Last time we spoke with you Vojkan Krstevski, your first game Cavern tavern was in the stores and you were ready to soon launch your second game, Rise to nobility. How did that go and what are you working on now?

Can’t believe it’s been almost a year!

Rise to Nobility did phenomenally well. Close to 5.000 backers and $370k in funding. There is definitely an interest by gamers for The Five Realms series, so we are not stopping with Cavern Tavern and Rise to Nobility. But before we do another game in that universe we wanted to broaden our reach. That is why we are doing Robin Hood and the Merry Men soon.

It’s a theme that we are all fans of. During the whole design process we kept asking ourselves, will this addition benefit the gameplay and does it feel like you are one of the outlaws in Sherwood Forest. It’s a euro game with a nice blend of the best things that thematic games have to offer. We really feel that we did justice to the whole theme.

The experiences and the discussions that will bring on the table during the game and after the game is what we aimed for. If you want to attack the royal guards you can do that, want to ambush carriages filled with gold, build traps, roadblocks, enter an archery competition, organize a jail break and free some of the merry men, rob the rich or dip into the Sheriff’s secret stash… Everything that you know and love about the Robin Hood stories is most likely included in the game. We are excited like it’s our first time! We cannot wait to launch the Kickstarter!

RH

Lets get back to Rise to nobility. Did you expect getting so many backers?

We love to make bets in our office. We bet on all kinds of stuff so it was only natural to do one for the final number on this campaign… No one was anywhere near the number we ended up :)))

We expected Rise to Nobility to do fairly well. Better than Cavern Tavern which had 2k backers. But without sounding too modest, we were blown away by the support of our backers.

What did you do to build up a following before you launched R t N? Did you do anything different this time?

Thanks to our previous success with Cavern Tavern, we had the budget to spread our wings a little further in terms of marketing.

We followed the recipe from our previous campaign, added few things in the mix, and increased the budgeting on all fronts. We’ve done pretty much everything the same as last time but just bigger and better.

Facebook ads were the backbone of our marketing strategy. We started promoting and doing ads 4 months before the Kickstarter campaign. 4 to 6 months pre-campaign marketing is ideal for people to get to know the game, build a following and excitement.

We are again in that period with the preparations for our next Kickstarter campaign for Robin Hood and the Merry Men. The campaign will be launched late February, however the promotion of the game started around August. Since August, every single day we have a facebook ad running for the game. Thanks to that, we are managing to build an even bigger excitement that we previously achieved for our previous games. We’ll see the results in about 5-6 weeks 🙂

But the point is, it’s never too early to start promoting your project. You don’t need to have a complete game to do that. A box art is all it takes to cover you for a couple of months, and then as soon as new art and components come, you have more things to promote and build excitement.

Last time you only used Fb ads when you promoted your game and said you wanted to try ads on BGG next time. Did you, and how did that work out?

Yes. When it comes to marketing, we want to add new things in the mix in order to test them out and perfect our skills. The market is getting crowded by each passing day and you need to be one step ahead in order to stay afloat and get noticed.

Online marketing is like sculpting. It requires vision and precision. Budget for marketing should be the least of your concerns. Because, if you don’t know what you are doing you can spend $1.000 and get the same results with $10 if you know what you are doing.

To get back to your question… We used BGG banner. In terms of direct ROI, I’m not impressed. We got a 4:1 return which is not bad (you need to get at least 3:1 return in order to profit) but don’t put much faith into that. It’s good for brand awareness, it’s good for your company, it’s good for people to get to know you more, but in terms of backers it’s just not the best money spent if you are running on a limited budget.

I really like what Roxley did for their Brass campaign. They bought off banners for the pre-campaign of Brass. When you clicked on the banner it directed you to the game page on BGG. The game was on the hotness list on BGG weeks before their KS. I’m not saying it’s because of the banner, but I think that helped.

That is the next thing I want to try out.

Did you do any big changes to how you ran your campaign now compared to Cavern Tavern?

Well the main difference I would say were the add-ons. We had quite a few add-ons during this campaign. Because Rise to Nobility shares the same world as Cavern Tavern, we offered that game as an add-on. We also have two novellas for both games that were offered, extra custom dice, wooden components and metal coins.

Everything besides the metal coins were planned. The metal coins were only discussed within the team, but quickly dropped. 10 days into the campaign and backers were really getting excited about the game and started asking if metal coins as add-ons were possible. That was the only thing discussed in the comments section 🙂 Thanks to the speed of Thundergryph Games, they managed to make mockups of our coins really quickly and we offered them 2 weeks into the campaign. This proved to be quite a good boost during the mid campaign slump, so I think we will do something like this for our next campaign.

If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched R t N, what would it be?

That the price of cardboard will jump in China!

How do you structure your days during a campaign?

Well, with Cavern Tavern we unlocked around 15 SGs, with Rise to Nobility 20+. So most of our days we are writing an update. Beside that, coordination with our factory, our artist The Mico, replying to emails and comments, contacting retailers and so forth. So mostly, communicating with different parties during the whole day.

What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?

Jamey’s, James’s blogs and your interviews with other creators are immensely useful for our growth. Almost everything we do and know is because of them. But if I have to single out one piece of advice that had a profound influence on our well being is Jamey’s advice to filter out the cancelation emails from your inbox. We did that for RtN and it was a blessing.

What is your comment in the debate about paid vs unpayed reviews?

How much time do we have?

I’ll try to be as clear as possible on this in order not to offend anyone. If someone do gets offended, please be aware that English is not our mother tongue.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way let’s dive in.

As gamers and publishers we don’t have any problem with paid reviews. Publishers are not paying for the opinion of the game being reviewed, they pay for the services that the reviewer offers. This may seem naive but hear me out.

What is a paid review? $50 dollar on the reviewers PayPal account? $100? $400? What about just a copy of the game? Why do we say that those are unpaid reviews?

Let’s say an unpaid reviewer only asks of the publisher to be provided with a copy of the game and let’s say he reviews 200 games in one year. That’s around $10.000 dollars in games. Games that the reviewer can sell and earn some money of that, or keep them, and spent $10.000 less for new games.

Let’s talk about something else. Filming equipment is expensive. Editing software is expensive. Lighting is expensive. As a publisher, we would prefer that the reviewers do justice to our game in terms of visual presentation. Especially if these are reviews for a brand new or never before seen games. Artwork and components are an important thing in the whole success of the game/campaign. So the better the game looks on the review videos, the better for us as publishers, and also better for the gamers because they’ll get a better picture of the game in terms of table presence. That kind of quality costs and that is why we understand why some of the reviewers charge money for their services.

Another thing is that reviewers spend at least 5 times playing the game before forming their opinion and filming the video/writing the article. That’s hours spent in learning and playing the game.

Lastly, some of the reviewers spent money from their own pocket in order to promote the content that they do and get more subscribers or more members in their group to watch their channels. So it’s not unfair if some of them charges for their services, because we as publisher are using them and their subscribers for marketing purposes.

I understand why this is a heated debate. Debate is always a good thing. But I haven’t heard of a situation where a publisher bought off an opinion from a reviewer. On the contrary, I have heard lots of situations where a paid reviewer turned down the game (and the money!) because they didn’t like the game.

We need to have more faith in humanity 🙂

You had a lot to say about Stretch goals last time. What is your updated opinion about them?

Our opinion hasn’t changed much on this subject. We still believe that you need to have a big SG on every 3 or 4 SGs. But pacing them is the tricky one. For Robin Hood and the Merry Men we’ll probably not show that much before we fund the game. Maybe just 1 or 2, instead of 5.

However as we keep growing, we need to think about the future. The more success we have in retail and distribution, the harder it will probably be for our Kickstarter campaigns because backers wouldn’t need to tie in money for a game that they can easily find later on in FLGS.

That is why we think the more successful the creator is, the more exclusive stretch goals they’ll need to offer. Something similar like CMON is doing. They found the recipe to be extremely successful both on KS and in distribution. We have a lot to learn from Chern and the CMON team.

Do you regret something you did on your last campaign?

We could have made the box for RtN slightly bigger. It would have given us some wiggle room in terms of MSRP, and also it would have made better shelf presence in retail stores. There is a lot of stuff in that game, and I mean A LOT! However the box is 26x26cm.

Do you have any new role models in the board gaming industry?

Everyone is awesome! But to come back from the list from last year (Feld, CGE, Jamey and James), we can proudly say that we wrote an article for Jamey’s blog and worked on few things with James. We can say that 2017 has been a really good year for us having collaborated with some of our role models, and shook hands with Matt Leacock, Tom Vasel, Enoch Fryxelius and many others in Essen.

This year, we will add Chern Ann Ng to the list. He is going out of his way to help out Kickstarter creators on a day to day basis, eventhough he runs a giant like CMON.

Anything else you want to add?

We would suggest to creators to find the hook that separates their game from the others and promote that. Kickstarter is changing, and is changing really fast. 2 years ago, maybe 20-30% of games looked really good and stood out from the rest. Today, my estimation is that 70% of games/campaigns have done most of their homework and look really amazing in term of presentation.

It will get harder and harder for creators to get noticed. The percentage of good looking campaigns is rising more than the number of new backers. At least this is how we are seeing things. It will be interesting to see where this is leading, but backers/gamers can’t keep up and be aware of every project that is coming out on KS. They’ll probably start focusing on handful of publishers and follow them wherever they may go. The good creators will do much better because of this. However that will not be true for everyone. That is why building a following throughout the year, even if you don’t have a campaign at the moment is more important than ever.

Where can people reach you?

vojkan@finalfrontiergames.com

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