Archive | March 2014

Bumps in the BHAG Road

12 Kickstarters in 12 months. That should be 1 a month, but month 3 is close to over and the third campaign hasn’t started. What’s up?

Direction is Clear, but the Road is Bumpy

Direction is Clear, but the Road is Bumpy

I had a third campaign planned for this month, but hit a snag when I found out that it required more artwork than I thought. The game was designed by a friend of Dave and Kai, my Fun to 11 partners. It has some challenging production elements – basically printing on a substrate that I’ve never printed on before. We couldn’t launch the KS until we had that process totally locked down with very firm procedures and pricing. Getting that type of thing wrong is the type of mistake that can destroy a campaign; making it a financial and/or quality disaster.

We finally got the process down, but the cost ended up being higher than we think the audience will bear. So in the end, we had to go a different way with components. We also needed to get some 2D artwork done that I hadn’t planned for so that the product in the video will look more complete. That artwork is now working it’s way through the process. All-in-all, the delays are likely to push the campaign back at least 6 weeks.

Luckily, I’m always working on more than one project at a time, so I should have a live campaign up within two weeks. This will be the 1st expansion set to Fun to 11s best selling project – The Miskatonic School for Girls. This project is interesting to me for a lot of game design reasons as the expansion will really shake up the play environment. The playtesting is already done and the last piece of art came in last week, so I think we can be ready to go pretty quickly with this one.

MSFG_Logo_HolidayBreak

I decided to run the campaign with an abbreviated schedule length of 15-20 days. Campaign length is an interesting variable. 30 days seems to be a good length for a game campaign, but there have been some other campaigns that have experimented with shorter ones. There is some logic to a shorter campaign. Here is a “backer graph” of a typical campaign.

Note the "Dead Middle"

Note the “Dead Middle”

As you can see most of the money is made in the first 3-5 days and the last 3-5 days. You can see why just skipping the middle might be a fine idea. That said, some campaigns can do very well in the middle. A good middle can end up contributing 1/3rd of the total raise. Longer middles also give you time to build valuable awareness and hopefully the folks that learn about the campaign in the middle, back it at the end.

On the down side, longer campaigns suffer from a two important things. First, they are simply longer and you have to work the campaign whole time. That is a lot of time spent on hustle. Running KS is almost a full time job (and can absolutely be MORE than 40 hrs. a week of work). Long campaigns limit the amount of other stuff you can do during that time.

The other very real downside of long campaigns is that they can definitely hit your confidence and take an emotional toll. You hustle all day trying to keep up interest only to get a single $30 backer. It’s a rough day when you do the math and realize you would have done better spending the day working at Walgreens and throwing that money into your campaign… Some days you LOSE backers and money. For a close campaign, those days make you doubt the entire idea.

For the MSfG expansion, I feel the right way to go is a shorter campaign. Because it is an expansion for an existing game, I already have a good way to communicate to most of my most likely backers – I can contact them through the original MSfG Kickstarter. So the real value of the long middle – raising awareness – isn’t really that critical. I haven’t seen many expansions on Kickstarter before, so I’m not 100% sure what will happen, but I expect to find out quickly. I’ll be able to contact a lot of potential backers and either they will like the idea of an expansion or they won’t. I don’t think I need all 30 days to find that out.

Another Stark Realization

I’m starting to realize that the various trade-shows I go to every year are going to have an meaningful impact on the BHAG. I’m going to lose days. I already lost days at MagFest, Unpub, Toy Fair, Dexcon and GAMA. I’m going to lose more days at PAX East, GenCon, and many many more shows. I’ve also been asked to go overseas in the Fall to talk to some studio execs about games, I need to go to LA a few times to keep in touch with my toy industry clients, and I need to stay on top of the class I teach at Harrisburg University. All-in-all, those shows, work travel, and teaching are likely to take almost 3 months of work days out of my year. Not much I can do about it except plow forward and work harder!

Update on Current Campaigns

Meeple MSFG update

Meeple Deck: Contract signed, approved files at the printer. Expect to have decks in hand with plenty of time to ship and be on time. Yea!

HtH card on table

How to Human: Files at the POD printer. We’re running a test run on both the “standard” and “premium” paper to see which we like better. Premium playing card stock is sometimes thinner to the point of felling flimsy. I guess you could call it “elegant” but with such a large POD run, we thought it best to try out both. Price really won’t be an issue as it’s a small difference, we just want the best feeling paper.

We did deliver “Level-Up!: the Elevator RPG” PDF to all the How to Human backers. That game is fun – we’ll probably guerrilla run it at PAX East and GenCon…

Next Up: Videos and how they have changed over the last 4 years of Kickstarter.

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The Least Interesting, but Maybe the Most Important Post of the Year.

How did I spend last week? What great work did I do to keep the wheels churning on my creative-output-enhancing BHAG? I did taxes.

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To be clear, I didn’t DO the taxes, I use an accountant for that. What I did was untangle a more-complicated-than-it-should-be year of financial data so that what I turn over will be checked and double checked. If you think taxes take a long time, try getting audited.

In 2013 I did consulting for toy and computer game companies through Geek Dynasty (never simple when it comes to taxes). I also was a majority owner of Fun to 11 where we continued to do Kickstarter released games and sell those games through distribution and at trade shows.

My record keeping is very good, but due to a few missing statements, getting it all organized was a huge PITA. I also utilize cash based accounting which caused me confusion with regard to credit card expenses (“do they go in the year where I charged, or the year where I paid the credit card bill”).

Anyway, the long and short of the week was that I spent basically 1 day on Kickstarter related stuff, and 4+ days on taxes. I have one more tax day left, then probably a couple of meetings with the accountant before it will all be done.

When you engage in Kickstarter, there are many product related issues that can cause delays; customs, slow artists, printer issues, etc… But there are many – MANY – non-product related issues. Some of these are personal (“my kids soccer team is going to the state championships!”), and some are like taxes.

It is important to leave room for those non-product-related delays. They will happen. Some like taxes you’ll think “I should have known that was coming up” but others like the soccer example are pure life randomness. Also, understand that if you have a team working on your project, any one member of the team can cause delays with non-product-related issues. The larger the team, the MORE of a risk this is. With a large team, your risk of having folks quit mid-project is also much higher as some members of the team will not have the same sense of loyalty to the project/backers as the creator. Even if a team member is “loyal,” he/she might have an opportunity present itself that is so good that turning it down would be downright irresponsible for them and/or their family (“good” in this example might even be external to your team member, like a spouse who takes a job in another state).

Being late on a KS tends to snowball. Once you have to start dealing with angry backers, your lose even more control over the situation. Time spent stamping out fires grows, and your once loyal team members get itchy to move on. What should have been a 1 month delay turns into a 4 month delay.

This leads to the most relevant advice I can give this week, and perhaps the most important of the year…

Pad. Your. Schedule.

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Project Updates

Meeple Deck: Several rounds of back and forth with the printer. All moving ahead well.

How to Human: We hit the stretch goal for adding Level Up! AFTER the campaign closed (we let PayPal donations count towards the goal). Jordan has started turning the graphics into a PDF file, which I expect we’ll be delivering in 2-3 weeks. I still need to get the rules document done and edited which always takes longer than you think it should.

For the main deliverable we had an issue come up where our contact at the POD printer went on a long vacation, but our schedule can handle it.

Upcoming Project Prep Work: Fun to 11 has three KS campaigns planned for 2014. The first one up requires a good bit of pre-work with a printer. Basically, we’re doing a kind of printing we’ve never done before, so it’s taking more back and forth on quotes than I would consider standard. If all goes well, we should be up by the middle-end of March. I’m looking forward to this campaign as it’s a test of a very interesting theory IMO.