A low stakes Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter / RPG Design + Development Advice from Pacificon 2015

For those of you interested in the business side of the RPG world, I thought I’d share out my learnings on crowd-funding a roleplaying game.

What I knew about Kickstarter and the business side of RPG design

Going into the Pacificon, I had researched a few things a few things:

  • There are a lot of costs that go into making an RPG, especially a print version rather than only a PDF.  For example: copy writing, editing, print layout, art, color vs. black-and-white, paper quality, quantity of books, and shipping costs!
  • A lot of game designers get an unpleasant surprise if they haven’t factored in costs like shipping (and whether they have to ship multiple packages to each client!)
  • Most Kickstarters that get 20% funding, make it all the way to 100%.
  • Most successful Kickstarter campaigns already have the product designed.  The campaign typically covers the costs of production.

What I learned from the wise folks at Pacificon

At Pacificon, I had the chance to hear from or talk to a number of people in the gaming industry, Richard Bliss who is the Kickstarter/social media guru for board games, and Nicole Lindroos of Green Ronin Publishing.  I walked away with a lot of great info:

  • A lot of games get as much as 30% of their Kickstarter funding from overseas backers, making international shipping a big item to plan for in a Kickstarter campaign.  Apparently, Australians are especially likely to buy games directly over the internet.
  • The recommended timeline from a couple of recent, first-time successfully kickstarters is: finish the game, then get support for a year (or two!) before running the campaign.  Don’t jump right into a Kickstarter once you’re finished with the game.  This is a little longer than I’m planning for—but not out of the ballpark.
  • A repeated theme: if you’re a first time game designer / publisher, find someone experienced to partner with!  If you’re a designer, find a publisher, or if you do RPGs, find an established RPG printing service, like DriveThruRPGs publisher tools.
  • Join RPG designer / developer communities on Google Plus or Facebook to get advice from people with experience in the industry; generally, they’re happy to offer advice.
  • On structuring stretch goals for RPGs: don’t go overboard with special prints or other extras (that will create a lot of extra incidental costs).  Just have the base goal be the simplest possible version of the product you want to build, and the stretch goals lead up to the ideal version (i.e. more illustrations, color, high quality paper, hardback, etc).
  • No surprises!  Calculate all the costs.  If there’s a hazy area in the production process, research it until it’s clear and every item has a price tag.

Some of the above were completely new to me: like the percentage of international Kickstarter backers. Others were nice reinforcements of the research I had done—I had seen DriveThruRPGs publishing tools, but it was nice to hear people in the industry confirm that it is a viable option.

If you have an insights of your own—or questions you’d like me to research as I continue to work out the details of preparing for Kickstarter, leave a comment!

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