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Lessons From A Board Game Kickstarter Failure And How They Came Back

Lessons From A Board Game Kickstarter Failure And How They Came Back

Kickstarter has changed the game as far as tabletop gaming goes. Designers present their ideas directly to customers to raise money. Small publishers use the website to generate pre-orders for projects they want to do but may not be able to fund outright. Consumers can feel like investors getting in on the ground floor of a gaming phenomenon.

One of the most valuable things a Kickstarter offers is transparency. Backers get a chance behind the curtain to see how the factory works. Sometimes that view is a fascinating survey of the cogs of creation, manufacturing and logistics. Sometimes, it’s a window to watch a disaster unfold in slow motion. Kickstarter was a little both for John Teasdale and his game about politics called The Contender. The game funded on Kickstarter, was finished this year, and is currently available for sale. But it only recently became profitable after over a year, and Teasdale talked about the process at length.

Kickstarters that make a lot of money often face a lot of problems (if only there was a song about this…). Backers look at a six figure amount and assume the creator should be able to focus on the project and not worry about anything else. But most of those resources are usually committed to the Kickstarter. Raising a large amount of money often means satisfying a multitude of backers. Running a Kickstarter is running a business, which requires a set of skills that are far different than designing a game or creating a comic book.

This leads to hard questions that smart Kickstarter creators must consider before they launch the project. Is the allure of money from international backers worth the hassle and cost of international shipping? Are stretch goals and add-ons worth the extra time and expense creating them? How will the creator handle fulfillment to get all the backers their stuff? The more Kickstarter creators that talk about their experiences in public, the better informed the next generation of Kickstarter creators will be, which will hopefully result in fewer mishaps in the post-funding process.

Teasdale’s articles on the subject illuminate the mistakes they made, like making assumptions about shipping and logistics. He also discusses the steps they took to fix them, like where his marketing pushes succeeded and failed. Of particular note is the segment towards the end of the article talking about methods to drive post-Kickstarter sales. Kickstarters are supposed to be there to generate the money needed to create a thing, but it doesn’t answer the question of how to sell the thing once it’s made. Having a lot of product and no money isn’t much different from having no product and no money. In some cases it’s worse, because that product has eaten up production costs and often requires either warehouse and fulfillment fees to maintain. Or it ends up stashed in a basement or a garage gathering dust.

Creators like the makers of The Contender are astronauts exploring a bold new space in a dangerous way. Kickstarters are a great way to raise money but, like all investments, have an element of risk. The information they leave behind can help new  creators realize the process is difficult, dangerous but ultimately satisfying.

Have you backed a Kickstarter that looked headed for disaster but turned out well? Let us know in the comments!

Image credit Guts & Glory


Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

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