Quickstarting: On Your Mark, Get Set, Fund!

The conventional wisdom is RPG crowdfunding campaigns are a month or two long. However, some publishers, like Steve Jackson Games and Frog God Games, have experimented with shorter campaigns dubbed “quickstarters” or “tiny print runs”. Running around two weeks or less, these campaigns manage to be quick hits. But do these shorter runs impact their success?


To answer that, I reviewed a handful of the larger fantasy quickstarters. [Read: raised thousands of dollars from hundreds of backers.] They used systems that ranged from 5e, Pathfinder, Sword & Wizardry to The Fantasy Trip and the Coin and Blood system by Gallant Knight Games. Then I spoke with SJG’s Phil Reed and FGG’s Zach Glazar, as well as Post World GamesJim Pinto and Johnn Four of RoleplayingTips.com, about their quickstarters to get a feel for why they chose to go this route, and what the results were.

The Demonplague - A 5E Campaign With Sandbox & Hexcrawl by RoleplayingTips.com (Johnn Four)

CAMPAIGN DATES: March 3rd, 2018 to March 17th, 2018 (14 days)
RAISED: CA$42,544 from 1,002 backers on Kickstarter.
CONTACT: RoleplayingTips.com

When asked about the strategy for his quickstarter, Johnn Four, whose Demonplague Kickstarter made CA$42,544 in 14 days, led with this thought. “Our two-week Kickstarter was a result of our marketing strategy. I want to emphasize that. We didn't choose two weeks as a tactic. We felt it was the best fit for our needs.” He continued, “For some, a two-week KS will do great. For others, it won't. It's not any particular tactic that makes a KS successful. It's having a plan and then working the plan. We had existing audiences. We felt once we launched that our fans would decide to back or not. So, we did not want to hammer them with a 30- or 60-day campaign.”

The Fantasy Trip Adventures by Steve Jackson Games through Warehouse 23 (Phil Reed)

CAMPAIGN DATES: January 2nd, 2019 to January 14th, 2019 (12 days)
RAISED (as of this writing): Over $29,000 from more than 800 backers on Kickstarter.
CONTACT: Steve Jackson Games

Phil Reed, CEO of Steve Jackson Games, whose current Kickstarter for The Fantasy Trip Adventures is maximizing every day of its quickstarter, shared the upside of a shorter run. “The largest advantage is that it allows us to wrap up the campaign quickly, which means that we're able to finalize work on the project without devoting weeks of energy into near-constant promotion. For a small project, a short campaign time is preferred because it allows us to measure demand, adjust as appropriate, and send the project to print . . . all of which means the decks are clear for another project.”

Menace in Ravenreach: An RPG Adventure Module by Frog God Games (Zach Glazar)

CAMPAIGN DATES: December 28th, 2018 to January 7th, 2019 (10 days)
RAISED (as of this writing): Over $3,000 and more than 130 backers on Indiegogo.
NOTE: Frog God Games calls their “quickstarters” projects “tiny print runs” (in part because they’re done on a site other than Kickstarter). How Orcus Stole Christmas! A Holiday RPG Adventure reached $6,385 from 278 backers on Indiegogo. In Vino Gigantus: A Fantasy RPG Adventure funded $5,421 from 216 backers on Indiegogo.
CONTACT: Frog God Games

Frog God Games has several tiny print run campaigns from How Orcus Stole Christmas! And In Vino Gigantus, to their current project on Indiegogo, Menace in Ravenreach. Zach Glazar, FGG’s COO, suggested, “A shorter timeframe allows us to offer more of our products in softcover than we otherwise could fit in our schedule. Since our Kickstarters have a different strategy, and usually price point, the advantage is in their remaining simple. The shortened funding timeframe is less of a problem on Indiegogo than on Kickstarter. It allows for a shorter period of active campaign management while at same time allowing for latecomers to purchase the item up to the second before I make the final order.”

Bloodwraith: A Fantasy World of Survival and Torment by Post World Games (Jim Pinto)

CAMPAIGN DATES: September 19th, 2018 through October 4th, 2018 (15 days)
RAISED: $13,345 from 381 backers on Kickstarter.
CONTACT: Post World Games

“I only saw positive results,” said Post World Games’ Jim Pinto about his $13,345 Bloodwraith quickstarter. “The project roughly made what my projects usually make on Kickstarter. And I didn't have to spend the dreaded middle weeks twiddling my thumbs.”

Sprinting to the Finish Line


When asked if he sees quickstarters as more or less successful than a longer campaign, Phil intimated, “I am not sure if more/less is the way we look at the short Kickstarter campaigns. It's less about success/failure and more about tight, laserbeam focus. A 10-day campaign, for example, means you're deep in the weeds for only 10-days, which frees your time. Until you manage a Kickstarter project, it's tough to truly comprehend just how much time an active campaign consumes from every day.”
Zach sees the tiny print run, as FGG dub their short crowdfunding campaigns, as “very successful given our strategy and our short-term goal of offering the product in print as opposed to PDF-only they would likely be...the whole process has worked out great, I think they are probably the highest quality short (less than 48-page) RPG modules printed.”

When asked if FGG will continue to use tiny print runs, Zach affirmed, “Yes, we certainly plan to for these type of books. We have only done adventures so far, but we will be trying some system neutral type books in the future. All the Indiegogo short runs have exceeded my original expectations in funding and final product release.”

Jim felt that whether longer or shorter, they were “about the same” in terms of success. Regardless, he saw this as “an experiment. I'm not going to do it every time, but I will certainly entertain the idea, especially on projects with more "large audience" appeal.”
“It's a viable option,” Johnn wrote about continuing to run quickstarters. “But it will depend on the overall strategy, which starts with the offer/product and the fundraising goal. Work backwards from that to determine other factors, including KS length.”

Phil suggested SJG would continue to utilize the quickstarter model. “Absolutely. This isn't our first short campaign, and we will continue to run one-week or two-week projects when the title is smaller and can be properly promoted in a shorter span of time.”

Does a shorter funding period impact an RPG crowdfunding campaign? Based on these publishers’ feedback, quickstarters/tiny print runs are a success. The shortened length does not reduce their interest in using this model when the project calls for it. To that end, Zach wanted to “add one thought. I think this trend shows a maturing of the crowdfunding strategy. It is not focused on huge payouts, but more on sustainable and business focused pre-sales, and that is a good thing for everyone.”

Adding long-term perspective to this discussion, Johnn offered a few words of caution for those seeing their future in quick cash quickstarters. “Don't use KS as your primary revenue stream.” Going further he explained his thought. “KS has come out and said, "We're not a cash register." It's just bad business to be heavily reliant on one income source. KS could shut down in 2020 and then what?”

If you like what we do here at EN World (the Forums, Columns, News, ENnies, etc) and would like to help support us to bring you MORE please consider supporting our Patreon. Even a single dollar helps! This article was contributed by Egg Embry as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program with the article idea suggested by M.T. Black and the title suggested by Michael J Tresca. Please note that Egg is a participant in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to DriveThruRPG.
 
Egg Embry

Comments

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
The problem with short kickstarters is that I often do not hear about them until they are over. I don't want my e-mail flooded with ads, so I am very careful about filtering that out. My main source of information is the Kickstarter home page which recommends new projects based on my interests and the crowd-funding roundups published on EnWorld.

For these "tiny print runs", I would hope that if they are a success they are made available on Drive Thru RPG as PDFs and print-on-demand, or available for order on the publisher's Web site. FGG is generally very good about getting all their material up for sale on their web site after a successful crowd-funding and I appreciate that.
 
In my experience, 1/3 of the income of a KS is generated in the first 48h, 1/3 in the last 48h. It doesn't really matter how much time is between those two periods, it mostly raises about another 1/3 of the KS. So, using that perspective, a short runtime shouldn't have much impact on revenue. Except: I would recommend doing a KS not within a month, but rather across a period that intersects the end of a month. That could affect the ability of people to pledge.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Except: I would recommend doing a KS not within a month, but rather across a period that intersects the end of a month. That could affect the ability of people to pledge.
Absolutely, because one thing that affects crowdfunding (for me, at least) is payday. My mad money is tied to my paydays, and if I have a little left over after the regular bills and savings, I'll decide whether that goes into, say, an extra minis pack, or a kickstarter or other thing. But if a campaign is started and over by the time payday gets here, or worse, starts the day AFTER payday and wraps before the next payday, then that kickstarter is SOL as far as I'm concerned.
 

Egg Embry

Explorer
Last edited by a moderator:

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Absolutely, because one thing that affects crowdfunding (for me, at least) is payday. My mad money is tied to my paydays, and if I have a little left over after the regular bills and savings, I'll decide whether that goes into, say, an extra minis pack, or a kickstarter or other thing. But if a campaign is started and over by the time payday gets here, or worse, starts the day AFTER payday and wraps before the next payday, then that kickstarter is SOL as far as I'm concerned.
Yeah, how long it runs doesn't affect payday; it's just the end date that does, as that's the day your card gets charged. Starting 15 days before your payday and ending 15 days after presumable doesn't help, either.
 

barasawa

Explorer
The problem with short kickstarters is that I often do not hear about them until they are over. I don't want my e-mail flooded with ads, so I am very careful about filtering that out. My main source of information is the Kickstarter home page which recommends new projects based on my interests and the crowd-funding roundups published on EnWorld.

For these "tiny print runs", I would hope that if they are a success they are made available on Drive Thru RPG as PDFs and print-on-demand, or available for order on the publisher's Web site. FGG is generally very good about getting all their material up for sale on their web site after a successful crowd-funding and I appreciate that.
Pretty much the same for me. I often don't even find out about them until the 3rd or 4th week.
Of course there is the issue of finances. The more expensive it is, the longer runup time I need to get some funds cleared up.
Also, ending just before the beginning of the month also makes that harder since the end of the month is the usually has the least available to play with.

Sometimes it reminds me of the stupid thieves stealing the ATMs a week before military pay day in San Antonio. The machines are refilled the night before military payday, and the week before that they are low or empty on cash, much like the military personnel.

Sure, I hope these short campaigns work for you and all, but you are cutting out a number of potential backers. If you don't make it available by other means later, you're cutting those people off completely.
 

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