Tell us a bit about yourself and Pandasaurus games.
We started Pandasaurus Games in 2012. It’s my wife (Molly) and I (Nathan) as the only two full time team-members. Molly got to go full time about 4 years ago and I followed along about 2 years back. It’s a dream to do something I love for a living. The company was started so that I could publish a really dumb game I designed called Roller Coaster Rush which was what I thought was a unique little game about doing basic math really quicky and making mistakes. Then someone showed me Galaxy Trucker and I realized I had just invented bad galaxy trucker. Luckily I reached out to the guys at Stratamax by that point and we got the rights to Tammany Hall!
Your first game Tammany Hall was on KS waaaaay back in 2012. What did you do to build up a following before the release?
Honestly, I ran a give-away contest on BGG for copies from my personal game collection to sign up for our mailing list. It got taken down about 72 hours after it went up, but I got 300 names on our mailing list and that is what we used to get Tammany Hall launched with.
How did the campaign go?
Stupid good. I remember hoping we could make 35K. We actually set the initial funding where we might have to go out of pocket if it funded but were ok with that risk, then we did so much better than we expected, which was our first real hint that this might be something we could wind up doing full time.
Why do you think that game got so many backers?
It’s a really good game that not a lot of people had access to buy. I hate to say its so simple, but I think that was part of it. Fun meeple shapes were also relatively new concept and I think people got really excited by those as well as some of the other upgrades we made to the game.
After TH you released a few other games and then suddenly came Dinosaur Island. What did you do differently on that campaign to have such success?
Well, we really turned away from Kickstarter for a long time. Back in 2012 the model was 1) Start on Kickstarter 2) Move on to retail distribution. And for most of our games that is still the model. So, we released Machi Koro, The Game and some other titles that did really well for us, but off Kickstarter. Then we started noticing that something had changed. Kickstarter was now a great way to get your game in front of people and to do really well at retail, and we started thinking about returning with either Wasteland Express or Dinosaur Island and thought the DI theme would make it really exciting to backers and thought that was the right choice.
What was the biggest thing you learned from the first DI campaign?
I learned way too many lessons to name. 1) People love Dino Meeples. 2) Make sure the coins are made out of something that doesn’t weigh a million pounds.
How did you continue to build a following of the game before you released the Dinosaur Island expansion?
I think the game really took care of itself. I started teasing the second Kickstarter about a month out, but the hype and demand from the first print run really took off and it was really our fans that kept the momentum of Dinosaur Island going.
What is the biggest difference in Kickstarting an expansion vs the base game?
I think confusion. We have lots of options (base game, expansion, new 2 player game) and combinations of all of the above plus an upgrade kit for those that bought the retail edition of Dinosaur Island. So, lots of confusion going around in the first few days.
I think though that it also means we have tons of content to share. We have videos and images and rulebooks for three different games and lots of things to look at and read about, so we have tons of content on our page as a result.
What is your best marketing tip during a campaign?
Listen to your backers and make sure you are engaged online. You need to live in the comment section, keep up with social media and keep your campaign page up to date with updates and make sure your stretch goals are always 100% correct. We didn’t do that very well the first time around because we were just too busy and it really hurt us. We were really on the ball this time.
What is your main tip to handle the mid-campaign drop of new backers?
You really can’t. Make sure you have good stretch goals and lots of content. We did a few AMAs and some video chats and scheduled some marketing to hit in the middle of the campaign to keep our name on peoples tongues but the reality is all campaigns kind of slow down in the middle, it’s just a question of how much. Our “worst” day so far was about 15,000 USD so I’ll take that :p
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
Honestly, Michael Mendes used to run a “how to” blog that was sort of the first version of what James Mathe or Jamey Stegmaier that was a “here is how to be a publisher” sort of info. Who is a good printer, how to import your games. How to find a warehouse. How to ship games. It basically is the only reason I ever thought about getting into this. Without those early TMG blogs I don’t know how I would have learned where to start. Of course, I think Jamey and James’ blogs at this point are absolute must reads for anyone thinking about doing this.
What´s your thoughts regarding kickstarter exclusives?
I think having Kickstarter exclusives that are items you can’t afford to put in the regular box is both totally fine and gives your backers a good reason to trust you with their money early vs. waiting at retail. We try to limit it to chrome and non-gameplay stuff. I don’t want people to feel like they got a lesser game, but if I’m getting a bigger chunk of the money up front and they are taking a risk on us, we should reward them with some goodies.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Well, probably the information about the game and why you want to play the game. It’s easy to get caught up in stretch goals and fun stuff and all the bits you get, but the core of why someone backs a game is how much fun they will ultimately have, so I think giving people the WHY of your game is more important than the WHAT all the time.
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
Power Grid. Since the day I played it. Friedemann came up to our booth at Essen last year to get a copy of Dino Island and I gave it to him for free and then shouted “I LIKE POWER GRID” really awkwardly and I think I scared him away for ever. It’s my only really star struck moment where I acted like a complete idiot :p
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Too many. I look up to a lot of people we work with. Luckily I also have gotten to meet most of my role models by now so it would be really weird if I called them a role model.
Sophie Gravel is someone I’ve never met I look up to. She is a powerhouse of a business person who seems to only publish amazing A+ games. So, I’m going to go with Sophie.