Tell us a bit about yourself and Black Sonata.
I’ve been playing games my whole life. It started back when I’d play card games with my family until late at night. From there my first foray into the hobby board gaming world was Settlers of Catan (a standard!). Since then I’ve dived in head first. I also dabbled with game design but the few I completed were just mediocre. But as I was going through the process I was much more interested in the production & publishing aspect. That’s when I had the idea of just taking other people’s awesome designs and making them products. When I asked a few of my gaming buddies they were all in as well.
Black Sonata was a game I had only heard about since its success in the 2017 Solo Print & Play contest on Boardgamegeek. I printed it up and immediately knew that I wanted this to be Side Room Games’ first published game. I contacted the designer, John Kean, about trying to publish it. He mentioned another publisher in Europe was considering it, but he hadn’t heard from them in a while. Lucky for us he decided to sign with us since we were so excited about it. And he’s been amazing to work with!
What did you do to build up a following before you launched?
Black Sonata was in a unique spot since it was such a successful print & play game. It already had a following in that community and some hype in the solo gaming community. We built on that by getting review copies to some of the higher profile solo game reviewers & content creators. We also lucked out that both Rahdo and Steve from the Secret Cabal were interested in checking out the game. That helped get an even wider audience for the Kickstarter.
When did you launch Black Sonata and why did you choose that exact moment?
We launched on June 5th for a few reasons. Number one, we chose a Tuesday since that’s usually a more successful day of the week. We also looked around that month to make sure we weren’t going to be squashed by any other big campaigns launching. There were a few coming on later in June so we wanted to get out in front of them. It worked out quite well! Funded in 4 hours and hit all of our initial stretch goals shortly after the first 24 hours.
How do you market a solo game compared to a multiplayer game?
With the board game landscape the way it is today, I think it can be easier to market a solo game. Most KS campaigns are trying to include a solo variant from the beginning, or adding it on as a stretch goal. So for us going in as totally solo played to that advantage. Having a unique solo experience in a small box with a small price tag was critical to our success.
You have lots of quotes on your page. What is the strategy behind that?
We wanted to get reviewers with diverse backgrounds and audiences. We knew going in that the more eyes on the game the more likely you’re going to connect with potential backers. So we printed 12 review copies knowing full well that they’d go out and be forwarded along to other reviewers/content creators. Another thing we wanted to accomplish is getting new & smaller reviewers some visibility by including them in the process. Hopefully getting some visibility on the campaign page helped increase their audience.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Black Sonata, what would it be?
I think for us, we had no idea how much interest there would be in the first few days. I was hoping we’d get to maybe 15-20K by the end of the campaign; the stretch goal spacing reflected that. When we blew through that really quickly we were scrambling to come up with new stretch goals. For our future campaigns we’ll try to be more prepared for both small and large successes.
How do you structure your days during the campaign?
We didn’t have any drastic plans for the mid-campaign. Half luck and half strategy, we were already planning on being at Origins during the campaign. Mike was able to get us onto both the Dice Tower Showcase Showdown (Tom Vassel had high praise!) and the BGG livestream. We also met & talked with a ton of other folks in the community which I think helped keep momentum up during the middle of the campaign.
If you could change one thing with Kickstarter, what would it be?
Campaign editing page. Without question. It’s clunky and inefficient.
What’s the best Kickstarter advice you ever received?
Brandon Rollins had a great piece of advice after his last campaign wasn’t able to fund. His post-mortem identified that you need to understand who the audience is for your game. If you can’t pinpoint a specific audience than your chances of success are going to be small. As a new company we are trying to find games that have a specific audience and are unique enough to stand out. With so many awesome games being launched every day you have to make sure to understand this.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
This may be counter intuitive but I think it’s the price of the base pledge. In my opinion, Kickstarter is floating between the extremes of the sub $25-30 small box game and the $80-100 big box, tons of minis game. If you’re not in one of those categories it’s going to be hard to breakthrough unless you’re an established publisher/designer/IP. As a creator, you should be trying to find a niche to fill if you want to succeed from a business perspective.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
I really look up to guys like Jamey Stegmaier, James Mathe, James Hudson, and Edo Baraf. I absorbed as much of their advice and experience as possible before we started our company. They’ve encountered successes and failures and it helped to make sure we were as ready as could be.
Anything else you want to add?
It’s just been an amazing experience and we’re really happy with how the campaign went. We also can’t thank the board gaming community enough. I can’t imagine another community like this where everyone is happy to help and wishes for mutual success.
And if you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org we can get you in on a pre-order. J