Hello everyone and happy new year. Today we have January 2nd and I have a special guest today. It is my co-designer and friend Christian Kudahl. Hi Christian and welcome to the show.
Today we’re going to be looking back at the year 2022, and reflecting on our very first Kickstarter campaign for the game, Mindbug.
For those who may not know, Mindbug was a project that was funded on Kickstarter in 2021.
For us, the Kickstarter campaign was a huge success, raising almost $400,000 from more than 10.000 backers all over the world. This was way more than we anticipated and it allowed me to fully realize the vision I had for Nerdlab Games and turn this from a Hobby Podcast into a Games Publishing Company. We spent the entire year 2022 designing, producing, and fulfilling Mindbug.
Unfortunately, this also led to a shift in priorities and I no longer had as much time for the podcast. It always makes me sad because without the podcast the game wouldn’t have happened in the first place and I’m incredibly grateful for all the support from you throughout the journey.
Anyway, that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to review 2022 and talk about the lessons learned from the Kickstarter campaign here on the podcast.
Let’s start with a few things that went well:
- The campaign started very strong with a lot of backers in the first minutes and hours. I think this had some reasons.
- 1. You, the podcast audience who supported us from the very first second
- 2. Our Newsletter List
- 3. The influencers posting their updates about the game
- 4. Low barrier of entry (compared to many other Kickstarter campaigns the price of 15 € for the first pledge level was very low.
- 5. And of course that being a Richard Garfield Game helped a lot
- ⇒ As a result we made it to the Kickstarter front page and got featured by them.
- Interaction with the backers during the campaign
- Proposals for Creature Types
- Votings on artworks etc. was very very good
- Running those competitions and votings on BGG helped us to get into the hotness list there which was also very helpful.
- Overall communication with the backers was very good through all the channels. We answered thousands of messages and tried to help everyone who had questions about the game or the campaign.
- However, sometimes we missed a message or a comment here and there and we apologize for that. To improve, we have now implemented a ticketing system that will help us to better organize incoming messages.
- The Game itself
- We are quite happy with how the game itself turned out. It is a lot of fun to play and yet is giving us enough room for future expansions and new game modes to explore.
Things we can improve
- Delivery Time / Fulfillment
- To be honest, we are quite happy with the timing of our deliveries in Europe. We were a little later than we had hoped, but not far from our announced target.
- For the rest of the world, unfortunately, it didn’t look quite so good. We had long waiting times at the ports for customs declarations and some delays in the supply chains. In addition, there were resource bottlenecks, production problems, natural disasters with the hurricane in Florida, and other unforeseen things. All this is difficult to predict and plan for. Overall, in most cases, I am satisfied with how we and our partners have responded to solve those problems. However, we would have liked to be quicker in the worldwide delivery. In the future, we will probably plan for even more buffers and place even more emphasis on proper customs documents. We will also rethink some of our partnerships.
- We were definitely a bit naïve here because we believed that if we worked with experienced fulfillment partners, we could hand over the topic and no longer have to worry about it. Unfortunately, this was not the case and it is safe to say that we spent most of our working hours in 2022 on fulfillment. This is not something you dream about when you think about becoming a game designer. But it was the most important topic this year to bring Mindbug to you.
- Translation Error
- Translating into 6 languages was a big challenge and, in retrospect, probably not the right decision. 2 of the 6 languages are probably still rather loss-making businesses today. Overall, the translation from the community went well. The professional agency also played its part, but without the community, it certainly wouldn’t have turned out so well. And yet I think we can improve here to become even more consistent in the wording on the cards and also in the rules.
- The biggest annoyance was of course the mistake on the German Kangasaurus Rex. One missing word cost us 1000s of €. And then the replacement card was also a bit bigger than the original. It was all very, very annoying. We have always tried to decide in the interest of our backers, even if it was very painful and expensive for us in the end.
- Shipping Costs
- We hate shipping costs. We think the costs were really high in our campaign. But it’s not like we earned anything from it. On the contrary. The actual costs were even higher. We would like to reduce the prices in the future, but the logistics service providers have even increased the prices again in the meantime. Such things as fuel surcharges or high season surcharges were not known to us before. We consider shipping more ourselves in the future to reduce costs. So one recommendation I have is. Be aware of the shipping costs and plan enough buffer. I can imagine that miscalculations and surprises in this area can ruin an entire campaign. In some cases, it makes sense to take the issue into account during product development.
- Some backers would have liked a bit more exclusivity. And we can totally understand that. For us, it has always been important that Mindbug is set up in such a way that no one is excluded. That is part of our design philosophy. Every player should be able to get the same game feeling. So we don’t want individual cards to be out of reach for some players or only very expensive to buy on the secondary market.
- Nevertheless, we understand the desire of the Kickstarter backers who have supported us from the beginning to get something special. We certainly could have done something more. For example, foil cards, alternative art cards, or something like that.
- We have received really good suggestions and feedback on this and will certainly think about something for the future.
- The black box:
- And now to our biggest headache. The black box. The box was cursed from the very beginning. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong with the box did go wrong. During the campaign, we wanted to replace the box with a more stable version and give our cheeks a free upgrade. But we didn’t expect how many backers were against it and finally decided to row back and stick to our initial promise to provide the box with a unique number. This was the most critical situation during the campaign and cost us a lot of sleepless nights. We learned two things from this:
- Don’t make important decisions based on a few user comments
One should not make important decisions based on the user comments of a few users. You quickly get the impression that all backers are of the same opinion if you receive 5, 10, or 15 comments on a topic. In the end, however, these are just individual opinions of a few backers. I’m not saying that those opinions shouldn’t be taken seriously. Of course, this is direct feedback from your customers. This is very important and they should be answered and taken into account in the decision-making process, but in the end, 10 comments do not reflect the opinion of 10,000 backers. This part is easy to be misled.
- Never change the product or the pledge levels during the campaign
Ultimately, it’s about finding the right balance between incorporating user feedback and staying true to our original concept. But you should never ever take away anything you have promised.
- But that wasn’t all that went wrong with the box. It was produced incorrectly and thus played a large part in the delay in the project. As a result, we had to send them to the different hubs by express, which cost us a lot of money. And although we chose the best and most stable material that our supplier could offer, the box was and is clearly too unstable and did not meet our quality requirements. We really regret that and we will definitely put more emphasis on it in the future.
However, overall we still think the campaign was a great success. There will always be challenges and unplanned events. One of the most important things we learned is that the vast majority of backers on Kickstarter understand that a project of this size can’t always run smoothly.
In return, however, they expect a high degree of transparency in your communication. After all, the backers are part of this project and therefore deserve to be informed about all relevant topics.
We are very happy that we have successfully delivered all products and that with your help we have reached our first milestone for Nerdlab Games in 2022. Now we are working hard on the next milestones for 2023.
Thanks for tuning in to the Nerdlab Games Podcast. Until next time. Keep shooting for the moon and nerd like a boss!