Tell us a bit about yourself and Restorations games.
I am Justin Jacobsen, the president of Restoration Games. While I’ve been a gamer my whole life, I only recently decided to enter the business. I am an attorney by trade. For years, I’ve done legal work for folks in the tabletop industry. Every year, I would give a seminar at Gen Con (mostly as a way to write off the trip). After one seminar, a nice young woman came up to me and has some questions. Seems her husband was getting ready to leave a large game company and wanted some advice on what he could do with the stuff that he had worked on there. Well, that husband was Rob Daviau, that game company was Hasbro, and that “stuff” would turn out to be Pandemic Legacy and ultimately SeaFall. Several years later, I had an idea to try and do a reprint of Star Wars: Queen’s Gambit. I started talking over the idea with Rob one day. He said that one would be pretty much impossible. But one thing led to another, and it just seemed like a neat concept that could stand out in what is a very competitive market. So we decided to take the plunge.
Our company specializes in taking out-of-print mass-market games from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, fixing them up, and bringing them back for the modern gamer.
Is your main target group someone that have played the games before or is it someone that has never tried it before. How do you reach out to the different groups?
We definitely want to appeal to both groups. That makes the design process very challenging. We have to make the games modern enough to appeal to gamers who’ve never heard of them before, while keeping the “soul” of the game intact to appeal to the folks for whom the game is truly special.
How do you choose the games you want to “restore”?
There are a lot of factors that go into it. It has to be something that we think we can bring something to the table with, a game that needs a meaningful restoration. On the other hand, it can’t be so beyond help that the restoration would basically leave us with a wholly different game. We prefer to work on games that have good name recognition for a strong following. Obviously, we need to be able to get sufficient rights to do whatever it is that we are planning on. A big factor is hearing from the fans. We have a form on our website, where you can recommend a game and tell us why you think we should bring it back. It’s great to see all the suggestions and the stories and memories people have with them.
Your first campaign was for the game Stop Thief! How did that go?
Great! My highest hope was to get to $100,000, and we did just that. We were also excited to get to 2500 backers. But most of all, we were happy to see the response to the concept was universally accepted and appreciated. That let us know we were onto something.
How did you build your crowd before the you launched the campaign for Stop Thief!
Rob’s got a bit of a following as it is, so that definitely helped. I’m very active on twitter and Board Game Geek as well.
What was the biggest thing you learned from that campaign?
You have to stay true to your vision of the game. When a campaign is going well, and backers are engaged, they’ll come up with all sorts of wild ideas, and it can be tempting to just go with it. You have to be very careful of project creep.
Now you have recently ended the campaign for Fireball island and it was a massive hit. What did you do differently this time?
We had a much more organized pre-campaign marketing effort. All thanks to our Master-of-Fireworks, Suzanne Sheldon. We had our releases planned out to the day, slowly building hype. By the time we clicked the launch button, folks were champing at the bit to get the game.
What did you do to build up a following before the release of Fireball island?
In addition to our pre-campaign marketing, we certainly leveraged our existing fan base. Providing your fans with images, videos, and messages they can share on social media is a great tool for amplifying your message.
I heard somewhere that you only have one prototype of FI and is crazy expensive. Is that true?
Pretty much. These are special temporary islands. We did get a secret second prototype when were testing out the thickness of the material. Interestingly, this limitation made it impossible to do a traditional marketing push with review copies. But necessity is the mother of invention. Our Tinker-in-Chief, JR Honeycutt, had a great idea to take the one prototype on a “road trip” around the country. The response has been absolutely amazing.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched FI, what would it be?
I wish we could have gotten just a hair further on the design before we launched. But we needed to launch to get everything done in time to hit our holiday release schedule.
If you could change one thing with Kickstarter. What would it be?
I’d like the opportunity to pin a comment to the top of the comments page. Often there is a topic that comes up that you respond to, but your response gets pushed down and folks keep asking the same question.
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Given how crowded Kickstarter has become, it’s extremely important to get someone hooked right away. A great name, great video, and great graphic design at the top of the page are critical.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
I admire the up-and-coming voices from women, persons of color, and other minorities. In many ways tabletop is ahead of some of the other communities — look no further than video games — with regard to inclusion. But that doesn’t mean we’re already there. Lots of work to do to make tabletop a place where everyone is welcome. So the folks, like our own Suzanne Sheldon, who are out there doing a lot of the work, have my utmost respect. As a company, we try to support that process, but our effort will never be on par with what they need to bring every day.
Anything else you want to add?
Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I have to say that being a board game publisher is a lot more fun and rewarding than being a litigator. I’m a very lucky man.
Where can people reach you?
I’m active on twitter @RestorationGame (note the missing “s” at the end), but if you need to reach me directly, you can email me at email@example.com.