Tell us a bit about yourself and Minion Games.
That’s a long story and you’d probably want to view my bio on my website if your really curious… but in short I’ve run Minion Games for about 6 years now, released over two dozen games, and I’m a regular blogger who doesn’t mind sharing the internals of running a company and Kickstarter. JamesMathe.com
You have created several Kickstarter groups on Facebook. Why and who are they for?
When I was first starting out, even though I owned a game store and knew people in the industry I found that the process of making a board game and who to use and what to look out for and where to sell your game and all that was not something people shared. While people in the industry are friendly and will share info over a drink, it was not something that everyone had access to. So after my researching all this I figured I’d help those that came after me by starting a blog about it and then later a bunch of groups to help people have that “over a drink” moment with other industry people online.
It really took off when Kickstarter become a new thing and I was only one of a very few writing about how to do it “right”…
What question comes up the most in the groups and what is the answer to that question
A very common one in the Kickstarter group is whether to use any of these marketing firms that keep writing them – the answer is NO WAY. They are rip offs at best and scams at worst.
A common one from our game designer forums is how do they get their game to a publisher. In short, research publishers that would likely publish your kind of game and make a sell sheet and email them.
A common one from the Publishers forum is what printer should I use? I created a listing of the most used printers and posted them in my blogs with things I’ve personally learned or directly head from people who’ve used them.
If you were creating your first game now. What would you do to build up a following before you launch?
The best method I’ve found for building an audience if you’re brand new is to create a Facebook group and mailing list sign-up form. Then start giving away free stuff to people who sign-up for either. This gives you direct contact information for interested customers for a low cost of a few games mailed out (don’t even have to be your own games).
What is your best marketing tip?
Have your game reviewed by 2 or 3 reviewers. People want to see what other people thing about your game – but they also usually have their own audience that you can tap into. Don’t be afraid to pay for this service. Call it a preview instead of a review if you must.
Your game, Manhattan project, was a big hit. Why and how did that happen?
Well that’s a crystal ball kind of question. You never know what will really resonate with bakers.
If your talking about the first MP, it took us 7 games before we got that one and the ones before it all lost money. It also wasn’t any sort of instant hit – it just slowly started to build and grow. It only did $9,000 on Kickstarter by the way 🙂
MP Energy Empire might be what you’re referring to here (though there is MP Chain Reaction too). Both of these games played heavily on the idea that the MP having been out for several years, ranked 150 or less on BGG, and still selling- had built a brand that could be tapped into. They both did that very well and people knew of the original and that made the closing of the sale much easier.
So in sort, a good game is nice to have, but excellent games are what pay the bills and they will just float to the top on their own regardless of your marketing budget. The game is still selling well 3 years later but it’s definitely been a slow burn.
Your two last campaigns seemed to struggle a bit on Kickstarter. Can you elaborate a bit on that?
They were more niche products that I wished to test the waters with. We did a Dexterity game which I’ve never done before and we’re not really known for. Then we did a light war-game which had mild appeal. But again, if I had a crystal ball, all our games would be mega hits. Sometimes you just have to make what you feel is a great game worth publishing and see how it catches on when released. Kickstarter isn’t the tell all and isn’t were most of our game sales come from. Since these two games haven’t been printed yet I can’t comment on how well the retail chain adopts them.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched your last campaign, what would it be?
Well I’m on my 25th campaign now so there isn’t a lot that I don’t know going in… my last campaign was for Squishy Foam Dice and it went smoothly as I learned a lot from past campaigns like not allowing too many options that drive you crazy when it’s time to deliver.
The beginning and the end of the campaign are when most of the backers pledge. Whats your main tactic to handle the mid-campaign drop?
Just constant hitting the “street” with any news or reminders of the campaign. Lots of twitter, Facebook and anything else we can. I’ve tried paying for ads in the middle and they don’t seem to be any more effective then so it’s best to do those at the start and end to join the momentum of those surges.
How often do you send out updates and what do they include?
Every couple days at the beginning and end but only once a week in the middle. Also only when I have something to say that should be of interest to the backers. People will turn off your updates if you’re just babbling daily to them. People will not be motivated if you don’t write at least once a week. So there is a middle ground we shoot toward. We try to make them about important things related to the campaign. Like reviews, or milestones meet, or such.
What’s you tactic regarding stretch goals?
It’s best to only reveal 1 or 2 before they are reached. If you campaign is doing better then you expect you can adjust the amount of the next goal. This way it keeps people interested. Blowing through all your stretch goals on day one is a problem as it doesn’t incentivize people to share you project later and you will be finding yourself fishing for more things to add which can add costs that catch you off guard which can lead to you not making any money.
I also believe that stretch goals should be making the bits of the game better. Making the utility of the game better for all future buyers not just backers. It should not be about adding game play content or adding rules. That will piss off people who look to buy the game post-Kickstarter.
What is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Everyone probably has a different answer to this… so I can’t just say one thing, it’s many things and even many things outside of the page itself (like bringing a crowd to your first day), but the most important items would be:
– Main Video (short and mood setting)
– Clean story page with game rules and game pictures
– 3rd party reviews
– clear and reasonable reward levels
What is your favorite board game and why?
I play so many games I don’t really have a singular favorite. But ones that are played a lot in our group are:
– Imperial 2020
– 7 wonders
We seem to like euro-style games with a bit of direct conflict. Which shows in the games Minion Games makes.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
I tend to do my own thing and so I’m rarely a follower but I have some mad respect for Seth Jaffe (Tasty Minstrel Games) as a designer and Scott Geata (Renegade Games) as a publisher. But there are too many others worthy of respect to mention here.
Anything else you want to add?
Where can people reach you?
On facebook mainly but also firstname.lastname@example.org — but I don’t like questions in private messages. If you have a question, ask it in public so everyone can learn from the answer.