This week we continue our look back at the Journey system introduced during the Vindication® Kickstarter campaign. If you missed Part 1 of this thought-splosion, where we give a bit of context about what the heck Journeys are, check it out [here].
Community Reaction to Journeys
So. We did a thing. Did people like thing? Would they have us ‘thing‘ again?
Overall we were blown away by the reception to this introduction of the Journey system. The community’s willingness to engage in increasingly involved activities was so shocking that other creators were messaging us to express excitement about it. It was the desired response and more. Every time we’d think things internally like, ‘well there’s no way we’ll get more than a dozen or so poetry submissions but this’ll be fun anyway,’ we’d find ourselves buried under a cascading mountain of submissions, gleefully wallowing in our wrongness.
The level of engagement was deeply satisfying for us but much more important was the feedback that it was satisfying for the community. That is how we know we should pursue this type of thing toward its potential.
As creators we get to have a close relationship with the things we make. In the case of a game that means every little detail, character, mechanic, and flourish mean something special to us. When cards come out they stir up memories, we get to have an emotional reaction to what is happening on the table, and it greatly deepens the experience of engaging with the game’s world. By inviting everyone to be creators, to participate in little adventures that build or lead to the addition of new elements into a game, it becomes a shared experience and the community gets to have that same type of relationship with the game too.
Hearing that people loved the opportunity to be involved, and knowing that once they have the game they already have memories that will make it more enjoyable – that alone makes this format a success and we are excited to deepen the experience more in the future.
Our Reaction to Journeys
Did we enjoy this as much as the community?
The short version is that we absolutely loved this experience.
Particularly exciting for us was the opportunity afforded by the Journey system to do different types of activities. Because the overarching framework kept things feeling consistent and understandable we were able to try lots of different things without it feeling like we were all over the place. As backers, we often find ourselves tuning out of a lot of Kickstarter campaigns once we feel like we understand what that creative team is doing and that we know what to expect for the rest of the campaign. With Journeys, we were able to do anything we felt like at any time to keep things feeling fresh and lively for the community and for ourselves.
From a more business-y perspective, the biggest trade-off here was the incredibly laborious overhead of this format versus a more traditional stretch goal system. Even in this simple campaign, with the Journeys system still using training wheels, the amount of effort required to run these activities, come up with fresh ideas, create and update graphics, write little stories and lore, commission additional sketches (many of which would never be used), parse through submissions, create polls, test card concepts, and so forth was intense. Strictly from a wages standpoint this format requires at least one person attending to it full-time. Realistically two full-time wages once you factor in graphic designers and artists. For a three week campaign that’s not at all insignificant. It was worth it (heck anything that contributes to a happy comments section is worth it) but other small publishers interested in pursuing a similar model would do well to have realistic expectations of the demands of what they are undertaking. This type of thing, done right, will at least double the amount of upkeep of the campaign as well as require a great deal of up-front preparation. We absolutely recommend this type of format, but know what you are getting into.
Ultimately, we couldn’t be more happy with how this decision panned out. Much was learned, we’re working on systems to cut down the amount of internal manpower required, and are very excited about the potential for this type of structure in future. Journeys accomplished everything we were hoping in regards to community engagement and allowed us to run a campaign that put the full value proposition on the front end without sacrificing the fun bits of being part of the experience.
The Bigger Picture
Any implications for the larger scene?
Do we recommend other creators explore alternative systems to traditional stretch goals? Absolutely. Many creators are. We’ll get into this subject a lot more in Part 3 of this series next week.
Do we think the trajectory of Kickstarter campaign conventions will increasingly require or expect creators to explore this type of system? Probably, yes.
Is that realistic for the average Kickstarter creator? Probably not, no, which plays into a larger discussion about the increasing barrier to entry for Kickstarter creators, which we’ll hopefully dig into in future articles and on the podcast. Will it still be possible for “the little guy” to succeed with the right amount of grit, creativity, and determination? Always. But copying a “proven” formula is likely to grow more difficult. At Orange Nebula we have world class graphic designers as part of our core team and the opportunity and willingness to work irresponsibly long days while a campaign is live. We could not have executed this system the way we did without these options at our disposal.
But not for long
There are still many things to say about the state of stretch goals and the Kickstarter platform in general. Let’s plan on meeting back here next week for the Part 3 of this series to dive into more of those thoughts!
If you missed Part 1, don’t forget to swing back and catch up (CLICK HERE TO READ)
And be sure to subscribe to the Outpost Podcast (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN). Episode 9 (coming soon at the time of this writing) has a lot of discussion about Kickstarter strategy and the state of the crowdfunding landscape.
Keep being wonderful.