Dave talks to Kim Brebach of Secret Base Games about his current Kickstarter project, Monstrous. Kim is very active on various Facebook groups and is extremely generous with the information he shares about the tabletop games industry, particularly on the subjects of shipping and Kickstarter.
Monstrous is a gorgeously illustrated dexterity game where players become ancient Greek gods, literally raining monsters down on the puny humans below! The campaign is fully funded and is heading toward its second stretch goal. It ends on July 9th, 2015.
Tell us about the people involved in Secret Base Games, and how you got involved in the tabletop games industry?
Secret Base Games are me and my grown up friends who are all looking for a creative escape from real life. Think Design Haus. Its been loose and fast until we setup business to do Monstrous. We help each other with game design and development and we have at least 3 more well developed games in the pipeline. I’m also partnering with Good Games Publishing, who are old game buddies of mine now in retail and distribution, to get Monstrous out there.
Can you talk a bit about some of the marketing strategies you’ve used & found to be effective before and during the Monstrous Kickstarter campaign?
I think its good to work from the core (designers and Kickstarter alphas) outwards and to add value to the game development hive mind for free. So I blogged about new shipping methods extensively and shared the send from china approach everywhere that mattered. I’ve been active in many Kickstarter forums, listening, learning and contributing for a couple of years.
Being in Australia is a massive hurdle for buzz generation – there is a vibrant scene here but it’s so small and disconnected from everywhere else. So, we invested in printing 60 full production quality prototypes and used half of them for reviews and the other half as giveaways and freebies to North American influencers we could reach. That really worked to help get us some buzz on the stage at Origins 2015 and in core designer / reviewer circles.
It’s often said that crowdfunding requires you to bring your own crowd. At what point in the development of the game did you go public, and how easy has it been to get people excited for the Kickstarter?
I find crowd building to be really hard, specially from Australia, because games have to have international appeal to be successful.
I went public with testing at AU conventions as soon as we had a playable and well presented prototype that I knew was 80% good. We invested in deluxe art really early to help build faith in the project for real and online. We got any reviews we could early. Reviews and good art and graphic design really were proof of concept stuff. We had a pretty small list of 200 supporters when we went live on KS and have about 1000 backers now – maybe 1200 before we are done. So you have to bring your crowd for a good first 2 days – but then its all about how you reach new ones ongoing. And that is all about the core pitch to backers, presentation, reviews, and marketing.
In all honesty we were hoping to do a little better than we are – but it was a hellishly crowded June and MANY good projects got sunk so I’m thankful to be floating and still moving forwards. We are happy that we have done so well as a first time project from Australia too.
If I had more time I would use the Envoy and IGA programs in the USA to get some convention exposure in the USA prior to Kickstarter. And combine that with a more comprehensive and strategic influencer giveaway strategy.
Did the Monstrous campaign launch when you expected it to?
No – we bumped from a fuzzy target of November 2014 to March to May to June 9th 2015 where I drew the line.
What were some of the delays you experienced?
Delays were around art finalisation, some graphic design but mainly prototype production (QA) and delivery to reviewers. This is an intentionally simple project but we wanted to frontload the Quality Assurance process to ensure we had the quality we wanted to show reviewers to build trust in the game through the mouths of others. So things took longer early, and should now be faster after the KS is done. The reviews raved about art and production quality so that really worked to build excitement and cred.
You’re using an interesting shipping model for Monstrous. Could you explain it in a nutshell?
It’s simple – we fulfill all games globally by airmail directly from China via a discount fulfillment company called Send from China. They will ship out all our games within a week if we are ready. Its best for smaller box games and crazy good for really small games. It costs less to airmail myself a game from china than it does to post one from Sydney to a country town in the same state.
What are your plans for distributing the game post-Kickstarter?
This was designed almost as a gateway game with multiple overlapping audiences of kids, families and serious gamers needing a light strategy dexterity game fun escape.
We have Australian distribution via Good Games and US distribution by PSI. Still looking into EU distro. I’m working on a pitch. Any tips?
The art for Monstrous is incredibly high quality, and I assume it will be one of your biggest production costs. Why did you choose to go that route, versus lower cost alternatives?
Thanks David – the art is like a nightmare come true 🙂 3 reasons:
Art is absolutely key to a thematic game experience – which Monstrous promises. The art reflects the multiple audience expectations too. Kids and families that have read Greek mythology or seen Percy Jackson movies will want epic and evocative art. Magic: The Gathering had just seen off a Greek myth themed block, and serious gamers love immersion in theme through art. There was never any doubt this had to be deluxe for me. But it was designed so I could reuse the deluxe and expensive monster art 5 times each, right from the beginning.
I also wanted the art to overcome some attitude I detected against the possibility of having a serious tactical dexterity game. The art screams “take me seriously or I will bite your face!” Cutesy art would have sent bad signals. Same goes with the coming from Australia thing, I wanted people to focus on the art as an internal property of the game, rather than who made it or where it came from.
People also make judgements about the quality of thematic games from their art. Art signals. Sure it can trick people, but it makes no sense to signal a poor experience. Also there is so much competition on Kickstarter (225 tabletop games in June alone) you really have to be best in class for your type of game to cut through the competition and be the game that spoiled-for-choice backers choose. But it’s all about context and reflection of theme so you connect with your core audience and intrigue those beyond it. We will carry this through into retail too. We have used Kickstarter to help us make a deluxe game that will give us a competitive advantage in retail at our price point. That’s been a core strategy.
Briefly, what are the top three nuggets of advice you’d give to an aspiring game designer / publisher who is planning a Kickstarter campaign?
- Assume 2 years of your life will go into your first project so set your design and production goals to work within a Kickstarter context to maximise your chances.
- Kickstarter is both a maker and wrecker of dreams. Look at the failures that are so kind as to self analyse. Then engage the KS expert community early to test your ideas, presentation and KS strategy. The Kickstarter Best Practices and Lessons Learned, and Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice Facebook groups are deep sources of wisdom. Do 1 – 3 things that stand out and push boundaries to give your project another talking point. And put stuff back in too.
- Seriously consider putting that big USD$50+ first game aside and learn the ropes with a smaller cleaner lower risk project first. it’ll save you a huge amount of angst and risk, and be easier to do free global shipping for too!
We’d like to give a big thanks to Kim for answering these questions so coherently and in such detail during the last 72 hours of a gruelling Kickstarter campaign. We wish him the best of luck with the final hours, and can’t wait to receive our copy of Monstrous so we can start slinging those epic monsters!