Designers and Dangers 104 – Kickstarter Alternatives

Rather than worrying about whether you qualify as a boardgame designer or not, just by reading this article I ordain you as such. Welcome to Keith D Franks III’s “Designers and Dangers”: a Boardgame Design article series. Here I’ll talk about board games and the journey it takes to get them from an idea to a physical product on the shelf.

What to do when your Kickstarter parachute doesn’t open.

Kickstarter is hard, and I’m no stranger to the failed campaign. The industry puts this huge emphasis on a Kickstarter to be successful, because the campaigns that dominate on there are big companies with huge budgets releasing strong IP products, they are supposed to succeed.

Both of these games above, I personally believe are super unique and a great time and each year at PAX the ATGN team has had a blast playing them!

Kickstarter isn’t for indies anymore

Kickstarter is a parachute for indie creators, that if you’re lucky and your product takes off, you get a cushioned release directly to backers and some excess stock to play around with. It’s no longer about how great your idea is, it’s about how big your marketing budget is, how many conventions you visited and so-on. Sometimes you can get lucky and get a win, but every time you launch on Kickstarter it isn’t guaranteed.

How do I get a return on my huge art investment on this game (I ask myself daily)? There’s actually a tonne of alternate release methods for indie creators that can help you make a game get some traction with customers for very little effort.

The Game Crafter

The game crafter isn’t just for prototypes anymore, all those people that backed your Kickstarter campaign eager to get a copy of your game, but couldn’t, will definitely jump at the chance to get a copy of the game printed and shipped out immediately, instead of the regular several month wait.

All of my prototypes that I create are using The Game Crafter specs so that I can order a prototype from them, and once you’ve ordered one copy, you have the ability to put your game up for sale (The shipping to AUS bites, and the USD conversion SUCKS, but you get it back in sales). If you’ve seen any of my campaigns in action, you’ll see that I post almost immediately after the campaign ends that you can immediately get a no-stretch goals version of the game on The Game Crafter. I usually just post about the game’s release on social media (and tag them on twitter for a free retweet), and on any accompanying Kickstarter campaign, and then leave it to pursue other projects, and here is the kind of views that it gets:

Print and Plays on Itch.io

There’s actually a whole bunch of places to sell decent Print and Play files, (my favourite being PNPArcade) but the one I want to showcase here is Itch.io which has become an interesting release place for RPG type content, but board games are slowly rising in popularity.

Here’s a look at my super lazy shop page, it was really easy to put together. I really liked using Itch.io as around last year I did a big bundle sale where you could get all 5 games for 5$, and it was a big hit, the inbuilt architecture for a lot of that is really easy to set up, and is super customisable. You can build bundles with friends and control the split of the payout, all kinds of things. Updating my Itch page has been on my to-do list for a while, I’ve been slack to abandon it like this, but I definitely recommend it as a platform for getting your PnP version into the hands of curious customers.

Patreon

Patreon is one that I’ve been focusing on lately, because i’ve been releasing comic pages for the story of my latest game project, as a way to get people interested in the characters and the story. Patreon felt like the right place to get people on board with a “free to read, but 1$ supporters get it a week early” model.

If you’re creating semi-regular content it’s pretty easy to keep your Patreon alive by posting things into it. It’s also just as great a place to host your PnPs for supporters to be able to get their hands on it, and they don’t want the monthly sub, they can support the one time, nab all the downloads and cancel the sub, which works out to be the same as purchasing a copy.

Closing Remarks

Kickstarter isn’t the be all and end all measure of a game’s success, it’s a huge, expensive effort to try and get it going and without a team of people behind you, a big budget, and access to conventions it’s going to be an uphill battle. Looking at alternate release strategies can be the path to keeping your game design career alive, and looking to the horizon should be the thing that lifts you out of that campaign just failed depression.

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