Tell us a bit about yourself and CoolMiniOrNot.
I’m a 40+ year old gamer and CEO of CMON. I’m legally trained with a UK law degree, but I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my career, I’m one of the co-founders of Razer (the gaming peripherals company).
What did you do to build up a following before you launched you first Kickstarter game, Zombicide?
CoolMiniOrNot started out in 2001 as a fun, hobby site where miniature gamers could put pictures of their painted miniatures online for people to vote on. The community grew over the years, and in 2010 we decided to take things a little more seriously with an online store selling our own line of miniatures. I saw a market gap where miniature games at the time were quite expensive and time consuming affairs, as I got older I needed a gaming experience that would be fast and fun, and at the end have everything go back in the box for another day. So we published our first miniature board game in 2011 with those goals in mind, even though our distributors at the time thought we were crazy (Super Dungeon Explore). That did very well through the normal channels, but when we were prepping for the launch of Zombicide, I decided to put it on a little crowdfunding site called Kickstarter instead. I’d been following their progress since 2009, and although there were some internal concerns that using Kickstarter would make us look weak, I was convinced a successful campaign would do just the opposite, by generating valuable buzz and social proof.
Can you tell about the Zombicide campaign. The backer count went through the roof in the last days, what happened?
This was a case of pure serendipity. Before 2012, no Kickstarter for board games raised more than around $200k, which was a big deal at the time. We funded in the first week of our campaign, but coincidentally Steve Jackson Games launched their Ogre Kickstarter and also got big traction. Penny Arcade is a huge webcomic property, and one of their writers noticed that Kickstarter seemed to be heating up with established names and newcomers like us using it, and wrote an editorial about the trajectory of both campaigns. This created a huge traffic spike for us. By pure coincidence one of our employees at the time had contact with the Penny Arcade guys since he was from Seattle where they’re based, and asked if it would be useful to try to do some kind of joint promotion. Ultimately, we managed to put one of their creations, the Cardboard Tube Samurai, into the Kickstarter edition of the game, which really helped spike our funding in the final days of the campaign.
What is your best marketing tip for new kickstarter creators?
You can’t put lipstick on a pig. It’s very important that whatever kind of project you put up is something that fits the platform and is something people will want to back. Marketing begins at the product conceptualization stage – who is this for?
Do you regret something you did on one of your previous campaigns?
Originally we were afraid about releasing information too early since one of the rules of advertising is to have some kind of actionable message, but if I had to do it again I would release as much information as possible to build anticipation of the upcoming campaign. The actionable item now is no longer backing the project, it is following us on social media and participating in the pre-campaign excitement.
How is the process when you create your KS page at CMON. How do you prepare for such a big campaign.
We’ve got a talented team in place, and planning is very deep, usually at least a year out and when the game design process begins.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Rising sun, what would it be?
I think we were taken a little by surprise at how well the campaign did. But that’s part of the magic of Kickstarter, it’s a trial by fire and always a little unpredictable.
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?
Stay engaged, and don’t worry about the lull. A long campaign is there to aid discovery, the mid campaign lull is simply to give time for potential backers to respond to your marketing.
What is you tactic regarding stretch goals?
They have to make sense from both our end and the backers, and be deliverable in a reasonable amount of time. This plays into the deep preparation I mentioned earlier, cooking up stretch goals on the fly is something we try to avoid as much as possible.
How do backers respond to paying shipping after the campaign ends and what is your experience doing it that way?
They’re pretty ok with it, if numbers are any judge. We try to keep things within the realms of reason with global fulfilment partners bringing costs down. It helps also that the projects we do use Kickstarter on are in the $100 range, so shipping as a % of the cost of the pledge isn’t huge.
What are your thoughts regarding kickstarter exclusives?
This is quite a long topic, I’ve put some of my thoughts on that here. In a nutshell, I think they are a good way of being fair with Kickstarter backers to balance out their risk (they are giving us money way in advance for a game they might not end up enjoying), and necessary for any publisher that uses Kickstarter often. To explain the second point, if like us, you are already widely distributed, then any backer will have a reasonable expectation of picking up a game once it is released in distribution with lower risk that they might not like it, since they’ll be able to try out the game, read reviews, or get recommendations from their friends. For first or second time project creators, where Kickstarter may be the only source to get the game, you can probably get away without offering an exclusive if the core offer is strong enough.
What is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
The project image. It’s the first thing anyone sees and is a gating point. If people don’t like what they see there, they click away.
What do you want to say to the people that complain over big companies beeing on Kickstarter.
There are two main types of objectors – one would be new project creators trying to break into the industry, and the second are gamers who are uncomfortable with the idea. Let’s address the first objection – the complaint here is that more established publishers have raised standards so high it’s impossible for smaller teams to get a toe in. This thought harks back to a mystical time on Kickstarter where anyone could fund any kind of dream, without actually examining the historical reality. Remember, when we first launched Zombicide the highest funded tabletop game at the time had raised about $170k (D-Day Dice). Most were funding in the $10k to $20k range – some frankly quite terrible games were funded for what we’d view as low amounts today, sometimes by teams that stumbled badly when it came to delivery.
It is entirely possible to fund for $10k to $20k today, just like 2012. The only difference is that you need to up your game since competition from all sectors has dramatically increased as Kickstarter has gotten bigger. Games from tiny teams like Kingdom Death, Gloomhaven and Santorini have shown that Kickstarter is still the place where small indies will be greatly rewarded by giving gamers what they want. The upside is that in the tabletop games space, Kickstarter has grown tremendously in both projects funded, as well as total amount raised, across all segments. The pie is growing far faster than there are competitors rushing to fill the space, so to be blunt, if you’re facing a problem it isn’t the big companies that are causing it.
From a gamer standpoint, it can only be a good thing since competition that both drives standards up (in both game play and actual delivery, which people often forget is the mark of a successful campaign), while still allowing new and innovative small publishers to succeed. Rising professionalism alienates a small group of idealists that believes anyone with a dream “should” be able to get funding, but this ignores the very real cost to backers when well-intentioned but clueless project creators get backed and fail to deliver. I think there’s still a segment of “altruist” type backers that are perfectly happy to be a patron of someone, it’s just that they have become less obvious as Kickstarter has gone mainstream in our industry – the most backer growth you would see would be people whose primary motivation is that they want the game as opposed to supporting the project creator. So the effect of these “patrons” will become more dilute as more projects enter Kickstarter, there are only so many projects you can back after all, and they too can afford to be picky about who they deem are worthy to support.
What is your reaction to Kingdom Death Monster getting $ 12 000 000 on KS?
It’s stupendous! Adam Poots et al have done a fantastic job delivering on the first Kingdom Death KS despite some huge hurdles, and I think the second campaign justifiably rewards them for it. Again, if it’s a quality project, it doesn’t matter how big or small the company is. This is a labor of love, and it shows. I think anything that pushes the envelope is a good for all of us.
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
I love Arcadia Quest – it’s over the top, fast to play and incredibly fun.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
My role models come from the wider business world (Elon Musk? Squeee!), but I as a gamer I am a fan of many people I’ve had the great pleasure of currently working with. Mike McVey, Adrian Smith, Eric Lang, Eduoard Guiton, Stefan Kopinski, the list goes on.
Where can people reach you?
We’re on facebook: and twitter @CMONGames.