Your Board Game Kickstarter: Why & How to Spread the Word Early

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If you’re making a board game that you plan to launch on Kickstarter, you’ll find no shortage of advice on the internet. There are articles on how to build an audience, how to create the perfect campaign page, and lists of people to reach out to. These are all tremendous resources, but they don’t really answer the question of “why spread the word early?” When you start with the question “why start early”, it adds a new layer of context.

 

 

Here are two reasons why you should spread the word of your board game Kickstarter campaign early.

  1. You need to know if people want your game.
  2. You need to build a big enough audience to reach critical mass for funding.

Knowing if people want your game is critical. Sharing early will help you gauge your board game’s product-market fit, a fancy MBA term for how much people like your game as a product that they would buy, and not just as a game. Product-market fit takes into account your game’s mechanics and play experience, its art, its price, its components, and a whole host of different factors that gamers look for – consciously or unconsciously – before they buy.

It doesn’t matter who you are or how big your audience is if your product has poor product-market fit. You’ll either make less money than your true potential or you’ll straight up fail. It happened to me with a game called Highways & Byways, which I write about in detail here. It’s a sad story, but I recommend you read it because it was an incredibly formative experience for me.

Reason two to spread the word early is more obvious. You need a big enough audience to fund your game on Kickstarter. It’s become a cliche to say it, but it’s true: you bring people to Kickstarter, Kickstarter doesn’t bring them to you.

 


 

With the “why” behind us, let’s get to the how. Throughout the entire time you’re promoting your game, especially early on, I recommend you engage in a process called “pre-market validation.” Using little bits and pieces from your development process, share with your audience and gauge their reaction. Things you can share include a basic pitch, the name of the game, art (sketches or final), components, price point…really, the list goes on. Anything that might make a difference in your game’s marketability, you can share.

You can share your work online. If your pitch, name, art, and so on gets much more positive attention than your average post on the same site, that’s a good sign. Positive attention could be comments, Facebook reactions, or anything else like that. Ideally, you want to see real enthusiasm – people saying things like “I can’t wait for this” or “this looks awesome!”

You can also share your work offline. The same basic principle applies, but instead of getting hard facts and figures like you’d get by tallying up retweets or Instagram likes, you need to read people’s body language and tone of voice. You’re still looking for enthusiasm.

You also want to do a different type of market validation. You need to make sure that people actually spend money on games like yours. Check Kickstarter and see if you can find a few campaigns like yours that have successfully funded within the last few months. Look out for failed campaigns with similar games, too. You don’t want to fall prey to survivor bias.

Pre-market validation makes sure you do the right thing. Smart audience-building techniques mean you do the thing right. If I had to pick one over the other, I’d take pre-market validation over audience building. No contest.

When it comes to building an audience, I’ve written an enormous amount of articles on that. Here are seven recent ones:

  1. How to Choose & Use a Board Game Marketing Strategy that Works
  2. How to Rise Above the Noise of the Internet & Get Noticed
  3. How to Generate Traffic for Your Board Game Website
  4. How to Build a Mailing List and Send Newsletters as a Board Game Dev
  5. How to Build up a Facebook Page as a Board Game Dev
  6. How to Get Big on Twitter as a Board Game Dev & Revisited in 2018
  7. How to Get Big on Instagram as a Board Game Dev

Even if you don’t click on one of those articles, we can cover the basics here. If you’re already validating your market, you’re in good shape. That means you can find successful games that are similar to yours. You can start by reaching out to their audiences on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Reaching out can involve targeted ads, commenting on people’s posts, or simply following people who follow people like you.

Pretty early on, you’re going to want to build some sort of “gathering place” for your fans. That could be a chat server, a Facebook group, a mailing list, or something else like that. I recommend you start a mailing list for sure. It’s simple and nearly everyone you meet online has an email address.

Once you set up your gathering place, which we’ll assume is a mailing list for the following examples, you’ll need to give them an opt-in incentive. Why are people choosing to sign up? It could be to gain access to a print-and-play version of your game, early access to art, lore updates, or even giveaway prizes.

Part of the magic of having a gathering place is that you can continue to validate the market while building your audience. You can share art on social media or in your mailer and see if the amount of likes or clicks exceeds, meets, or fails to meet your expectations. You can even take out Facebook ads and see how they perform. (If you’re not sure what to look for, I find “Relevance Score” to be a pretty good indicator of product-market fit for your audience.)

 


 

As time goes on, you’ll do two things. First, you’ll validate your game and make sure it has strong potential on Kickstarter. Second, you’ll cultivate a critical mass of fans that will help push your game to its funding goal as early on as possible.

Are you building an audience for your game? Do you have any good or bad experiences to share? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your stories 🙂

Why & How to Make Press Releases for Your Board Game

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Press releases sound really fancy and formal. The phrase “press release” comes with a sort of gravitas that conjures up images of very official sounding businesspeople doing very official sounding business tasks. Extra, extra – read all about it! In reality, press releases are well-crafted emails that you send to bloggers and journalists – in our case, those in the board game industry.

 

 

Unlike blog posts, podcasts, live streams, and reviews, press releases are much more up-front about their purpose. They exist to inform members of the press about your game, its endearing qualities, and where people can find out more. Some people in the board game media craft articles based on the information in the press release. Others paste the press release as-is on their website. You need to be ready for both outcomes.

The press release process will have you creating a 300-400 word write-up that emphasizes why your game is awesome. This isn’t an objective analysis of the pros and cons of your game like a review, but rather an informative sales pitch. You’ll be sending this write-up as a document attached to emails you send to different members of the board game press. I strongly recommend you write each email individually but keep the press release the same. The personal touch can make all the difference in the modern world where raw efficiency is sometimes valued over meaningful connection.

Hold on, though, put that pen down! Before you spend any amount of time creating a great press release – or for that matter, launching a campaign – I’d like for you to consider four caveats.

 

Caveat 1: If your game does not work well as a product for a specific market, it doesn’t matter how many press releases you send.

Caveat 2: Press releases alone will not build your audience. They can increase your reach, but people are likely to dismiss you if you don’t have at least some initial following.

Caveat 3: When people see the press release, you need to have someplace for them to gather if they’re interested. This could be a mailing list, a chat server, or a Facebook group.

Caveat 4: Press releases are not a substitute for other forms of outreach. You still need to focus on generating leads through other means as well.

 

With all these caveats in mind, there are a few really compelling reasons to send press releases. They are an easy way to spread the word of your board game to larger media outlets. You might get a low conversion rate, but you can easily make up for that in reach. Press releases also tend to populate Google searches when blogs and news outlets post them, which can make your game more visible to people using those search engines. Last but not least, public responses to your press release, particularly by people you’ve never met, can help you gauge how well your game fits the market as a product.

You want to send press releases about a week or a week and a half before your Kickstarter campaign goes live. Too early and you risk the press releases going up to soon and diluting their effect. If you wait too late, the press releases might be posted after launch day, which is when you really need them.

As for who to send press releases to, that’s a bit trickier. Instead of providing a list which will become dated after a year or two, here is a good rule of thumb. Look for websites that meet these three criteria:

  1. They regularly post press releases about board games. You can Google “board game Kickstarter press release” to find sites like this.
  2. They have either a contact form, a contact email, or a press kit available.
  3. They have more than 200 likes on Facebook. (It doesn’t have to be a huge number since sending press releases is very easy, but you don’t want to waste your time on sites that have virtually no readers.)

 

You can find a lot of great examples of press releases online, but one of my favorites is included in an old, but good Jamey Stegmaier blog post. To send us off, I’ve included a rough outline below. This will help you structure your press release. You can emulate other people’s press releases until you find the right tone.

 


 

Press Release

[Game Name]

 

Preview of Kickstarter campaign: [Link]

[Name/company] are coming to Kickstarter to fund the printing of [Game]. [Compare to similar games.]

[Pitch line.]

[Discuss status of the game and how complete it is.]

[Core reward price]. [Discuss shipping]. The campaign will conclude after [X] days. Backers are expected to receive their rewards in [Month and Year].

[Describe game]

 

Number of Players: [Number of players]

Time per Game: [Time]

Age: [Age]

 

Website: [Link]

Twitter: [Link]

Instagram: [Link]

Facebook: [Link]

Board Game Geek Listing: [Link]

How to Use Reddit as a Board Game Dev

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Reddit: the word that strikes fear into internet marketers everywhere. It’s an extremely lively website that hosts innumerable diverse communities and has a unique culture that makes it seem impenetrable to the self-promoter. That’s part of the magic of Reddit, though – it’s not to be bought and sold. It’s a place for discussion.

To help us understand the nuances of Reddit, particularly board game Reddit, I’ve brought in Raf Cordero. He’s the cohost of Ding & Dent, a board game reviewer for a lot of different outlets, and – for an impressive stint of a time – a moderator of /r/boardgames.

 

 

I sent Raf a list of questions by email. His responses to my questions are below. They have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

 


 

Brandon: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! To get us started, tell me a little about yourself and your projects.

Raf: I’ve been professionally involved in the industry for a while now, though I’ve been involved in gaming much longer. In 2015, I founded the Ding & Dent podcast with Charlie Theel. We quickly started doing written reviews as well and since then I’ve had a number of great opportunities. I wrote for Miniature Market’s Review Corner for a while. I currently write for Geek & Sundry, PC Gamer, and ThereWillBe.Games. Reddit was one of the first gaming communities I discovered while getting into the hobby. It was much smaller then than it is now! For the longest time, /r/boardgames was my only destination on the platform. That’s still mostly true.

 

Brandon: Assume you’re talking to a game developer who’s never used Reddit before. Where should they start and what should they do?

Raf: The best place to start with Reddit is the FAQ. Reddit is an interesting place and if you’re unfamiliar with the platform, it can be tough to jump into a community. Reddit is not a social media website. Each subreddit (like a small community) is more like a clubhouse. I’d recommend you find the community you’re interested in – /r/boardgames, /r/tabletopgamedesign, /r/boardgameindustry – and just hang out for a bit commenting on other people’s posts. Think of it as a way to get to know this new community.

 

Brandon: What is Reddit good for?

Raf: It’s hard to say what “Reddit” is good for, as it’s really about each community. /r/tabletopgamedesign and /r/boardgameindustry are good for connecting with other designers and developers, getting feedback on a design, or even organizing playtests. Many developers choose to create their own subreddits for playtesting. I’ve been involved in a few playtests with Jon Gilmour where the official forum was actually a private subreddit. It worked great. /r/boardgames is great for the community. Everyone there is passionate about gaming and you can really get a feel for what the community is excited about, and also make a lot of good friends.

 

Brandon: What is Reddit bad for?

Raf: Reddit is bad for self-promotion. That is the number one issue that industry folks unfamiliar with the platform run into. Even if the platform and individual communities didn’t have rules about this (and they do!) the community in general absolutely rejects blatant self-promotion, or people who just show up to share their own projects without participating. Once you’re a community member you’ll find the community to be extremely supportive, but you’ve got to put some time in first. Again, it’s a clubhouse. If you joined a club and started pushing products on your first day in you’d probably be shown the door.

 

Brandon: What kind of behaviors are encouraged on Reddit?

Raf: Reddit encourages participation. Get in and talk to people, find new communities, and share games/videos/articles you find interesting! The whole point of Reddit is to bring things you think are cool to a bunch of people who will probably think it’s cool as well. A lot of the friends I’ve made in board gaming have come from /r/boardgames.

 

Brandon: What kind of behaviors are discouraged on Reddit?

Raf: Being a jerk, and (again) self-promotion.

 

Brandon: If there were one critical piece of advice which you could give to game developers who have never used Reddit before, what would it be?

Raf: Come as a person, not as a brand. Be yourself. Presumably, you play more games than just your own, and think about more games than just your design. Bring those insights to the community!

 


 

Reddit is a complex website that’s home to a massive variety of different communities. Each community, each subreddit, is like a clubhouse. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, these are not places where you can blatantly market your games. Get involved, get to know people in the community, and you may well find yourself with new friends and helpful insight 🙂