Stephanie Kwok of First Fish Games knows a thing or two about having the oxygen stolen out of the room by larger and more successful publishers. Seeing as a lot of campaigns were being negatively affected by 7th Continent’s massive success recently, I figured it was timely to invite her to talk about what she experienced during her relaunch effort and why she may have been better off in the long run for doing so.
But We Double and Triple Checked!
When you’re a first-time publisher trying to make a name for yourself, you know the journey is going to be long and complicated. Imagine you’re all set up ready to launch your first project. You and your partners have double checked everything… or at least you thought you did. But it’s too late! You’ve clicked the launch button on Kickstarter and there is no going back!
This situation is precisely what happened to us at First Fish Games. We launched our first game, Get Off My Land!, in April 2017. We thought it would be clever to align our launch date with a local convention. It was, except that we made a huge mistake with our numbers that we thought were correct. Remember, we double and triple checked. This is why you never rush just because you are trying to hit a certain launch date. If you think you’re not ready, push the date. We started to see the trickle of complaints come in about the price being too high. Apparently, we failed to notice that we had mixed up our CAD and USD numbers and set the funding goal and pledge amounts way too high.
Real-time Campaign Triage
We panicked. We already posted the campaign link to numerous Facebook groups, we paid for ads, and we even held a launch party for our friends at a local gaming restaurant. What were we to do? We immediately tried to fix the problem by adding new pledge tiers with the correct price and had existing backers switch to the new one so we could close the incorrect one. This worked pretty well except that we still couldn’t change the end funding goal which was about 20k too high. We already lost momentum because of the incorrect funding goal deterring people. We got lucky. We had a small group of backers who were big fans of the game and were willing to do everything in their power to help us succeed. Even though we made a huge mistake, everyone recognized that we did our best to solve the issue. They had faith in us and our game and gave us the confidence to keep going forward. Without our dear backers, we wouldn’t have been as successful as we were, even if we failed.
What now? We were halfway through our campaign and we knew it was not looking good. It didn’t help to have a huge campaign like ‘Rising Sun’ running at the same time and also ending on the same day. We didn’t start on the same day as CMON, they just had a shorter campaign. We made sure to message backers who canceled to see if we could have done anything better, but their answers were usually “I am tight on money” or “I would rather back X.” We had a decision to make. Should we keep the campaign running until the end and see if we could miraculously fund or cancel the campaign and accept the losses? Both options lead to a relaunch, but what were the benefits of choosing one over the other? We decided to keep the campaign running and cancel on the last day. This gave us time to improve on the campaign page itself and work out the numbers correctly. We told our backers our plan, we set a relaunch date, and we prepared ourselves for any negative comments. Luckily for us, we didn’t get much negativity. We set the relaunch just one week from our cancellation date because we didn’t have much to change on the project other than the numbers and maybe a little reorganization of the campaign page layout.
Relaunch With a Dedicated Crowd
We set the time of the relaunch to 9 am PST so that we could click launch before we left for work in the morning. Some of the events that happened that morning I will never forget. At around 8:30 am, we got a message on Facebook asking us if we could launch early. They were eagerly waiting at their computer. Unfortunately, we didn’t want to favor anyone, so we kept our 9 am launch. Also, I had Kickstarter notifications on my phone. As I was clicking the ‘launch’ button on Kickstarter, not even 2 seconds had passed after clicking the button, and I got a notification on my phone that said we had our first backer. This made me extremely happy because it meant that someone was waiting for it, maybe even refreshing their page waiting for me to click launch. This was one of the best feelings I’ve had on this journey so far.
Twenty-one hours into the relaunch, we funded. What? We did less promotion on social media, less paid ads, and yet we funded in less than 24 hours!
There is Never a Perfect Time
Remember I mentioned Rising Sun ending on the same day as our first campaign? We thought we were smart and specifically chose our dates to avoid when other big games were launching or finishing. But we forgot that competitors could run a shorter campaign, which means they started after us but ended on the same day. This time, Gloomhaven and Brass were both live at the same time as our relaunch.
Our mid-campaign lull was painful. Our average daily pledges were extremely low compared to our first campaign and some days even ended with a net negative amount of backers. This was extremely stressful to watch even if we knew we had almost no control over it.
Gloomhaven ended shortly before ours ended, and Brass finished on the same day. As much as you don’t want to blame anyone else for your failings, sometimes it’s tough not to do so. We knew we did our best and put our best project forward, but it is hard to compete with well-known designers and established publishers.
We powered through and raised roughly $30,000 over our funding goal and hit almost all our stretch goals. We threw in the last one as a show of goodwill to our backers.
Our game is currently being manufactured and about one week from completion. We have our freight and fulfillment centers lined up, and we even have some distributors buying large quantities from us. We are no CMON or Roxley, but we are proud of our achievements so far as a first-time publisher. Maybe one day we’ll be launching the campaign to watch out for!