Out of the Darkness: Fearsome Wilderness Kickstarter Review

Fearsome Wilderness is looking great and it’s not too late to get in on late pledge at MyMiniFactory (Edit: ok now it’s too late).

At Geektopia Games, we’ve made a lot of progress from being just a group of guys adding on to existing games.  Just since 2019, we’ve figured out how to design prototypes physically and digitally, develop the games, develop art and graphics including sculptures, get manufacturing quotes, get the financing, and manufacture the games. From there, we ship our manufactured games from China to the U.S., store them in warehouses, market them, and sell them, both on Amazon and to distributors and retailers.  That’s pretty much A to Z.

One thing we wrestled with regarding Cage Match was whether to take it to Kickstarter, and ultimately, we decided not to. With Fearsome Wilderness, it was pegged for Kickstarter from the beginning, and it was a huge success as far as we’re concerned.  We raised over $25,000, enough to unlock all of the stretch goals that we really wanted, including the hardcover rulebook.

So how did we do it?  Can anyone do it?  Most importantly, can we do it again?  I honestly don’t know.  I’ve seen Kickstarters that I thought looked pretty great, fail, often to succeed in a second try (Movie Empire is an example, one that I backed the first time as well as the successful second time).  I’ve also seen Kickstarters that I thought looked kind of meh, succeed.  I’ve definitely seen projects that I thought were good, but not great, go through the roof.  As far as that goes, I haven’t exactly figured out the formula, and wasn’t sure we’d succeed either.  I thought we probably would, and there was even a chance we’d go through the roof, but you just never know for sure, and I won’t know for sure next time either.  But, I do at least have enough ideas to share:

Bring the Content

Your game doesn’t have to be the best game ever made, but it has to be good and needs to stand out in some way.

Fearsome Wilderness includes:

  • A unique, underused (IMO) theme in Paul Bunyan and the Fearsome Critters, which is public domain.
  • Excellent and original artwork, and a lot of it.  Each creepy critter is a work of art in graphics, and then another work of art in sculpture.  The hero figures, quite honestly, are amazing.
  • Fancy components, including custom wood dice and those aforementioned figures.
  • 3D-printable models for the 3D creative.  More on this later but I think it adds to the general “hobbiness” of the project.
  • The game play itself is fun and easy to understand, with its Yahtzee-style roll-3 times mechanic, but enough twists to keep it fresh and interesting.
  • A 12-week campaign and a 120-page rulebook add to the overall geeky goodness.

Fearsome Wilderness isn’t just a game.  It’s content that a hobby gamer can sink his teeth into.

Bring the Crowd

We brought about 18K people to our Kickstarter page.  A typical month on the blog only brings about 2K, so that’s not too shabby.

  • 62% of the traffic to our Kickstarter page was direct.  This was a combination of people we personally knew, as in we emailed or texted them or whatever, and people who found us through Kickstarter.  Based on other data I’ve got, I figure roughly 50% of the traffic (50 of the 62 points) were strictly from Kickstarter.
  • So if 50% of our traffic was direct from Kickstarter, that would mean that 12% of our traffic came our direct, personal referrals.  I think that’s about right.
  • 12% of our traffic came from Facebook.  That’s a lot of personal referrals there, and a lot of work Matt did promoting the project through our page there, but also from paid marketing.
  • Another 8.7% from Board Game Geek paid marketing.  That’s a pretty decent amount.
  • Another 4% from Instagram.  This is where Matt has his own following, and it brought traffic.
  • 3.1% from MyMiniFactory, with whom we had a partnership.  I believe this was particularly high quality traffic, which I’ll discuss in a bit.

Overall, whether it’s our friends or our marketing, I estimate we brought 50% of the total traffic to the page.

Bring the Party

Traffic isn’t enough.  You need actual backers and preferably a lot of them.  With an initial funding goal of $10K:

  • We got nearly $6K — over half — just from people we knew, including some of the followers of this here blog.  Thank you!
  • Nearly $5K from people who strictly wanted 3D printable content.  There was also a sizeable crowd that wanted all of the content, including (but not limited to) the 3D printable content.  Maybe I’m giving MMF too much credit but I figure that $5K came strictly from them.
  • $2.7K from other marketing, not our friends or family, not MyMiniFactory.  Fen the blogger, with his Patreon page, was particularly helpful in sending some people over.  We got Fen’s attention just by Matt doing good work and posting about it, so don’t be shy about self promotion.
  • And then Kickstarter traced its own contributions to 49% of the total.  So they basically matched what we brought.

Some things matter less

I see a lot of projects with fancy, animated videos, and very professional-looking pages.  Matt has pretty solid graphic design and editing skills himself, but there’s certainly nothing fancy about our video or page.  You want to look like you made a serious effort, but you don’t need to look like you’re spending big bucks.

Another thing that much is often made of is the reviews.  We do have some positive reviews of our game, but not a bunch, not from any of the really high profile reviews like a Tom Vasel or Rodney Smith, and we don’t make an especially big deal out of the reviews we do have.  I would expect that approval by the big reviewers can add a lot of credibility as well as direct traffic to your site, so by all means, you should aim for those and get them if you can.  But, you don’t need high profile reviews to succeed.

The Verdict

I asked a few years ago, is Kickstarter over-saturated?  There was no way to know for sure without giving it a go ourselves.  I admit it’s only one project, but I think we have an answer:  No, it isn’t.  There’s room for good projects with strategies to bring crowds.  In the end, it seems like Kickstarter will, at least in this case, roughly match what you bring.  So, if you need $10K for your project, you need to pretty much plan on funding $5K yourself, through a combination of family and friends and marketing.  Bring the $5K to Kickstarter and if your project is good, you will likely find the other $5K through Kickstarter.  But it also means, the more you bring, the more Kickstarter throws in.  When Kickstarter matches what you bring, your marketing dollars are essentially getting 2-for-1!  That’s a good deal.  Besides, I think the MMF partnership, the Facebook and BGG marketing, and all the little social media things we did were all important to creating enough momentum, which you need because KS backers want to back a winner.  We brought around $12-13K and Kickstarter matched it for $25K total.  That, essentially, is how it works.  There’s also that chance that your project will catch fire and earn many times what you were expecting.

So all in all, if you’re going the self-publication route, you need, and likely have, some funding to begin with.  You will spend hundreds if not thousands on art development, higher end prototypes, and you better plan to spend some money on marketing.  If you’re going to do all that anyways, then you should go for Kickstarter if you can come up with a plan to bring a crowd.  There’s some time and money and stress involved, but all of those things will be involved in launching your game no matter what, might as well see if the Kickstarter crowd wants to support your project.

6 comments

  1. Jackson Pope says:

    We’ve run three FlickFleet projects on Kickstarter and they’ve all had a lot of backers come from Kickstarter. Though I wonder at the accuracy of that – it’s in Kickstarter’s interest to show how much they bring to the party, so backers who followed a link in an ad and then clicked the remind me link and back after the reminder email – do they count against the ad or Kickstarter: Reminder email?
    I think if your project is successful, you tend to get featured more by KS too, our projects:
    1) Funded with 4 hours to spare, 101% funded, KS brought 46%
    2) Funded in 3 days, 188% funded, KS brought 56%
    3) Funded in 15 mins, 3744% funded, KS brought 67%
    So funding early means you get more KS support. We’re going back to Kickstarter again in 3 weeks, so I’ll have more data soon!

  2. Andy says:

    This will be a bit of a read, so apologies ahead of time, but this comes from a first-time Kickstarter that (is likely to have) failed to succeed.

    TL:DR; Kickstarter is fickle, and marketing, visibility and reach is more important than you might think.

    Our first efforts on Kickstarter have resulted in what looks to be a failure to meet the campaign goal. Some of this is undoubtedly down to the nuances of being new to the production of commercial boardgames, but a lot of it is down to visibility. I have spoken to many people (of both successful and unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns) who have provided an overwhelmingly aligned opinion – going onto Kickstarter without a prebaked audience is almost guaranteed to result in a failure.

    That’s not to say this is the case with everyone. Those with the ‘killer product’ are just as much likely to have runaway success as those that are just ‘in the right place at the right time’ (another form of ‘secret sauce’ that eludes many of us).

    Marketing is expensive. I ran a multi-week Facebook campaign that yielded a decent ROI on money spent vs. new backers. If all of my backers came from that avenue, I calculated that I would’ve spent about 30% of my budget on marketing to assist in reaching my goal. That’s a decent chunk of your operating profit right there.

    My naivete in launching a campaign without much market reach was a mistake. I felt that we had a strong campaign pitch and pretty good graphic design / assets. We were a couple of days late with a playthrough video, but based on the analytics from Kickstarter, only about 46% were willing to watch a 2 minute promo video right to the end. I’m not sure how this compares with other campaigns.

    I was happy with the conversion rate of visitors vs. converted backers – this tells me that the campaign does have enough meat on the bones to be viable. But again, the numbers do show that there weren’t enough people from non-KS origins hitting the page. The often given values of ‘50% from Kickstarter’ are pretty accurate, in my opinion, so that effectively validates the proposition that you need to generate 50% of the campaign’s funding from other sources.

    These are hard, but valuable lessons to learn by being burned on the first try.
    Part of the problem is that if you’re an independent developer, there is no capital to start producing great prototypes for sending out to reviewers and other such mechanisms that seem to be part and parcel of many successful Kickstarters. That’s not to say you can’t start basic and ‘work with what you’ve got’, but in reality – the best campaigns, and those that seem to succeed, seem to have all of these pieces in concert.

    This won’t be the first and last time I’ll try. It’s hard to watch something you’ve laboured over for years get lost in the dust of bigger and better things going on, but this industry seems less about being ‘the next big thing’ and more about being visible, even at a low level. Building an audience and cultivating awareness about-a-thing is just as , if not more important than the quality of the actual campaign that promotes it.

    Hopefully I can look back on this post one day and see that the application of these lessons allowed me to navigate the murky waters of Kickstarter successfully, so that we can at least have the first title under the belt.

    • roman says:

      Our key marketing was word of mouth to get to half of our stated goal. The additional marketing that most aided us was MyMiniFactory, Facebook and Board Game Geek, all paid (MMF gets a cut of our KS). The reviews and such, and working with Fen the blogger, helped a little but I think we reach our $10K goal without any of that. They probably helped push us to the 12-13 range, then Kickstarter basically matched our effort.

      An important detail I left out of the article was the funding goal. We intentionally set it low enough at $10K to make success more likely. Had we only raised $10K, however, that wouldn’t have funded the entire manufacturing process and we were prepared to spend some from our own pockets.

      Our family & friends came through with 5K and that was 50% of our goal, which I think created enough momentum for Kickstarters to jump on board. I don’t think it works if our goal is $25K (the amount we eventually raised) and your friends and family are only getting you 20% of the way there instead of 50%. So one final tip is to set your goal low enough to give you a good chance to succeed. If you have to, get your friends & family to commit so you have a good idea of where you might get on Day 1, set your goal somewhere around double that, then marketing is just gravy that brings in more Kickstarters.

      • Andy says:

        I agree with this. Part of the problem for my campaign, at least, is making the mistake of trying to create the game in its ‘ideal format’. That is, with the component types, cards, spit and polish that you want it to be. I suspect that for many projects that’s just not feasible (who wouldn’t want to upcycle cardboard components for plastic or metal ones?). This is especially true for a first-time campaign, I’ve learned.

        Lowering the campaign goal is definitely an essential first step for the next campaign. Simply getting manufacturing and shipping quotes, working out storage and transit costs etc. and then adding contingency on top isn’t really a viable option for reducing costs. Actually trimming back on the scope of production is.

        To that end, it makes sense to scale the campaign goal way back, and as you say – looking (where feasible) to contribute non-campaign funds to the actual budget of the project. These are all important lessons in successfully crowdfunding, it seems.

        • roman says:

          To set that goal, we figured out the minimum viable product we would be ok launching, and I think it’s an important step any Kickstarter, new or otherwise, needs to take. Because we reached $25K we can do everything we really wanted to do, but were prepared to manufacture a more scaled down version with $10K funding. Shoot for the moon but you need your backup plan.

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