Tell us a bit about yourself and Monster Lands.
Second Gate Games is a group of 4 game enthusiasts. 3 of us, Gorka, Victor, and Sergi, have been working together for years in a graphic design and video post-production agency they own, called Dracma3D. They developed B-Sieged as authors in 2014 and launched it through CMON in 2015, having considerable success in Kickstarter but little to no financial reward, based on high development cost and low royalties. I, Daniel Schloesser, joined the group early 2017 to have a go at establishing Second Gate Games as full-blown publisher, with Monster Lands being our first self-published game. My international business background made for a perfect fit with the talent provided by Gorka, Victor and Sergi, which is more in the design and development area.
Monster Lands is a project that was born in 2015, as follow up to B-Sieged, and took more than 2 years to develop. Since the beginning of 2017, when we started to pursue the project with determination, the game has undergone a series of important changes, helped by a high number of play testers and reviewers. We are very happy with the result, Monster Lands is a game that is intuitive, fun, beautiful to behold, and combines strategy with the thrill of the unknown dice result.
Did you expect it to be such a hit and have so many backers?
Was it really a hit? Don’t get me wrong, we are very happy with the campaign, and so are the backers, we received incredible feedback from them. But what defines whether a campaign is a hit? Is 2.500 backers a great number? Sure! But could we have gotten to 4.000? It all depends on the ambition, and our ambition is certainly to produce games that attract an even larger audience. We see our main “problem” in our limited reach, in our limited ability to make people aware of us and our campaign. We are sure that we have a very good conversion rate once people land on our campaign page, but that we “suffer” from luring too few people there in the first place. This was to be expected, of course, we are unknown and are no experts in social media, either. We will have to improve on this, though.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched Monster Lands?
We started our campaign about 6 months before our KS start, winning newsletter subscribers among B-Sieged backers, play testers, and website visitors. By the time we started the campaign, we had 600 newsletter subscribers, which was a perfect platform to have a great start. We fed them with news about the development process, sharing sneak previews of artwork and other information. We funded in 5 hours, which is a proof that the pre-campaign worked very well.
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
We launched October 17th, because we wanted to have Essen Spiel right in the middle of our campaign. October 17th was a Tuesday, which is one of the “effective” days of the week (KS launch dates should always be Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday). Making the campaign coincide with Essen was a gamble, because both the campaign and the fair participation are EXTREME stress factors, but in the end it paid out nicely. It was a HUGE effort, though.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Monster Lands, what would it be?
Would have loved to know that the KS page FREEZES once the campaign is over, you cannot edit it anymore. I understand why KS would like to preserve the campaign page for backers, so they can always see what exactly they pledged for, but for us as creators this came as a surprise. We cannot optimize the page for late pledgers now, the campaign page is far too long, we would have liked to add FAQs that come up post KS, etc.
Early bird pledging is a hot topic that a lot of people have different opinions on. Why did you choose to have that?
We are aware that opinions differ on Early Bird pledging, but we are not convinced by the arguments against it. We did a very intensive pre-KS campaign and wanted to ensure that people pledged in the very first days, this creates momentum for the campaign. The Early Bird offer was a main argument in that respect and I don’t know how we would have done without it, we are sure it was a good choice!
Kickstarter exclusives is also a hot topic. Why did you choose to have that?
We are long time KS backers ourselves. And we like KS exclusives. So we would want to offer them to our backers, too. It is an appreciation of them helping us in the creation of this project.
I think you have one of the longest KS page out there 🙂 Were you worried that people did not scroll all the way down?
Yes, you are right, it is very long, and actually TOO long now. The idea was to change the page composition at the end of the campaign, summarize the stretch goals and make the page much shorter. But we were surprised by the fact that you cannot change a campaign page post KS… during the campaign, this was less of a worry to us, because the length of the page visualized the sheer volume of extra content we were offering, a convincing argument for many. We did do some minor changes during the campaign to move important information to the top, like for example the Stretch goal of the customized dice, which created an amazing momentum for the last 24 hours.
You went to Essen while the campaign was live. How did that affect the Kickstarter. Did you manage to get many backers?
Essen was a great help. Feedback from players was overwhelming. Our booth was continuously full and we managed to have more than 200 players test our game. The impact on backer numbers wasn’t direct, though, but rather indirect. The people who demoed in Essen helped convince other people once they were back.
What´s your main tactic to handle the mid-campaign drop in new backers?
I think the mid-campaign drop is natural, and rather than spending energy and money on trying to prevent it, I would always prioritize to work on the moments that really count, i.e. the first 48 hours and the last 72 hours. Essen was our mid-campaign communication topic, that’s why we planned our KS campaign around it. It helped people stay involved. Luckily, we had a very stable growth curve throughout the campaign, with an amazing last 72 hours.
What is your best marketing tip during a campaign?
Communicate a lot with your backers. A LOT. Answer EVERY comment. Create a good FAQ section. Write many updates. Create a story.
How do you structure your days during a campaign?
It’s hell. Quite simply. It is 24 hours non stop, I slept 4-5 hours on average during that month. Unfortunately, I am the only one speaking English on a level that’s good enough for communication, so all the work with backers, with manufacturers, with reviewers, with service providers, with fairs, etc. was all concentrated on a single person. How do we structure the days? Every day you set new priorities, and ALWAYS you have to let some things slip. I even had to choose to totally stop communication with backers for 5 days in order to concentrate on the development of the campaign and the game.
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
To build up momentum BEFORE the launch. And to believe in the importance of reviews.
What´s your thoughts regarding stretch goals?
Stretch goals are a logical consequence from economies of scale that you generate during a campaign. As you win new backers, your production cost per unit goes down, and you can invest part of the savings into new components for your backers. We like stretch goals, they are fair and they are cool from a backer perspective. It’s part of the KS culture, which (unfortunately) is evolving more and more to a pre-sales platform, rather than a crowd-funding platform. We tried to drown our backers in stretch goals 😉
Oh, btw, there is something that I profoundly dislike: when creators present ADD-ONS as stretch goals. Add-ons are not stretch goals in any way, they are not based on economies of scale, they are just a marketing trick to create a higher number of stretch goals. Unfortunately, many campaigns use them and many backers believe they actually work… they don´t, they don´t create any value to existing backers.
What is your comment in the debate about paid vs unpayed reviews?
We totally respect reviewers being paid to create content. This content shouldn’t be called review, but rather preview, which is a fine but important semantic difference. We worked with two paid previews (Man vs Meeple and LudoChrono) and are very happy with their very professional presentation of the game, in which they didn’t give an evaluation of what they thought about it (although the fact that they took it on is already a sign that they like it).
We also worked with many unpaid reviewers, like Rahdo, Tom Heath (slickerdrips), Polyhedron Collider, GeekDad, Agents of Sigmar, Spielpunkt.net, D&E, The Cardboard Stacker, and Análisis Parálisis. We admire their work, it is great they promote the hobby of gaming and for us as a creator it is of course always better to not pay for a review. But it also always comes with the risk of someone not liking your product and then they will point out what they don´t like.
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
I love Kingdom Death for how immersive it is. Gloomhaven for how immensely diverse it is. And Through the Ages and Mage Knight for how greatly designed they are.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Vlaada Chvátil. I totally admire him for the great games he designs!
Anything else you want to add?
We are amazed about how extremely positive the backer crowd has been. There is generally a lot of talk about trolls, about backers being negative, about people attacking you, but our backers have been extremely supportive in our comments section. We are very thankful for that!!!
Where can people reach you?