I have been consulting with Marshall and his business partner, Andrew, for a few months now on the latest Yanaguana Games product, Re-Chord. It has culminated in both cancellation and a successful relaunch. I invited Marshall to share his experience on Kickstarter with the hopes that you can carry these lessons into your campaigns.
Failure is a Mindset
I’d like to start with a small anecdote about the day I had to cancel our first campaign for the guitar-themed board game Re-Chord. It was about 48 hours from the end, and it was reasonably clear to the team that we were going to come up short of our goal. We decided to cancel funding and discuss a relaunch plan.
As the lead designer of Re-Chord, the publisher, and the artist for much of the game, I was personally devastated. It’s hard not to see this situation as a failure in the moment. I’d worked hard, done the research, planned meticulously and made Re-Chord into the game I thought would resonate best with our fans and customers. So to see the project fail felt like seeing myself fail and it weighed on me heavily especially just after canceling the project.
Let’s stop for a second to talk about this word “failure.” I feel like the negative connotations of this word are likely conflated by most of us. Failure is an opportunity to learn from a situation and often course correction is straightforward. The faster you put yourself in this mindset, the better, as soon as I changed my outlook, plans started forming.
Request Specific Advice
The first thing I did after I was done focusing on my feelings, was to focus on the people who had backed, and even those who declined to support Re-Chord. I wanted to hear their thoughts on what could be improved or why they decided to pass on the project.
Rather than bombarding our friends and fans with open questions like “what do you think went wrong?”, We decided to target specific aspects and get feedback from them individually. The first example of this was showing three different box designs and allowing potential backers and fans to vote on their favorite version. What we found out here was that the box design we initially picked was not the most popular, not by a lot.
The next thing we did was to update some of the other artwork and graphics to make the theme a bit more cohesive. This task was not a major overhaul, just little details that improved the component quality slightly. We showed these upgrades off and asked for feedback, and within a day had a backer suggest a noticeably better solution that ended up being part of the game.
Give Backers What They Want
The point is that we started communicating more with our potential backers and asking them what their preferences were. This process led to a fantastic amount of feedback which in turn led to some key improvements.
After listening to our backers and making many of the suggested improvements we planned our relaunch for January 9th. Not only was the relaunch a resounding success regarding feedback and overall response, but Re-Chord was also fully funded in 7 hours.
Re-Chord is a better product now than it was four months ago, and the only reason for that is engagement with the people who were interested in the game. In hindsight, canceling our first project and listening to backers created a better overall product and was not an adverse effect at all. If you ever find yourself in this situation and want to talk with a developer and publisher who has been through it, feel free to reach out.