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War for Chicken Island was truly a big learning experience and today I want to share with you all about it. I'll write about the following topics, so you can skip and read any of your interest. 1.0 Project Background 1.1 About the designer 1.2 About the campaign draft 1.3 About the publisher 2.0 First campaign 2.1 First campaign Pros 2.2 First campaign Cons 3.0 Relaunch 3.1 Corrections 3.2 Advertise Relaunch 4.0 Second campaign improvements 4.1 Communication -------- 1.0 PROJECT BACKGROUND I believe that the corner stone of a campaign is mostly determined by the fanbase for the project or its creators. War for Chicken Island is a Mexican project. The tabletop scene in Latin American Countries is not as big as in USA, Canada, or European countries but it is growing. As a result, every tabletop enterprise in Mexico is quickly spotted in the radar and many companies collaborated to make War for Chicken Island possible, given that it was going to be the first Miniatures Game on Kickstarter from our country. 1.1 ABOUT THE DESIGNER The game was developed by Gnomosapiens, who launched NecronomiCORP back in November 2016. My partner at Aether Tower and I provided guidance to them about how to fulfill with friendly-shipping. The game itself is terrific if you like the genre, but since fulfillment was delayed for many months and, most importantly, given that some Spanish copies never arrived in Spain, the reputation was not good for Gnomosapiens; with finances problems, they were still making refunds to backers who didn't get their copy. For the record, on February they finished making the last reimbursements and as far as I know, their reputation is clean now with all backers. 1.2 ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN DRAFT I played War for Chicken Island in September 2017 for the first time. Loved the theme, loved the art, loved the gameplay. 10 months later I was providing feedback to Gnomosapiens for their Kickstarter campaign. They were missing a lot of key factors, some I can remember are: - The pledge level was at 3x manufacture cost because they were comparing to Zombicide content (that would hurt their finances). - No gameplay videos or reviews. - Mailing list non-existent. - English rules were not edited (And their English is not the best of all) - BoardGameGeek entry was missing. - Minimum Viable Product from Gnomosapiens could still be simplified. Overall, I was just providing tips but at some point they mentioned that they really do not enjoy running a Kickstarter campaign, even less with the pressure from their last project. Now, running Kickstarter campaigns is my favorite part of publishing games. Back then I had ran 11 successful campaigns and 3 failed campaigns (Mostly Tabletop campaigns for Aether Tower, Detestable Games/La Caravana, but I have also helped some family/friends fund their Escape Rooms, Board Game Café, plushies, even painted rocks and some experiments of my own when Make 100 and All-in-one were the creative prompts from Kickstarter). So I offered to see if Draco Studios would be interested in Publishing War for Chicken Island. Two months later we signed a publishing and licensing agreement with Gnomosapiens. 1.3 ABOUT THE PUBLISHER Draco Studios was developing Eldritch Century (a setting for RPG + Skirmish miniatures game) at that time. The project was programmed to launch in October, but it is cooking slowly and it is intended to be one of the biggest releases from the company. You all know Jamie's #1 rule about launching too soon. War for Chicken Island entered into Q4 slot instead for Draco Studios plans. Among the conditions in the contract was an advance payment to Gnomosapiens. Launch before 2019 and make the second half of the payment in December. The pros for the project being published by Draco were: Bringing the game for Essen Spiel (although its exposure was minimal) Editing the rules and translate properly to English. Using our mailing list. Making more prototypes and demo the game at Roll A Game Expo (The biggest Gaming convention in Mexico which runs at the end of the year) plus having a panel for Gnomosapiens. Working with Detestable Games (a design academy in Mexico) to edit the rules. 2.0 FIRST CAMPAIGN We restructured Gnomosapiens' campaign draft and while we were producing prototypes they sent their only prototype to Gamerati for a video review. By November 6th we were ready to launch, although a little bit rushed. 2.1 FIRST CAMAPAIGN PROS On Kickstarter, visuals are extremely important. I had confidence that even though we were lacking previews and convention presence for the game, the theme and art would compensate. Upon launch, I did the usual stuff: - Share in social media (Facebook Fanpages and groups, Twitter) - Send newsletter to our Mailist. - Ask some partners to feature the project in an update. - Share the link with friends and family. We also got the "Featured by Kickstarter" tag which I think is always helpful. For this campaign I introduced one experiment (which on our Dragons of the Red Moon campaign was later flagged by Kickstarter and they request us to remove it before launching): The idea was to make some kind of network marketing. Backers could request for a personal referral link (the ones creators can generate in dashboard) and for every X funds generated by their tag, we would be giving some extra credit in the pledge manager for add-ons. (Basically like Kickbooster but with Kickstarter tools). One would think that a lot of backers would request it but surprisingly enough, only 11 of them did. Still, it served for a little bit of extra exposure. We also provided the rules and print and play for everyone to compensate for the lack of reviews. 2.2 FIRST CAMPAIGN CONS Despite the general opinion about Early Birds being awful, I do believe they are highly effective. However, I do share the belief that all backers should get the same perks. I understand that some eager backers may not hear about the project until a later date so it doesn't seem fair. BUT I still believe they are effective, an Early Bird will attract many backers that will instantly pledge and decide later whether to stay or cancel (Campaigns with Early Birds also have many more cancellations because of this). This time for War for Chicken Island, I decided NOT to include Early Bird pledges. Instead, we offered an Early Funding Stretch Goal. We had two graphics (which were later removed from the page when the reboot was imminent) The first one stated that for us ALL backers should get the same perks so the Kickstarter price (which is indeed lower than MSRP) would be our 30-day Early Chicken (Early bird) reward. The second one read that if we reached 100% funding within the first 2 weeks, we would give the Mecha Chicken Dragon miniature for all backers. One week after the campaign was launched, this was changed to 50% funding to make it more achievable based on the progress. Since all the negotiation and campaign launch was rushed, we did not have time to properly generate and define the stretch goals. It seems, this affected negatively to the campaign. We just showed chickens that could be unlocked but not their funding goal. But after 1 week and a few days, we launched a project update which caused chaos and confusion among backers: Draco Studios has a sibling company: Draco Forge, a resin miniatures workshop. Since we were accepting that the campaign would not reach Stretch Goals (and backers were cancelling because of that) we offered the possibility to add stretch goals as a bundle add-on. Those would be manufactured by the Forge whether we reached the stretch goals or not. (The Stretch goals would be included in the game, plastic version and for free in case we reached them). Even though we thought it would be something positive for the campaign's funding, this was not well-received by backers, maybe because we haven't even properly displayed stretch goals. We instantly updated explaining more in depth but that was still not making our backers happy. I guess there are some structures from campaigns which will hardly change and Stretch Goals is one of them. Keep them simple and straightforward. I'm about to share something personal: I consider myself a very good community manager and I can always deal with an unhappy customer and try to resolve the issue in their favor. But that moment was the hardest from the 18 campaigns I have ran. At that stressful day, being in Europe still (post Essen) my girlfriend (now fiancé, yay!) called me from the other side of the world and asked me something that would cause me even more stress: "Why not relaunch?" 3.0 RELAUNCH At the moment it sounded terrible. I had never relaunched since my first campaign back in June 2016 (Hero from Aether Tower which failed not once but twice and became the biggest Kickstarter learning experience until War for Chicken Island). However, after 1 day of cooling down I resolved it was the greatest idea! Think about it: Why on Earth would a tabletop game would not be launched on Kickstarter? Big companies launch on Kickstarter without needing the funds because besides of the financial benefits, it makes a buzz for your project. It is a marketing tool good for traditional distribution which is bigger than Kickstarter. War for Chicken Island lacked the reviews and the international exposure until that moment. The first campaign would serve as the pre marketing for the actual campaign and the current backers could become the ambassadors for the game. I feel the urge to say that even though this sounds as a great idea, I would definitely not do it intentionally nor recommend it for other creators. It is exhaustive to run a single 30-day campaign, imagine running twice that. All I have to say is that, if your campaign is not an instant success, you have an opportunity to transform disadvantage into advantage but be prepared because it is going to be extremely tiresome. So, the first step was to listen to our backers and make things right for them. 3.1 CORRECTIONS We asked our backers in a survey if they would back again if we relaunched with a better structure. We got almost 100 responses. 86% answered Yes, 13% answered Maybe, and only 1 of them answered No. Good. Then we asked what they would like to see changed and provided a list: - Having a Kickstarter Exclusive Miniature since day 1 (instead of a Flash Funding Goal reward) - Making a version of the game with standees and some minis to make it cheaper and lowering funding goal. - Clearly displaying stretch goals and add-ons since day 1. - Make giveaways to promote the project - Give a free item to returning backers (we suggested a dice cloth bag at that time) Backers shared their thoughts; we resolved not mixing minis and standees due to backers' request (Full minis or full standees but not both) among other stuff. But particularly there was one important question which created a lot of engagement; we asked our backers which miniatures should be included in the core game and which ones should be stretch goals. We provided images and cards' effects in the update. I think all of this gave a loud and clear message to our backers: we will listen to you. And oh yes, we did. I remember reading, replying and tracking votes for all comments. As I said, I really enjoy running Kickstarter campaigns after all. Not even at the 2-week mark, we had already decided that we would relaunch; we set a date for cancellation (12 hrs before the natural campaign end) and a date for relaunch which goes against many conventional rules. 3.2 ADVERTISE RELAUNCH Communication changed naturally, we were not worried any longer. We were almost celebrating that we would relaunch and backers were looking forward to it and to help us with improving the campaign. Being totally honest, we decided to relaunch on December 3rd (5 days after the campaign end-date) most of all because Draco Studios had already scheduled the Dragons of the Red Moon campaign with our talented artist friend Tom Babbey and Axolote Gaming (another super skilled Mexican tabletop enterprise which is a close partner for Draco Studios). For Summer/Autumn we had Eldritch Century, so the time could only be Q4. Plus, per our agreement with Gnomosapiens, we had to pay the second part on December. The idea of relaunching on December was one that I was not particularly excited. Talking from experience, I managed the Seat Wars campaign for Detestable Games in December 2017 and the response was very low for a very cool-looking and fun family game. But I still felt that our backers would be there for us and that would be positive for the campaign, at least better than the current one. Plus, we were finally connecting; a devoted and listening creator with an engaged backer community. We still had some ads and newsletters scheduled for the reminder of the campaign but rather than cancelling them we placed everywhere in the campaign about the date and the bonus of pledging in the first campaign (a free cloth bag for returning backers). We mentioned about the relaunch in every new update. We even created a graphic at the top of the campaign (which was removed just before cancelling) promoting the $1 pledge level "Curious Chicken"; Kickstarter surprised us with a mention in one of their newsletters, and I think the graphic at the top of the campaign was the reason for that newsletter getting a nice conversion into the $1 reward tier with 157 backers by the end of the campaign. While the 1st campaign was running, we were already preparing the graphics and committing the changes for the second campaign. Cancelling the first campaign felt weird, I'm not much of a sports guy but I would say that it kind of felt like being losing (not by much) in half-time but motivated to win the game in the second half. 4.0 SECOND CAMPAIGN IMPROVEMENTS When we finally relaunched we did a lot of improvements, many of them were already mentioned. But other things changed as the second campaign was running: I previously said my feelings and thoughts about Early birds; effective but with downsides. On the first campaign we stated that all our backers would have the same benefits for all the 30 days. We figured that the 30 day campaign backers should totally be our early birds, or early chickens as we called them and instead of a cloth bag we created an early bird reward tier with a special and super appealing add-on (Dragon Momma) for free which would be available as a paid add-on later ($10 USD). This was notified in a project update in the previous campaign, in the newsletter, in social media and everywhere where we already had mentioned War for Chicken Island before. We also changed the cover image to display more the artwork and less the components. Miniatures are a trend but there are too many games with miniatures out there. Chickens and the art style for this game is quite unique. And a confession to make; among the many Kickstarter creators I follow, I am a big big fan from Elan Lee and the Exploding Kittens team. I was not a backer of Exploding Kittens but I was a very participative one in Bears vs Babies (As a backer, I even created the official song for the campaign social goals which is in YouTube and the team used for some promo videos). I just love the way they make a party out of their campaigns. War for Chicken Island has the perfect feel for Achievements and social goals so I introduced those, not for promotion (although they were thought to be shared on social media) but for backers to do crazy stuff with the chicken theme and enjoy it. Cookies, drawings, War speeches, Chicken Christmas ornaments. Still with no additional reviews, we hosted many livestreams for playthroughs to compensate for it. Among the Achievements, one was particularly useful. I got the inspiration from a backer of Gnomosapiens' campaign NecronomiCORP back in 2016. A backer had its name changed to "(Name) - Backing NecronomiCORP". So one of the challenges was to have X backers with "backing War for Chicken Island" in their names. I think it is brilliant because if they comment in another project they are backing, you will get promotion with other potential backers. I remember the campaign "Chai" was running back then, and after our campaign ended, many backers changed their name to "backing Chai" and I still see some backers with other project's names. We also had some Board Game Geek ads scheduled for the second campaign; first time I use them and I highly recommend them. The campaign became a big party, backers and I really enjoyed everything. Many of them claimed that War for Chicken Island was the best campaign they have ever backed (something I can relate to when I think in the Bears vs Babies campaign). I was aware about Tainted Grail campaign and Awaken Realms is a business reference model for me. So at the very last moment, with some hours left in the last day of our campaign (which coincidentally was the last day of their campaign), we got the heads up from backers telling us about Awaken Realms having backed our campaign. You can imagine that we had a last push from this and I am still curious to know why they backed our campaign and how they heard about it. It was so exciting that I even gave a loud thank you in project campaign description and update; kind of a way to return the favor or express our gratitude so that other backers could see their name. And with that final push we broke the last Stretch goals and even more unplanned ones. Which brings me to the last and most important lesson (re)learnt from this campaign: 4.1 COMMUNICATION You see, having ran a lot of campaigns, I eventually got used (without noticing) to post one update every month or every two months. I would just wait to stack a lot of information and post few updates with tons of what I consider relevant info. With War for Chicken Island I got the chance to remember that communication is crucial: In project updates: rather than few updates every month or few months with summarized relevant info, most backers prefer having many updates with all the details. One every few days (if not daily) while the campaign is live with cool news or sneak peeks and at least one per week or two weeks at most after the campaign finishes. In the campaign page: Having everything clearly displayed since the beginning. I would say that this was the reason of the confusion which caused War for Chicken Island to consider a relaunch. In the comments: Be present for your backers and engage in conversation. It is no just about answering questions, sometimes it is about talking about the project or common interests. When backers start conversation among them, that's something quite spectacular. I consider to have virtual friends made in the Bears vs Babies campaign and whenever I see them in other campaigns we are backing, it is very nice to talk casually. As a creator, there are some backers who are present across your multiple campaigns and particularly in campaigns with relaunch, your previous backers are the stars of the show so it is always nice to see them commenting and cheering for the relaunch. In other languages: Spanish is the official language in Mexico. However, for Kickstarter and the international board game scene we know English is better. We found out that War for Chicken Island was having a lot of attention from Spain. We decided to make the updates in English and in Spanish, it brought good results although it is definitely twice the work. Overall, I feel I connected with the backers. I named them "Chicken Army" and they are proud about it. We shaped the relaunch together and when we ran out of Stretch Goals we figured out some new ones together. War for Chicken Island is very special for me; it may not be among the biggest campaigns in history but it certainly was a big milestone for Draco Studios and even a bigger one for the Mexican board game scene; It became the most funded and most backed Mexican project since when Kickstarter invited Mexican creators to upload projects in November 2016; the first successful projects from Mexican creators was Tricksters from my former company Aether Tower, NecronomiCORP from Gnomosapiens, and Scenery tiles from Axolote Gaming. In April of this year we broke our own record with Dragons of the Red Moon. And across all the mentioned campaigns, I see many familiar names from returning backers. What I'm trying to say is that backers are the most important part of Kickstarter, and under the right circumstances, they may support a returning creator more than once. What would you have done differently? Do you have any more insights about relaunching a campaign? --- If you would like to stay notified about War for Chicken Island or similar releases, subscribe here. War for Chicken Island late pledges are still available here.
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