Lessons from successfully funding a card game on Kickstarter
It had been building for two years; my confidence and willingness to launch a big piece of my creative self on Kickstarter. My card game, Plotalot, had been tested and tweaked time after time, and the final hurdle was telling the world about it. With lock-down in full swing during one of the most uncertain years of recent history, I clicked the Kickstarter submit’ button and off sped my creation onto the screens and into the minds of gamers all over the globe. Two years of designing, testing, developing and worrying was not to be in vain. With my head clear on what I wanted to achieve in just 30 nail-biting days I was rewarded with a fully funded game by over 350%.
I remember watching the last minute of the campaign tick down with an unnerving mix of gratitude and fear. It was over, I had finally done it and not only that, people had backed the campaign from all over the world.
The experience of creating something and putting it out there was a series of huge lessons, a whirlwind course in business and product development wrapped up in a package of small wins and big fails in only 30-days.
I learnt so much, about myself and business, and thought I’d share some of the most important lessons with you.
Lesson one: Nobody can do it all
When I started the process of creating my game, it came from my head and my head alone. Therefore it made sense to me that I alone was responsible for its success or failure. But the thing is, no one person is good at everything; I am great at creating ideas, concepts and mechanisms but on the flip side, I am terrible with numbers. This lead to some silly and costly mistakes during my Kickstarter campaign and during a 30-day window which ends in funded or not funded, I had to quickly react and accept that I needed some support.
Forgiving my mistakes and opening the door to help not only made the campaign more successful but freed me up to do what I do best — create content, ideas and stretch goals. I have not forgotten this first and important lesson, and have become less afraid to take on a little help here and there, even if it’s just a soundboard to bounce off or a shoulder to cry on.
Lesson two: You will make mistakes and that’s OK
This lesson leads nicely from the first; mistakes are inevitable, it’s how you react and learn from them that’s important. I recently heard a fantastic statement about evolution on an Infinite Monkey Cage podcast — ‘Evolution is a series of successful mistakes, it’s error pilled upon error. Walking is a series of successful falls, one fall after another.‘ Is there a better way to look at mistakes; I think not.
At every stage, from conception through to design and Kickstarter, I have made mistakes. But each one has lead me to a more refined product and approach to business. Error upon error, lesson upon lesson — I realise now that mistakes help our ideas and products become the best they can be. Sure they hurt and in the moment it drags you down, especially the big ones, but you don’t make the big mistakes twice.
Lesson three: Don’t delay your project for perfection
I am a perfectionist — there I said it. The problem with that is Plotalot might have been released last year if I hadn’t been so adamant that it had to be perfect and loved by all. Perfection is a poison chalice. Of course as a designer, I want my games to be right, to flow and challenge players in a way that’s creative and fun. But striving for perfection is a weighty goal which takes a lot of energy and effort.
No game is ever perfect, it’s a subjective experience that everyone will feel different about; some people will love it and others won’t — that’s the same with any new idea or product. Trying to creating something ‘perfect’ to please all only leads to hesitation and indecision, and maybe even a weaker product which isn’t as focused. In the end, I have learnt that if I create something that is true to myself and my style of gaming, then that is as perfect as it can be.
Lesson four: Step away from the campaign
Embarking on any funding effort is a stressful process, especially if it’s something you’ve made. It’s an exposing process to offer a piece of your creativity to people you don’t know and ask they to pay for it.
During my Kickstarter campaign, I found one of the most important things I could do for myself was to take time away. Walk, run, listen to music and get into nature; just give your mind time away from the campaign to recharge and reset. Comments and messages don’t have to be answered instantly and updates require time and space to be written informatively. 30-days may feel like no time at all but it’s a month of constant concern, so giving yourself a few moments away is key to making it through.
Lesson five: Always remember why you started
There will be times when you’re bogged down and can’t see the wood for the trees; this is true during Kickstarter and beyond. The trick is to step back and remember why you started in the first place. For me, this was an opportunity to take an idea from my head to the homes of people all over the world. To bring people together away from TV and life stress for just half an hour, in the way countless other games have done for me in the past. And, more importantly, to follow a passion to do something different.
Many of you may have watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk about starting with ‘why’ — if you haven’t you must — and this is a lesson I leaned on throughout my Kickstarter campaign. When writing your page, promoting, answering messages or updating your backers, remember why you started and let that shine though in the most honest way possible. Kickstarter backers are a wonderful community and all they want is a truthful and passionate creator — so show them why that’s you.
Lesson six: Plan for success
I didn’t believe my Kickstarter campaign would be a success and so I didn’t plan for that. I underestimated just how many people around the world would support me and this lead to some naive mistakes. None were insurmountable but they added unnecessary stress that could’ve been avoided. Belief in yourself and the product you’ve created is essential, so give that belief the most stable platform to bounce off. For example, days before my campaign kicked off I invested in a pledge manager — I remember thinking “maybe this game might fund — I should have a pledge manager”. Looking back, I wish I’d integrated the tool into my planning earlier; I wish I’d believed the game would fund earlier. With it, I would’ve been able to plan and support my campaign more effectively from an earlier stage and minimise certain stresses during the key 30-days of funding.
My lack of belief meant I nearly didn’t go for a pledge manager at all and that would have made my life during and post-Kickstarter very difficult. Don’t go crazy and get every tool out there but do believe it’s going to work and plan for a smashing campaign!
I hope these lessons are useful and help anyone thinking about launching their own Kickstarter campaign, business or product.
My game, Plotalot, is now in its final stages of manufacture and will be hitting the tables of backers across the world in the coming months. If you missed the campaign and want to know more about the game, click here.
Follow Moonstone Games on Instagram to see what we’re playing and how Plotalot progresses.