I ordered review copies this week, and I will be reaching out to reviewers over the weekend to have reviews available when the campaign launches.
Countdown: 38 Days. Since returning from Gen Con on Monday, my focus with Lanterns has been on review copies. I placed an order for over 20 review copies from Andrew Tullsen at Print & Play Productions (I’ll write up more about working with Andrew for prototypes and review copies soon), and I will be reaching out to reviewers over the weekend.
Having third-party reviews available when a Kickstarter campaign launches is extremely important — more important than I realized with our Relic Expedition campaign. Third-party reviews for a Kickstarter campaign serve two main purposes:
- Reviews raise awareness of your campaign. Some people who see a review will not have heard of your campaign yet, and seeing the review will let them know about the campaign.
- Reviews give potential backers confidence in backing. People will find out about your campaign through multiple channels — browsing Kickstarter directly, from an advertisement link, from a social media share, etc. — and third-party reviews give people an unbiased perspective to help them make a decision about whether or not to back the project.
When I launched the campaign for Relic Expedition, I primarily saw reviewers as a way to send more traffic to my campaign page. (I completely underestimated the importance of #2.) I launched the campaign without any third-party reviews available for the game. I did have feedback I had gathered from playtesters and I had mailed out a handful of prototype copies that would eventually lead to reviews, but nothing was published from a third-party reviewer at launch. (Because I primarily saw reviewers as a way to send more traffic to my campaign page, I didn’t think it mattered if they sent traffic on Day 1 or on Day 20.) Our review copies for Relic Expedition were expensive and time-consuming to produce, so we didn’t have many of them. I was very concerned about the size of a reviewer’s audience: because I primarily saw reviewers as a way to send more traffic to my campaign page, I only wanted to send my precious few copies to reviewers that I thought would send a lot of traffic my way.
In the first few days of the campaign, a potential backer sent me a message asking if any of my playtesters would be willing to post their comments to BGG. I realized that this person really liked the look of the game but wanted the feedback validated by a third-party source; they just weren’t quite willing to take my word for it that the game was great. I don’t know how this potential backer discovered the campaign; I know it was not through a review, and I know that a few third-party reviews would have gone a long way to give this potential backer the confidence they needed to back my project.
I suspect a lot of people in a similar situation simply clicked the “Remind me” button to get the 48-hour reminder email. There are probably a lot of reasons why people choose to click that instead of backing the project, but I think one main reason people did that with Relic Expedition was because the campaign page wasn’t compelling enough without the third-party reviews. I think plenty of people had found the campaign but wanted more confidence that the game was good before they backed it. We had a big influx of backers at the end (see chart below), and I think a big chunk of that came from people who found the campaign more compelling with the reviews.
As a project creator, I would have much rather had those potential backers back at the beginning instead of waiting until the end. I think having those third-party reviews available at launch would have made the campaign page more compelling from the outset and would have given many of them the confidence they needed to back it then.
So where did we get our reviews for Relic Expedition? In the first few days of the campaign, I had four reviewers contact me about getting review copies. I was working on an order to get a few more, but I wouldn’t have any to send out for a few weeks. One of the reviewers asked about a print-and-play. I couldn’t imagine a reviewer printing and cutting out 100+ hexagons and 100+ circles, so I didn’t have one ready. I worked feverishly that first week (when I should have been doing other things for the campaign) putting a print-and-play together. Three of the reviewers actually print-and-played the game and reviewed it. (I sent a review copy to the fourth one a few weeks later.) I am so grateful to those reviewers for doing that; I don’t know if the campaign would have funded without those reviews.
Towards the end of the campaign, the review copies I had mailed out all resulted in reviews. I saw some bump in backers when they went live, but nowhere near what I had hoped. (Some of other marketing efforts were more effective in increasing backers.) I realize now that third-party reviews are much more important for giving potential backers confidence (#2 above) than in raising awareness of the campaign (#1 above).