Person at Drawing Board

Non-Kickstarter: Going Back to the Drawing Board

We’re back online after a respite from the intensity of Kickstarter (and the whole family getting sick in the middle of it). The Kickstarter didn’t go very far, but I was warned by fellow game designers that if the Kickstarter doesn’t go well in the first few days, it is hard to get it back on track. The Kickstarter wasn’t a bad experience: I learned more about marketing Tox in a month than I would have in half a year (or more), as well as generating a lot of great materials, including:

So it’s been a very productive time, even if it didn’t result in funding professional illustration for a full-length RPG book.

What Didn’t Work

Going into the Kickstarter, we had two major assets: 5,000 Facebook likes and a local gaming convention at the start of the Kickstart. We had hoped that, between a large audience interested in Tox and the opportunity to do lots of local word of mouth, we’d get enough early momentum. As it turns out, there’s a pretty big gulf between someone liking your product and getting them to take the next step… and it was a much slower year for roleplayers at the Pacificon, so that momentum didn’t materialize.

Feedback for Round 2

Most of our backers didn’t actually come from the Google+ communities that we participate in or Facebook followers… they browsed into the RPG site via Kickstarter. So it turns out that focusing on the Kickstarter content would have been more successful than our many efforts to drive large volumes of people to the page. Specifically, the advice I received was:

  • Have a high-quality intro video before launch.
  • Don’t worry about the details so much. Most people want the general impression of the game more than specific rules or examples around how it works.
  • Replace copy with images or diagrams. Again, people just don’t want to read a lot.

The Future of Tox

The playtesting feedback for Tox has been very positive so far: it has a unique take on powers, allows for very unique/customized characters, and makes easier for GMs and players alike to tell an exciting, character-driven story. We don’t believe the non-Kickstarter was a failure of the product, but it’s clear our marketing skills are lagging behind our product development skills. We plan on improving our marketing in both the short term and the long term.

Short-Term Plans

  • We’ve set up a schedule for high-quality content: releasing settings, storylines, and characters for Tox.
  • Be more conscientious about how we build connections within the RPG community. We have FB groups, we belong to several Google communities, but we need to think more strategically about how to make Tox more visible.

Medium-Term Plans

  • We’re going to pair-down the Demo (currently, we’re offering most of our Gifts + Tox types, with all 5 levels). The future demo will be smaller, with few Gifts and Tox types, and only include descriptions of powers up to level 3.
  • Simultaneously, we’ll go ahead and create a version 1 of Tox RPG. Since the Kickstarter didn’t get funded, art will be limited to the 9 characters already commissioned and the volume will be slimmer. The first edition will be light on examples, equipment, pre-made stories/settings, GM advice, alternate rules, and guidelines for how to create custom settings… however, it will have all the stats & rules needed to play the game and enough examples to get you started. You’ll be able to check the blog for example characters, settings, and resources.

Long-Term Plans

  • At some point, when we go for an illustrated 2nd edition, we will run another Kickstarter campaign. We’ll wait until we see a lot more engagement on our blog or communities, and we’ll do a lot more video planning. We’ll also do a lot more visual planning of the page itself: fewer words, more pictures.
  • As a backup or alternative, we might look into other ways to fund the art for the Kickstarter. Because the art is by far the most expensive piece of creating an RPG book, and because we have a lot of the writing, layout, and copy-editing skills in-house, finding another method to acquire or commission art would allow us to skip the Kickstarter completely. However, the Kickstarter was such a helpful learning experience that I see Varza kickstarting games in the future.

Onwards and upwards!

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