Steve Jackson Games
Steve Jackson’s Ogre wins at Kickstarter: more games will be printed, and each game will be better
Ogre is a war game released in 1977, and has since gone through a number of updates and revisions. The game has been out of print for years, but Steve Jackson was interested in the idea of bringing a full board game based on the rules into production. Jackson had planned to print around 3,000 copies of the new version of the board game, until the company’s COO had an idea: Why not support the game with a Kickstarter campaign?
I spoke with Jackson about the decision to ask for fan funding to support the game’s release. “Phil Reed saw it more than a year ago. It just took him a while to get me to try it,” he said. “I didn’t think we ‘needed’ it, because we could have funded the project from our own cash flow. Now I’m sold. The extra visibility, and the incredible degree of fan interaction made it very worthwhile.”
The original goal was $20,000, and as of this writing the amount raised is $654,198, with 70 hours to go. The surprising thing about that amount is that it came from only 4,122 backers; the initial estimates of the 3,000 print run weren’t far off. What no one saw coming was that fans didn’t just want to buy the game, they were willing to pay to make the game better.
More content, higher quality pieces
The average backer spent around $160 on the Kickstarter, with some outliers paying much more than the amount needed to secure a copy of the game. If you break down how many people gave differing amounts you get a very interesting result: People weren’t backing the project, they were simply buying the game, with some willing to pay more than the cost of the materials to support the project. The money given to the project over and above the original goal was used to improve the quality of the parts included as well as the amount of content given to players. The lengthy list of updates on the Kickstarter page shows everything that was added to the package or improved in some way. The end result was an improved package of goods included in that massive box.
“Instead of using the standard die material, urea (which is available in only a few standard colors), we will order a mold suitable for acrylic dice. This will increase our die cost, but we will be able to create the dice in many more (and cooler) colors, forever,” the company stated once funding hit the $120,000 level. There will also be more scenarios released for the game, as well as downloadable templates to create your own units. At the $140,000 level a new sheet of terrain overlays was added to every copy of the game. The “Ogre garage” was originally designed to be a cardboard cutout, but was upgraded to injection-molded plastic at the $525,000 level.
While you may earn more rewards for giving above the $100 level, everyone who buys a copy of the game will benefit from the extra content and improved materials. The core rules and product already existed in a production-ready state, but the Kickstarter success allowed for a more expansive product. Future support for Ogre has also been promised.
“The original plan was to print 3,000, or a few hundred more depending on distributor orders,” Jackson explained. “We were not counting on doing any sort of supplements, ever. Now we will be printing more than 6,100, doing at least one supplement, doing a digital game, re-releasing the miniatures and the minis rules, hiring a line editor just to be in charge of Ogre . . . lots of stuff.”
Kickstarter is a way to test demand and mitigate risk for smaller publishers, but that’s not the extent of the platform’s power. “For an established publisher, I think we’ve proved it means more. If you have a passionate fan base, this lets you interact with them and get support for a project that might otherwise be out of your comfort level,” he said. “I’m thinking now about a Kickstarter for a game that I’m pretty sure wouldn’t excite the distribution and retail chain. They’d give it a try because they trust me, but I don’t think they’d be excited. Kickstarter might just make the difference.”
The box for Ogre is massive, and contains both more content and higher quality materials than anyone at Steve Jackson Games than originally planned; now that the company has gauged demand and enthusiasm there is no risk in spending more money on a better product. Printing and shipping games with this many parts and materials is expensive, and no one has the money to let hundreds of copies of games sit unsold. But the fans spoke up, and now everyone gets a better version of the game, without the risk of hoping that people are interested in the glut of content. Steve Jackson Games can also now make the point to retailers that there is a larger than expected demand for the game.
“I have heard from a couple of retailers who wondered if [the game] would fit on their shelves, and in fact we have trimmed the size down a tiny bit since that prototype in the video,” Jackson said. “I don’t think that it is QUITE too big, but all the same, we are having each one shipped from the factory in its own carton, which will protect the box until it’s on the store shelf - or, for the Kickstarter buyers, in their hands.”
This is just one future
Steve Jackson was passionate about returning to his roots with Ogre, but Kickstarter proved that the fans were just as passionate, and they were willing to speak with their wallets to make sure they bought the best version of the game possible. This means more work for Jackson as he creates more content and works on the plans to support the game post launch, but he seemed overjoyed with the way the Kickstarter has turned out.
Who doesn’t want their fans to say that they’re willing to pay you more than you expected to do something you love, and in fact they want to give you the support to release an improved product? This is a strong case for the board game community’s willingness to pay more for quality.
Still, is Kickstarter the future for board games? “I think it will change how a LOT of people sell games in the future. Then after that there will be another future, and another one.” Jackson said. “We all keep evolving. The takeaway message from this is not any particular tactic. It’s the old message: ‘Talk to your fans, and listen when they talk to you.’”