Tell us a bit about yourself and Seize the bean.
I love creating. Whether it’s art, or companies, or teams that feel like family – I just love putting magical things together from nearly nothing. I’m probably a workaholic to an unhealthy degree so I’ll need to learn some balance but I’m lucky enough to be surrounding by inspirational and helpful folks in the industry, in my team and especially in my family.
I come from both an art and tech background and the fusion of these led to my love of coffee and my passion to make games. I currently reside in Berlin and what I love most about it is its diversity and openness, but also the constant state of flux it is in, with new shops and cafes opening and closing left and right. This was the inspiration for Seize the Bean.
The game is a deckbuilder with some engine building aspects to it. The design vision of it was to have mechanics follow theme, so the development process saw the game get redesigned over and over. It was quite a challenge! In the end I am very pleased with the result and I think it’s a game that has to be played to fully understand.
Did you expect it to be such a hit and have so many backers?
Not at all. In fact, this took our small team by storm. Since the Kickstarter we have been completely overwhelmed with messages on all platforms. It’s been impossible to keep up.
While we are not happy to have people waiting for responses we are very thankful for such a swell of support. It means the world to us and with the success that Seize the Bean is having we’ve been able to continue to go forward with our dream of growing a small, international publishing company.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched Seize the been?
We’ve been going to events ever since SPIEL16. If you saw us there (or elsewhere) you may know we take guerilla and thematic marketing very serious, serving freshly-brewed coffee to our booth visitors to celebrate and promote the game. It’s turned into a sort of staple for us now (we’ll certainly have coffee at the upcoming SPIEL18).
Beyond regular demos, we included our booth visitors in the game’s development, listening very intently to their feedback and ideas. It’s been a challenge to maintain the game’s vision while opening it up to so many voices but I wouldn’t go back and change that process if given the chance. Not only did it improve the game but it also acted as a means of promotion.
Before the Kickstarter we also took a lot of time to individually build relationships with board game press and content creators who we respected and thought would enjoy Seize the Bean. Instead of mass-mailing we made sure to talk to them all, one-by-one, to see if they wanted review copies. I’m happy to say that by taking the care and time we did it resulted in a 100% “yes” response rate. Though our team and growing audience were certainly crucial in the launch of our Kickstarter, I believe it was the spread of the game by all of these wonderful content creators that really brought the crowds in such a mass.
The city of Berlin is important in your game. It is also the city with the most backers. Did you do any specific targeting in Berlin regarding the marketing?
Not really. Although this probably would’ve been smart, because we have a vision of inclusivity and internationalization we are not focused on single markets or areas.
We did partner with a handful of local cafes and roasteries though I think the cross-promotion has been very low and I’m happy we didn’t primarily do this for promotional reasons but instead in order to blur the line between the game universe and the real world.
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
We launched on January 15th. We did so based on a slew of research and the very much appreciated advice from two extremely influential people in the growth of Quality Beast: Jordan Draper (from Jordan Draper Games) and Tien Vu Do (from Spieleschmiede, Happy Shops, Corax Games). Jordan had suggested this as a great time in the calendar year to avoid the event season and Tien had pushed us to pin a date down (he really wanted to see us finish the game after being in development for so long). We’re incredibly thankful to both of these folks (among many others) for all the positive encouragement, knowledge sharing, and general all-around support they’ve provided over the years. This is symbolic of what we love about this business and industry: the true sense of community you can find.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Seize the been, what would it be?
Exact shipping prices and a more concrete art timeline. These two topics were probably the most annoying or inconvenient issues for our backers and I personally felt broken up about not having these things more locked down in advance. However, at Quality Beast we believe a lot in honesty and transparency, so it’s important to admit that learning while doing and growing is a big part of our process. We don’t really believe in the “fake it until you make it” mantra. We rather embrace philosophies such as “fail forward” and learning from our mistakes.
What´s your main tactic to handle the mid-campaign drop in new backers?
Most of our campaign was peppered with constant media content about the game, so that helped out. We had also gotten the go-ahead from Kickstarter to plug their live streaming into OBS (a free software for doing more advanced live streaming) so we could pump some TTS (Tabletop Simulator) games into the page, but unfortunately with the overwhelming amount of communication that came with the campaign success we had to postpone this experiment.
Beyond that we just stayed active and connected to the growing community around the game. This is very vital and for me, one of the most fun parts of the process. I am saddened every day that business tasks take me away from enjoying the ideas and encourage of our backers and supporters. There voices are quite energizing and their perspectives are exciting.
What is your best marketing tip during a campaign?
Care greatly about your product, your brand, your backers and your team. If you care, then I believe that the gap between failure and success is greatly shortened and that the bridge to get across it is mostly a procedurally built one, with a lessened aspect of chance involved.
How do you structure your days during a campaign?
There’s a lot of scheduled breathing time.
Jokes aside, as mentioned before, a lot of the time is spent engaging directly with the backers and growing community around the game. We put a lot of effort and energy into our updates as well. And there is massive amounts of logistics to either follow-up on, confirm, or research when it comes to what has been promised to or what is being requested by the backers.
Of course, there is loads of playing the game too. That’s what it’s all about, after all!
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
Wow, that’s a hard one. I’m not sure but I think I’d have to say “stay transparent and communicate to your backers”. I can’t attribute that to a single person because loads of people will tell you this. We had a few moments that were nerve-wracking in the campaign, such as releasing the experimental ceramic cups (which totally bombed) and later needing to announce a very large delay due (mostly) to art. Our backers were so wonderful in their responses to these moments and most of them explained this was because we were so forward and honest about them.
What´s your thoughts regarding stretch goals?
They are pretty silly, honestly, and a bit of a nightmare. In hindsight I see two benefits: 1) there are many cases in which we can’t do things in a game unless we hit a certain level of funding. These things do honestly belong in some sort of stretch goal. And 2) them see to really generate genuine excitement for a lot of backers. Of course, this means stretch goals could be abused as a source of hype generation. We’re well aware of the use of them for that, though I would say that our team is less focused on that aspect and more on the two I’ve mentioned. For future games, such as the up-coming Towers of the Sun campaign, we’ll very likely have much less stretch goals than Seize the Bean had, and ones that are strictly focused on component-based features we can’t do unless our print run goes higher and higher. In that dialog we are well aware that this may be less of an exciting roller coaster ride for some backers. Therefore we’re brainstorming other ways to keep the campaign as exciting.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Ok, you probably wanted some elaboration there, and what I mean is that the page is simply a conduit to the game, or in better words, to the experience a player will have when playing the game. This is super important. Finding visual and textual ways to deliver that vibration to the page visitors is key. A lot of this has to do with the game’s branding, but clarity in components, animated imagery, videos – all of this is important.
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
Tough one. I’m going to have be a bad interviewee and throw out a few answers: first of all, it may seem cliche because it’s a bit hyped due to being a Spiel des Jahres contender, but The Mind is just phenomenal. As far as experiences go, it’s just so easy to get a gang together and having amazing, touching, hilarious, magical moments with this game. As a second mention, Tribe, by Itten is a huge source of inspiration for me. I don’t design games like this but I love it. Their style and simplicity and visual beautiful is out of control. For more middle-weight fun, The Networks by Gil Hova is huge for me. My main thing, as a designer, is making thematic games. I am very slow so only just now beginning the preliminary work for my second thematic game (with Seize the Bean being the first). I love the way Gil represents the topic in this game’s components and mechanics. And lastly, for big box games (which are also a source of inspiration for me) I have to say both Trickerion and Lisboa. Trickerion is sort of where things all began for me. It’s pretty crunchy and I absolutely love the attention to detail in the art and components and graphic design. Lisboa is a beast and Ian’s artwork is beyond inspiring. Believe it or not, it was a game or two of this with my co-designer Andy Couch which inspired the final stages of (successful) development of Seize the Bean. Go ahead and give both a play and let us know if you can see tiny traces of Vital in our silly coffee struggle deckbuilder!
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Quite a few, to be honest. Jamey Stegmaier’s way of dealing with business and communication is oustanding. Jordan Draper’s constant flow of innovation is breath taking. Patrick Leder’s (and his whole team’s) consistency to his vision and engagement with the BGG community is energizing. Portal Games’ Ignacy’s blog posts always revive my spirit and I love his sharp and concise (and brutally honest) way of discussing development and business. The cats from Shut And Sit Down are weird as hell and that’s an important part (at least for me) of self identity. Carla Kopp is a huge inspiration when it comes to watching another up-and-coming small publisher go through the constant obstacles and excitements of making and releasing games. I could go on and on, honestly (perhaps I will – this is a great concept for a blog post). There are so many important and influential people in the industry. I think that is what really draws me to it.
Anything else you want to add?
On behalf of my whole team I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who supports us in any way, shape or form. It means the world to us.