Tell us a bit about yourself and your last game Cavern Tavern.
Final Frontier Games is founded by four friends who enjoy board games. The team members are Ivana & Vojkan Krstevski, Toni Toshevski & Maja Matovska.
We are board game publishers from Macedonia. We published 2 games on the Macedonian market in order to get our feet wet in the industry, and to prepare ourselves as much as we can for publishing Cavern Tavern, our first international project.
Cavern Tavern is a worker (dice) placement game set in a fantasy world. It raised $107.000 in April 2016 and is now delivered to the backers all around the world as well as retail stores.
The players in Cavern Tavern assume the roles of workers in the tavern, who is run by Nasty the Dwarf. Their job is to serve drinks, work in the kitchen, do chores, and on top of that try to keep every guest happy, including the nasty and greedy barkeep.
The artwork of the game was done by Mihajlo Dimitrievski – The Mico, who also did the art for the North Sea Trilogy games, the card games Valeria, Game of Thrones – Hand of the King and many more games. Exceptional artist and a wonderful guy. We are extremely lucky to have him work on Cavern Tavern and our next projects.
Are there any pros and cons when launching a Kickstarter game from Macedonia.
Unfortunately, there are not many pros for launching a kickstarter game from Macedonia. On the contrary, a lot of cons.
First of all, Macedonia as a country is not allowed on Kickstarter, but thanks to the wonderful community that we are all part of, we managed to overcome this problem. Macedonia also has a very small board game community, so finding playtesters for our designs is a tricky job. We needed to invest ourselves, to convert a lot of people to gamers so we can “use” them in the future as playtesters.
Shipping review copies is also extremely expensive from here, and of course, Macedonia is not a famous country for publishing board games.
For some, only where we came from, was a red flag to reconsider if they wanted to back our project. We might say, that we were complete underdogs when we launched Cavern Tavern on Kickstarter. But, that only motivated us to run the best campaign we can and totally put ourselves in the project.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched your game?
Even though most of the Kickstarter lessons out there don’t recommend Facebook as a promotional tool, we invested heavily on it and it did pay off. And to tell you the truth we were shocked that people were not recommending it, and still are not using Facebook to promote their games. It’s the cheapest, most effective way to reach your audience. It’s only a matter of creating a good promotional image, targeting the right audience and formulating the right message that will resonate with the gamers. Fortunately, we had past experience with social media advertising and we managed to use that knowledge on building a following of Cavern Tavern.
We started to promote the game around December 2015, five months before the campaign, and mail subscriptions were our main goal. We had a promoted post on our Facebook page, almost every single day during the five months before the launch. When the campaign launched we just intensified this promotions on Facebook. Thanks to this, Cavern Tavern ended up with 2.000 backers. And it’s worth mentioning that besides Facebook, we didn’t have any paid advertisement anywhere else. Not on BGG, not on KickTraq, nowhere… So Facebook is the best marketing tool that a creator can ask for. But, for our next project, we’ll definitely widen our paid advertisements, especially on BGG.
What is your best marketing tip?
As mentioned above, Facebook gives everyone a very powerful tool to promote their work. It’s just a matter of using it properly. The more narrow the targeted audience the better the results. So my recommendation is, to think of what your audience is and think of ways how to find (target) them on Facebook. Many people make the mistake of not doing this right and then complain that they receive likes on their pages from Philippines or some other country from South-East Asia. Or another example, they target only the USA and target fans of Board Games, but complain that their money was wasted and they have no interaction with their promoted content. The problem with just targeting fans of board games is that that target is around 5 million people in US alone and 50 million worldwide. 99,5% of those 5 million have only played Monopoly in their life, maybe even Risk too. So when an advertisement for a game set in a fantasy pub with Halfling waiters shows up on their newsfeed do you really expect they interact with it? No. The trick is finding your audience and serve them with relevant content for them.
And here is a little secret. It is way cheaper than everybody thinks. We spent more money to print and ship 10 copies of the game to reviewers then on Facebook advertising during the five months before launch.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched, what would it be?
If we knew how well the game will be received, we would have ordered more copies to be manufactured.We are proud of ourselves on the homework that we did for the game, but a small and stupid thing slip through. We were not aware that the box that fulfillment centers use to pack the game adds to the total value of the shipment. This mistake cost us a few thousand dollars, but we are not going to complain. This was our first project, a big game with over 250 components and had close to 2.000 backers. In the end everything went well.
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
The date was not a coincidence and a lot of thought was put on when exactly we were going to launch the campaign. We researched the Kickstarter data for board games for weeks. Wednesday was the best day for launch. April was the most successful month for projects. So April 20th came out from this. But because all of this, we had to compete with other great games that launched around this period. Dark Souls the board game, if I’m not mistaken the 3rd best board game project of all time, launched in the same period and a couple of other miniature games that competed for the same pool of backers.
Most backers pledge in the beginning and the end of the campaign. Whats your main tactic to handle the mid-campaign drop?
Even though the mid-campaign drop is inevitable, we didn’t have that big of a drop, comparing to the average of all the other board game campaigns, probably that is why CT ended so successfully. Our projections (not from Kicktraq), according to the first 3 days, were that we would end up around $60k. But the mid-campaign period was pretty strong and we ended up with $107k.
We did this, by doubling the marketing budget during the mid-campaign period.
We also disbursed the reviews of the game. Half of them were published on day 1 of the campaign while the others during the mid-campaign period. For example, The Undead Viking review came out a week into the campaign, we had others who published them in the last week of the campaign. So we tried to keep the conversation active during the whole 30 day period.
But, from this perspective, I think it was the stretch goals. They proved to be the main fuel of our campaign and keep our backers enthusiastic, spread the word and bring their friends and convert them to backers. Every 3rd – 4th stretch goals was a big one. We prepared a lot of different stretch goals before the campaign, but we were also listening to the wishes of our backers and added things that they wanted and that were previously playtested. In the end, we unlocked solo mode, 6th player and an expansion of the game among others. These stretch goals kept the campaign active during the whole period.
Whats you tactic regarding stretch goals?
Our main tactic is every 3rd or 4th stretch goal to be a big one in terms of the game. This takes a lot of planning, but can do wonders for the campaign. Also, when we were adding new stretch goals, we never added something that can’t be achieved. This is really important when the campaign ends because once all the stretch goals are unlocked and there is none left, the backers feel a sense of completion. They don’t feel that something from the game is missing because that particular stretch goals was not unlocked.
We started the campaign by showing 5 stretch goals and the amount needed to achieve them. I know that a lot of creators don’t show stretch goals before the game is funded, but we had 2 reasons why we choose to show them from the beginning. First, it conveyed confidence to the backers that this game will fund, and that we had big plans for the game after it passes the funding goal. That our main focus are the stretch goals, not just the funding goal. And this is very important. Creator posture can make or break campaigns. Second, it showed what they can expect once that funding goal is passed. It adds to backers anticipation and excitement. We’ll definitely follow this recipe for our next projects.
Also, one of the stretch goals that was unlocked is an e-book inspired by the game. We did this with the purpose of worldbuilding because we want to explore different places in the Five Realms, the world in which Cavern Tavern was located. So we included information about this also, and what next is coming, where the story will progress… Even though this didn’t affect the gameplay of Cavern Tavern we felt that we wanted to go one step further and make the experience even more immersive. We wanted everyone to fall in love with the characters.
What is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
I think those reading this will guess what our answer will be here. Stretch goals!
But, aside from stretch goals, the graphic design and the artwork that you show on the Kickstarter page is crucial. It shows your professionalism, your capabilities and the love that you put in the project. We were editing that page for over a month before we hit the launch button. First impression are everything. And if you don’t WOW them in those 3-6 seconds that it takes them to scroll from top to bottom of the page, you failed in your presentation. In those 3-6 seconds they’ll decide whether they will check out what kind of game this is, how is it played, maybe watch the video and hopefully check out the rulebook and hit that pledge button.
P.S. I can’t believe that we are supposed to write this, but creators, please please don’t launch your campaign without a rulebook of your game. Let this be the most important element of a Kickstarter page.
Do you regret something you did on your last campaign?
Yes. We should have contacted the distributors long before we gave the go ahead for production to start. Of all the information that we were reading about KS campaigns and game publishing in general, our brains must have rebooted somewhere and that information was stored as “Contact distributors once the game is completed!” Nope, contact them right after you finish the campaign.
Second, if you are going to use pledge manager, contact them before you start the campaign, not afterwards.
After the kickstarter was over you launched Cavern Tavern on Indiegogo. Why did you do that and how was your experience doing that.
IndieGogo sent us the right email at the right time. They were rolling out a new feature called InDemand and we were invited to try it out. InDemand is a service where your campaign continues to live after the KS campaign, they even show how much you raised on Kickstarter. It’s a platform that you have complete control of, and can run for as long as you like.
We created all kinds of perks (pledge levels), the addons found their place there, you can even create a secret perk, only visible to those with the link. So besides, adding the addons, we created secret perks for backers that wanted to upgrade to the game level, but weren’t able during the Kickstarter campaign. Also, we used that platform as a preorder page for the retail version of the game. It went really smoothly, the backers were happy about that, and even though IndieGogo is way smaller than Kickstarter, the fact is they have their own audience, so we benefited with that also. We’ll probably use this again.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Because we are both designers and publishers, we would have to name Stefan Feld from a design perspective, because we love what he is doing with the dice in his designs.
As a company, we are really impressed how Czech Games Edition are working. They are a small company, but have a wonderful catalog of games.
Also, James Mathe and Jamey Stegmaier. Their work in Kickstarter education is unprecedented. I don’t think that you can find guys like this in any other industry who basically are helping their competitors. But, that’s what astonishing in this community, nobody sees others as competitors and everybody is trying to help each other. With Jamey and James at the helm of this knowledge and experience sharing. Because of this two guys, a lot of people, especially us, are working full time designing and publishing games. Because of this two guys, a lot of people, can put food on the table by working as board game designers and publishers.
Anything else you want to add?
We are finishing with the playtests of our next title, the sequel of Cavern Tavern, called Rise to Nobility and we would like to use this opportunity to official promote the project.
Thanks to the peace that was brokered in Cavern Tavern between the six races of The Five Realms, the High Queen Tabita has commissioned a new city to be built, called Caveborn, where all the races will learn to live together in order to prevent another devastating war.
The location of this city was agreed upon in Cavern Tavern and some of the patrons heard about that, ran off to buy cheap pieces of land in order to make fortune when the construction of the city starts.
You will play the role as one of this guys. You’ll own a small piece of land in the newly built city, and your job is to rise from anonymity, make your way to the title of lord, and take over the head seat at the settlers’ council.
You will achieve this by upgrading your land and increasing its value, satisfying the demands of the settlers’ council, attracting and housing as many settlers as you can, accommodating their needs, finding them jobs, and helping them develop from apprentices to guild masters, thus insuring you have people in high places all around the city of Caveborn.
The game will be a worker (dice) placement game, with elements of city building and set collection.
Pretty soon we’ll start sharing more details about the game and your readers can stay in the loop on the following link. https://www.facebook.com/risetonobility/