Tell us a bit about yourself and Package.
I’m Shep, I’m a 34 year old family man from Derbyshire in the UK. I’ve been a pretty serious gamer for most of my life going from board games as a kid to RPG’s and MTG in my teens to Games Workshop (where I worked at GW HQ in my early 20’s for Forge World) and eventually back to board games in my mid 20’s where I’ve stayed passionately since. I’ve been tinkering with my own designs for as long as I can remember and it’s only after I started putting them in front of people that it occurred to me that maybe I should put the designs out there.
Package!? came from my love of abstract games, from Chess to Hive, I love them. I stumbled over a game called Urknall from German games designer, Axel Hennig. It’s what I’d call a ‘micro game’, but broke the trend by having semi-complex rules and an interesting end game scoring mechanism. It also didn’t use a board and had a unique set up process. It’s quirky, but I loved it for breaking trends. I’d long had some mechanics for a placement game where you use counters to cause cascades of moves up and down a scoring track. Over time this evolved into the game we have now!
What did you do to build up a following before you launched?
Besides the basics, like being active on BGG and having some presence on social media etc. I put 99.9% of my efforts into my local community. Derby has a pretty huge board gaming scene, as does my hometown of Nottingham. I spent time at many of the retail stores and board game cafes (we have 3 such cafes between the 2 cities) and invested time into playing games with the local gaming groups. I put LOTS of time into this. Many local stores and cafes liked the game and the chance to support a local designer and were cool enough to start putting the game in front of customers. Winning the support of the local gaming community was a huge thing for me. I think I can account for around 20% of backers through my community.
What is your best marketing tip?
Honestly, I’d mirror my comments above. Become a part of your local scene. Join the local gaming clubs and frequent your local stores. Don’t’ force your game down their throats, just be a part of the scene and play other games with them. You’ll soon find that in most cases those people will have as much interest in you as you do in them.
Where the online world is concerned I am still a novice, with Package!? being my first campaign, but I would have to say that I’ve received a lot of comments with regards to my passion and personality shining through in the campaign. I think you have to be yourself and let others see that. Be open. Be honest.
I see that you currently don’t have a huge following on twitter and facebook. Why did you decide to launch now?
It felt right; or rather I had less of the ‘will this work’ voice going on in my head than ever before. I’ve read hundreds of articles from people who have ran successful Kickstarter campaigns and the importance of social networking. I agree with it, but I also think that it depends on the scale of your project. Package!? is my first step into publishing a game and all I really wanted from it was for it to end up in peoples collections. I wanted to see my game a reality. Anything else was a bonus. Could I have held of another year and built up followers online? Yes. But after that year there would still be something else I ‘could’ have done? Yes. The time felt right, the local community wanted the game, so I went for it.
I hope that the momentum this campaign generates for me on social media platforms will start me down that road for my next campaign.
You have a low funding goal, how did you end up with that number?
There were 2 reasons for it. Firstly I had a large quantity of the wooden components (enough to satisfy a very small run of the game) in my possession from a retail idea that never happened. Secondly, as I mentioned earlier I only ever pitched myself to produce the minimum run to have the game out there being played. This meant I could produce the game by just paying for a small run of the printed elements (box, rules and a reference card). This is why the target was so low.
I set myself some benchmarks in the funding where it would be moved from short run manufacturing to a full run in China and then have additional component manufacturing done. I am really humbled that my backers have already pushed us into that realm now.
Do you think your low funding goal is discouraging or encouraging to potential backers?
It was pointed out to me before the campaign that the low funding target might make people ‘suspicious’. If I’m honest I didn’t quite ‘get it’, as it certainly wouldn’t bother me, but I understood the point made so I made a point to explain the low funding total on the campaign page (with regards to only needing to pay for the printed components). While the campaign is ‘small’, financially speaking, in comparison to many of the other games projects out there, the early momentum that the project received makes me feel that overall it has been beneficial to the campaign.
I know that seeing a funded campaign makes me more likely to check it out, and I’m sure that others share those same feelings.
Do you have a plan if you got a lot of backers?
Manufacture more copies? 🙂 In all seriousness though, I’d need LOTS more backers to manufacture more than I currently plan to. It would be far more effective for me to ‘upgrade’ the infrastructure behind the fulfillment of the game. It would be great to be able to place copies in fulfillment centers around the world. Not that the current fulfillment process won’t be great, but I’d love to move copies faster to people, especially after Kickstarter backers have received it. I’d also love to be able to use a premium shipping service to get backers their games quicker.
Thankfully, there is a great support network out there of other designers who have walked this path before me and many of them are very happy to discuss their experience of handling large campaigns.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched? What would it be?
That if you add shipping options to your pledges, the value of the shipping is included in your funding total. I’ve read what feels like a million articles on running campaigns and not one of them mentioned it. If I had funded bang on my minimum target then I’d have been out of pocket for the shipping! Big fail. Lesson learnt.
The beginning and the end of the campaign are when most of the backers pledge. What’s your main tactic to handle the mid-campaign drop?
I’m mid-campaign now and the ‘slump’ kicked in a couple of days ago. It was a little daunting at first to see the flow of backers slow down. Funding is still climbing, which is amazing, just slowly. Again, I spent time talking to others who have been here before and I found out this ‘slump’ was a normal part of the process.
In terms of handling it, I intend to stay focused, keep up my high level of communication with backers and stick to regular updates. I have a few small press things lined up as well (this is one of them!) and overall I intend to maintain my unshakable positivity!
How often do you send out updates and what do they include?
So far I’ve sent out an update with every unlocked stretch goal and also when I’ve amended anything to do with the game, including altering the contents (I added some stuff for free) and each time any new artwork is released. I’ve also had a couple of backer only updates go out which have been great for getting feedback on some aspects.
What’s your tactic regarding stretch goals?
Initially my stretch goals were all items that I wanted to include but didn’t make financial sense for the base game. Some items of luxury that enhance the game – A custom die and a printed cloth bag to make the game even more mobile.
It didn’t take long to realize that the best way to evolve the stretch goals though was to listen to your backers and interact with them. The comments thread on your campaign is great for this. Backers started asking if certain elements were a possibility and a couple of stretch goals have come as a direct result of that feedback.
What is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
I think this is fairly subjective. Many say the campaign video. Others say the first image of the game. For me, I really want to see the creator, and like them. I want to see personality in the video and in the writing. It’s important to me. I think that shows in my campaign… I write the way I speak and hope that shows.
Do you regret something you did on your current campaign?
I don’t know if I ‘regret’ anything, but I realize that I should have been more prepared with my stretch goal artwork and had more of it ready in advance. I honestly didn’t expect to unlock so much stuff so fast, which is totally amazing, but caught me on the back foot a touch!
What is your favourite board game and why?
Favourite? Just one? Er… Jeez! I honestly can’t answer that. I guess I don’t see games as better or worse than each other, just different. There’s a game for every group, mood and situation. My ‘favourite’ for one regular group at the moment is Scoville. It just makes everyone tick and we have a great time with it, but in another group we play Dominion all the time and other games just don’t seem to work. I love Terra Mystica and other heavy weight Euro’s, but also really dig more abstract titles like Haru Ichiban and Hive. I am aware I’ve totally side stepped the question… J
Oh oh oh… I REALLY like 7 Wonders Duel.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
I have huge respect for many games designers, particularly those who have self-published and done it well. Jamey Stegmaier and John Yianni spring to mind. I am also a big fan of Bruno Cathala’s work too, his games constantly amaze me.
Anything else you want to add?
I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far – family, friends, my campaign backers and everyone reading this post. If you have not checked out the campaign yet, please do!