Tell us a bit about yourself and Movie empire.
Oh, where to start? 😉 Well, I am an avid gamer since childhood. I grew up with the standard fare of the 80s and played board games, video games, RPGs. You name it, I probably played it. A few years ago I jumped into the board game scene again and also participated in many projects, such as doing translations (for example the Arkham Horror LCG) or graphic design (the Human Punishment games).
I am a media designer for web, print and video by day – but originally my plan was going to be a director. Life happened but movies are still an important part in my life. And I still do a bit of work in that industry, for example co-producing a movie that premiered at the famous Berlinale. That’s surely why I chose this theme for my first game. I am at home here. And I did always miss some interesting game, that reflected the business and craziness of Hollywood. Most of these games are auction-based and I think a worker placement game is a better choice for this theme. So the idea was born. That was 2 years ago and many things changed during development and playtesting.
Your first Kickstarter campaign for Movie empire failed. What happened?
I think I was over-confident. But you simply can’t predict what will happen, when you push the launch button. I thought that the game would have a faster rise in funding and so I needed something for the mid-campaign slump. I prepared the solo mode (that was already developed some time ago) as a stretch goal, but people were afraid, that it would be a tacked-on experience. So I didn’t get the push from solo player backers too. So the slow increase in funding led to frustration with backers, since they wanted to see some stretch goals fast. The possibility of successfully funding the project during the last days of the campaign was quite low. In the end I decided to cancel, and it was the right decision. If I had ridden a dead horse, it would have been more difficult to relaunch.
What kind of feedback did you get from the backers?
I got a lot of positive support from them. That’s this community spirit I love. Backers are not only buyers but they are attached emotionally to the projects. They feel for you and they try to make a game a reality together. There’s criticism too, but not in a negative way. Some things have improved due to backer feedback (for example we changed some terminology based on the feedback). So I always try to get backers involved as much as I can without diluting the core of the game.
Now you have relaunched the campaign and it funded almost immediately. What did you do differently now?
First thing is that I used a lower funding goal. But I also included the solo mode from the beginning to attract solo backers from day one on. And I decided that the unlocked stretch goals from the first campaign should be unlocked in the relaunch. I thought this would be fair to the backers. And they appreciated it. All these things together helped give the campaign a boost in the beginning.
Did many of the backers from the original campaign follow you over to the relaunch?
This is difficult to say. From the referral links I know that at least 20% of the last campaign did follow over to the new one. But I don’t trust the Kickstarter referral links very much in general. This and the fact that many backers probably read about the campaign somewhere else (newsletter, social media, …), the percentage is definitely higher.
What whas the biggest thing you learned from the failed campaign?
To not give up. A failed campaign is not the end. I am a German and sadly there is no culture of failure over here. If you fail and stand up again, people nevertheless say, “ah, that’s the guy who failed“. So keep going, do not lose momentum. If your project really doesn’t have a chance, you’ll feel that soon. But most of the time, a failed campaign has other causes.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched both campaigns?
I believe in the 3 pillars of pre-campaign marketing. First, get the game out to people in the real world. This is the most important part. I did lots of playtesting sessions and had a booth at SPIEL last year where I had contact with a lot of people that are now backers. Second, engage with people on social media. And that means not only promoting your game. Connect with people. And third, classical Facebook ads. Try to find your niche. Experiment. This is a lot of work, but in the end you need all of this.
When did you launch the new version of Movie empire and why did you choose that exact moment?
The campaign for Movie Empire relaunched on April 2nd, almost exactly 6 weeks after canceling the first run. You need to do a lot of promotional stuff for attracting new backers and at the same time try to keep the hype up with already existing backers. So I thought that 6 weeks would be a good timeframe regarding both of these requirements.
You lowered your funding goal quite a bit on the relaunch. What made you do that?
Kickstarter has its own psychology. There are so many campaigns at the moment, that backers don’t have time to be properly informed about the details of all of them. So many backers tend to look for other metrics. That’s where the funding percentage comes in. Many just browse the lists and look at them – the higher it is, the better a game seems to be. You can have a great game, but if you don’t reach 100% quite fast, many backers ignore your campaign.
But you can’t just put a lower figure on the goal and that’s it. We did a lot of stuff behind the scenes to make this possible – without sacrificing anything of the quality. Otherwise you’ll have a situation quite fast, where a game is funded at more than 100% and the creator cancels, because the real goal is still way too high too reach. We all saw this in the last months a couple of times. And I think that’s pretty frustrating for all of us.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Movie empire, what would it be?
Apart from knowing if it will be funded at all, I was pretty pleased that there were no big surprises along the way. I prepared for many different scenarios.
What is your best marketing tip during the campaign?
Never be satisfied with the numbers. Keep going. Improve your Facebook ads again and again. Try to get more coverage even during the campaign. And keep engaging with your (potential) backers.
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
It was a simple advice: be prepared. Be prepared to fail, be prepared to not have enough stretch goals, be prepared for questions you didn’t think of would be asked, be prepared for sleep deprivation for a long time. Simply be prepared for everything imaginable and beyond. So you always have a plan b.
If you could change one thing with Kickstarter. What would it be
As probably almost everyone will mention the campaign editor, I won’t do this. I’d love to have a way of engaging with project subscribers. Many show interest in a game by clicking that reminder, but I think the automatic notification 48 hours before the end of the campaign isn’t enough. I get so many of these reminders that I lose track of them. So if there would be another more visual information (like what happened during the campaign, seeing unlocked stretch goals and such) that these people could get, that would be awesome.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
The perceived value of the game is one of the most important aspects in selling it. The backer has to feel, that the game is worth its price. And there are lots of things to this: the game price, unique gameplay elements, number and quality of components, … if you don’t manage to match the perceived value with your game price and presentation, you’ve already lost the campaign.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
I admire people who are successful but don’t forget their roots. Jamey Stegmaier is one of them. His success is stellar, but he is still an overly nice chap and invests a lot of time for helping out others. In the last years I met a lot of new people and some of them I even call friends without meeting them in real life yet. There are so many people bringing this industry forward without receiving any benefit from it. They just do it, cause they share the love for the hobby and try to keep all of us gamers together, like the guys from Board Game Revolution do for example.
Anything else you want to add?
If you plan to do a Kickstarter of your own game: don’t be encouraged by everything you read. It is a lot of work, yes. But get your game out to the public as soon as you can. Build a following. You don’t have to invest money for that, but something more valuable: time. Reach out for help with things you can’t do yourself properly. And if you feel the time is right, just do it. Hit that launch button. Don’t be afraid to fail!
Where can people reach you?