Galactic Cruise – Kickstarter Case Study

March 19, 2024

Reaching over 13,000 Kickstarter project followers before launching Galactic Cruise as first time creators is no easy task…

Galactic Cruise

T.K. King, Koltin Thompson, and Dennis Northcott of Kinson Key Games join the Crowdfunding Nerds to discuss the strategy used to bring Galactic Cruise to Kickstarter.

Below is a summary of the conversation with a breakdown of the key elements to their success as well as some of the conversion stats available from public sources:

Build A Team

T.K. King, Koltin Thompson, and Dennis Northcott from Kinson Key Games all come to Galactic Cruise with unique strengths and can delegate appropriate tasks such as writing, community engagement, playtesting, or convention attendance without other areas of their business being hindered. 

A well-oiled team is a productivity amplifier, so consider partnering with folks who have competencies in areas where you are personally lacking. 

As a team of partners, you can also pool your financial resources and share the burden of investment. 

Pick A Theme You Are Passionate About

Game development and production can take up to half a decade! Make sure you pick a theme you love and can look at and think about every day for at least five years.

T.K. King mentions that he grew up loving space and would watch shuttle launches, he also has a fondness of worker placement board games and decided to combine the two to make Galactic Cruise.  

Proactive Playtesting

For two years T.K. King playtested five nights a week, that’s 520 personal playtest sessions! 

However, here’s the key detail: 70% of these playtesting sessions were not for Galactic Cruise!

This selflessness generated a lot of goodwill early on to Galactic Cruise among the board game design community and also aided in securing a line of active and enthusiastic playtesters for Kinson Key Games. 

Convention Attendance 

Koltin Thompson explains that at TantrumCon 2023 they had the opportunity to pitch Galactic Cruise to a panel of industry specialists at a Proto-Tank event which they landed up winning.

This event refined their pitch and got a lot of eyeballs on their game with industry validation. 

Dennis Northcott also reveals a convention success story when attending the Dice Tower Cruise. Since Galactic Cruise is a space cruise board game, it’s the perfect theme to showcase in a real-life cruise among those who are already interested in that theme! 

The game was received very well (Dennis had back-to-back play sessions for the entire cruise) and was even played by board game influencers JT and Sam Healey of The Flip Side YouTube channel.  

Dennis Northcott (top left) playtesting a prototype Origins Game Fair 2023. Notice how the game box is displayed vertically on both sides of the table when publicly playtesting.

Use Your Box Cover Art As Marketing

The artist behind Galactic Cruise Ian O’Toole posted the finished box cover on BoardGameGeek while praising the game design which enabled the project to trend on the “Hotness” BGG list for 4-5 days. This was down a week before Origins and provided an additional touch point when attending board game conventions. 

At GenCon, they also carried the game box with them wherever they went as a means to market Galactic Cruise and get the game’s box art in front of prospective backers. 

Get Professionals To Run Your Facebook Ads

Kinson Key Games worked with The Crowdfunding Nerds for two months before launching and spent $12,000 on pre-launch ads with a goal to acquire 10,000 emails. 

We developed their landing page to redirect to their Kickstarter pre-launch page once an email was submitted to help them generate over 13,000 project followers before launching! 

We were getting emails for less than $1 per email with $200 a day in ad spend. This was due to the theme, art, and robust gameplay images being extremely good. Investing into these 3 things will make a massive difference in your marketing at the end of the day.

They likewise did a great job implementing our Virtuous Cycle concept. It’s a lot harder to get community buzz for a tiny game, so being a “big game” with plenty of depth helps people make the jump to an “active member” of your community. An active community helps a lot.

Reveal Your Pledge Pricing Before Launching

Being transparent pays. The pricing and content of pledges were revealed a month before launch to allow prospective backers to make financial arrangements to support on the first day of launch. 

Notice how the price is listed on the top right of the project image. 

Copy Kickstarter Success

The top tier pledges of Galactic Cruise were inspired by our  “Angel Investor” pledges that we used for Deliverance.

They also personally reached out to successful game designers for advice and drew insights from the Crowdfunding Nerds weekly podcast.  

Don’t Use Marketing Gimmicks

Dennis Northcott explains that by being patient and always keeping the thought in mind “how do we like to engage with Kickstarter projects?”, the team was able to avoid pitfalls such as a $1 pre-pledge down payment that is currently seeing much industry backlash, alongside offering Kickstarter exclusives. 

Consistency In Community Engagement

The team experimented with various types of content, from video, images, polls, etc. to see what worked best. They segmented the community posting and engagement to various team members (T.K Facebook, Koltin Instagram, Dennis BGG, etc.) and sought to consistently post updates and content. 

The key was to get input from their community and help people feel valued when they offered feedback. One way this was done was by personally replying to all comments, no shortcuts such as simply liking a reply. They sought to always be amicable and had a “kill them with kindness” strategy to negative feedback.  

Finally, they staggered influencer content. By revealing new content coverage from day-to-day, they had ammunition for daily posts. If they had decided to reveal everything on one day, they would not have had this advantage. 

Keep Things Simple

They did not offer stretch goals because they knew this would slow down the manufacturing process and add extra complexity to an already complex process. They chose to instead subsidize shipping once certain Kickstarter funding thresholds were met. 

Make Room To Adjust Your Timeline

Your Kickstarter project will be ready to launch when it’s ready to launch. Galactic Cruise adjusted their launch date accordingly. It takes patience and persistence to get a game to a point where it is ready to launch on Kickstarter with the success that Galactic Cruise has seen. 

Conversion Rates

So, how did Galactic Cruse do after they earned over 13,000 Kickstarter followers? While we want to respect our client by not sharing their private data without their approval, there are a few great tools to use to examine this.

First, Kicktraq is a very useful tool to see the stats and trajectory of a campaign. You can see Galactic Cruise’s daily project data in a clean graph form, including funding per day, backers per day, comments per day, and even their update timing. Here is a chart showing the first 2 weeks’ daily data of their pledges and backers:

Based on the “day 1” info in the chart above, Galactic Cruise earned 3,162 backers on day 1 as well as $361,037 earned. Galactic Cruise also launched with approximately 13,600 followers on their Kickstarter page. Assuming that every single backer was also a follower, their “day 1 conversion rate” would be 23.25% (Formula is backers / followers = conversion%).

A few observations about this:

First, there are often a strong number of backers on day 1 that come from followers, but it it not often 23% on its own. While it is not unheard of to earn 23-25% conversion rate on day 1, that is not common. Our typical conversion rates for day 1 Kickstarter followers range between 15-20% for a project with over 10k followers. As follower counts grow, you attract your true fans as well as prospective backers that aren’t convinced yet, but are interested.

Second, an explosive launch like this attracts day 1 backers that were not previously following. They may have known about the campaign previously (hopefully your pre-marketing did its’ work), they could have heard based on a creator’s news coverage, maybe their friend backed and shared the campaign on social media, or maybe their first notification was seeing the project trend on Kickstarter’s “most popular” projects! Regardless of how they found you, they backed! Hooray! The important note is that this will not count toward your project followers if they do not also click the “follow” button. Backers do not necessarily mean followers. As a result, the conversion rate of followers for Galactic Cruise could be lower than 23.25% as we calculated above, but still result in this figure.

Third, once you launch, your conversion rate will plummet due to new followers that discover you based on all this great post-launch activity. It is not unrealistic to see conversion rates that start in the 20%’s drop by half. These additional followers want to review your campaign, but aren’t ready to back yet. Your chance to convert them comes in the form of a reminder. In your final 48 hours, where they will get a reminder to check your campaign out as well as reminders during the final 24 hours.

Finally, a relevant tangent from our last point: Gamefound has an advantage over Kickstarter to convert followers, because followers on Gamefound will receive notifications whenever you send a project update, too! This is a clear advantage that Gamefound’s system has over Kickstarter – Regular communication via updates with engagement and an excited community that result will convert a greater % of followers over the course of your campaign than a series of notifications delivered solely in the final 48 hours of a campaign.

Launch Like A Crowdfunding Nerd

Make sure to check out Galactic Cruise on Kickstarter and review how they lay out the page and present their offer. 

The Crowdfunding Nerds Course outlines our process through step-by-step video tutorials and would be a great investment should you want to mimic the success of Galactic Cruise for your very own Kickstarter! 

Until next time, stay nerdy.

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