After a year of development, Tasty Humans raised $20,536 on Kickstarter. It’s a puzzle-solving, tile placement board game for 1-4 players where you play as a fantasy monster who’s hungry for villagers. We could not be happier with how the campaign turned out, and the game is available for pre-order now!
This stands in stark contrast to the last Kickstarter campaign I ran, which was Highways & Byways in March 2018. After canceling that campaign at around 30% of the goal, I wrote a long in-depth post about what exactly went wrong. Indeed, with Tasty Humans, both the game development and the marketing processes were radically different than they used to be, and this ultimately paid off.
This was a small, tight, humble, simple project. Having seen ups and downs, I was determined to see just how far we could go with $2,500. I never intended to take this game project on, but ultimately, it worked out really well. Now I would like to share what I’ve learned with you 🙂
Tasty Humans Had Good Product-Market Fit
Everybody values different things in life. No two people are the same, and neither are their interests. For that reason, when you’re creating products, you have to do so with your audience in mind. This is true no matter what industry you work in. When your product feels tailor-made for audience, we call that product-market fit.
The Early Design
Tasty Humans had strong product-market fit potential from the get-go. An extremely talented new designer, Ryan Langewisch, won a 48-hour board game design contest. The GameSmiths judged all these anonymous submissions. His submission – then called Fantasy Feast – stood out head and shoulders above the competition, scoring fully two points higher on a ten-point scale than any of the other nineteen participants.
My friend, Tyson Mertlich, member of the GameSmiths told me, “you have to try this game.” Sure enough, I did, and it was really, really uncommonly good. It was then that I agreed to produce the game provided we spent only $2,500 to produce it and we split the costs 50/50.
It’s not enough to simply make a good game, though. To sell in this awfully noisy, competitive board gaming environment, you have to have mechanics and art that people really enjoy. On the note of mechanics, we were really lucky. The mechanics that were chosen for the initial game – tile placement, variable player powers, and so on – all screened well with an audience. Additionally, the material costs to create this game were surprisingly low, so we didn’t have to make any major cuts. The cuts that we did make (two-sided monster boards, 330 gsm cards, etc.) ended up being added back as stretch goals when they became financially viable.
Tyson found a wonderful Russian artist named Petr Semenikhin. He made the caricature art that really refined the look of Tasty Humans. As soon as we received his art, we started running Facebook “page like” ads to see how well the art would be received. We very quickly had empirical data that suggested that a certain subset of board gamers loved the art. (Relevance Score of 8, 9, 10 and really low cost per action.)
After the game was fully completed, everything we did, from the price point to the page set up was based on successful campaigns. I’ve been running a marketing agency for the last several months that has actually, through a bizarre twist of fate, superseded Pangea Games in revenue. As part of running that company, I’ve become very good at market research.
I looked at probably 30 or 40 different successful campaigns of a similar price point with a similar “feel.” Once I collated all the data, we reverse-engineered a high-quality Kickstarter page with the right prices. We even hired this fantastic voice actor from Fiverr for the video!
When all was said and done, the conversion rate was a staggering 5.5% per unique user on the campaign page. That means that for every 1,000 computers that accessed our campaign page, 55 became backers and did not cancel their pledges. According to CrowdCrux, the typical Kickstarter conversion rate is 1.5 – 5%.
We Had a Fantastic Team Dynamic
I cannot emphasize how important liking your team is. We were very communicative and always willing to help one another out. Ryan and Tyson were very organized and timely, handling their respective work with ease and excellence. Even Petr, who I know spoke with directly, was creating art at a breakneck pace. In fact, he turned around brand new stretch goal art before our funds even had a chance to clear, giving us a little buffer room if something goes sideways with manufacturing or freight shipping.
Good Supply Chain Management Reduced Costs
Over the last few months, I’ve provided a lot of consulting work for Fulfillrite, who met me through this blog. For that reason, I’ve become extremely familiar with order fulfillment, which is their specialty, but also related industries like freight shipping and customs. On top of that, I’ve been working back and forth with printers to create specs for a long time.
This is all to say that we optimized for product cost in the long run. The problem with making a game for $2,500 is that you don’t benefit from the economies of scale like the bigger companies do. That means you have to make games for the lowest possible cost or else your price will, by necessity, be too high for anybody to buy.
We Didn’t Spend Much on Marketing, But Our ROI was High
We added another $2,500 in marketing costs, bringing the total to about $5,000. At the very beginning, we did not intend to do this, but with the marketing agency doing so well and with Tasty Humans showing such potential, it would have been foolish to squander the opportunity by being cheap.
We ordered a few more review copies than we needed, which added a few hundred. We had Rahdo do a video, which was the best $500 I’ve ever spent! Then after that, we waited until two days before the game launched and then ran a bunch of Facebook ads.
Why wait until two days before? The two day time period gave us adequate time for Facebook to approve the ads and for us to test them. It also meant we wouldn’t spend much money before the game was, you know, buyable. Once we knew the ad worked, we really juiced it up with a few hundred for the first two days of the campaign. We then ultimately spent a total of about $1,600 on Facebook ads over the life of the campaign.
One of my regrets with this campaign is that we never turned on conversion tracking for Facebook ads. We’ll never know for sure how much the ads brought in. I stopped and started the ads for a couple of days. From that, I imputed that we earned $6-7 per every ad dollar, which I feel pretty good about.
Another one of my regrets with this campaign is that we were so risk-averse. We had such a high conversion rate on the page, so few review copies, and relatively little money spent on ads. If we had invested more early on, it’s very possible that we could have made $50,000 or more on this campaign.
Tasty Humans Was the Least Stressful Campaign I’ve Ever Run
I don’t have too many regrets, though. In fact, this is the least stressful Kickstarter campaign I’ve ever run. Having seen dramatic highs and dramatic lows in the board game business, this was a relative breeze.
Our team is fantastic, which made launch day less stressful. With relatively little money on the line and the agency being a viable way to generate revenue, the specter of failure no longer had the same ability to frighten.
Do We Have Any Regrets?
I can’t speak for the other guys, but I have to say I don’t really have regrets that matter on this project. I’ve tried to nitpick and autopsy this game like War Co. or Highways & Byways, but the simple truth is that this accomplished every objective we wanted it to and more.
What objectives were those? Well, I wanted redemption after a failed campaign and I wanted to launch a low-risk project. Ryan wanted to see his design come to life. Tyson wanted to establish himself as a capable board game developer. On all fronts, we succeded.
My one regret is that we didn’t spend more on the marketing campaign. We would have bought a couple more review copies, spent some more on ads, and maybe attended another convention or two.
With Tasty Humans funded, all that’s left is manufacturing and fulfillment. As logistically tricky as these can be, both are familiar territory for Pangea Games.
At this point, we’re considering new game ideas. For me personally, I’m still working on building the marketing agency. The agency will need to settle into more of a routine before I become actively involved in new games. That said, we’re kicking around the idea of doing another 48-hour design contest in late September. You never know… 🙂