Now, there are games which are passion projects and games that are fun for your friends and then there are games with which to launch your budding business. All are valid but you have to work out which you want to do. Working out at this stage, before you’ve spent your money, what you want to do is very important. If you want to have a game which you made and can whip out at parties, then Game Crafter is a great place to do this. Think of it like a hobby, get the art and graphic design that you want, make it, play it, and enjoy but don’t expect other people to want to part with their hard-earned cash for it. For small scale production again, Game Crafter is great, or consider making it into a print and play and putting it into a few competitions, Boardgame Geek almost always has one running. This is a good place to hone your design skills but more on that another time. However, if you’re serious about starting a business or are willing to have 1000 copies of your game to sell for a few years, then crowd funding is a good way to go.
But which idea to develop? For your first Kickstarter you ideally want the one with the least components, the one that’s easiest to playtest, has the broadest player count, has the most approachable theme, least off-putting mechanics and most attention-grabbing components.
So, with regards to the number of components, this is a development skill. Every time you play your game consider if there’s anything you can get rid of, remember during production you are paying for every single card and counter, the fewer the better. This will also help keep your game compact both as a concept and literally. No-one likes a game where you only get to use half the cards before it’s over. Also, if you can keep your component types down this will save you money; once you’re set up to print one card five hundred isn’t an issue, but one card and one dice and one meeple are all different components that require different manufacturing processes. Additionally, remember that you’ll be paying for shipping; the box is the most expensive thing you’ll be paying for so the bigger and heavier it is the more expensive.
Ease of playtesting might seem obvious but getting playtesters, particularly for blind playtesting, is difficult. If you can make your game on Tabletop Simulator that will really help. If you want to ship your game out to playtesters, again, remember that you’ll have to provide them with all the components at a reasonably professional level; playtesters are generally a forgiving bunch but if you’re sending your game off they’ll need it to be a bit better than the pen and paper version your buddies have been playing. Consider making a print and play as it can be freely shared around the world at basically no expense, however this will limit you on unusual components; playtesters won’t want to go out and buy an egg timer for example.
As to player count, if you have a party game with a count of 6-12 it won’t be a solo game and equally if it’s 1-4 it won’t play at 20. It’s mainly about having the widest player count your game can comfortably support. If you have one idea that’s a 2-3 player count or one that’s a 1-4, go for the 1-4. Solo modes are increasingly beneficial and ubiquitous, but this also means that backers are increasingly discerning of them, include it if possible, but only if you can do it well.
Theme can be a vital element of marketing. Try to avoid things like extreme horror as it will limit your market. Feel free to have something a bit niche, you don’t have to go for the ubiquitous pirate, zombie, anthropomorphized animals, but bear in mind that theme can limit you. Ensure, however, that your theme is worth more than it costs.
With mechanics there are a few things that will hamper a Kickstarter, for example player elimination and old-fashioned roll and move. I’m not saying you have to design a roll and write, but try to make the mechanisms as user friendly as possible. Finally, the components, having just one or two components that someone really wants can be a massive benefit. With our games we haven’t done this yet, our attention-grabbing thing has been mechanics and artwork; however, if you can have custom meeples or dice, or a playmat or dice tower, it can really help a campaign. You may end up spending a lot of money on components that won’t help sell your game, but if you can find a cost effective, eye catching thing that can really be a plus. See Jamey Stegmaier’s blog/games for more on this.
So, you’ve picked the game to be your first Kickstarter, congratulations! But what now? See my next blog on the next step, the wonderful world of Playtesting!