Tell us a bit about yourself and your company Uprarious Games.
Hello! My name is Jeff Beck and I am the owner of Uproarious Games. My love affair with boardgames started at a very young age, when I beat my unlces in the family Monopoly tournament (don’t judge – we all start somewhere). Like many game designers, I first cut my teeth on game mechanics through creating house rules. As a young father, I quickly realized that Candyland was about the most mind-numbing experience imaginable, so I worked out a system that was still accessable to my children, but had at least some strategy and player agency – CandyWorld (still waiting to hear back from Hasbro about co-publishing). I launched Uproarious Games in 2016 to published Word Domination – an award-winning word / area-control game. Then in 2017, I partnered with Tim Fowers to create Hardback, the “pre-quill” to his amazing game, Paperback. And now I’m back with Getaway Driver.
Your current game on Kickstarter is Getaway Driver. What is the game about?
Following in the footsteps of classic movies like The Italian Job and Bullitt, Getaway Driver captures the many thematic moments of a daring car chase. One player takes the role of the driver on the run, armed with a selection of daredevil stunts and abilities, trying to get out of town. The other player takes the role of the police, backed by the entire strength of the police force, and the city itself, working to catch the driver before she escapes. Getaway Driver is a fast and frantic duel of wits full of car crashes, crazy stunts, and nailbiting conclusions.
What did you do to create a following for Getaway Driver before you launched?
With Getaway Driver, I was extremely lucky to have already built up a bit of a following from my previous games. Also, in my work with Tim Fowers, I was able to place Getaway Driver in the same universe as one of his very popular games – Burgle Bros. With our combined audiences, I was able to have a fantastic launch on Kickstarter. After that, I was able to keep the momentum going with carefully placed advertisements and media outreach (like this interview).
Can you talk about the Kickstarter video?
Creating videos for Kickstarter is always a lot of fun. We have a tradition of creating silly, almost roadshow-style videos that help reinforce the theme of the game, and focus less on the specific mechanics – a strategy that, while I can’t guarantee is best, hasn’t seemed to hurt us either. Our overarching philosophy is, too many Kickstarter videos take themselves too seriously – so we focus on having a good time and setting out the theme, and then let the rest of the campaign page do the rest. The video for Getaway Driver proved to be an extra challenge, as we needed to give the “feels” of a high-speed car chase without hiring professional stunt drivers and a closed track – so we had to get a little extra creative. I’ll let you be the judge as to whether or not it worked.
You are doing something unique for the moment and that is having GIFs of the reviewers talking about the game. Why did you do that?. I also see that you use them as ads on BGG. How have they performed?
This is actually a strategy we tried in our first campaign that proved quite successful. Demonstrating that a large number of people have tried and enjoyed your game is an critical part of the Kickstarter page. Clearly most potential backers are not going to spend their time watching each and every preview, so we feel the animated “talking heads” of the reviewers is a great way to quickly show off a lot of people smiling and having a good time while they talk positively about your game. It’s even better as an ad, in my opinion, as it’s very eye catching (especially if it’s a reviewer they are familiar with) and really stands out. I can’t speak categorically about how well my ads have performed compared to others, but, at least in my experience, they are doing extremely well.
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact time?
Several days before the launch, I created an event on Facebook and shared it with my fans – come help us launch a new game on Kickstarter. When setting up that event, we tried to pick a day and time that would be convenient for the majority of our fans. At the designated time, we hit the “go” button on Kickstarter and updated the Facebook event with a link. Thankfully, we had a bunch of people click through and support us.
Did you expect getting so many backers?
Is it safe to ever expect any number of backers? I don’t think so. I’ve seen games with fantastic art and theme struggle to reach their stretch goal, and other games with a less than polished presentation blow it out of the water. If someone has the crystal ball, I’d love to borrow it 🙂
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Getaway Driver, what would it be?
Be careful what you send out to reviewers. With Getaway Driver, we had almost no art done when we were putting together prototype copies, so everything we sent out was just simple, clip-art-style imagery. While all of our reviewers had fun playing the game, and had a lot of very nice things to say about it – more than a few commented in their reviews about how ugly the prototype was. Oh well – at least that will definitely get fixed before release.
Your first game on Kickstarter was Word domination How did that campaign go?
Word Domination did extremely well for us. It was our first game, which is always a bit of a trick, and it was a word game, which narrows down the audience quite a bit. However, I think Word Domination had enough unique and fun elements to help it stand out and find it’s niche.
How did you build your crowd for Word domination ?
We did a few things. First, we worked with a number of reviewers who we knew enjoyed word games, based on past reviews of other games. Second, we advertised on not just board game sites, but also Scrabble-focused websites, to draw in new backers. And third, we had a really unique product that helped get people excited when they finally made it to the page.
What was the main lesson you learned from WD that you used on the GA campaign?
We learned a lot from the Word Domination campaign, namely around manufacturing and fulfillment. We learned that, if something can go wrong, it probably will, so you need to plan accordingly. We learned that it is very important to engage with your backers – not just to answer their questions – but to make them a part of the design process, through surveys and the like. And most of all, we learned that one month is a very long Kickstarter campaign.
I took a look at the kicktraq for WD and saw that day 3 had a big upswing. What happened?
I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure that’s when we got the “Projects we like” nod from Kickstarter. That makes a big difference in rankings and search results on the Kickstarter site. In all honesty, if you look at the breakdown of backers from either of these two campaigns, you’ll see that the majority of individuals are not direct referrals from our newsletter or a Youtube review – they were people browsing on Kickstarter. As important as having an audience built up before you launch a Kickstarter campaign, it’s even more important to position yourself such that you can capitolize on the traffic Kickstarter will send you.
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
Have fun. I’ve heard a Kickstarter campaign be described as hosting a month-long party, and it’s quite true. If you’re not having fun, your backers will immediately pick up on that, and start wondering why they are sticking around. No matter what comes up, no matter what your backers start complaining about in the comments (and they will), you’ve got to keep having fun.
If you could change one thing with Kickstarter. What would it be
Kickstarter is a fantastic platform for building a community and testing new products. I would be remiss if I complained too much about everything it has allowed me to do. But that said – the campaign story editor is literally the worst. Inserted images end up at the bottom of the page. Links end up directing traffic to the wrong place. Line breaks end up disappearing entirely. Oh how I wish Kickstarter would take some of the money they’ve earned and improve their technology just a little bit.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
The cover art – no question. Not only is it the first thing a backer sees, but it is the single most important element a backer weighs when deciding if they want to come on board. Does the art speak to them? Are they excited about the theme? Does the game look fun? All of these questions are answered right off the cover art.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
It’s almost impossible to be in this industry without being a bit of a fanboy – because there are so many incredibly talented individuals. I am really impressed with the work Ryan Laukat does – it seems the man can do no wrong. And we all owe a debt of gratitude to James Ernest, who was self-publishing before self-publishing was even cool.
Anything else you want to add?
I hit on it a bit before, but, in my opinion, the success or failure of a game on Kickstarter has way more to do with the game itself, and much less to do with your pre-established audience or clever marketing plan. In an industry where a 1000 new games are launched every month, why should I care about yours? It has to stand out – be unique – provide me something that I can’t get anywhere else. If you have that figured out, I believe your Kickstarter campaign will do great. But, if you are one of a thousand generic-fantasy or cthulhu-themed games that use action allowances and worker placement, I think you will struggle.
Where can people reach you?
I’d be delighted to keep this conversation going on Twitter @jeffbeck or BGG at /user/jeffbeck and of course at our website at www.uproariousgames.com