Tell us a bit about yourself and Throw Throw Burrito.
My name is Elan Lee, and I’m the co-creator of Throw Throw Burrito and Exploding Kittens. Most of my career was spent building digital games (I was the Chief Design Officer for the Xbox) but I eventually found that the games I was creating were too isolating and lonely. When I resigned, I wanted to try building the opposite. For the last five years, I’ve been building things that draw people away from their screens and towards each other. Throw Throw Burrito is the next step in that process. It’s what happens when you mix a card game with Dodgeball and allows players to have all the fun of a party game while throwing, ducking, and dodging airborne squishy burritos. It’s a simple, fun game that adds a bit of physicality to game night, and I couldn’t be more proud of it.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched TTB, what would it be?
I wish I understood the extent to which Facebook would throttle our posting. Between The Oatmeal and Exploding Kittens, we have more than 4 million Facebook followers. Followers that expect to receive anything we post to their feeds. The reality is that Facebook will not allow our posts to be delivered to our followers unless we pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars per post. It’s an incredibly frustrating situation, and I wish we had built our community on a platform that advocated net neutrality within their own network.
You always have LOTS of backers on your campaign. What is the most surprising challenge you have to face operating with such a high number of backers?
The promise we always make to our backers is that for the duration of the campaign, we’re going to throw a party, and they are all invited. This requires our small team to build, host, update, and moderate a series of events and activities that fall outside the boundaries of our Kickstarter Page. In the case of Throw Throw Burrito, we’re currently hosting “The Burrito Bowl” which is a series of challenges like “How far can you throw and successfully catch a burrito?”, “Can you dress your pet as Mexican Food?”, “Can you build the world’s smallest Burrito?”, etc. The winners will receive gigantic trophies (like so gigantic, I have no idea how we’re going to ship them), and the entire community unlocks free upgrades to the card game based on how many people play this crazy game with us.
Your first game on Kickstarter was Exploding Kittens. What did you do to create a following for that game?
The initial following for that game came from my business partner Matt Inman, who draws “The Oatmeal”. He’s spent the last 10 years building incredible content and earning a devoted fanbase. In the intervening 5 years, we’ve grown that audience even larger and sold more that 8 million copies of our games.
What did you think when that game exploded (pun intended) and became a super hit?
The original plan for Exploding Kittens was to sell 500 units and fulfill it out of my garage. When we eventually hit almost 200,000 backer, each ordering multiple copies of the game, I realized I was going to need a bigger garage.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Jordan Weisman. Jordan is brain behind FASA, Battletech, and Shadowrun. He’s the smartest guy I’ve ever met and taught me everything I know about design.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Concise delivery on the promise of fun.
If you could change one thing with Kickstarter. What would it be?
Elimination of the requirement to list shipping prices. The reason Kickstarter exists is to help inventors complete their products. That means that when you put up a Kickstarter page, you don’t know how much the product will weigh, the box dimensions, or even the final contents of the box. These are the elements that any shipping company needs to determine cost, and because they don’t exist at the time of a campaign’s creation, creators are forced to guess on shipping costs. This often leads to costly mistakes and audience disappointment.
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
Don’t build a commercial. The point of a Kickstarter campaign is to recruit a community to help you finish and deliver your product. If that’s not the case, or if you fail to convey that situation through your video and page content, you either shouldn’t be on Kickstarter, or have built the wrong campaign.
Anything else you want to add?
When we finished building Exploding Kittens, there was a lot of pressure on our team to build the next thing. This was a tough situation to be in because we wanted to continue along the path of pulling people away from screens and celebrating each other around a table. Throw Throw Burrito is the culmination of years of searching and testing. Adding that tiny amount of physicality to game night is so refreshing and the test results surpass any game we’ve built before it. I’m so excited to show everyone what happens when we all gather around a table and then get up out of our chairs.