Kickstarter or Amazon?

There are blogs that tackle the Should You Take Your Game To Kickstarter? question really well already, based on actual experience launching games both with and without Kickstarter.  Well this blog is our experience, and we have yet to publish our first game, but we are having to decide right now if we will go to Kickstarter or just go straight to Amazon.  We decided, even before getting our first review in addition to 2 complete play-throughs!

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We think we figured out how to make Cage Match! really great from a components & presentation standpoint.  We want to market Cage Match! this holiday season.  It’s part of our sales plan.  To do that, we’ll have to commit end of this month of June, and have it available on Amazon by early November.  You can buy it for yourself, buy it as a gift, either, or both.  We are excited to be publishing our first game!

However, this timing means we’re going to miss out on going to Kickstarter.  It seems like that’s where all the cool kids launch their games these days, and our group has been thinking of why not go to Kickstarter, as long as we’ve got a game ready?  Why not have our people buy it through that platform, then attract others, and have everyone contribute to the game’s costs?  After a great deal of thought and discussion, I can answer that question, at least for us.  I’ll start with why it’s a hard decision, and the reasons we were considering a Kickstarter right up until we decided not to:

1.  Experience. We do want to use the Kickstarter platform, and thought this would be a good game to get started with.  It’s small and simple enough that we could manage the campaign ourselves and hopefully, do a good job of following through, all without bankrupting ourselves.  If we were successful, that would help pave the way for future campaigns.  Even if we failed, we’d learn a lot, and could take another swing, the way many first-time Kickstarters are doing.  Now is a good time to get experience that we can apply for the future.

2.  Market potential. I’m sure there are some MMA fans on Kickstarter.  There was a project in 2018 that had over 100 backers, and even though it looks like a pretty good campaign to me, I think we could do even better because our game is way quicker and cheaper, and probably with a much faster delivery time.  I think there are 2-300 in sales just from going to Kickstarter that we’ll have to find another way.

3.  Search Engine Optimization. This is the area I’m personally most reluctant to miss out on.  A successful Kickstarter makes a permanent and positive impression on Google search results that aren’t easy to replicate.

4.  Funds.  It would be nice to have enough pledged interest in this game to get the funds to print the game, instead of sticking our own necks out.

5.  Street cred.  It’s definitely credit with gamers to have run a successful Kickstarter, and all that that entails.  It gives you a bit of a halo effect, and we wanted that along with the experience.

So it was a difficult decision to forgo Kickstarter in favor of getting it printed this year and finding other ways to sell it, but that’s what we’re going to do:

1.  Our market isn’t really on Kickstarter.  Cage Match! is a quick, casual game for gamers who like MMA and MMA fans who like games and costs $25 or less.  Kickstarter is more of a hobby gamer crowd that likes miniatures and lore and quality artwork and will pay $100 or more to get it.  Cage Match! isn’t really what the hobby gamer is looking for unless that hobby gamer is a MMA fan, and I’ve found that out by attending conventions and spiels and showing it around.  There are some MMA fans at cons and spiels and on Kickstarter for sure, but it’s not really the place to find them. We can find other ways to reach them, and our resources will probably go further in a direct purchase model.

2. Kickstarter has gotten extremely competitive.  A recent Facebook post perfectly captures the evolution of board game Kickstarter:  This is where big companies like CMON and Stronghold Games play.  The days of just throwing your hat in the Kickstarter ring are over.  There’s certainly no sense just trying to rush an inexpensive campaign before we have to commit to printing at the end of June, or in pushing the delivery to late November in order just to try to squeeze in a Kickstarter campaign.  Go big or go home.  You need to bring your A game, and that includes planning it out months in advance, and investing money in having a polished page with video content.  Successful campaigns bring their own crowds, have thought out stretch goals, premium items, and cutesy animated teaser videos at the top of their pages, with other videos embedded throughout.  It’s not like we can’t do these things, and we will for the right game, but as stated above, our market isn’t really there to begin with.

3.  We don’t really need the money.  This isn’t me bragging, but rather Cage Match! is a very simple game that is relatively inexpensive to make.  The game will retail for $20-25 (pending expensive tariffs) and we were probably going to run a Kickstarter campaign in the neighborhood of $10,000, so that tells you something.  This is a low enough investment that we don’t need a crowd to fund it.

4.  There are other ways to get it done.  There are ways to market the game directly, and to people who are looking for MMA merchandise, not just gamers looking to add to their collection.  A “buy now” link is a powerful CTA (call to action), probably more powerful than “back now”, the Kickstarter CTA.  If our marketing finds the casual gamer with this game, s/he might be inclined to go to Amazon and give it a try for $25, because everyone goes to Amazon and buys stuff, but the casual gamer isn’t going to go to Kickstarter, back the game, and wait months for delivery.  One tricky area is how to get the SEO that a Kickstarter campaign would provide, it will likely take some time and money.

5.  The timing doesn’t work for us.  This is ultimately what forced our decision.  Cage Match! isn’t a one-shot deal for us, we’ve got other games we want to make and publish.  If we want it for this holiday season, we’ve got to send our final files to the printer at the end of this month of June.  This way, we can have it in October and then fire up the marketing engine for the end of the year and into next year.  We’ve spent nearly 2 years on this game already, it’s time to get it going and get on to the next game in the pipeline, not the time to put in 3+ more months building a Kickstarter campaign and crowd.  Note that our game is pretty simple, with no miniatures or little buildings or anything like that, just card stock, chip board, and standard plastic chits.  So, just about anyone you know not getting ready to go to print by the end of this summer won’t be getting their game this year.

If you’ve been following us for a while now, choosing not to go to Kickstarter is a bit of a change, but if you’ve talked to us for a while, it really isn’t.  We’ve been on-again-off-again with a Kickstarter campaign, but now we’re off.

We will bring this game directly to you in October and for the MMA fan, we don’t think there’s anything else like it.

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