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This is the next in a small collection of blogs drawing on my recent Kickstarter experience (my last game, Ukiyo, ran and funded during November 2020). In this one, I’ll focus on what data you can get from Kickstarter, and what you can learn from it. And this isn’t based on any fancy datamining or harvesting APIs or anything, it’s just what’s directly visible on your creator dashboard throughout and after the campaign. I’ll focus on four areas – your funding profile, where your backers are from, how they found you and lurkers vs backers.

First the funding profile – in other words, how many backers did you get on each day. This is really helpful during the campaign and can also drive you mad. The traditional ‘shape’ for a Kickstarter campaign is a steep start (the first 2-3 days), a flat middle, and a steep finish (last 48 hours), and those three ‘sections’ of time will often each account for about a third of your funding. Knowing this is helpful, because it allows you to manage your own expectations when the inevitable ‘flattening happens, because that’s completely normal. And it’s that middle part where the onus is on you to keep the campaign alive with new content, social media activity, stretch goals and more. Oddly, my game Ukiyo didn’t follow the traditional path at all, it was more or less a straight line throughout:

I think this was for a number of reasons. There wasn’t a massive following prior to launch, just enough to get it going; it was a very low-priced game (just £7) which meant it was an easy sell for casual browsers and an easy one to recommend to friends. Also, I ran a series of puzzles throughout the campaign to try and keep momentum going, and finally, I was lucky enough to have a handful of very enthusiastic backers in France and Germany who helped it build its own momentum on gaming forums on those countries.

So where were all these people from? Ukiyo attracted 416 backers from no less than 35 different countries, and the KS dashboard helps you see where they are from. These were the ‘top 10’ countries:

So roughly 40% from the USA, 25% UK, 20% from Europe and 15% from the rest of the world. I gather this isn’t unusual for a tabletop game, but it underlines how important it is to take a global approach in how you plan your campaign. Have you considered doing foreign-language versions for your game, or at least a translation of the rulebook? The KS stats helped me to realise that there was a good level of interest in getting French and German translations done (which I did for the rulebook and print&play versions), but that there may not be enough interest to justify translations beyond that.

Another consideration with your geographical distribution is whether you are actually able to service all of this countries. It’s wonderful that a very small business or designer (I’m regular-sized, but my business is very small) can reach so many countries, but it’s worth checking that you can actually fulfil rewards to those countries. For example, many fulfilment companies won’t ship to Russia or Brazil, because of the frequent problems with customs authorities there. But the UK’s national carrier will (Royal Mail), as will the US Postal Service. So there’s no point in actively marketing to a country that you can’t send games to – but with a bit of research and imagination, you may be able to open up a community that you’d never thought of before.

The same applies to reviews – if you know you’re going to get interest in Germany or Spain, why not get some reviewers in those countries to do an own-language review of your game?

So how did all these lovely backers find you? Kickstarter is slightly less helpful here, and will claim a lot of referrals that have originated elsewhere, but there are still some clues that can help you steer your campaign (see image above). Basically, if people have browsed to your project from within Kickstarter, it will look like that’s where they started – even if your own marketing has pushed them to KS in the first place. You’ll see that only two backers came to the project from my own website (this one), but that 13 backers found it through Kickstarter’s internal search – in other words they knew they were looking for Ukiyo when they arrived. Also interesting is the ‘email: last chance to back reminder’. When you view a KS project, you can ask to be reminded 48 hours before it ends, and as a project creator you can se how many people have asked for this, and how many of those have actually backed (or ‘conversions’). And how many, therefore, are lurkers.

This hovered around 5% for most of the campaign and is a tantalising statistic, as it leads you to believe that hundreds of backers are just waiting to leap on board the moment they get the reminder. Of course, it doesn’t work like that – in my case the conversion rate crept up from 5% to 16% over the course of the last 3 days, and from other creators I understand that that is fairly typical. So you can probably expect 10% of your lurkers to convert in the last couple of days, which helps you to set realistic expectations for yourself, as well as helping to position your last stretch goals. Of course, every lurker is still a potential backer, and although you’ll never know how many of those you have actively converted in the end, it’s good to know how many people are going to be checking back over your campaign when that ‘last 48 hours’ alert sounds.

Next time – why you might not need an external pledge manager after all (and when you might)…

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I didn't manage to get a blog out last week as I've been fully immersed in the current KS campaign for Ukiyo (live now! Go and click on it! It's already funded! Tell the world!)

...and a cheesy promotion like that is a natural segue into this blog, which is a stroll through the many people that approach you via email and messaging the very moment your campaign goes live. I blogged on something very similar a couple of years ago following my first, unsuccessful campaign, when, frankly, I didn't know what was real and what was a scam. Check out the original post here. But now, older, wiser and more cynical, I can of course spot a time-waster a mile off... can't I?

This time round, the messages I've got so far seem to fall into one of five categories:

  1. Genuine help with no expectation of payment or reciprocation, sharing advice or offering to share your campaign in groups they're part of (turns out there are some really nice, helpful people out there that genuinely just want to help you succeed)

  2. Genuine help, but wanting something in return (like reciprocal promotion, or a free site posting where you give the backers an extra benefit). The latter sounds like a no-brainer but there's a risk that you inadvertently create 'tiers' of backers, some of whom benefit and others of whom don't. It's a similar dilemma with Early Birds and so far I've not done this, but it may suit your campaign.

  3. A business that may help boost your campaign, for a fee. There's a lot of services that offer to get the word out there, and who will generally make grand claims about how much money they can raise for you. If you're considering this (and some of the fees are modest so it's tempting to give it a try), it's important to understand where their strengths lie. For example, if you're creating a game, there's no point in paying someone to bombard thousands of people that have no apparent interest in games. Yes, I see that you helped this person raise a million dollars, but that was for a hover-fridge. This is a card game.

  4. A business that wants your money but isn’t necessarily going to benefit your campaign. May be indistinguishable from category 3, if you're not sufficiently clear about who you are trying to market your game to (and you are trying to market it, even if it doesn't feel like that)

  5. A fake approach, in order to do something nefarious - perhaps harvest your contact details, perhaps steal your money, or worse.

It can be really tempting to get involved - after all, your first Kickstarter is a learning experience, and you want to make sure you're making the most of it. Conversely, you might find yourself just consigning everything to the bin before checking it out - there's masses of this stuff, and you're busy. And that's fine too. But ideally you're looking for a way to quickly identify and develop the genuine offers of help, while slamming a firm door on the toes of the timewasters and scammers.

So here's a few tips from me on how to sort the wheat from the chaff. I should emphasise, I'm no expert, but these are the questions I ask myself when I get a new email off the back of my campaign. I'm not necessarily looking for ten out of ten right answers, but any less than about seven 'Yes'es will have me reaching for the delete key...

  1. Did you use my name? It's not a hard rule, but emails starting with 'Hey', or with no greeting at all, are more likely to be a bother.

  2. Have you got a real name and real email address? Watch out for suspiciously-generic email names (johnsmith75@gmail, etc...)

  3. Are you going to reply to my email that I may send you with some very sensible questions in it?

  4. Have you got a website? Like, a real one that you didn't just knock up in HTML yesterday..

  5. Does your website contain any details about you and your skills? Or is it in fact filled with stock photos of attractive people that may or not be you, with very little in the way of contact details?

  6. Have you shown signs of reading my actual campaign page? If so, you'll know that I'm not about to toss $500 your way for promotion when my funding goal is $1000.. And don't talk about 'projects like yours' unless you're going to make a specific reference to me actual project.

  7. Did your Kickstarter profile get created earlier than this very week? I was approached on launch day by two apparent Goliaths of crowdfunding promotion, who claimed to have years of experience and to have raised literally zillions of dollars in campaign funding - yet their KS account was two days old and hadn't backed any projects. Now obviously, you don't have to have backed projects with that account, or at all, to be a marketing expert, but it looks shifty to me.

  8. Have you sent me what seems to be an original email, with text that you wrote for me, or have you sent me literally the same generic email nine days running (Backercity, I'm looking at you)?

  9. Are your claims of success credible? Or are you claiming credit for some of the world's most successful crowdfunding projects ever, without really explaining exactly what you, personally, did?. I'm amazed at just how many marketing companies the makers of the Pebble Watch and Coolest Cooler used for their campaigns, because almost everyone seems to claim a piece of the credit...

  10. Are you asking me for money before giving my any indication what you do or what I can expect for my hard-earned?

Now what I haven't included in there as a warning sign is bad English - it's often cited as a way to spot a scam, and it's a good rule of thumb if an email is claiming to be from a Government agency, for example, or your doctor. But in my view, there's no reason why a legitimate company would necessarily have a perfect grasp of English. Goodness knows my Mandarin is terrible. Gaming is a global business - incredibly, my first 100 backers were from 21 different countries. So I'd rather cut people a bit of slack in that regard.

I do have a threshold for exclamation marks and capital letters though. One or two is fine, but my suspicions may be raised if “We can BOOST YOUR PROJECT and get you THOUSANDS of hungry backers!!!!!”

So be alert, but don't forget there's a lot of lovely people out there too.

What other warning signs have you seen in your Inbox?

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This past weekend I virtually attended, the virtual representation of the world’s biggest boardgames convention. I blogged a couple of months back about the experience of virtually exhibiting at UK Games Expo and, having learnt from that (very positive) experience, I was looking forward to this one.

The Spiel organisers had stated from the outset that this convention was going to be a bit different. They were investing quite heavily in having quality digital content; the main interface was innovative and interactive, and the content itself (stands and so forth) would be enduring content that will remain in place until at least the end of the year.

As a designer or publisher, there were about four main ‘levels’ of participation available. You could buy one of three types of virtual stand, at 600, 1500 and 3500 Euros. Needless to say, I went for the super-cheap option of a 100 Euro stand at the Designers’ Prototype Gallery, which allows you to be present and to display any number of current ‘works in progress’. The larger stand basically get you a higher-profile set of icons on the main page, and enable you to publish more streams of content (demos, playthroughs, unboxing etc)

My main reason for attending was to try and drum up support for my two upcoming Kickstarters – unfortunately this fell fairly heavily at the first hurdle because of the lack of a central discussion area. Each exhibitor (including those in the prototype gallery) was able to open their own Discord server for chat, but all the servers therefore were specific to a company, so there was no place for general chat, banter etc. This was one of the main reasons why there was such a buzz around UK Games Expo – the main Discord chat area allowed people to drop in, hang out, and do a bunch of silly and fun stuff like send each other virtual beers, badges and so on.

So to use a real convention analogy, it was a bit like being stuck in a dark corner of the conference hall but not being allowed to go out and drag people kicking and screaming to your stand. You could obviously, theoretically, drop into other companies’ servers and spam about your game but that didn’t feel like a good way to make friends! And because all of the prototype designers were in one particular virtual area, there wasn’t a great deal of passing traffic, other than other designers dropping into each other’s booths (because no-one was coming to theirs). So some good chat, but not much in the way of business.

Two things that all of this really highlight to me. The first is having a plan for any event like this – that is, knowing what it is that you’re aiming to achieve, and being clear in your own mind that your chosen path is contributing to your aim. If your plan is just to talk to like-minded people and to find out what’s going on in the board game world, then you might be better off just turning up as a punter and holding on to your money. At this stage, attendance at virtual cons is free, but this probably won’t last beyond the end of this year. Equally, if your aim is to actually sell games, then you need to be in the right places, with the highest profile you can afford, and you need to be prepared to be proactive throughout the whole event – publishing and broadcasting content, advertising your stand, going out and getting people. And if you just want to see what it’s like exhibiting, start small and build gradually as your experience grows.

The second point is the importance of just trying stuff out, trying different approaches. Failure is in some ways easier to take if you feel like you’ve tried everything, rather than regretting having stuck to just one approach. I think I would have felt short-changed if I’d paid over 3 grand for a large stand at Spiel; but equally, if I hadn’t tried to exhibit at all then I’d be wondering ‘what if?’. Being present is almost always going to be better than being absent, and you never know who you're going to meet or what's going to happen when you do. And ultimately, you need to get yourself 'out there' if you want any kind of success - in any field at all, really.

So, overall verdict? I really applaud the fact that the organisers tried to do something a bit different, and that they’ve made the effort to have content that stands out. But from a designer’s point of view it was hard to get much traction. I’m certainly glad I didn’t shell out the big bucks for a full stand. I don’t know how much extra business it was worth to those that went for large over small or medium, but anecdotally, smaller companies that went for a stand weren’t much better off than those just doing prototypes.

From a gamer’s point of view I’m not sure – there were apparently over 1400 new games being released during, so if you’re turning up with a bulging wallet and an empty game shelf, it might well have been a gold mine. There was also masses of content being streamed from publishers, much of it ‘televised’ through BGG Conline. But my general impression was that there might have been too many sellers and not enough buyers. I’ve seen a few comments and posts implying that there was less of a buzz around Spiel than other Cons, and that was my impression too – although there were the usual pile of geeklists on BGG containing gamers’ most anticipated releases. If there was less buzz then that’s a shame, because there was clearly a huge amount of effort and innovation from the organisers and you always want to hope that success comes from going that extra mile.

The standing content for Spiel is still available – check it out here:

If you’re interested in another, more in-depth report on Spiel ’20 then try this one from

I sort of feel like I’ve already had enough of virtual content, and I can’t help feel it’s just an interim measure rather than some amazing new future. But I guess it’s too early to say. But I’ve signed up for Airecon ’21 in April in the hope that that might be the first convention that returns to three dimensions.

What do you think? Were you at And how are you finding the whole virtual convention thing - let me know in the comments.

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