3 Old-But-Good Engagement Hacks

Mid-campaign slumps are for chumps! All kidding aside, sometimes posts like these will come from the random interactions I have with the gaming community. I hope they are helpful or at least entertaining.

I was hanging out in the Infectious Play Livestream, as I normally do most Wednesday mornings. Today’s topic was to discuss your favorite stretch goal reveals. True to form, the conversation wandered off-topic (in the best ways possible), and I got to be a smarty-pants Kickstarter historian. Within the conversation, we discussed a few engagement hacks in campaigns that I think were not widely adopted afterward, but are still relevant opportunities to excel in crowdfunding.

1. Let Backers Decide Content

In 2017, Dead Man’s Doubloons had an interesting approach to the game’s final form by allowing backers to vote on BoardGameGeek which direction the campaign’s pirate map would lead them, and which stretch goals would be unlocked as a result. This served a few purposes. Backers were constantly re-engaging with the campaign, championing their pick in fun, rivalrous discussions in the comments. Also, because the polls were hosted on their official BoardGameGeek game page, it served as an organic traffic booster, benefiting them on the front page of many BoardGameGeek users while the campaign was live. Involving backers in the creative process instead of tying their commitment purely to monetary goals is a great thing for you to try in your campaign.

2. Flash Goals

Somewhere in the vast archives of the Internet, there is a remark from me about how I thought this next hack is a terrible idea. The risks, although true, vastly paled in comparison to the benefits, and I am happy to say I was wrong in dismissing the approach.

In 2018, Jordan Draper launched the Tokyo Series campaign. In this project, Jordan launched what we would eventually call Flash Funding Goals or more generally Flash Goals. Tied to the amount of time it takes to reach a certain goal, backers could directly influence a major upgrade to all games. In the Tokyo Series campaign, the goal was to upgrade all games with metal coins if they made $50,000 in 72 hours. They more than achieved that goal, and Jordan went on to raise more than $250,000 in that campaign.

Now, I will reiterate my original complaint that there is a risk present. Reaching the goal or not will set the pace, good or bad, for the remainder of the campaign. But in most cases, the benefits of the organic evangelizing and the flexibility afforded in some campaigns have made this a non-issue in practice.

From what I have learned of Skybound’s Wonderland’s War campaign (not yet launched at the time of publishing), you will have a chance to see this method in realtime.

3. Planned Narrative Reveals

This last one won’t work for every campaign, but in some ways, I wish it were universal.

Many moons ago in my Eagle-Gryphon days, we started down the path within campaigns of addressing backers “in-character” based on whichever game we were crowdfunding that week (yeah, that many). The person in charge of writing updates at the time also happened to have a degree in English, so creative writing was a great fit and the backers had a lot of fun with those updates, even to the point of tricking some fans into thinking the company had been ruthlessly acquired by a corporate overlord, as reflected in some social media hijinks.

I remember us getting in trouble for that one, but I still believe it was worth it.

Later, I went down an animation narrative path with my own When Cutie Met Patootie. Even within an arguably abstract game, I was able to build a universe through video chapters revealed each week of the campaign. I’m not sure if it led to more sales as the campaign struggled regardless, but it was a fun creative and collaborative effort that I reflect on even today in my campaign planning.

Have no fear. All of this is leading to a method I think worked better than the other two and something I encourage you to try out.

A few months later, James Hudson experimented with similar storytelling reveals in the Guardian’s Call campaign, first releasing an animation for the lead character, then following up with some written/artistic narrations of the other characters. This was further developed into what we now know as The Narrative Reveal System, debuting in the Tidal Blades campaign. The system is such that a creative story in the universe is told via sometimes daily updates. The updates explain seamlessly within the narration a number of things, such as game concepts, stretch goals, added content reveals, or component upgrades.

I imagine we will see something similar in the campaign for Wonderland’s War.

Wow, Skybound is getting a ton of love in this post. It makes sense, given that Ian Moss, one of the guys in the live stream, is one of the game designers. In any case, I hope this post was helpful and you go out and experiment in crowdfunding.