I Have A Board Game Idea, Now What? Part 24: 3 Lessons Learned From a Failed Kickstarter

I’ve been meaning to write this postmortem on the failed Kickstarter campaign for The Hackers Guild from October of 2016, but I never got around to it. As I’ve been working on the relaunch of The Hackers Guild on Kickstarter later this year, I figured it is about time that this article got written.

As I have evaluated the campaign over the last year and a half, I have identified what I felt are the causes for the failed campaign, and the three lessons I can learn from those mistakes.

Campaign statistics

Campaign Dates: October 3 to November 3, 2016 (31 days)

Funding Goal: $22,000 CDN

Amount Raised: $11,117 CDN

Number of Backers: 206

Average Pledge: $54 CDN

Day with Highest Pledge Value: 1 with $2,308 CDN pledged

Day with Highest Number of Backers: 1 with 45 backers

Lesson 1: Ensure you bring your crowd with you

This is probably the biggest piece of advice anyone will give you about running a successful Kickstarter, myself included. Despite everything I did, it apparently wasn’t enough. Know that you will have enough day one backers to reach 20-30% of your funding goal.

Daily backers graph from Kicktraq.com
Daily backers graph from Kicktraq.com
Daily pledges graph from Kicktraq.com
Daily backers graph from Kicktraq.com

Lesson 2: Stay focused and know what your core product looks like

When I originally launched the campaign in October, The Hackers Guild was a one versus many game for 3-5 players. Part of the way through the campaign, I decided to change it to a fully cooperative game for 2-4 players. After the change, I received some feedback that this left some question about my ability to deliver a successful product.

A lesser problem was the addition of a second collector’s edition pledge level after seeing the popularity of the original pledge level.

Lesson 3: Ensure you launch with at least one video review, and if possible, a game play video

Having reviews of your game is extremely important, as it shows that your game received outside validation and helps support your credibility, especially as a first time designer. Video reviews add the opportunity for backers to see the game and some basic game play, which is really important. This is also where having a game play video is really important.

What have I learned from these lessons?

The simple answer is to not make the same mistakes a second time. I have spent the last year and a half not only perfecting and refining the game play, but have also worked really hard building up that important crowd. With that, I have the huge advantage of the 206 people that backed the game originally. While all 206 might not back day one, those who do will help towards reaching the 30% level. I also can do a better job of using pledges from friends and family, one thing I did hardly at all during the original campaign. I’m also working on ways to keep the interest and engagement up during the campaign with live streams, podcast appearances, and a few other surprises.

That is about it for this week. I would love to hear about any lessons you have learned from running campaigns on Kickstarter. Also, if you are interested in ready more about ways to help your campaign be successful, check out Dan Letiman’s 4 Reasons Your Campaign Failed and Mike Wokasch’s Was Your Campaign Radioactive?. Until next time, happy designing.

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