Board games have always been a part of culture, ranging as far back as 7th century AD (Britannica). While major companies like Hasbro and Mattel have kept the family game night alive, the community of board game hobbyists is continuously growing.
As time goes on, Kickstarter has brought to life many board games, with some finding phenomenal success on the platform. Fields of Cognition will utilize the same strategy as previous successful board game titles by creating a strong community and word of mouth.
Seen through this marketing plan, Fields of Cognition has unique selling power and the chance to be popular among newcomers in the hobby as well as veterans. Competition is steep and budgeting needs to be fully conceived, especially during the outages and shortages manufacturing plants have faced, but with this plan the game can rise to success.
- Executive Summary
- Product Overview
- Situation Analysis
- Market Comparison
- SWOT Analysis
- Target Market
- Marketing Strategy
- Kickstarter Campaign Plan
- Launch an informative and successful Kickstarter campaign to raise up to 100% of production costs.
- Host reviews, giving visibility to 50,000+ potential buyers.
The product is a board game that features deck building mechanics, battling, upgrading characters, random chance, and monsters, all in a small (12” x 6” x 2”) box, and is affordable enough to be accessible to the audience who wants to try to get into board games without committing too much time and money.
Deck building mechanics refer to a way cards are used within the game. Each player starts with a tiny deck that restricts them from doing interesting things, but near the end of the game the player’s deck is large and full of powerful cards.
In terms of the game, every round players start by having the chance to buy cards, which will be added to their deck after their current deck runs out. There are movement cards that move the characters around on the board, power cards that allow the characters to perform their special ability in accordance with a dice roll, and currency (referred to as “spark”) that players use to buy cards.
The game has unique selling points:
- Creative characters
- Multiple replay ability
- Expansive and adaptable
- Easy to understand
- Affordable price
- Introduces players to DnD mechanics without playing it
- Fun, colorful, and lighthearted
There are four kinds of characters:
- Warriors: Attacks monsters and saves the town
- Settlers: Generates more settlers and warriors, and manages the town’s shops and builds new buildings
- Bureaucrats: Can’t move, but earns the player more spark and expands the town
- Monsters: Attacks the other characters and wreaks havoc
Instead of basing these characters off of humans or known mythical creatures (dragons, ogres, etc.), every character is original and contain their own unique traits.
Multiple Replay Ability:
The locations of the starting townsfolk and the monsters and the motives of the players, change with every game. The game also brings a lot of variety to the player because the board is double-sided, meaning there are two different kinds of each character that can be mix and matched with the board type. This variety to the game offers a lot of worth to the player, hopefully making them believe they are getting more than their money’s worth.
Expansive and Adaptable:
There will be a series of four different boards, with an even more affordable 2-player 6” x 6” board that players can buy. Each board will have two areas with two sets of different characters, none repeating across the boards. The boards can be placed side-by-side according to the player’s discretion, to make an even larger board. Each of the boards are “standalone,” meaning other boards do not have to be bought for players to play the game.
This feature adds to the replay ability of the game, while also expanding the game and introducing more characters. Perhaps buyers will want to collect the different kinds of characters (these could be separated into their own cheap packs if players don’t want to buy a full game to get new characters). Perhaps the players are more into the board gaming hobby and want a bigger game with more challenges. Due to the grid layout of the boards, the possibilities of board layouts could be endless.
Easy to Understand:
The game is geared towards players that are wanting to get more into the hobby without breaking the bank. This market calls for players that may not be able to handle complex gameplay and large rule books (they could handle it, but that’s not the focus of the product). The rulebook should be easy to follow, with pictures depicting how the game is set up, what each component means, and the steps to playing the game. The game benefits from having most of the rules displayed on the cards, with correlating icons to direct the player from the cards they play to the characters on the board.
Prices of products (price goals, no research conducted yet):
- Character packs (consisting of 6 character tokens and 1 character card) $3.00
- 2-Player small board game version: $10.00
- Full game: $15.00
Compared to other board games on the market, especially ones that are created directly by designers (not publishers), are a lot more expensive than these price goals. I believe parts that restrict players from getting interested in board games are price. Reviews for board games are difficult to find, compared to the abundance of reviews of video games.
With further study, the price may be difficult to achieve, especially when wanting to make a profit, but to hit the goal of price there may be little to no profit. Comparison to other games and the different mass production costs is needed to appropriately determine the correct price to the product.
Introduces players to DnD mechanics without playing DnD:
Dungeons and dragons is a popular role playing game, where players play a single fantasy character and progress through a world of the dungeon master’s creation, leveling up, killing monsters, and creating their own story for themselves. A level of chance is needed in the game, as to depict the randomness of life, where players announce an action, roll the dice, and the dungeons master determines if their rolls passes or fails.
The rolling of dice to create a level of randomness in the game is mimicked in my product, where when players play a power card to perform an action related to the character, they must roll the dice to see which of the three actions on the card they can perform. Instead of players playing only one character in my game, they can control any of the characters, getting them familiar with how different kinds of characters work. I purposely avoided using familiar creatures in my game to avoid offending players of DnD, and to not trouble players with creatures that need deep background knowledge (all the background information for the creature is on the character cards themselves).
Another aspect of the game that I wanted to come through is players developing their own stories. DnD is a lot about players reflecting on the stories that they created together while playing, and I hope to bringing that continued excitement with my game. While the structure for my game is a little more rigid, the characters have such a loose background where players can come up with their own origin stories and “fill in the blanks.”
The properties that would make a board game functional are:
- Time to set up
- Is a showpiece/stands out
The size and portability of the game is a key factor in creating a product that breaks into the beginning hobbyist market. If the game is too large (137sq/in), then it would be difficult to transport. The benefits of Fields of Cognition is that it can easily be brought to different locations because of the size of the box. This would encourage more players to travel with it because it wouldn’t be such a hindrance on them. Box size also correlates to how much something is worth, which is talked about later in the Cost section.
The time to set up is a tricky factor to balance. When a player fist opens a game, they will typically go to the instructions to understand the proper setup and gameplay. Fields of Cognition benefits by having a lot of its rules and actions displayed on the cards, limiting the amount of time it takes to read the instructions. For the target market (explained further in the report), players want a quick setup because they are either new to the board game hobby or just starting. Fields of Cognition’s rules are a simple 3 steps per round that each player performs, and starting setup only requires a board, 7 tokens on it, 4 character cards, and 6 starting cards given to each player.
Besides being whimsical in its character design, Fields of Cognition uses a bright, 2-hue color scheme that’s easy on the eyes and stands out from all the board game boxes of browns and blacks.
The recent lockdown has shown a large increase in board game and video game sales over the past year, with “11bn in 2020, with 2021 set to see the industry cross $12bn, according to market research provider Euromonitor International.” (Dice Breaker) These sales include the variety of different tabletop games, from standard board games, role playing games, card games, and puzzles.
Currently there are three large companies that own some of the most known tabletop games. Hasbro, the makers of Monopoly and Risk, also own the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons and the company Wizards of the Coast that make Magic: The Gathering. (Dice Breaker) The second largest company, Mattel, owns the board game brands Scrabble, Pictionary, and Uno, while the third largest company, Asmodee Group, maintains Fantasy Flight Games, Catan Studio, Days of Wonder, and Z-Man games (Dice Breaker).
The US is the largest portion of the board game market, providing a third of all sales, going from $3.7 billion in 2020 to a predicted $4.2 billion (Dice Breaker). Because of economic uncertainty and the current COVID 19 pandemic, people have looked to games as a way to continuously entertain themselves. This at-home entertainment surge is expected to normalize and decrease as people receive the vaccine and are allowed to leave their homes.
Kickstarter has been steadily growing in popularity to help fundraise money for the production of new board games. Raising up to $236.6 million last year, the game Frosthaven, set records as the highest funded board game on Kickstarter, receiving up to $13 million in funding (Dice Breaker).
In a recent survey, “The majority of survey respondents, 57%, own between 1 and 25 board and card games, while 22% have between 26 and 50. Next up, 5.9% own between 76 and 100 games, while 4.2% of people own between 51 and 75 games. And, an impressive 10.9% own more than 100!” (Print Ninja). Because of the lockdown, people are looking for more entertainment and as a board game gets overplayed, new ones must be bought to fill the need.
The willingness to pay for games is exemplified in the survey, where
- “6% spent less than $100
- 15% spent $100-$199
- 19% spent $200-$399
- 16% spent $400-599
- 21% spent $600-$1,000
- 22% spent more than $1,000
- 1% was unsure” (Print Ninja)
These factors are important to note in trying to reach a cost of the product. The less the cost, the more potential value it can bring to those who only buy a few games each year.
The biggest sellers of board games are through word of mouth. Advertising is not as effective as having known board game reviewers cover the game. “Surprisingly, 71% of respondents say they hear about new games through word-of-mouth. Other common responses included browsing BoardGameGeek, Kickstarter, and Amazon, along with attending conventions. One of the less popular answers? Online advertisements. Just 17% of gamers say they heard about new games through this channel.” (Print Ninja) A clear market strategy would be to have the product available online through Amazon or able to pre-purchase, then introduce it to the world through reviewers giving their opinion about it. A problem with this strategy is the product must result in positive reviews so those are inclined to purchase it. “Brick and mortar retail channel accounted for the largest market share of more than 65% in 2019. Most consumers seem to purchase board games at retail stores which are projected to fuel the growth of the board games market.” (Pipecandy)
Currently the top 3 kinds of board games people enjoy playing are Eurogames, Cooperative Games, and Deck building games (Meeple Mountain). Fields of Cognition isn’t a Eurogame because the genre is defined as players playing a game without in reacting with one another. Another feature is that the players can’t lose or die. In Fields of Cognition, the characters can die and be reborn. Fields of Cognition could be considered a cooperative game because the players can affect any character on the board and work together to defeat monsters or expand the community. This product fits the category of deck building games, where a player’s deck slowly grows throughout, making them feel more powerful.
Who players play with is also important, as it tells us the groups to target and how to get others talking about the game. “More than half (58%) always play with friends or acquaintances, while 37% say they’re usually in the company of friends.” (Print Ninja) For most of the players out there, at least one other family member is present in playing the board games, but this could mean it’s a couple or single household. The problem with looking into each family member is that board games are usually bought per household, not per player. Board games typically require multiple people to play the game, so if another player is a family member, that person perhaps has no need to own the game themselves. This fact is important to keep in mind when performing metrics, while those that play the game along with the owner, only a few of them may be inclined to purchase the game for themselves.
Costs can vary based on board game. The price to develop and produce a small, one deck of cards alone costed a designer $3,000 (Brandon Rollins). Prototyping a game for the designer and others to test can also be expensive, with one designer prototyping his 6 deck game costing him around $500 (Brandon Rollins). Other costs can come about when starting a company as a solo publisher, typically an LLC is easier to obtain and works better with a team. Advertising could also be an avenue to pursue, but as found from studies this method isn’t as effective as creating a community and getting the word out there about the game.
Figure 1: Kickstarter Board Game Comparison (Calculations found on Kickstarter.com)
Upon analyzing Figure 1, we start noticing similarities between the different categories of board games. The highest grossing board games on Kickstarter typically have dungeon crawling (players move around an area and battle monsters) mechanics with typical fantasy themes. These games also come with extravagant plastic standing figures and intricate artwork. Besides a few, these games were also not the first of its kind and were either continuations of previous games or related to video games or other known franchises. A key thing to note with most of the top funded games: they are all expensive. The average price for the top 19 most funded games is around $70. This would make sense that they are the most funded because it is easier to reach the funding goal with less backers (people who paid money to support and get the game). The one outlier to this is Exploding Kittens, which had a low price of $20, but since it had more than twice as many backers as the highest funded game, it was still made the top funded list. Exploding Kittens reached success in multiple ways even just being the first game those designers made:
- Funny content
- Easy to play
- Low price
- Designers were well known
The people that bought the game might have also bought the big games like Frosthaven and other large, multi-hour, complex role-playing games, but it’s safe to say that those that typically bought Exploding Kittens lie within a different target market. Many were familiar with the goofy comics of The Oatmeal, the designers of the game, so owning part of their silly content was sought after. Their target market laid within the possibly slightly younger crowd, who wanted to play something easy to learn and bring around to parties. The games involving figures were obviously for the more board game hobbyist types. People wouldn’t know to buy those kinds of games unless they were already playing them or doing research into playing them. Exploding Kittens is easy to set up and small enough to play at a bar, at home, or any location with a flat surface. These other games could take up to an hour to learn and set up, and even then, their dense rulebooks would constantly need referencing. The target market for Exploding Kittens resembles that of Field of Cognition’s target market goal, with silly characters, lower price, fast setup, and it’s easy to learn. The only problem would be the lack of familiarity when introducing the product to customers because the company and/or designer isn’t widely known (which will be diagnosed further in the Marketing Strategy).
Looking at the top games currently being funded in Figure 1, we see the trend continue, but a variety of games start to appear. Some games still fall within the horror and fantasy genres, but then some deviate to humorous, calming, or other settings. Here, nothing is below $40 (besides one), as all the games require a combination of a multitude of pieces, figures, and original artwork. The game Hidden Figures appears to use the same kind of marketing strategy that Exploding Kittens used, except towards a slightly different target market. Currently, with video games like Among Us becoming very popular, hidden/secret role games are the current fad. While Hidden Figures doesn’t have as much funding as other games on the list, it currently has the most backers, which makes sense if most people just bought the base game. This is a situation that must be kept in mind: if the game is selling for a lower price, there needs to be a lot more backers to be able to reach the funding goals. This problem will be covered more in the Financial Projection section.
Observing the current deck building games being funded in Figure 1, there were unfortunately not many current deck building board games being produce for comparison. The deck building category is what was focused on due to the mechanic playing heavily in Fields of Cognition. It was observing these games that we find the opposite end of the spectrum: those that will fail. PickUp may actually meet its goal and become funded, due to it’s nice artwork, easy to understand gameplay, and its portability. The other two games will most likely not succeed in their goals. 60 Frames may have an interesting game idea, but the artwork is simple stick figures, and the color choices are dull and not exciting. Escaveilia has problems where the game is still in its early development. Most of its Kickstarter page is long stretches of text and no gameplay examples because of its current lack of playability. The only positive it has is that its card design is slowly coming along. The game also has an far-extended release date (Jan 2022), which is most likely a placeholder because the developer doesn’t know when they’re actually going to be able to release it. These pitfalls are ones that should be avoided:
- Bad art
- Poor Kickstarter layout
- No following from outside people (game was only announced when Kickstarter was made)
- No perceivable game, or gameplay is difficult to understand
The most selling deck building game in the top funded deck building games show how the board game hobby is becoming increasingly popular. The game Endless Winter sold over 11,000 copies, and this was even at its $60 price tag. Most new people getting into board games would not typically jump for a $60 game, but consumers saw the price worth it for the amount of content that came with the game. The game also introduced multiple expansions with the game that boosted the price while also offering a series of benefits. The next most selling game Hardback, fell into the same scenario that Exploding Kittens and Hidden Figures went into: cheaper games encourages more people to buy it. While visibly the funding does not equate to the amount bigger games have generated, profits can still be made due to not producing as expensive pieces. Most products on Kickstarter are cheaper than their retail price as to encourage people to buy it, but the production of the product should be covered so it can still be delivered to customers if the Kickstarter campaign passes.
Considering the product, Fields of Cognition, that is being offered and what the market currently contains, we can generate a table consisting of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
|Strengths Small team of one person that can take care of all art and design Hosts local game groups that can market word of mouth||Weaknesses Limited personal storage space Limited time for personal engagement Limited funding for pre-production materials Will have to learn business planning and start a LLC|
|Opportunities Low-price board game that offers a lot of value within the single box Humorous game that is also a dungeon type of game||Threats Games with larger teams can offer bigger productions A social following to the designer and the game is limited compared to other social media accounts|
“Board games are witnessing a high-value proposition for investors and general population than other advanced video games. A major factor that is encouraging the general population to invest is that board games are easy to understand and people can connect with the concept rapidly and can set realistic targets. Hence the increase in crowdfunding platforms for the game publishers is a major factor that is driving the growth of the market.” (PR Newswire)
Countries ordered by industry size:
- North America
- African and Latin America
Board game type segments:
- Tabletop games
- Collectible card games
- Card and Dice games
- Miniature Games
- Role playing games
- Tabletop games
- Role playing games (PR Newswire)
“Our findings confirm that while there are more games to choose from than ever before, consumers still want even more. They are wholeheartedly embracing the rising influx of indie games, and in fact, can’t get enough. The outlook for indie game makers is good – perhaps even better than ever before.” (Print Ninja)
Introducing a new product can be daunting; consumers are unaware of what it offers and it is fighting to be seen within a sea of other products. Luckily, the board game industry is continuously growing with the help of crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter, and the acceptance to shop online being bigger than before. More board game stores, including those selling “nerd” merchandise (products about fictional shows, movies, books, games) are showing up. This could be due to the generation of kids who grew up with video games and cultures now being able to start their own businesses and afford products of their own.
The biggest sellers of board games are through word of mouth. Advertising is not as effective as having known board game reviewers cover the game. A clear market strategy would be to have the product available online through Amazon or able to pre-purchase, then introduce it to the world through reviewers giving their opinion about it. A problem with this strategy is the product must result in positive reviews so those are inclined to purchase it.
Age can play a large factor in finding the right target market, “For example, the older someone is, the more likely they are to play games solo, and the less likely they are to play games with the same group of people at irregular times.” (Meeple Mountain) This would mean that our focus should be on a slightly younger age group (20-30’s) that consist of people who still enjoy playing games with others and meeting new people in the process.
Currently, according to a study by (Meeple Mountain), the top 3 kinds of board games people enjoy playing are Eurogames, Cooperative Games, and Deck building games. My product wouldn’t necessarily be considered a Eurogame because the genre is defined as players playing a game without in reacting with one another. Another feature is that the players can’t lose or die. In my product, the characters can die and be reborn. My game could be considered a cooperative game because the players can affect any character on the board and work together to defeat monsters or expand the community. My game fits the category of deck building games, where a player’s deck slowly grows throughout, making them feel more powerful.
“Playing with others is the most enjoyable aspect but beating them is not. Game art and table presence is crucial, and flavor text is enjoyed, but relying on luck to get through the game is disliked. We like to be challenged, we appreciate the care and attention that goes into the things we like, and we like to be responsible for our own decisions. I wonder if this same survey were given to players of video games (where there is often not as much face-to-face contact and the game controls a lot more of the action), if the numbers would be skewed differently.” (Meeple Mountain)
Figure 2: Ease of Enjoyment Versus Complexity Subgroup Market Chart
What segmenting dimensions should be used to identify our target market?
With competitive pricing for a role-playing game, wrapped around a humorous theme, the target consumers for this game should be a mix of people that are just getting into the board game hobby. The price of the game offers low risk for the consumer while providing value on the amount of variability within the game. Because the offering of board games can relate to both those who don’t play as frequently and the continuing hobbyist, the target market should have a combined target market approach. These combinations could have separate wants.
To try to figure out the target market, we can look at the segmentation in Figure 2.
- Shows the group of players that want a game that can be enjoyed quickly, which means it’s easy to set up, easy to learn, and the visuals are pleasing. Games that relate to this category include Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity, Ticket to Ride, and other party games.
- The group of people that want an easier setup but want a complexity element within the game that involves more than just playing cards with one item on it. These cards could have multiple functions or do work with other to create a series of tasks. These types of people are already familiar with the board gaming hobby, but don’t have the time to commit hours of gameplay or are not in a group of people (friends or strangers) that can handle complex games. Games that relate to this are El Dorado, Quacks of Quedlinburg, Hardback, and other mid-priced deck building games.
- This group of people are ones that seek the enjoyment from games after taking the time to learn a series of rules. The rules typically consist of a large booklet to learn, figurines, large maps, and cards that hold a variety of different data. These people are key members of the board gaming hobby, and are familiar with multiple kinds of games and are around others that are also into board games. The games can take over an hour to play, sometimes up to 4. Games included in this group are Mage Knight, Twilight Imperium, Gloomhaven/Frosthaven, and other high-priced games that include figures and narrative content, as well as engine building and worker placement mechanics.
- This group represents those that are just starting to become serious about the board game hobby, and will buy games more frequently that are lesser-known. They will still mostly look at the visuals of the game as a deciding factor rather than the mechanics that are involved with it. Games that relate to this are Monikers, Welcome to Your New Home, Codenames, Railroad Ink, Azul, and most roll and write kinds of games.
- This subgroup are those that are starting to buy more games, and are feeling the need to play more games that involve a longer amount of setting up and more strategy. These people are getting groups together and are journeying outside their typical community of friends. Games include Race for the Galaxy, Rocketmen, Dune, and a lot of area control kinds of games.
- This subgroup is those that don’t fit into the board game segment and are ones that typically will play something solo (not to say that solo games can’t be fun). This representation is to just show that there are people who are completely unaware of most games and see them as taking too much of their time or too complex.
Both groups D and E are transitional groups that can be a tricky target market to focus on as it combines too many combinations of subgroups. The most preferred subgroup would be to target subgroup B, as Fields of Cognition is meant to be an easier to understand and light-hearted deck building game while still adding varying amounts of complexity provided to the players that want to pursue that direction. Focusing more on this group, we understand that the market we must focus on are those that are just joining the board gaming hobby or have been in it for a little while. The target age group would be those around age 25-35, who have time to enjoy games, but want something that is affordable and easy to transport. Fields of Cognition may not be the kind of game to quickly set up and learn, but it doesn’t take as long as a time as the games for those who are strictly looking for complexity.
Determining how much something should be priced for is one of the biggest challenges in creating a product. Some would say the standard pricing is 5 times that of the cost to manufacture, but those terms are too generic for a game whose marketing advantage is its price (9). Mass-production and box testing come to two different outcomes, where box testing requires higher priced components due to only a few being made at a time. The more components that need to be made continually, the cheaper the cost is. Figure 3 goes over the components needed and their prices compared to box testing and mass production.
Figure 3: Component Price Comparison
The breakdown of different components and pricing compared to the two companies is interesting to note, though more companies will have to be analyzed for mass production. The Mass Production company also was given a general quote, while the box testing used the exact components and sizes. The costliest items out of all the components were the cards, so playtesting should be determined to see what the minimal number of cards are necessary to create a cohesive game.
Looking at the Total 500 price for the singular item from The Game Crafter, we see that the game can be created at an affordable $15 per game. This allows us to place a $20 price tag on the game that can cover shipping costs. Costs for storage could be a problem, but with The Game Crafter, individual pledges from Kickstarter can receive their item directly without ever having to reach the designer’s location.
If $20 seems like a lot to charge for a game that fits 152 components in an 8.5 x 5 x 1.5 sq/in box, we can observe a recent study that compared box sizes with standardized pricing:
Figure 4: Box Size Comparison to Price (League of Game Makers)
With Field of Cognition’s box twice the size as the listed Citadels, more content, but $5 less in price, the game has a positive price advantage over the competition while also generating a small profit. To cover potentially unknown costs, Field of Cognition has some wiggle room in price to move to $25 and would still be optimal for buyers due to the other functional qualities that the game has to offer (portability, content).
While the potential of profits looks like a possibility upon selling the game, there are immediate problems that are overlooked. “Your goal on Kickstarter should be to break even on Kickstarter costs.” (8) Kickstarter takes roughly 8-10 % of funds made on the site, so if the game goes for $20, they could receive $2, making the profits per game only $3. There are other problems that come with price, pre-production, and manufacturing. Since we can produce singular games from The Game Crafter, we see in Figure 3 that would cost us up to $21, and that isn’t with shipping, giving a possible total of $25 or more. Say the game needs at least 10 copies in its pre-production lifetime, 5 for personal testing and 5 to send out to various reviewers and other playtesters, that would cost us $250. Since the game is technically four different kinds of games with a connecting theme, our total would reach beyond $1000. This would mean, to cover these pre-production costs with the $3 profit we make per game, we would have to sell 333 copies. Brandon Rollins, a current independent publisher of three successful Kickstarter games, says that it could cost up to $12,000 for a moderately sized board game (8). This would mean up to 4,000 copies would need to be sold to break even. While this number of pledges looks plausible when viewing Figure 1, a lot of time on marketing and promotion of the game needs to be spent on getting the game into the eyes of possible consumers.
While marketing a board game through word of mouth can be cheaper than using advertisements, it can take a lot of time. The best time to start marketing the game is when it’s already in its production stage. At least for a designer/developer’s first project, anything visual that can be shown should be. Since social media is all about scrolling past a series of posts, each post about the game should be eye-catching in some way, just a text description of the game won’t hold its own. When the game starts ramping up and is ready for beta testing (playtesting), videos of the game can be made describing the playthrough and showing off the prototype pieces for it. The amount of showing the game should eventually drive people watching the production to start asking when it’s going to be released, which can be a grand reveal in itself to help boost people’s excitement. This goal of excitement surrounding the production of the game is jumping ahead, however, and can take a long time to build up or not even build at all.
Figure 5: Marketing and Production Timeline
Looking at the timeline in Figure 5, the production and marketing towards the game can take a long time before the product is even offered. A total of 18 months or more is necessary in creating a solid promotional plan for the game. If one of the steps are not realized to its full potential, the Kickstarter campaign could flop, resulting in a loss of time and ultimately money used to get the Kickstarter up and running. There are other sites, like IndieGoGo, that will meet consumers’ requests even if a target goal isn’t met, but Kickstarter is the most popular platform for board games and hosting a campaign on the site can be another way to connect with other campaign holders. A publisher could also be introduced instead. With publishers, designers of the original game give up a lot of liberties on the overall design and art (depending on the publisher), and the designer will only receive a small cut. For a marketing plan, getting a publisher is difficult to calculate due to how unlikely it is to obtain one and the amount the game may be changed if acquired by one. The nice thing about publishers is that the advertising and production of the game will rest on the publisher’s side and the designer doesn’t have to worry about fulfilling backer’s orders.
There are other points that should be noted within the timeline. While playtesting is only listed at certain points in time, it should be happening consistently, whether in house with just the designer and some people nearby, or with game meetups, or with random people online. Iteration of the game should continually happen until the game is printed and sent out to consumers. Playtesting can become a strain on cost if not mitigated, so parts should be reused/recycled when necessary. A full color print of the game doesn’t have to be created until it finally goes out to reviewers.
The last task in the production and distribution of the game is difficult to determine. Depending on the game’s popularity, multiple things could happen. The game could be popular and continue to sell after the Kickstarter, where it could be bought on sites such as Amazon or Etsy, or even its own stand-alone site. This would mean an excess of games would need to be manufactured and storage and delivery for them need to be calculated. If the game is popular enough, the game could end production once it covers its Kickstarter run, with only a small number of excess games left. A second season for the games could be created that plays upon the mechanics and themes, which could boost its sales for the next Kickstarter. On the flip side, the game could barely fulfill its campaign goal or even flop, which should tell us that production should be stopped immediately once the game reaches a break-even point. The game may even need to stop before hitting break even, just so more expenses of shipping and storage isn’t introduced.
Kickstarter Campaign Plan
Because at least 4,000 games need to be made to meet break even costs, the campaign funding goal should be at $80,000. The funding can pass this goal, but the goal should be how much it takes for all production to break even. Having too high of a goal could result in the game not being produced at all, and having too small of a goal would mean producing the game at a loss. The campaign has a set of tiers that offer consumers a variety of amounts that they can donate to help support the campaign. Each kind of donation results in different rewards, with the higher the priced tier, the more rewards that backer receives. The prices are set to encourage the backer to prefer the higher tier over the lower. Looking at Figure 6, the backer doesn’t receive any stretch goals until they purchase some form of the game (from Tier 3 on). The higher prices are only a little bit higher than the tiers that I think are not as worth it. For example, the character book is $10, but for only $5 more the backer can get a full game that includes all the stretch goals and access. While this may lead people into never buying the book, there is also an option for backers to purchase additional units after they back a tier, so if they want another copy of the game or the book on the side, they can still order it. The backer shouldn’t feel pigeonholed into only buying one predetermined assortment of items.
Figure 6: Back Tier List and Stretch Goal Rewards
Many Kickstarter campaigns use auxiliary materials to lead backers into buying more. While the drive for statues, pendants, shirts, and stickers could motivate others, I believe using more pieces and parts to the game is beneficial because it directly relates to the game. The backer can use the stretch goal rewards instead of placing it on their shelf for it to gather dust. This strategy should also be used with caution, however. If more pieces are used as stretch goals, it could come across to the backers that the original game they are being sold isn’t complete. This problem comes up with video games, where a full game is sold and not too long later downloadable content (DLC) is sold to go along with the game. Players could feel the company just removed part of the game in order to sell it to them to make extra money. The games being offered in the tier list should feel like complete games to avoid this problem. The offering of an additional game can help encourage backers to fund more money because they could possibly get two games for the price of one.
The Stretch Goals are just a rough example of what items could be on it and what funding goal needs to be reached for backers to receive the reward. There a few ways that Stretch Goals can be presented to backers. The goals could all be determined and laid out to the backer for them to see, with the specific bonus characters and game also being shown. This could help get the backer excited for the bonus that they could possibly receive. A better idea for Stretch Goals is to hint at what they possibly are, without giving the specifics. Presenting the stretch goals this way allows the backer to make their own judgement of the product, and possibly assume the product is of high quality. If the backer were to observe the surprise before reaching it, then they may not be enthusiastic to spend more to reach it because they have no interest in receiving the reward.
There are other marketing tactics that can be incorporated into creating a community around the game and getting the word out. The team making the game Sugar Heist used an interesting tactic where it started a hashtag (#) phrase that people would use on their social media posts so they could be entered into a competition to win the game or pieces of it. It would be interesting how effective this tactic was because if many people were using the hashtag word about the game would spread naturally and encourage word-of-mouth than paying for advertisements. These competitions could backfire if the product isn’t popular enough, though, and could result in only one person sending out a hashtag and instantly winning the competition. While the developer may not be paying for advertising, they still are paying to give the winners a free game.
While the overview and description of the current market and how the product is going to presented is extensive, not all the information needed to create a rock-solid marketing is included. Production of the game’s artwork and what components it needs have to be determined through playtesting and reiteration. This playtesting will then affect the cost of the game and how much the game should be offered to have an appropriately priced tier list for Kickstarter. Other parts for the cost are needed to be added to the calculation: if I want to outsource how my backer rewards are fulfilled, the storage needed to hold the games, multiple manufacturing locations to reduce shipping prices and make shipping overseas available, and the cost of producing the stretch goals and including them with the backers’ goals. A lot of these costs are variable and rely on determining on how backer rewards are going to be fulfilled. Even if the stretch goals were not met, they still need to be considered and play tested with the game. So even though it appears that they are just being created to the backer, they have already been planned and settled with the manufacturer and reward fulfillment service. Another unknown is what the status on the game will be once it has finished its Kickstarter campaign. Many Kickstarter campaigns allow preorders to be made so the developer knows how much to request from the manufacturer. If the developer wants to continue the life of the game, they may want copies of the game stored at Amazon’s warehouses, which will cost more money that needs to be calculated. The popularity of the game must be judged at that point because if the game isn’t being order rapidly, then a loss will be taken if it’s just sitting in the warehouse shelves.
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