Skip to Content

Failed KS twice, seeking constructive criticism

15 replies [Last post]
adversitygames's picture
Joined: 09/02/2014

(X-posted from BGG)

Hey everyone. I've been a bit quiet for a while. Busy times.

So I've launched my game on Kickstarter twice now and failed twice.

The first time was a big flop, and I totally accept that one. Cheap video, minimal graphics on the page, barely any awareness and little final art to show off. I was dumb.

The second one... well it hardly did any better. And I'm not sure why. I have TONS of finished artwork, I have a lot of really positive reviews, I've been demoing the game intensely (exhaustingly so) for a year, and the game is 99% finished.
Cancelled Nightlancer Kickstarter page

I have some theories, though.
1) I tried launching it to coincide with a ton of events, I thought this would help the campaign. But I don't think it had any noticable impact (didn't notice significant boosts after events), and I've been wondering about it since - maybe the events actually had a negative impact. My guess is people are all fired up to get cool stuff at the show (UKGE was the main one but Q-Con is also pretty big and I hit both) not put money down to maybe get stuff later.

I had a moment of this feeling myself when I played a demo of the Fallout game at UKGE, then they told me it's still on the ship and isn't available to buy yet. I'd have bought it right there if they had it, but now I'm kinda busy and don't want to go chasing it down.

2) There were some IRL dates that it was poorly chosen around. 4th July for one since looking at my demographics about half of my backers are in the USA, and also it has been suggested that it was starting/ending right before a lot of people would pay rent, which might have an impact as well.

3) A game with a similar theme and big following launched (Shadowrun Sprawl) about a week earlier, but I didn't catch that it happened until about a week after I launched.

4) A few reviews didn't come out (notably influential ones, Undead Viking and Unfiltered Gamer) until a day or a week after the launch. I didn't allow enough time to get reviews out in time. Some people might argue that this could have helped boost it post-launch, but I think they'd have had a better impact if they were there on day 1. Ultimately I didn't get past that first hurdle of hitting 50% in the first few days, so no amount of mid-campaign boost is typically going to save me at that point.

5) My game just doesn't have enough appeal

6) I didn't have enough of a following to get a great day 1 and encourage backers that are on the fence that it'll go the distance.

7) The funding target (£17,500) is a big one for a first-time publisher. People don't know me, I don't have any sort of track record, so reasonably they're not ready to take a big risk on me.

My guess (hope?) is that #3 and #4 are the main problems. #6 is probably a factor, but that's not something I can just make happen (or at least, I lack the skills to really help encourage visibility). #7 too also seems like a fairly significant factor.

I don't think #1 and #2 made a BIG impact, maybe I'm wrong, it's hard to tell. But #1 did have an impact on my available energy levels for the campaign.

I don't think #5 is the case. I've got consistently positive responses from people who have played and the vast majority of my reviews are positive. But I feel like I need to include it for completeness.

So what I really want to know is, is there anything I've missed?

Which of these factors seem most important to fix?

What else might I have gotten wrong?

How can I do better next time?

(I've got some ideas for what to do next, but I'm currently focusing on diagnosing what the problem is before trying to decide what solution is best)

Jay103's picture
Joined: 01/23/2018
I'm sure I'm going to come

I'm sure I'm going to come back and add to this later :)

Just scrolling through the KS page..

"Nightlancer is a cutthroat cyberpunk board game. It is deeply thematic with risk taking, character building and take that gameplay."

Okay those are, at best, BGG keywords. As a KS buyer, the only thing that tells me anything about the game are the words "cyberpunk" and "board game". So first, need a better tag line.

The importance of a polished video is overstated imho. My video was a single shot, 3 minutes of my five-year-old talking about the game. Did it help sell? I have literally no clue, though a lot of facebook people watched it. You need a video that sells the game, sure, but.. there's definitely no "I had a great video, so I can't understand why I didn't get more buyers!" Personally, I never even watch KS videos.

(and your video is actually pretty static..)

For (1), I have no idea. I haven't done any events, so I can't speak to that aspect of marketing.

For (2), July 4 was a bad choice. The rent thing I think is silly. People struggling to pay rent are not the target market for a $60 cyberpunk board game. Also, you're not shipping until February, so I can't buy it as a Christmas present. Do the KS 3 months earlier in the calendar.

Regarding (3), there are like a dozen games launched a day. You're not going to avoid similarities. My game

was unusual in that it was an RPG aimed at little kids. TWO OTHER KICKSTARTERS went up when mine did, aimed at the exact same market. Happens.

(4) I had a big ad campaign on a popular site, with a sponsored preview of the game. I got I believe 9 backers. No other review (or ad) sites gave me any backers at all. I'm glad I had the reviews, but I think the exposure only goes one way.. I drove traffic there, to read the review, but didn't get much incoming.

(5) Yeah, maybe.

(6) Suuuuper important. I managed to get a 600-person email list ahead of time, and I think 100 FB followers, and that translated to like 35 early backers iirc. Looks like you have a lot more FB followers than that! Not sure why that didn't convert better.

(7) I was told I was crazy to go for $18k.. yeah. It was a big stretch and if I could possibly have done less I would've. The cost of goods for this sucker looks like it would be pretty high.. were you budgeting to make 1000 copies? Is there an option to make 500?

So 5/6/7 are my vote.

The KS page itself:

Not much in the way of graphics. You have nice header graphics, and a lot of "pledge level" and "stretch goal" graphics at the bottom, and a ton of text in the middle. What appears to be a chunk of the rulebook.

I need to know why I might be interested in the game.. not really how to play it.

The Terms and Conditions at the bottom are a big YUCK. You're taking the space to make sure I know that you might not send me anything under certain circumstances?

The game looks super-complicated, from the pic of all the components. I'm sure some people respond to that.. I'm not one of those people, so bear in mind I'm not actually in your target market, personally.

The rulebook is a bit big.. I didn't read it, but I did notice that it includes a Table of Contents, an Index, several pages of Summary, and a page (in the middle!) of all your playtesters' names..

The "Street Meat" pledge level is not useful. I'm not here to buy a pin.

The "become art" pledges are good, if your artist is known. I had great success with those myself. Did you market this to your artist's fanbase? For me that was key.

I have to ask.. was the top-tier $1000 pledge a stranger?

Mosker's picture
Joined: 03/30/2014
One (multi-part) question:

How does the solitaire and co-op experience compare to the rest of the game? Is it cobbled together, a kludge that may require playing multiple hands and a bit of content elimination, or is it something special, unique--or at least 70% as fun as playing with others? If the latter, why is it not highlighted and a significant focus of marketing campaign. Yes, solitaire gamers are a small subset of the market, but they are hungry--as especially tuned in to KS (after all, if they went to stores that hosted events, they might be more into multiplayer games).

Other questions and comments to come.

jonathanflike's picture
Joined: 03/09/2016
I think you are close

I definitely think you are on the right track, and I posted some suggestions on the BBG post you made. I think Jay103 touched on some important topics, so I won't rehash them, but I think if you make the suggested changes that were on BGG and from Jay103, it can totally fund.

Jay103's picture
Joined: 01/23/2018
Just another thought,

Just another thought, regarding the co-op/solo modes.

First, they're not even fully designed yet (mentioned at the very bottom). So you can't be SURE it'll even work or be fun..

Second, you mention them once, and then never again. So it's important enough to call out as a feature way at the top, but then you have no description of it. Because it's not designed, I assume.

Third, it seems to undercut what your game is about. Your TAG LINE calls the game a "cutthroat cyberpunk board game". Co-op is not cutthroat. Is this game about "take that" and being cutthroat? If so, why are you spending time on co-op?

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Here's my ADVICE to you

Setup a website and collect e-mails from people interested in your game. Offer a one (1) FREE copy to a lucky drawing participant... Wait until you have over 1,000 e-mails before launching your KS campaign.

Have a realistic GOAL for a first time designer: 250 to 500 backers.

Prepare for the LOWER amount and make sure you can MAKE IT happen with ONLY 250 backers. If your funding goal is TOO HIGH, you'll never be able to fund. Obviously set you 250 goal to "break even" and get your game "out there" into gamers hands.

As a first-time designer, you goal is to FUND. Sometimes that means less earning and planning for low turn-out. Work on your "break-even" scenario and then do some projections for higher turn-out!

Jay103's picture
Joined: 01/23/2018
questccg wrote: Have a

questccg wrote:

Have a realistic GOAL for a first time designer: 250 to 500 backers.

You're more optimistic than you used to be :)

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Only because you did better than I thought

Jay103 wrote:
questccg wrote:

Have a realistic GOAL for a first time designer: 250 to 500 backers.

You're more optimistic than you used to be :)

Only because you hit the 350 backers mark on your campaign. And I've seen other first-time campaign ALMOST hit the 500 backers mark... Can't remember who... But I saw some first timers are while back hit that mark.

Was my original advice: 150 to 250 backers??? Yeah that can happen to a campaign too... (First time creator).

What can mitigate too... is PRICE. If you offer something that you are only breaking even... Like with your lowest tier pledge, that can attract buyers in the UK (Pound) and Europe (Euro). Because they see that they're getting FREE shipping and a great price... That could also translate to more sales too...

harmon89's picture
Joined: 01/13/2016
You really do seem to have a

You really do seem to have a good game here.

I think one thing that could help is if you had more images near the top of the Kickstarter page. Maybe a nice big image of the game all set up so I can instantly get a sense of the game without having to read anything.

I really think you have to convince people within 5 seconds whether what you're offering is unique, otherwise 90% of people will move on.

Joined: 12/19/2017
Work on video

I for one always watch the pitch video first. It lets me know if I want to take the time to read through the campaign page. Your video didn't do that for me. It seemed like you were trying to give the viewer the feeling of the world we'd be playing in which is good but a lot of the visuals didn't seem to match up with what was being said. After watching I still I had no idea what a Nightlancer is which is probably important since that is the game's title. The only gameplay you showed was placing a little tile on character sheet and some cards so I really didn't get a sense of how the game plays. The narrator is trying to make the game sound cool so the visuals need to match that.

From a technical standpoint the footage was very dark and blurry so I couldn't even read any of the cards as you showed them. Even the quote font is small and hard to read. And you'd probably want to show them apart from the narration because it's hard to read and listen at the same time.

I looked through my backed games at independent publishers and found 2 examples that might help. Cytosis and Ursa Miner. The videos are cheaply made but they give a good quick overview of the gameplay and show off the components clearly. They made me want to spend the time on reading the page and watching reviews. I ended up fully backing Ursa Miner but not Cytosis.

Only two notes I'd make on the rest of the page is to include more visuals that show what you are describing in the nearby text to keep the reader visually interested and so they don't have to simply imagine what you are describing. And secondly, create a much larger graphic with much larger text of the contents so we can easily see the components in the game.

It sounds like you have a solid game, you just need your video and page to show that to people who have never seen or heard of it.

Jay103's picture
Joined: 01/23/2018
ddiaz28 wrote:Your video

ddiaz28 wrote:
Your video didn't do that for me. It seemed like you were trying to give the viewer the feeling of the world we'd be playing in which is good but a lot of the visuals didn't seem to match up with what was being said. After watching I still I had no idea what a Nightlancer is which is probably important since that is the game's title. The only gameplay you showed was placing a little tile on character sheet and some cards so I really didn't get a sense of how the game plays. The narrator is trying to make the game sound cool so the visuals need to match that.

I found the original KS page, and that one has a very different video. Much more gameplay, but also over 4 minutes long.

Looked like that one might be better, if it were edited down. I'm guessing someone convinced the OP that they needed something more "polished" and ended up with something that removed.. everything.

But in particular, the original video had a minute of extra gameplay tacked onto the end. That sort of thing belongs in a gameplay video further down on the page, not the title video.

Joined: 12/19/2017
Oh ok, I didn't see the

Oh ok, I didn't see the original one. By your description maybe an amalgamation of the two would work better. More concise but with a bit more game play on display.

Joined: 11/19/2012
While I'm not a kickstarter

While I'm not a kickstarter expert, I am a big-time cyberpunk fan so I think I might be the target audience. I have seen the game but I didn't back it.

From my POV as a potential backer, I'd really point at it being a blend of #7 and #5. I've actually watched plenty of the playthrough videos, I'm interested in trying the game.

It's not exactly a "Lack of appeal" but that your game is too big. The price tag is far higher than my "willing to Gamble on a kickstarter" threshold.

Even past the money investment, it's a pain for me to find players who are willing to learn big games. Even if I like the game, it's not likely to come to the table often.

You're competing with the Shadowrun board games. These are bigger name, lower price and easy-to-teach game play.

This isn't to say that there isn't an appeal to your game or that it's bad in any way. I like what I see, it's just that you're in a tough market and your competition is serving it well.

As for the total kickstarter. My own kickstarter (backed by a recognizable publisher and their marketing funds) still barely passed the £17,500 threshold. It's a high target and I don't know if you'll be able to hit it, even doing everything right.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Combination of #6 and #7.

I personally think it has to do with "Price Tag" & "Backers". The 17,500 pounds is OVER the $20,000 USD. That is high. Although the "base" price is about $59 USD which is not "unreasonable".

But I also think your page contains "too much text" and "too little 'eye candy'". As some of the other members have suggested throw more graphics at it and make it look "prettier". There is a LOT of writing. Some people the first thing they do is just scroll through a campaign to get a feel for the game and its art. If I do this with YOUR KS, I get pretty much a "wall of text" (mostly).

Update: I also watched the video... It could be improved. Putting reviewers in a VIDEO that is supposed to be "about the game" is probably not a good idea. I understand the motivation, but you have a section on the KS page for "Reviewers" and "Positive Feedback".

Your video should be about the game's UNIVERSE. I'm sure you've done some World-Building ... If that is the case, you should do a video purely with graphics like introducing the CAST of NightLancers. That could be cool... "In the world of NightLancer, choose from the following cast of characters"... And go forth and list each one and show artwork related to that specific character.

But IMHO, that video didn't help SELL the game either...

adversitygames's picture
Joined: 09/02/2014
I wasn't expecting so much

I wasn't expecting so much feedback! Thanks everyone for your comments and I will get back to you all when I've gone through it all thoroughly.

ElKobold's picture
Joined: 04/10/2015
If I had to name a few

If I had to name a few reasons why I think your campaign failed:

1) Your campaign page doesn't sell the game.
The looks of the campaign page itself is lacking and that leads backers to judge the looks of your game based on the page. What's in the box image is cramped and uninspiring. Waaaay too much text, way to little artwork. You don't highlight what's the hook of your game well enough.

2) Pledge amount is too high for the components+visual appeal of the game.

3) Gameplay explanation is too long and should be one paragraph at the start of your presentation.

4) Get more free reviews. Many-many more. Like 10 or so. (Only post the best 2-3 on your page).

But my main advise would be - hire a graphic designer to do the campaign page for you and do more research on how to properly organize your campaign page.

Good luck.

P.S: I've seen you mentioned getting Undead Viking's review. I would advice against it. His reviews have a somewhat bad rep. Plus in my experience he is always late.

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut