Tell us a bit about yourself and Fantastic Factories.
We are a team of two. Justin and I have been actively developing this game for about 2.5 years. This is our first game but one that we’ve taken the time and care to do it right. Fantastic Factories is a dice placement engine building game featuring whimsical factories. The game is all about building the right combination of factories and the puzzle of placing all your dice into those factories in order to manufacture as many goods as possible.
How did you build your crowd before you launched Fantastic Factories?
There are a lot of ways out there. People will talk about pre-marketing Facebook ads or giveaways but I find that you will build the strongest audience and fan base by simply going out there and doing face to face interactions. For me, it’s all about building that mailing list. I believe it’s the most effective channel for reliably reaching your audience and getting their attention. But it’s not just about sheer quantity of emails. The quality of your emails matters just as much or more as well!
I’ll give you a sense of what I mean. My mailing list is only ~900 emails. Can you guess what percentage of those emails converted into backers? Some people will say 1%. Some will say that 5% is doing great. Well, I got over 100 backers from the email campaign alone. That’s more than 10%!! I think that really demonstrates the importance of building a dedicated audience and not just a large one. As you build this audience you’ll uncover super fans that will help spread the word to their network. Each one of these fans are worth 100+ fans because you effectively add their network to your own. I could go on forever about the numbers and details about where backers are coming from, and I’ll be writing a blog post about it after the campaign is over.
To build this audience, I started out with simply collecting emails during play testing sessions. It’s honestly a very slow way to do it when your game takes an hour to teach and play, but the fact is that you should be play testing anyways so the emails come for free. The most effective way to gather emails is at a convention setting. There are many ways of getting tables at conventions for cheap or even free. A lot of smaller cons will support local designers so I would check to see if there are any local shows that do that. Larger cons are great as well but it’s difficult to justify the cost of flight and hotel and booking a booth as well. Once you get a table, if you have enough foot traffic, you’ll want to develop a fast demo that takes 10 minutes as most. The goal is to get as much traffic through your table as possible while collecting emails.
For more details about how I’ve built my audience, you can check out the blog post I’ve written about the subject.
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
We launched on May 29th, which is a Tuesday. At first we were heavily considering launching in April because it lined up so neatly with three local conventions. However we realized it was a very aggressive goal given all the things we still had to do. We preferred to approach it with time and care so we pushed the date back.
All the conventional Kickstarter advice says to launch on a Tuesday. I’m honestly not convinced that is the best advice anymore since everyone seems to be launching on Tuesday now. We considered launching on a Monday but since May 28th (Monday) was a holiday (Memorial Day in the US) we ended up doing Tuesday anyways.
The recommended length for a KS video is somewhere between 1-1,5 minutes. Yours is a bit longer than that. Can you talk about your video?
We originally were planning on doing the video ourselves. But through a local gaming charity event, Extra Life, we met Christian from Take Your Chits (a YouTube channel that talks about hot tabletop topics). He had a chance to play our game and really enjoyed it. We became good friends and he offered to do the video.
If you’ve seen his content then you know that he does very high quality videos. Since we had so many things left to do for the Kickstarter, having someone take care of the video seemed like a good idea. We even agreed on a fee to pay him (more on that later).
We had a lot of back and forth about what the video should be. Should it be humorous? Should it be serious? How much gameplay if any should it show? Should it be just an ad? Or should we try to make it go viral?
Since Christian was willing to put his name and brand on the line for us, I wanted him to do what he does best and in the same format he does it on his own show — get in front of a camera and talk honestly and openly about something in a very relatable way.
When he produced the video and sent it over, I was blown away. The heartfelt message he presented was perfect. It’s incredibly different from your normal Kickstarter campaign but it was so genuine and different in a good way that we needed to use it. He told me that he wouldn’t be taking any payment and the fact that he not only used his brand but fully endorsed the game prevented me from paying him anything! For that I’m super grateful so I suggest everyone check out his YouTube channel.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Fantastic Factories what would it be?
Hahaha! One thing? I could give you a enormous list. I would say the biggest thing is to figure out your shipping as precisely as you can. Make sure you’re not losing money when you ship games to certain countries and make sure that your shipping options cover every reasonable country.
We are working with a fulfillment partner, and they sent us a list of prices for different regions and countries. However, we didn’t realize it was just a partial list so we ended up grouping a lot of fairly normal countries into the very expensive “rest of the world” shipping level. We later got a more comprehensive list and have updated the shipping prices.
Also consider how you want to handle the pricing, shipping, and tracking one-off orders for things like 3 units or 7 units, etc. Just be ready to handle these requests.
If you could change one thing with Kickstarter. What would it be?
I’ll give you two. That campaign page editor! So frustrating to use. I would link images and then the links would seemingly randomly unlink. Random spaces would pop up everywhere. And it was disappointing to see that Kickstarter is so screen reader unfriendly. I guess the crossover between board games and blind people is small but it’s such a simple thing to be able to add an “alt” tag to an image.
The second thing are the referral tracking links. For some reason you can only create them AFTER your campaign goes live. That means as you’re setting up reviews and previews, you can’t send them a Kickstarter tracking link to measure how many backers reviewers are getting you. I’m using Google Analytics for that but it’s frustrating that I can’t use the infinitely simpler and easier Kickstarter tracking links for everything.
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
That’s a tricky one because I wouldn’t say there’s any silver bullet in terms of advice that will make your Kickstarter awesome. It’s really a culmination of all the knowledge and wisdom out there that will make your campaign successful. But if I had to choose something it’s probably Jamey Stegmaier’s advice of launching when you are ready. I think setting a date and a timeline can be really useful in terms of forcing you to get stuff done but if you’re not ready then you’re not ready. A Kickstarter campaign is something that shouldn’t be rushed. A lot of our early early fans know that I’ve probably pushed back the soft Kickstarter target month at least a couple times when we’ve done a large design change that required us to go back to play testing and development. Launch when you’re ready and when you have the most complete product that you can produce.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Graphic design and art. Different people will look for different elements on the page. Some people will watch the video or not. Some people care about what’s in the box or the gameplay or the stretch goals. But the one thing everyone will see and make snap judgements on are the art and graphic design. Art will grab people’s attention first and graphic design is necessary to make a professional and clean looking campaign page. It’s a reflection of how much care and attention you’ll put into the game. Luckily I do graphic design and art for Fantastic Factories so I’ve been able to spend as much time as necessary to tune and perfect the campaign page.
What´s your thoughts regarding stretch goals?
Stretch goals have become this beast of a thing that is practically mandatory within the tabletop category in Kickstarter. Strangely it’s not a thing you see in any other category but something that board game backers have come to expect and even feel entitled to. I think the original concept is great and makes sense. Hitting higher funding means you can get a larger volume discount. That savings you get can be reinvested into the product to improve it.
Somehow stretch goals have morphed into this “carrot on a stick” thing where Kickstarter creators are removing parts of the game just so they can dangle it in front of backers as stretch goals. I completely understand the pressure that Kickstarter creators are facing so I don’t blame anyone for playing the stretch goal game, but I think that backers are starting to wise up and realize what goals are “fake” and which ones are real.
I’ve always believed in delivering the best possible gameplay you can so I’ve chosen to not have any content-based stretch goals at all. The game has been play tested with all the cards and as long as the funding goal is met, backers will receive the complete and full game. No more. No less. All the stretch goals are component upgrades only because that’s what actually costs us more money and why more funding and a higher order quantity can actually help make it possible by reducing the cost per unit.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Plenty for sure. I’ll mention the obligatory Jamey Stegmaier. His philosophy behind how he runs his business and his work ethic is just so amazing. He’s a pioneer within the industry, and I’m always impressed and how he leads the way for the rest of us. James Mathe is also a great wealth of information. Kim Brebach is an amazing vault of information as well. His feedback and comments on Facebook groups are so detailed and comprehensive that they could stand along as blog posts. James Hudson is also an inspiration on how to market a board game and is an embodiment of positivity within the board game industry (care bears unite!).
I’d also love to give a shout out to all the local Seattle game designers who have provided us with support. Both Emma Larkins and Shawn Stankewich are great community leaders who have done a great job cultivating the game designer culture here in Seattle. Also could not have done it without the play testing support of David MacKenzie and Nicole Jekich who operate and run PlaytestNW.
Anything else you want to add?
I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude with everyone who has helped out with the campaign, backing us, spreading the word, and even words of encouragement. Kickstarter is all about that community support. We’ve worked hard to build that crowd, and I’m excited to see that with the Kickstarter campaign that crowd is growing larger.
I believe in transparency and supporting other creators so if anyone has any questions about my game or my campaign, I encourage them to reach out to me.
Where can people reach you?