In 2018, the total raised by successful tabletop campaigns on Kickstarter was $165 million. This number is also an all-time high for the Kickstarter platform.
With 3,301 successful campaigns (up 9% from 2017 numbers) that raised an average funding of ~$70K, it’s safe to say that Kickstarter is fast-becoming the go-to arena to launch a tabletop game.
According to Kick the Table, an avid board game player who also happens to be a data enthusiast, in 2018 about 70% of tabletop games were successfully funded, an incredible statistic compared to a lot of other categories on crowdfunding itself.
In this article, we’ll explore what you can do to be successful in your own board game launch.
1. Network with other game creators who launch on crowdfunding
There are a lot of board games that launch on Kickstarter. Truth is, board games are actually the largest category on the Kickstarter platform.
Unsurprisingly, the network and connection these creators have with one another mirrors the type of connections that creators have offline. At board game conventions and playtest Meetups, you often see game designers chatting with one another about their most recent obstacle, offering encouraging words, and generally helping each other out to launch the best version of their games.
This is also very true online.
Game designers and creators have their own community and network on Kickstarter, offering support by frequently backing each other’s games. When you take a look at the top 15 most funded (by dollar raised and number of backers) board games on Kickstarter, you can see that the creators of these games also back other projects. On average, each creator has backed ~40 other projects on Kickstarter (removing outliers of creators who have backed 300+ projects).
In the long run, by backing another creator’s game, you actually have direct access to their Kickstarter inbox. If you’re looking for any pointers or tidbits on what to do and how to get over some Kickstarter-launch-related obstacle, you’re sure to be able to reach out to them for any words of advice.
Moreover, you can start forming direct relationships to those creators, asking them questions about their game, offering your testimonial (if they’re looking for them) and generally doing anything you can to add value to that relationship. By doing so, you’ll be more likely to be able to reach out to them once you launch your own game; this might mean additional exposure for your project.
Lastly, creators know who back their own projects. If you’ve been interacting with them and your digital presence talks about the fact that you’re going to be launching a game soon, they’ll probably start following along in your adventures and end up contributing to the success of your campaign too.
2. Become visible in game-specific high-traffic online channels
It’s true that board games are played offline – at your friend’s house, at the nearest cafe, at the board game store down the road – but launching a crowdfunding campaign for your board game happens online. In order to be successful with your crowdfunding campaign, you’ll need to be able to gather that visibility for your game online too.
One channel to capitalize on is Reddit.
On that platform alone, there are 2 million people on the /r/boardgame subreddit. Let’s put this number into perspective: with 2 million people in that subreddit, getting the attention of just 1% of those people already means 20,000 eyes on you and your game. Again, this is just one of many board game-related subreddits that you can begin engagement on.
From a digital marketing standpoint (marketing hat on), Reddit is very influential and very difficult for advertising to reach. On that platform, advertising is usually frowned upon and blatant self-promotion will be quickly chased out, downvoted and even outright banned. Although traffic from Reddit is very difficult to harness, it usually shows very high conversion rate because the niche nature of subreddits means that traffic comes very highly qualified.
So what can you do?
The first thing you can do to start capitalizing on the power of Reddit is to start getting “karma” points by interacting and posting on the platform. You get these “karma” points if you’re posting things that are relevant and people enjoy reading.
This is so that when you do launch your campaign, you can more easily include your campaign information into conversations, rather than be seen as someone there just to promote your own campaign.
So how do you start?
You can start by commenting on other postings, giving your thoughts and opinions on the multitude of questions that people are already asking. You can also start posting some “behind the scenes” of your board game and how you’re going about creating it. There are subreddits dedicated especially to game design, board game rules, and so much more.
3. Get influencers to playtest and create video reviews of your game
The great thing about board games is that you can capture a game, and the intense emotions players go through while playing it, put the video on YouTube, and there will be people who go and watch it.
Some channels showcase “how” to play a board game or even some of the strategies you can use to play. Others go deeper and do an in-depth review of the game, box, cards, meeples, rulebook, and all other associated parts of the game, including their exact feelings while playing the game.
A lot of gamers religiously follow YouTube sites for new game recommendations, putting themselves into the shoes of the YouTube reviewers to see if they themselves should invest their hard-earned dollars for the game.
Below are some channels I’d recommend you taking a look at.
Imagine that you’re scrolling through a Kickstarter campaign and you see one of these video reviews for the game you might be backing – that’s probably plus 100 credibility points for the game right there!
There are a myriad of other channels that provide board game reviews so search far and wide. You might find a YouTube channel that is doing playtests for games that is more geared towards the audience that you’re looking for.
If you do get an influencer to playtest your game and create a review video, be sure to extract quotes from the video to use on your crowdfunding page, insert the video to your updates and share the video far and wide to gain more exposure!
4. Build a fan email list via opt-in on landing page
One of the most classic tactics for launching a project on Kickstarter is getting email leads. In a digital age where you’re launching your project on a digital platform like Kickstarter, the best way to let people know about the launch is through email marketing. It’s really the most seamless way to get people, already on their devices and reading their email, to go to your Kickstarter page and contribute to your project.
The key takeaway here is that no matter who you are talking to and who you’re in touch with, be sure to get their email included on your email list.
For the campaign, email marketing will be where you tell people updates on how your game is coming along, when you’ll launch on Kickstarter and ultimately that you’ve officially launched on Kickstarter and people are now able to head over and support you.
Since this tactic is so key in launching a Kickstarter campaign, I’ve dedicated a whole other post to it that you can read here.
5. Playtest the game IRL to gather your crowd and gain emails
If you’re a true game creator, you’ll know that your game needs to go through very rigorous playtesting and feedback sessions in order to polish game mechanics and roll out the best version of the game.
Playtesting is not only the best way to get your game ready for launch, but it’s also one of the most effective ways to build a crowd for your crowdfunding campaign. As I like to say, a crowdfunding campaign won’t be one without a crowd. And for a crowdfunding campaign such as this, your best bet at a crowd as a board game designer is those who actually get to experience your game.
Remember to be strategic in how you approach playtesting.
Yes, you’ll want to get people to play and provide feedback, but you also need to let these playtesters know that you’ll want to continue to communicate with them via email. As a creator, you must get their email so that you can let them know immediately once the game launches on Kickstarter (the first day is VERY important).
Let playtesters know the benefits of giving you their email. For example, let them know that by giving you their email, they’ll be one of the first people to have access to the game on Kickstarter and also get the game at prices that will never be seen again at any retail channel.
In the long run, since these people will have already played your game (and hopefully are now true advocates for it!), they’ll be more likely to contribute to the campaign and especially so on the first day.
It’s really a win-win situation since the playtesters will have the earliest access to your game, and you’ll get the contributions you need to build momentum for your project.
6. Release print and play demo to get emails and get feedback
Another tactic to successfully launch a board game on Kickstarter includes another way to capture someone’s email and also get feedback to polish your game.
This is good for people who do playtest IRL and also good for if you’re located in a remote location or in an area of the world that is not as fortunate to have a lot of opportunities for playtesting.
Create “print and play” demos for your game that people can only get access to if they provide you with an email. Follow up with a survey or questionnaire to ask these playtesters how best to improve your board game so that it will be its most ready to launch on crowdfunding.
7. Prepare ways to add credibility for your board game
What gets people excited to back a crowdfunding project? A lot of the time, it’s knowing that there are a lot of others out there who speak highly of the project or others out there who are also interested in backing the project.
Imagine this: you’ve arrived on a Kickstarter page that is littered with review videos, playtest videos and quotes about how amazing the game is from your very favorite online game reviewer, will this make you more likely to support the project? More likely than not, the answer here is yes.
Here are some ways to add credibility for your game when you launch:
Board Game Geek Reviews
Everyone who plays tabletop games even semi-seriously will know Board Game Geek (BGG). If you are at a relatively advanced stage of your game design and can pass their criteria for listing a game, be sure to get it listed. BGG is easily one of the most go-to sources for learning about games and even deciding whether to play and/or purchase a game when it comes to the point of sale.
Gamers frequently consult BGG for new games to play, game reviews, strategy tips, game piece storage ideas, game accessory creation… and so much more. In short, BGG is one of the most core sites to be present on if you’re looking to launch a board game.
One way to build credibility around the launch of your game is to be on BGG and get (good) reviews for your game. You can encourage friends, family, coworkers, gamer-buddies, influencers (or anyone else for that matter) to take some time to leave a review on BGG. With these reviews on hand, you can even showcase the BGG badge, a 5 star rating and some reviews (as quotes) on your Kickstarter page.
Another very key way to add credibility for your board game is to get awards. There are so many awards out there associated with gaming: best tabletop game, best illustration, best 2-player game, best renaissance themed game, and so much more.
Get out there to source games and submit your game to be considered for any of these awards. If you are one of the people who do get an award, it’s something that you can showcase prominently on your crowdfunding page to add that other badge of credibility, “yes, an esteemed panel of judges ranked my game the highest in this category!”
If you look through videos and the campaign pages of the most successful board game crowdfunding projects, you’ll see that there are a lot of testimonials. These testimonials can be short or even long-form paragraphs. You’ll be able to grab these testimonials from everyday playtesters or, if you can, from well-respected game designers or reviewers.
These testimonials usually talk about how much fun person A had while playing the game or about how this game is now person B’s most favorite game of all time or about how this game absolutely changed person C’s life now that they know about it.
While you’re out there talking to people about your game, playtesting and just doing overall promotion of your game, be sure to keep in mind that you would like to grab a testimonial from them.
As an advanced tactic, you can even film people playing games and create short video cuts of people yelling (happy yells), laughing or exclaiming that they’re the winner.
8. Stagger your launch dates with other board games in the same category
After successfully launching numerous board games on Kickstarter, Jamey Stegmaier from Stonemaier Games has long been an advocate on how to make board games most successful on crowdfunding.
We all know two things:
- Momentum for a game is a huge driver for its success
- Backers have limited resources
So what does this mean for board games?
If two games in the same category (say, pet-themed board game) launch on the same day, a writer specializing in pet-themed board games will be forced to choose to write about one rather than the other. Backers who are interested in board games and pets will be forced to support one rather than the other. Those two games will compete for that same launch day buzz, inevitably be compared to one another, and one of them is going to gain more momentum than the other.
Backers have limited resources so will probably be forced to choose one over the other, even if in the long term they might back both if they were spread months, even years apart. For example, even the same backers who might be willing to pay $100 for a miniatures game this week and $50 for a Euro game next week are going to be less likely to shell out $150 to back both projects on the same day. That matters for a project even if that backer eventually backs both projects, because the momentum from the project they chose will snowball into more pledges and more attention than the other project.
From the Stonemaier Games blog:
Like any other Kickstarter creator, I know that the Tuscany Kickstarter will overlap with dozens of other board game Kickstarters, including other Euro games. That’s totally fine. The array of projects on the Kickstarter ecosystem is great for creators. We’re not competing against each other; rather, we’re all bringing backers to Kickstarter where they can back a variety of projects.
Stagger your launch dates with other board games in the same category
However, I believe there is one exception to that rule: When your project launches on the same day as another project in the same category. I think this creates a problem for both projects.
There is a reason that movie studios coordinate release weekends so that the same types of movies don’t hit screens on the same day. This applies to Kickstarter as well.
The solution he offers is a Kickstarter board game spreadsheet where creators go in to place a hold on their launch date. This ensures that other people interested in launching a similar game will plan to launch on another date.
So, as another step for success, be sure to head over to the spreadsheet to fill in your game’s launch date. Be sure to hyperlink to your own landing page so that you can potentially even get more email leads from here!
9. Run ads to board game forums and related sites
If you have some budget to play around with for your launch, be sure to explore running some advertising to board game forums or other gaming related sites.
People heading to these forums are already pre-qualified in the sense that they are avid gamers. They’re on the website to talk about games or search for new game recommendations or read about new strategies and tips for gameplay. By adding visibility for yourself there, you might be able to catch someone who can potentially convert into a backer for your project.
If you’re going to explore this tactic, one tip would be to start running advertising once you’ve already reached the fully funded mark on your campaign. This makes your ad units more impactful since it will allow you to boast on your advertising facts like “100% funded on Kickstarter” or “Funded in 10 minutes on Kickstarter”. Moreover, once people click through to your project, they’ll see that you’re already fully funded (and therefore more likely to deliver the game!) and psychology of the masses tells us that they’ll be more likely to back your project.
Before you go, be sure to join the Kickstarter Board Game Marketing Facebook Group to learn the most up-to-date marketing methods for your board game!
Please share this article on Twitter if you found it interesting or got value from it!