Alternate Title: The Best Terrible Stretch Goal Decision We’ve Ever Made
Background: Fun to 11 launched a Kickstarter for it’s game Epic PvP: Fantasy in early 2015. A few weeks before launching, Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) got on board (they are handling the retail version). AEG brought a lot of eyeballs and our goal was to convert them to backers.
We had already planned a series of stretch goals that we felt could lead to real excitement if they were hit (creating an “exploding tier”). We felt this strategy could bring in fence sitters early, and we could use that momentum later. The problem was, we didn’t change our stretch goal numbers when AEG got involved. We thought about it, but it felt cheaty to us. Plus, we’re getting sick of fake stretch goals to be honest.
The campaign started very fast (thanks AEG!) and we blew through our stretch goals way too fast. We made some new ones on-the-fly. They were mostly simple things like stickers and random pairing tokens. We did add a few new decks that we felt confident in our ability to develop before we had to go to print. One of the things we added in the middle was a Kickstarter exclusive box. When we added it we were thinking we would do custom art for it like we have done in the past. But as the campaign went on, we started throwing ideas around…
Note 1: Letting Jay and Jordan (two great graphic designers) brainstorm can get expensive
We bought a few high end ($35 MSRP) card carrying boxes from other publishers and ripped into them. Our eyes kept getting wider with what we could do. We started looking at just how cool of a box we could get into an efficient shipping size (Regional A USPS box). Jay did a card prototype and we fell in love with it. At this point, we had done exactly zero costing. I looked at the box and I knew if we did it, it would massively increase our cost of goods – almost double probably. So we had a “lets get real” conversation.
Our mission statement says nothing about making money. It’s about making the best products we can with people we want to work with. We’re not against money – it’s what gives us fuel to make more products – but it’s not our goal.
Note 2: It’s good to have a mission statement as it makes hard decisions easier
There was no going back, this was going to happen. Based on the other boxes we looked at, the box we ended up with (and this is no joke or exaggeration) would normally be priced with an MSRP of at least $34.99 and probably more like $39.99 if it was sold by itself – EMPTY. And we were giving it away as a mid-campaign stretch goal for a game that early backers got for as little as $36!
Note 3: Success = Hitting Your Goal not Making Maximum Money.
Did it cost us way too much money in any logical sense to do this? Sure. Did we loose money on the campaign because of it? Not at all – we still did fine. Will we make any more boxes like this? We might get more boxes of a similar design to sell empty to MtG and other CCG players – it would work great for Commander and Cube MtG in particular.
Were there surprise down-sides? Yup.
We had some logistics issues catch us off guard. When you make such a premium looking box, some backers will see any blemish as a “damaged product.” Normally, when a product is damaged in shipping, it’s the shipper’s responsibility, but that doesn’t work in the real world like it should so we had to eat the cost to send replacements to people who requested them. We had to replace some boxes that had very minor scuffs (as well as some truly mangled ones) – and then ship these large items out to backers, some of them overseas (ouch!). And while this was our highest-grossing Kickstarter to date at ~$160K – it wasn’t one of those Kickstarters that had enough money sloshing around to hire outside folks to handle stuff like that, so handling those replacements fell on us (and by “us” I mean “Jordan”…sorry Jordan).
The big question: Would we do it again on an upcoming Epic PvP Kickstarter or some other Fun to 11 product? No idea. We have more ideas than time, and this box took a lot of time to get right and it introduced complexity post-shipment as well. But we know for sure that we will always be looking at ways to do more than is expected when we can for our Kickstarter backers as they provide us the fuel to make the products we want. That and our mission statement pushes us to make products we are very proud of.
Footnote: Fun to 11’s ability to do things like free $40 boxes is unusual because of who we are (people with day jobs and working spouses who don’t need to take a salary from Fun to 11 to make ends meet). If our goal was to grow Fun to 11 into a powerhouse game company (a fine goal for sure!), we probably would not have gone as overboard on that box as we did. Instead, we would have invested that money in some other way. Maybe some day, we’ll have different plans for Fun to 11, but for now it really is more fun for us to do what we do for love not money.
.gif image in this blog was swiped from the awesome folks at Geekdad. They made it for their review of Epic PvP: Fantasy, which you can find here.