How to Keep the Hype Train Going After a Board Game Kickstarter

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Kickstarter is big, flashy, and exciting. New creators tend to see it as the one big goal to achieve before reaching success. Everything would be just right if you could just hit that goal…

That’s just not the case. The truth is that unless a Kickstarter is a total blockbuster, you won’t raise enough to print the game, pay your living expenses, and buy plane tickets to Hawaii. Kickstarter is merely the beginning of a long journey to establish yourself. After it, you can hope to passively sell your game and reap the rewards in the form of sales. You could also use your success to launch multiple games, building a company in the process. Alternatively, you could dedicate yourself to game design, picking up 5-10% on every game you design for different companies.

The point is, Kickstarter is just the beginning. No matter what your intention afterward, if you want to maintain your success, you need to keep the hype train moving!

 

All aboard the HYPE TRAIN!

 

For this article, I’ll be sharing eight ways that I know of which you can use to keep the hype train going for your game, your game design portfolio, or your publishing company. This list isn’t all-inclusive, so if you’ve got more ideas, share them in the comments!

 

For a primer on marketing, check out the Marketing & Promoting Your Game section about halfway down the page on Start to Finish: Publish and Sell Your First Board Game. Lots of useful context there!

 

1. Keep updating your Kickstarter campaign.

It’s an established best practice to continue updating your Kickstarter campaign after its completion. You naturally want to keep backers – essentially investors – informed about your activities and how things are coming along. The primary purpose of these updates is informational, but they have the side benefit of keeping your name and your game’s name high up in people’s email inboxes. It helps them remember who you are.

Now there are limits to that. If you overdo it, you’ll annoy people and they’ll unsubscribe from your updates. In small doses, though, this can be an effective way to keep people informed about your future projects.

 

2. Use your mailing list.

It’s another established best practice that you should use your mailing list wisely. In fact, you probably built one up as part of your Kickstarter campaign. Let’s assume, for the sake of simple discussion, that you did.

Once you’ve got people’s emails, as long as you can write interesting ones, 25-30% of your list members will open them up. (These numbers steeply climb if you keep your contact list clean and/or write exceptionally good emails.) On top of that, a good amount of them will click on links you include in the emails as well. That makes your mailing list an effective way to share future projects or game updates. Like Kickstarter udpates, this is a simple way to keep in touch with people you’ve already reached out to.

 

3. Build a community.

One of the best things you can do to keep hype going is build a community. If you can get people to show up somewhere – online or offline – and talk about common interests, that will keep people coming back over and over again. There is a lot of nuance that goes into community management and it can be time-consuming, but it’s also a good way to keep fans engaged. Unlike the previous two suggestions, a community can bring in new people too.

 

4. Advertise.

New creators often have mixed feelings about advertising, but the simple fact is that it’s fast, easy, and – if you do it right – effective at reaching out to new people. I recommend you start with Facebook because of the low cost of entry and the great data they provide you with. That will allow you to tweak and learn as you go.

If you’re interested in this subject, you will likely enjoy the advertising section of this article: How to Build up a Facebook Page as a Board Game Dev.

 

5. Take pre-orders.

I did a whole separate article on this recently called How to Take Pre-Orders when Your Board Game Kickstarter Ends. Nothing quite says “hype” quite like actual sales coming in while your inventory is being manufactured or shipped to your warehouse. Pre-orders are good because they allow people to get involved even after missing the Kickstarter, they bring in money, and because they act as an effective call to action for other marketing initiatives you take on.

 

6. Tell stories or build lore.

Many games come with complex worlds. If your game does, you have a big opportunity! You can build that world a little bit every day or every week through a mailing list, a blog, or social media. You can use stories to pique people’s interest in your game even after the Kickstarter campaign is complete. This might even pull in some pre-orders!

 

7. Keep marketing – online and offline.

For more information on this, you can see A Crash Course in Board Game Marketing & Promotion. Long story short, whatever you did to build up your audience for the Kickstarter campaign, you can do more of that to build a larger audience and keep your existing one engaged. If you succeeded in funding, then you know for a fact that you have a working marketing system, so use it to your advantage.

 

8. Make more games.

If you want to stay active in the board game community and get your name out there, it’s a good idea to get involved in more game projects. Whether you lead the project, design, or collaborate, there is a good chance that people will find your old games through your new games.

 


 

With a successful Kickstarter campaign behind you, you’re in a uniquely powerful position. The extra attention can help you start a business, build a portfolio of game designs, or simply create a passive income stream. It’s wise to think about what comes after a Kickstarter campaign so you can take advantage of new opportunities.

Let me know other ways to keep hype going for your game in the comments below – I’d love to hear your input 🙂

How to Price Your Board Game

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Cardboard costs a lot of money! Board gamers are accustomed to handing over hundreds of dollars at a time on board game shopping sprees. If you look on /r/boardgames or Board Game Geek, you can find no shortage of “shelfies” where people have hundreds of board games. You might even get the impression that board gamers are not price-sensitive at all…

 

 

Price matters. The amount you choose to charge for your board game says a lot about your game. Naturally, as the price goes up, fewer people will be interested in purchasing. But how does that explain $150 monsters like Gloomhaven?

Before you set out to apply a price to your board game, ask yourself these questions:

  • How complex is my game?
  • What components does it come with?
  • How long does it take to play?
  • How physically large is the box?

Price isn’t merely the amount of money that someone has to pay to get a copy of your work. It’s one of the most useful pieces of information about your game available to a board gamer. It is shorthand for the above questions. Along with your box, the theme and mechanics of your game, and the reviews you receive, board gamers will make a decision to buy or not to buy.

Different price points have different psychological effects on people. A $19 game is an impulse buy – people usually don’t think too much about spending that amount of money. For that price, they expect a small game without a whole lot of parts. On the flip-side, people are perfectly okay shelling out $100 or more for a giant game like Gloomhaven or Food Chain Magnate. Those games come with lots of parts and are complex, long-lasting games. There’s a lot going on there!

When choosing a price for your game, you’ll need to do something I often advise: look at similar games on Kickstarter and Amazon. Make sure you take into account the complexity of your game, the components included, the length, and its physical size. I even recommend you go to a local gaming store to look at the boxes, still shrink wrapped, and compare them to their prices. That can tell you a lot about how board gamers value games.

Naturally, any price you come up with will need to cover your manufacturing costs. A general rule of thumb to follow is “five times your landed cost.” That is to say, your game should cost gamers five times as much as it costs to print and ship the game to your warehouse. For Kickstarter campaigns, you might be able to push this down to “four times your landed cost.” As always, though, run the numbers and don’t rely on rules of thumb without closer analysis.

Still, I must reiterate: don’t merely think of price in terms of monetary exchange. It’s an important part of signaling the kind of game you have created and how much is in the box. The value of a game is not just its parts, its art, or the amount of hours you can play it before getting bored. The value is in the eye of board gamers and their expectations.

Here are a few examples:

 

Santorini – $25.98 on Amazon

 

 

Santorini is a sharp game. It’s a very intelligent abstract strategy game in which you competitively build towers in an effort to be the first person to stand atop one. It’s a really simple concept that has all sorts of profound strategic implications. From its simplicity comes its complexity.

It has great plastic components – these neat towers that stack and give the game a great physicality. For goodness sake, the box is linen! Yet here stands for a mere $25.98 despite having really good components. What gives? Are they trying to be competitive with pricing? Is the manufacturing cost deceptively low?

I don’t know the answer for sure, but my belief is that they keep this game under $30 to attract the right audience. It’s considered a light game, and while it can accommodate 3 or 4 players, it’s really best for 2. The game doesn’t have the sheer grittiness or complexity that more hardcore gamers crave, but it has a light, poppy appeal that makes it a great gateway game. That’s why they price it under $30 – to keep it in gateway game territory.

 

Twilight Imperium – $109.99 on Amazon

 

 

Twilight Imperium is notoriously complex. It’s for 3-6 players and games routinely exceed 4 hours in length. The sheer amount of components can easily fill a large table. I lifted the box once in a gaming store, and I can swear its heavier than the stones I used to build the retaining wall outside my house. This game is a monster!

This game is huge – game length, player count, component count, and box size. The price tag merely reflects what the game is. Now, yes, Fantasy Flight does have to charge a lot of money to break even on all those parts. That’s true. This game, however, scratches a very specific itch for board gamers who love heavy games. That’s why they’re willing to drop a fat hundred bucks on it. Buyers perceive a great value in the game which justifies the three-digit price tag.

 

Ticket to Ride – $44.99 on Amazon

 

 

Ticket to Ride is an old classic. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably played it. It’s a great game. It’s what many gamers would describe as a “medium-sized game.” Appropriately, it is priced at a middle of the road price: $44.99. Anything $40-50 generally implies that a game takes about an hour to play, can entertain 2-4 people, and doesn’t skimp on components. All of these things are true for Ticket to Ride, and the price justifies this.

 


 

Pricing board games is about far more than simply breaking even on manufacturing costs. It’s yet another way to signal values to prospective customers. Board gamers are accustomed to looking at games, and have internalized an intuition about what to expect out of games priced in a certain way.

Have you ever bought a game because of the price tag? Have you ever walked away from a game because of the price tag? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions below!

 

How to Make a Beautiful Board Game Box

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Box art is incredibly important in the board game industry. Not only are board game boxes beautiful, they are also iconic. People love looking at board game boxes – just check out Instagram sometime. There are whole accounts dedicated to showing off board game boxes!

People judge books by their covers. This is true for board games, too. The naive designer may lament that board gamers are only looking at the surface, not seeing the mechanics or the potential for incredible gameplay. It’s a valid complaint, but the simple fact is that board game boxes are a huge part of board gamers’ decision-making process when it comes to making purchases. Your board game box is the most important art you’ve got – make it count!

 

 

(If you’re looking for regulatory or legal requirements for packaging, check this article instead: How to Create Board Game Specs and Files for Your Printer.)

Board game boxes serve not just as beautiful objects for their own sake, but also as critical means of communication between you and your potential customers. That includes the obvious stuff you normally see on boxes – the name of the game, the designer(s) and publisher, the age range, play time, and player count. But that also includes the messages you send about your game through your art. Through symbolism, you need to communicate most or all of the following information:

  • The complexity of your game
  • The “weight” of your game
  • The amount of components your game has
  • How long it takes to play
  • The theme of your game
  • The “hooks” that make people want to buy the game

Your box communicates not just through its cover, but also its size, and the information you provide on the back. People associate light games with small boxes and heavy games with big boxes. When gamers see a thick box, they expect a lot of components. If the art is whimsical, they expect it to be light-hearted. If the art is gritty and detailed, they expect it to be complex or dark.

The perfect game doesn’t exist. Games are only perfect for specific gamers. You need to attract the right kind of gamers by giving them all the information they need to know whether your game is right for them. Many gamers – wittingly or unwittingly – use their intuitive sense of what a game is or isn’t based on how it looks. That means you need to imply the essence of your game with your packaging. You have to send the right signals.

This is a really complicated concept. There is a field of study called semiotics, which is dedicated to understanding how people interpret signs, symbols, and metaphors. You don’t have to be studied in what they call the Saussurean tradition to understand how this works in board gaming. All you have to do is look at similar board games that sell well.

Look at the boxes of games similar to the one you’re making. You want it to be as similar as possible in the six qualities I listed a few paragraphs ago. Use Kickstarter and Amazon to look at some board game boxes. Look at them until you get a sense of what your own game box should look like. Copy the style you see, but still express your own personality.

When in doubt, follow the “Instagram rule” when designing board game boxes. Put a clear object in focus, use lots of detail, and make sure there is a sharp contrast between the foreground and background. That way, people will stop scrolling and look at your box online. In the store, it’ll catch their eye.

 


 

As you can see, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to designing board game boxes. For that reason, I’ll be looking at the board game boxes of the five games highest up on the Board Game Geek hotness list. I’ll be analyzing each one and explaining what I think it works. By sharing my methods, I hope you’ll be able to develop your own 🙂

 

Gloomhaven

 

 

Good grief, look at this monster of a box! It’s wide, it’s deep, and it’s tall. Just seeing this on the shelf, you know you’re getting in for a heavy experience. With a weight of 3.77, this is definitely considered a heavy game on Board Game Geek. It’s usually priced at $150 or more, but you get a lot of parts.

The box art itself communicates a massive, complex world. It’s not a happy one, though. The name and color palette suggest otherwise. There is something to look at it in practically every corner of this box. There’s somebody hiding with a dagger in the bottom left, a creature playing cards near the bottom right, and decorative ribbons in the upper right.

Then when you look at the back, it shows off the minis and explains how the game works. This is really important because showing off components has shown to be one of the best ways to get and hold the attention of gamers.

 

Root

 

Photo by W Eric Martin, posted to Board Game Geek under the CC BY 2.0 license. (Source)

 

Root is a different kind of game than Gloomhaven, and the box art immediately makes it clear. Like Gloomhaven, it’s a fairly heavy game and it comes chock full of a lot of components. The box is fairly large, but not nearly the size of Gloomhaven. It’s a slightly shorter game.

Root has a veneer of whimsy – little woodland creatures. Underneath that, though, there’s a complex game with mechanics such as engine building and area control. The game openly displays its darkness, intrigue, and complexity by arming the woodland creatures with dangerous weapons on the box. The size of the box and the price point also help establish the true weight of the game, so no one is surprised by it being too long or complex.

I juxtapose this with Gloomhaven to make a point – you have two complex games with two different tones. There are ways you can communicate the different tones without burying the true complexity of the game in the process.

 

Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig

 

 

Photo by W Eric Martin, posted to Board Game Geek under the CC BY 2.0 license. (Source)

 

This was announced very recently and I’m stoked. Anything Stonemaier Games is worth getting stoked about.

This game is fairly light and the price point hasn’t been released yet. It takes a bit under an hour to play and Board Game Geek gives it a 2/5 on the weight rating. The art painterly and peaceful, unlike the more conflict-driven games that we’ve shown above. You get the sense that you’re in for a more relaxing experience.

 

Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage

 

Photo by W Eric Martin, posted to Board Game Geek under the CC BY 3.0 license. (Source)

 

Little is known about this game at the time that I’m writing it. The art is minimalistic, showing a symbol, the name, and decorative framing. That’s pretty much all you have to go on. Yet even from this information alone, I suspect the game is going to be set in a dark, gloomy, conflict-driven world. That’s pretty amazing when you realize there’s essentially no art to go off of. That’s the power of symbolism.

Ask yourself: if you saw this in the store, what would you expect the game to be like?

 

Terraforming Mars

 

 

Terraforming Mars is a new sci-fi classic. The name, the font, the picture in the center of the frame…all of these imply the sci-fi theme. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice the art doesn’t depict conflict, but you still get a vague sense of unease. I think it’s because of the prevalance of hard lines throughout the art, which give you a sense that you’re getting into a complex game. It’s subtle, but you can feel it long before you can recognize it.

 


 

Is there a board game out there with great box art that tells you what you’re getting into? Let me know in the comments below!