someone, somewhere. I'll try to keep it to a minimum, promise.
Here is a copy of the flyer I've been handing out:
I hope it gets enough attention. :)