Lessons from Other Kickstarters

Wow, has it really been a month and a half since my last blog post? Yowza. That’s what I call the definition of unacceptable.

In my defense, though, a lot of the delay came from trying to pack as much punch into the final version of Corporate America as possible. I needed to get it all finished and shipped off to the printer by mid-January, and there was SO much I wanted to do to improve the game, including adding new art, tweaking some of the graphic design, and streamlining the rules. Oh yeah, and I was traveling and seeing family and friends over the holidays (hi guys!). But now that the files are submitted, it’s time I got back to it!

And the first order of business, long overdue now, is to describe some of the things I should have done with the Kickstarter. If you’ve kept up with my last couple of posts, you know that even though Corporate America reached its funding goal, it was a very close call, and there were a lot of things I could have done differently to make the whole campaign more successful. I’ve promised to explain some of those lessons, but truth be told, there are just way too many of them for one blog post! So to start things off, today I thought I’d share a few lessons from other Kickstarters that ran around the same time as my own and were WAY more successful!

Lesson 1: More Zombies

This is a little lesson learned from this game. Oh sorry, I mean this game. Or wait, was it this one? There are so many zombie games that go way over their funding goal it’s hard to keep track! Thankfully, there are multiple pages where you can keep up with the current zombie themed games available on Kickstarter.

What’s the lesson here? People love zombies! (Apparently.) Supposedly, zombies eat human brains, but it sure seems like humans’ appetites for zombies is insatiable. They’re slow and awkward, perfect for a cardboard AI system. Plus, they give you an excuse for violence against a humanoid without feeling bad, since they don’t have emotions! So if you want money, make sure your game has some zombies!

Unfortunately, Corporate America doesn’t feature a great setting for zombies. (Unless you count the consumers.)

Zombies make an appearance in Corporate America!

Zombies make an appearance in Corporate America!

It might be a little too late to leverage it for the Kickstarter, but a friend came up with a card that does feature zombies (or rather, one famous zombie). I’ll have to show it off on the expansion Kickstarter…

Lesson 2: More Nostalgia

Specifically, more nerd nostalgia. You see, many of the people on Kickstarter are nerds, and while they are now busy making lots of money in various ways, one thing they all have in common is a shared love of nerd culture from twenty years ago or so. Harnessing nerd nostalgia means harnessing the love of people who used to spend countless nights of their formative years playing old school video games.

Take, for example, Boss Monster, a clever card game in which players create dungeons full of traps and monsters to defeat hapless but good intentioned heroes. Never mind that a world renowned designer created a game with the exact same clever premise a few years ago… this game features 8-bit style art! It’s like Zelda, but you’re the bad guys!

Now, to be serious for a minute, the guys who ran this Kickstarter campaign did a lot more right than appeasing ancient nerds. They also made excellent use of scarcity and emotional attachment by letting supporters name powerful cards in the game. They posted daily updates, keeping their supporters engaged and excited. They priced their game at $20, much more palatable than the $45 for the base game of Corporate America. And they had a bunch of exciting extras lined up for Kickstarter supporters.

But I think it was really all about the art style.

Maybe Corporate America's art should have looked like this? Image from an Xoxco t-shirt design.

Maybe Corporate America’s art should have looked like this? Image from an Xoxco t-shirt design.

Unfortunately, Corporate America was again not well positioned to use this information. I’ll be the first to admit that art direction is not my strongest skill, and it would have taken a great visionary to make the game’s art in a retro pixel style. But, perhaps at the end of the day, having a better and more consistent art style for the game would have convinced more people that the game featured unique and interesting gameplay.

Lesson 3: More Boobs

I know what you’re thinking. “Haven’t you blogged about how important it is to make games accessible to all people?” You’re absolutely right… as long as you’re trying to be inclusive and make games that everyone can enjoy. But if you want to get rich, there’s an easy secret to success: more boobs!

Take, for example, Kingdom Death: Monster! This cooperative board game takes place in a nightmarish alternate reality where all women are extremely busty and have an unreasonably difficult time finding clothing! Scary, right?

In a nightmarish horror world, women have a very difficult time finding clothes that fit... if they can find any clothes at all. Image from the Kingdom Death: Monster Kickstarter.

In a nightmarish horror world, women have a very difficult time finding clothes that fit… if they can find any clothes at all. Image from the Kingdom Death: Monster Kickstarter.

I encourage you to peruse the Kickstarter page, and possibly even take a look at their gallery (any random links will prove interesting). Then I encourage you to contemplate that this project raised over $2 million. Then I encourage you to ask yourself why Deep Silver thought it was okay for their special edition of Dead Island: Riptide to come with a bloody bikini-clad female torso statue.

As a side note, keep in mind that skilled Kickstarter creators can combine lessons 1 and 3, such as Escape from Zombie U (results may vary).

Again, unfortunately, the setting of Corporate America doesn’t lend itself particularly well to boobs. What was I thinking, making a game about a topic that so few other games touch on!? That said, I could have done more. For much of the development of the game, there were sex scandal cards which could have had wonderful illustrations. Even though the cards didn’t play particularly well, it probably would have been better for the game to include them and feature them prominently on the Kickstarter page. Oh well, maybe next time.

A Lesson is Learned but the Damage is Irreversible

The Corporate America Kickstarter campaign was a great learning experience for me, partially from what went well, but also from the mistakes I made. Thankfully, other Kickstarters, like those I described above, show the right way to do things.

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  1. Awesome that you took the time to share some lessons learned. I read about your kickstarter from your cousin’s post on reddit. I’m gearing up for a kickstarter for an app called the Do You Love It? Game. Despite having no angle for zombies, nerd nostalgia (maybe), or boobs, I think it will be a really fun game for couples. But I’ve got some questions about how to scope my kickstarter and I’m wondering if you might be willing to weigh in? A simple thing you could do is check out my draft project video (8 minutes). Whatever input you have time for will be helpful and appreciated. Thanks Teale!

  1. » Lessons from the Corporate America Kickstarter Nothing Sacred Games

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