Tell us a bit about yourself and Hardback.
I’m Jeff Beck. I am the host of a podcast, Your Table’s on Fire, and am the designer of Word Domination, which was on Kickstarter the later half of last year, and now Hardback, the “pre-quill” to Paperback. Paperback was designed by my colleage and good friend, Tim Fowers. Paperback is a bit of Dominion and a bit of Scrabble, all rolled into one. Hardback builds on what Paperback started, but takes those mechanics down some fun new twists and turns.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched Hardback?
In this case, I was extremely lucky to be able to piggyback on the fantastic work Tim Fowers had already done, building a massive audience of very loyal fans. Tim is very focused on the “artisian” designer model: he does not release more than one or two games a year, but he works and works on those games to make sure they are truly something special. As such, Tim’s fans know that when a release does come out on Kickstarter, it will be worth their time.
Did Tim do anything different when he was building an audience for paperback waaaay back in 2013?
As Paperback was the very first game Tim launched, he did not yeat have the loyal fan base he does today. But what he did have was a fantastic and very unique product. If you pull up the Kickstarter page for Paperback, you’ll see it has nothing to do with dragons or zombies or whatnot. In Paperback, you play an aspiring novelist writing romance novels in the 1970s. Whether or not that theme strikes a chord with you, you have to admit it’s unique. And in a world where over 200 tabletop games are on Kickstarter at any given time, being unique is king.
What is your best marketing tip?
As the host of the podcast Your Table’s on Fire, I’ve interviewed dozens of game designers attempting to promote their game on Kickstarter. From that, I can tell you with almost absolute certainty – all the marketing in the world cannot save you from a game that no one wants. It doesn’t matter how good your intro video is, or whether or not you are running BGG ads, or whether you have one or one million names ready to email to – if your game is lackluster or looks too much like the 10 other games launched on Kickstarter today, you don’t stand a chance. But on the other hand, if your game really stands out, people will find you.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched the hardback campaign, what would it be?
I wish I had been better prepared for the non-English backers. Hardback, like Paperback before it, is a word game. And word games need letters, and languages all across the world use different letters. We launched Hardback as an English-only game, and assumed only individuals comfortable playing word games in English would back the project. Boy, were we wrong about that.
How is it to run a campaign for a “prequel” game? Is it any different?
It’s absolutely different running a campaign for a follow-up game because backers are coming with an expectation. They’ve played – and loved – the first game and now they want to know whether the new game can live up to that expectation. And it can be a lot to live up to. We’ve been quite lucky with Hardback; players who have tried it have almost unanimously agreed that they enjoy it at least as much, if not more, than Paperback. But, especially at first, it had me biting my nails.
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
Building up to the campaign, we had been spreading the word that we would be launching. During the PAX East convension in Boston, we even had a poster printed up, promising the new game would be on Kickstarter April 3rd. Well, April 3rd came and we were still putting the final touches on the campaign. We didn’t want to launch without having all our ducks in a row, so we decided to delay by a day and launch April 4th. I’m not sure how many people noticed 🙂
How do you structure your days during the campaign
It has helped a lot to have two of us working on the campaign. Between comments, messages, BGG forum posts, emails, etc. we probably receive upwards of 100 backer messages every day. Add to that writing updates, reaching out to the community, working with our manufacturer and fulfillment contacts and it adds up to a crazy amount of work. We do what we can to stay on top of it, and some days we succeed 😉
What’s the best advice you ever received before the hardback campaign?
Someone very wise told me you have to separate your personal self-worth from the worth of your project. If your project does poorly, you don’t want to beat yourself up – it just means you need to keep working on it. And if your project does fantastic, you don’t want to get a big head about it either.
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?
The mid-campaign slumps can be a real problem. One thing we did with this campaign is keep the timeline to a minimum. We are running this campaign for barely 20 days, giving less time for that mid-campaign drop to drag us down.
On your kictraq I can see that you had a big bump in the middle. What happened?
Part of our mid-campaign strategy was to announce an expansion to Paperback about a week into the campaign. That not only allowed us to up-sell our backers on a second product we knew they would be interested in, but gave new backers a whole second reason to jump on the bandwagon.
What´s your tactic regarding stretch goals?
Stretch goals are a fantastic way to get your community’s input into the specifics of the game you are building. Right near the beginning of our campaign, we sent out a survey to all our backers, asking which of roughly 20 possible stretch goal items we should include. That allowed us to prioritize the list according to what was most important to them.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
I think that depends a lot on the campaign itself. If you are a new designer with no track record to speak of, having a number of quotes and reviews from reliable sources is paramount – giving potential backers the confidence they need to spend money on a product they have no way of trying out. Once you have established a track record of producing great games, getting backers excited about the actual game should be your focal point – lots of art and video playthroughs.
Do you regret something you did on your previous campaigns?
Be careful what you promise. During my Word Domination campaign, I promised both a co-op and single player experience. After the campaign, the co-op design I came up with would be a great answer to both of those requirements… but since I promised both, my backers are holding me to one of each.
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
I’ve recently been playing a lot of the game Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty’s Web from Keifer Art Inc. It combines the spacial awareness of Castles of Mad King Ludwig with deduction and problem solving that fits its theme to create something truly unique and beautiful. It’s a great game. I look forward to seeing more from this up and coming designer.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
I really look up to Edwardo Baraf of Pencil 1st Games. Not only does he produce some really nice stuff, but he is such a generous individual, freely giving back to the community every chance he gets.
Anything else you want to add?
At its heart, tabletop gaming is about enjoying time with your friends and family. It’s such a delightful community to be involved with. I feel so lucky to do so.
Where can people reach you?
You can find me on Twitter: @jeffbeck