In an era of games where the financing sources are slim and marketing and community can make or break your game launch, your host Alexandra Takei, Director at Ruckus Games, welcomes Tim Morten and Cara LaForge, CEO and Director of Business Operations respectively at Frost Giant Studios, to discuss their experiences in running a widely successful crowd financing campaign on Kickstarter ($2.4M, 2280% over target, with >$28K backers for an average wallet size of $85) and a crowd equity campaign on StartEngine. We talk about the differences between a crowd equity and crowd financing campaign, the dos and donts of Kickstarter as a platform, the planning and strategy behind the Stormgate campaign specifically (marketing beats, Founder’s pack design, and timing), as well as lessons learned if they were to do it all again. Tune in for a fun episode, and, if you’d like to contribute to Stormgate, they’re running an extension campaign on Indiegogo here due to demand!  


Big thanks to GRID for making this episode possible. GRID is a game data platform providing esports data infrastructure, analytics, and distribution solutions to leading game publishers including Riot Games, Ubisoft, and KRAFTON. If you're a fan, developer, or entrepreneur with an idea for a live data-powered project, make sure to apply for GRID Open Access, get free access to official data, and start creating today! To learn more, visit

This transcript is machine-generated, and we apologize for any errors.

Alex: Hello everyone. And welcome to the Naavik gaming podcast. I'm your host Alex Takei. And this, of course, is the interview and insight segment. So who can be an investor is a question. A lot of companies have asked themselves, why can't someone support a company or a cause because they aren't an accredited investor?

And why can't your average Joe participate? Platforms like Robin Hood for stocks, Masterworks for art, have democratized the participation in assets that have usually been reserved for those who can afford it or have relationships to understand regulations and platforms. And for games, art, and media, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon have been where companies or even individuals have cajoled the masses to join their mission and dream and to create something new, even if not in exchange for an equity stake.

Kickstarter specifically began in 2009 with the goal of helping bring creative projects to life, and as of February 2023, Kickstarter has received 7 billion in USD in pledges for the menagerie of music, film, theater, games, journalism, and food related projects. Oculus Rift, some people know, began as a 2012 Kickstarter project.

Cards Against Humanity! Also originated on Kickstarter. Kickstarter has been an extremely popular place for our relatives of video games, board games in 2021 board games raised 272 million in crowd financing with video games coming in substantially lower at 24 million. And so today we're going to be talking about Kickstarter specifically.

But also about crowd financing, including equity campaigns and as more generalized finance solutions I am joined by two folks from frost giant, who we have probably seen achieve amazing success on their Kickstarter campaign that ran a few months ago. 2. 4 million on the Kickstarter platform from 28 K backers, an average of 85 per person, which is pretty impressive.

That is more than the price of a triple a box. So great job guys. And they've also been doing a crowd financing crowd equity financing campaign on start engine. So my first guest is Cara LaForge Frost Giants, director of business operations, who also shares background at Blizzard Entertainment.

Welcome to the pod, Cara.

Cara: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Alex: And the second is my friend, Tim Morton, who I've had the pleasure of hosting on air from the very first episode I ever recorded, and he probably needs no introduction for our audience, but he is the CEO and production director at Frost Giant.

Welcome back to the pod, Tim. Thanks for having us on. All right. I am super excited to chat today, not only because the campaign itself was very impressive, but also because I simply don't know a lot about how to successfully execute a successful Kickstarter campaign, and I'm generally less seasoned on crowd equity in general.

Today, we're going to begin with talking about Kickstarter as a platform, why run a Kickstarter campaign in the first place, pros and cons, how the campaign was executed, and some lessons that you guys can proffer if you were to do it all again. And although we will spend the majority of our time on Kickstarter, we'll also chat through ideas and ideation around crowd financing versus crowd equity.

But before we dive in, Of course, intros Tim, you've been on here, of course, but tell us a little bit more about you and more specifically, give me like a quick update on where Frost Giant is at in the production cycle and what's next for Stormgate.

Tim: Let's see. Yeah, I've been in the industry for a long time.

Started out a lifetime ago as an engineer and got into being a producer. And was most recently at Blizzard prior to Frost Giant, had an opportunity. To get some equity funding from traditional sources from venture capital to start the company and brought a core group of developers who had worked on real time strategy games at Blizzard to Frost Giant to build a new team and build a new PC real time strategy game, Cara.

was someone who I had the chance to work with at Blizzard and who was brave enough to join this effort. And yeah, Frost Giant's been going since 2020. We had some rounds of Closed Alpha. We're in our final round of Closed Beta now on Stormgate, which is our First product and we are looking forward to launching the game into early access in Q3 of this year.

Alex: That's terrific. Really exciting. There's been such good buzz around, around the beta. I know a lot of folks that have bought the deluxe pack. So we're all really excited to see what comes next. And I guess you talked a little bit about how you met Cara, but Cara, tell us a little bit more about you.

 What got you to joining Tim on this crazy adventure?

Cara: So I had a whole career in security fraud litigation, 20 years, and, but I had two sons who were diehard gamers who became StarCraft pros and later StarCraft casters. And they convinced me to leave my career and join them in gaming.

The younger one and I ran a small streaming company in the very, very early days of live streaming called Day Nine TV. Did a lot of Red Bull work, launched games launched Heart of the Swarm with Blizzard. Just had a ton of fun, and eventually I was recruited over by Blizzard to work on the StarCraft and Heroes of the Storm team, and then followed my boss, Amy Morhaime, over to eSports, spent a couple years doing eSports, and now I'm lucky enough to be here.

To work here at frost giant, which is super exciting for me. My passion is really startups. So I'm very happy to be here.

Alex: That's a very cool story. It's very uncommon to have a recruitment role reversal. Usually it's the parents that are recruiting their children to go into medicine versus the other way around.

But sounds like you can win the coolest mom of the year award.

Cara: I don't think my kids would say that, but thank you.

Alex: That's awesome guys. And uh, thanks for some context there. I want to jump into our first topic, which is talking about. What is kickstarter? And so, you know, maybe Cara, since I know that you led a lot of the efforts on the kickstarter campaign, particularly.

In your own words, can you tell me about Kickstarter? And was it your first time to the platform? Or had you engaged with it before you came to Frost Giant?

Cara: We had only engaged in it as patrons ourselves for projects that we'd admired. This was before. Brand new for all of us, steep learning curve.

And I want to stress it was team effort. We had a couple of people here really leaned in far more than I did. Our finance guy, our head of publishing, Sarah Lynn Smith our PR guy, Gerald Luria, these are the folks who really leaned in and crafted this thing. Went into it. It was really almost a fortuitous accident.

We are from a long blizzard tradition where we like to offer collectors editions Founders packs about six months out from any kind of launch and we from the day We found at the studio. We thought oh this is you know A cool thing that we're gonna do blizzard used to make these phenomenal statues and signed collectors editions Beautiful kind of thing you'd put on your shelf but we learned that on Steam you're really prohibited by Valve's policies from selling these kinds of things if you're intending to go into early access.

They have a policy against doing that. I think the concern there is that, there's a lot of, Indie startups on steam. Somebody may take the consumer's money and not deliver the game. They want to prevent that. They're like, no, really early access is the moment at which you should begin to show your product and take in funds for things like a founder's pack.

But they did have a carve out. In their policy for kickstarters, and we thought, okay let's take a look at that. This is something we know our community wants. It's something we'd love to deliver to them. And So we basically started to read everything we could get our hands on, think about how we would do this.

We were lucky enough to have a couple of people from the community side to step forward and help us at the right moments. We are very tight. With our community. We talk a lot to our community. We have summits for several hundred influencers about every six months. We tell them exactly what's going on and what we're intending to do and what our roadmaps are like.

We've been doing that since the day the studio was founded. We have another 1700 content creators that signed up on our website. We had a summit with them, said, we're not really sure who you guys are, but thank you so much for being interested in us. This is what we're working on. This is what we're thinking about.

And as a part of all that we raised this Kickstarter. We are very well funded. We've been very fortunate. We have an amazing group of VCs behind us. And we didn't want to look like we were too, Taking from our community like we were looking for charity from our community. So we spent some time seeking permission.

From our content creators in our community. Are you okay with this? Do you understand the context? Do you understand why we would do this? This is really a mechanism to get something we think you want in your hands and we would really like more of you to be in our beta play tests. Got it. We had launched our alpha that had been very successful, but it was quite small.

 For a multiplayer game, putting a ton of players into a playtest, your server costs can really shoot up. So there was this question in the back of our heads, how many people can we get in cost effectively? And giving people a Steam key that would give them beta access as a part of a founders pack was one way to do that.

Cara: So the community turned out to be pretty positive. About the whole thing. And so we reached out to the Kickstarter folks stood up a coming soon page, which was their recommendation and started to think about how we would market this thing. Email campaigns, what would the founders packs look like?

What tears would there be? How do we price it studied? Everybody else's.

Alex: Yeah. That's actually where I want to go. And sounds like you're diving into some of the details and the meat of the actual Kickstarter campaign. But just for grounding for the audience Kickstarter is not a crowd equity financing platform.

Basically what you do is from my research is that there are 13 categories on Kickstarter. And 36 subcategories. Broadly, they are art, comics, dance, design, fashion, film, and video, food. Games, music, photography, publishing, technology, and theater. Film and video, music and games are responsible for over half the money raised, and the video and tabletop industry alone counts for 2 of every 10 spent on the platform.

And there are some general guidelines for project creators, which the Frost Giant team, I'm sure you guys all know, but creators can fund projects only. A project must fit into one of the 13 categories. Creators must abide by the site's prohibited uses. So turns out charity and awareness campaigns are not allowed on Kickstarter.

And you cannot offer incentives like equity, revenue sharing, or investment opportunities. And so I think that's something that at least when I initially was doing some research was confused between the difference between a crowd financing campaign and a crowd equity campaign. I think I would love to hear a little bit more about the actual Kickstarter design, because some of those things also required you to navigate through a bunch of different a bunch of different rules.

Cara: Yes. And I think you've done a great job of summarizing it. Essentially the Kickstarter is focused on product delivery and beta access. For us. It was all about getting more people into the game and getting these cool founders packs to them. The crowd equity campaign on start engine was more about investing in Frost Giant as a company.

Yeah. And investing in the real time strategy genre, which is what we were making a bet on. Got it.

Alex: And so what we're going to do is we're going to path towards the details of the Kickstarter campaign. So I want to hear about, how did you decide to price things? How did you decide how much capital you want to raise?

But maybe since you mentioned it, we'll dive a little bit into the crowd equity campaign because I know that you guys are running that on start engine as well. And Tim, I know that you're leading up that effort. So tell me a little bit about your start engine campaign and why did you decide to do an additional crowd equity financing on top of your crowd financing through Kickstarter?

Tim: Yeah, each campaign served a different purpose and Cara highlighted already that for the Kickstarter, it was about delivering collector's editions and enabling players to get into the beta Really passionate about wanting to do that by contrast then the crowd equity campaign with start engine is about Providing some additional ability for us around marketing as we bring stormgate to market.

And really the capital that we raised from traditional venture capital was very much about developing the aim. And, paying for the developers and the outside companies that we work with to create. Stormgate, and at the point that we raised that original venture capital, we didn't know would we work with big publishers to bring the game to market, would we work with regional partners just what.

what the strategy was around publishing and marketing in the game. And as we got into it we concluded that the best way for us to bring Stormgate to market in a way that we really felt like it was going to be authentic to what we believed was important was for us to self publish it. And we are working with some regional partners outside of.

North America, outside of Europe, so specifically in Asia and I think that's really to enable us to service those players in the best way possible, but to be true to the way that we want to release the game and not have pressure from publishers to do things in a particular time or in a particular way.

Self publishing was the route that we decided to go. And so that start engine crowd equity campaign is enabling us to do that. It's providing capital to drive that marketing.

Alex: I see. Okay. So that is basically you're doing something very similar where you'd go to a venture debtor or you'd go to venture capitalists and say, Hey, I need 5 million specifically for this.

So your crowd equity campaign is specifically for. The publishing capabilities for Stormgate in the West. Got it. All right. So I have, I guess I got a couple questions around here is the first is how did you decide how much equity to give away? And how did you figure out what the right number was?

Tim: There are a couple of different kinds of crowd equity offerings that you can pursue. There is a rank A, which has a higher upper limit, but also has a longer lead time because there's a bunch more diligence necessary with the SEC to prepare for a rank A. Companies like Skybound, who did Walking Deads have done reg A's.

Then the tier that Frost Giant decided to pursue is a reg CF which has a 5 million limit on the round. And there's no unlike Kickstarter, where You have to fill out the goal that you set for reg CF, we can take up to 5 million and whoever wants to invest can invest along the way that size rounds is perfect in terms of that's, anywhere from a million up is great for us in terms of marketing capital.

So that variability is fine. We don't. Need more than that. And it's also as I mentioned a little more straightforward shorter lean time, to file for a reg cf.

Alex: Yeah, that makes sense I was actually on a panel on monday at ucla on game financing alternatives and we talked a little bit about reg a and how it's it's so onerous that it's not really an option.

And, when we're laying out the landscape of what, where games can secure seed financing from, project based financing, equity financing, etc. In Reg A, there's some options there, but it's so difficult because of all the regulations. And if you did this, you, Reg CF is what you said, right?

Yeah. Okay. Got it. Did you have to spend any time in that process actually educating your retail investors about regulations, maybe some of the low liquidity and the high risk of failure for a startup? Or did you more proceed in a manner where you assume that everybody was educated about what they're getting into?

Tim: Yeah. No, I, disclosure is a super important part of any offering. And. I guess I'll even preface this by saying that our existing investor base was very supportive of us doing this reg CF. And I, of course, grateful to them for being supportive because we are here. Taking a bunch of new investors on to the gap table, basically.

So it does have some impact on them. But yeah, as far as the offering itself there are a variety of platforms. So just as. Kickstarter, Indiegogo are platforms for crowdfunding. That's not crowd equity. For crowd equity funding, there are platforms like WeFunder StartEngine, Republic a number of others.

We did some diligence on which platform to work with, but in our case, we chose StartEngine. The team at start engine helps us put together the disclosures and the filing for the SEC in a way. It's like a mini IPO. There are regular financial reporting requirements. There are audit requirements.

So it's it's a useful exercise in terms of being buttoned up in your financials and in your plan. And I also think it's a healthy thing to have transparency, um, just anything that it is a completely closed system is prone to have flaws that don't get discovered until much later.

The transparency that comes with an SEC filing was a good exercise for us. Yeah, so a lot of thought and effort went into the disclosures and making sure that investors are aware of the risks.

Alex: Yeah, it sounds fairly intensive and it sounds like you guys are in a good spot in the case that you have to do any kind of Auditing or maybe you guys have an IPO sometime, some way down the line.

You'll be prepared for the kind of work that requires. So I had a kind of maybe an interesting question here and I can't take credit for this question, but I'm just curious are you. Are there any rules about who can participate in the campaign? So let's just say so you said the upper bound is 5 million.

And I want to raise 5 million on X percent dilution or however much of the company you chose to, of frost night, you chose to give away to make this example. I guess maybe where I'm going with this is what if I, I'm a founder of the company. Wanna buy back some of my equity?

Can I participate in my own crowd equity financing campaign so I can own more of the company? Or are there rules around who can actually participate?

Tim: There are rules around participation. And it's interesting, I think neither myself nor my co-founder. Explored what it would take for us to participate but definitely, one of the things that StartEngine asked up front was whether we intended to participate and clearly, there are some additional checks around inside trading, basically, like that Our employees are able to participate and yeah that's a cool opportunity for them to participate if they want to, there are also regulations around immediate family members of the founders participating yeah, I think just like public markets, there are checks that the SEC has to comply with.

Yeah, we're grateful for that. enforces just to make sure that everything is being done properly.

Alex: Yeah, I would presume so. Cause I would also presume that question extends to your current investors. Again, I don't know what the relationship between the price and the equity is potentially your priced round are cheaper, so they wouldn't want to buy up this equity, right?

But We don't know.

Tim: Yeah, so it's worth noting that they're different stock classes too. So yeah, the rights that you get in an offering like this are generally different than the preferred stock that the early venture investors would get.

Alex: Yeah, of course. And but I think it's a great and really interesting dynamic for employees as well.

As well as I was considering potentially the founders. But that's pretty interesting. And I'm glad that we learned a little bit about the start engine campaign as well as the rules of dynamics around reggae. CF, I think is what you called it. CF? Okay. And, nice. And that's actually really helpful.

So I'd love to go back to the Kickstarter campaign, which is the, the Quad Equity campaign is still open, right?

Tim: It is, that's right. I think for another six weeks or so.

Alex: Okay, so if anybody is listening, go check that out on the start engine. And if you're interested in investing in a prostrate, you can give it your your user experience.

But going back to the Kickstarter campaign, which has concluded, right? It sounds like Cara from what you were saying that this was more about getting a kind of a collector's edition type thing into the hands of players and for onboarding people into the beta. I guess I wanted to hear like a macro story.

Where, like someone walks into the office one day and they're like, let's do a Kickstarter campaign. How did you guys actually green light this thing? Or was it, we have a beta, what's the best way to market it? Which came first?

Cara: Huge debate at Turling. As there is about everything we do when we're marketing the game.

What's the best way forward? How do we do this? Is this the right path to take? Lots of smart people here raising lots of smart points. Really, we thought once we talked to our community. And the community said, we get it we'll back you, we'll help explain what's going on. We felt like it was going to be okay to move forward.

There were definitely concerns around logistics where practically everybody on the team is a dev. We're a very small group doing publishing. But as I mentioned before, we had two community people who stepped forward. One was a videographer who reached out to us and said, Your videos are okay, but I think I could help you make them better.

And we said, come over to the offices. He was local here. Come over to the offices. Talk to us. He turned out to be so talented. We hired him full time and made him a member of the team. He's responsible for a lot of the animations on the starter homepage and a lot of the explanatory video, which we think We're among the more compelling pieces that we put up.

It's hard to explain what we were building because we were building so many things. Our vision is pretty ambitious. We have many modes that we're putting forward. One V one three V three co op an editor that we want to give to our community so they can make user generated content, there were, there was a lot to explain.

And some of the wisdom is that on Kickstarter. Don't be text intensive. You want to use visual images. Chris Culp was able to step in and take over and organize a lot of that, do a lot of the heavy lifting. Then we had another guy who was in our beta playtest. His name is Brendan. He's from a company called Open Owl Studios.

He specializes in taking board games to Kickstarter and running their campaigns. And he stepped forward and said, This is what I do. I'd love to give you some advice if you'd like to listen. So he was super helpful in getting us to focus on the right things and pulling this together.

Alex: Okay, so TLDR, make that it's coming soon page to indicate that you're doing one and then recruit people before you execute it to help you do it.

Cara: It took a village to get this starter page up. We worked in a pretty short window which is often the case here because we're a small marketing team. We scramble But we were lucky enough that it all came together.

A lot of debate internally, like how do we price these tiers? Like this many tiers, that many tiers. I think once we arrived at a package combination and put it up, we were amazed to find how many people were willing to buy at a 60 tier instead of the sort of the bare minimum tier to get into beta, which we thought was the real hook, which would have been 40.

So that, that took us aback. We thought who are these incredibly generous people who want to fund us at 60? And then, we were told the wisdom was you make some of these higher tiers and these lower tiers to encourage participation. And, people were buying in to our astonishment at the 5, 000 Hall of Legends level.

There were many of us on the publishing team on Google searching names when Google these people, why are they so kind to us? Why are they so generous? Actually got to meet some of them the other day, we had a zoom call for all of them as a part of, their rewards that where we were like, turn on your cameras so we could see your faces.

Thank you. Who are you? That's incredible. Yeah, it was super cool. It was super cool for us.

Alex: A good scenario. We love a good case of we call that menu pricing where you sandwich the things between the different tiers. And so nobody buys the most expensive bottle of wine, but everybody buys the second most expensive bottle of wine.

Pricing. So that's really cool. And it sounds like you had a lot of help from the community to build this. But Tim, I know that you mentioned that unlike crowd equity, right where you set the target for Kickstarter if you don't hit your goal you don't get to No funds are collected and I know that you guys exceeded the target well over the original goal by some crazy amount like two hundred and two thousand two hundred and eighty percent to be precise.

But Tim, I would love to hear from you. What target did you set originally and why?

Tim: We set a hundred K goal for our Kickstarter largely because it wasn't about The money so much as it was about delivering value to players. So yeah we weren't as concerned with hitting a particular threshold, but yeah I think there are pros and cons either way.

We were just really fortunate to have a community that's Passionate and generous and supported.

Cara: 100, 000 was also the price at which we thought we could make a statue. That's the statues. I don't know if you've ever dealt with this before. They require these molds and the molds. We were getting bids for 20 to 30, 000 for the mold to make the statue.

So we had done some napkin math and decided, okay, we could safely venture a collector's edition statue if we raised at least a hundred thousand dollars.

Alex: I used to work with Tim in finance at Blizzard, and so I'm very apprised of the statue costs which were very important to the dev team and yet very Let's just say the margins on statues not the best but very important for morale.

So that's really funny that the statue is your anchor point. But it's also kind of just sounds like what I would do is if I weren't going to collect any funds, I would just set the target as low as possible. And this way I would collect something. Is there a floor for how low you can set the price of how much you can collect on Kickstarter?

Tim: Good question. I'm sure there is. I actually don't know offhand what that is.

Alex: You didn't even have to bother with it because you guys are going to be so successful that it didn't even matter.

Cara: Know, one interesting thing is, in fact, it's still going on. This crowdfunding campaign Kickstarter limits you to a 60 day window to make your offering.

But it turns out that Indiegogo A competitor will allow you to import the Kickstarter campaign onto their platform and continue it. So at the very tail end of our campaign, we had a number of people who had FOMO, who wrote to us and said, Oh my goodness, I missed the window. I'm not going to get a statue.

I'm not going to get into paid. Is there any. Way for me to buy in late. And so it's a community service. We investigated and said, okay for these tail end people, we can open up on the second platform. And so we did that. We imported the campaign and Indiegogo help to set it up.

Amazingly, there has been a long tail effect to her having done that. Another 2, 000 people have arrived after the Kickstarter campaign closed to buy a reward at some tier. So I think the very highest tiers are being offered, but I think most of these people wanted it, wanted to get into beta and we wanted to let them. So of course.

Alex: Yeah. And actually that was one of my questions was, why did you choose Kickstarter specifically over another crowdfunding platform such as Indiegogo or Patreon? And do you think maybe the initial results would have been the same if you had hosted it on a different platform?

Tim: Yeah, I think, each platform has its own audience and therefore its own reach Kickstarter from our investigation seemed to have the strongest reach.

And even though it wasn't as popular for video games anymore there still were examples of video game campaigns that were doing well on Kickstarter. For what it's worth to to Cara's point, I think Kickstarter does now have some new late pledge functionality that didn't exist when we ran ours.

But yeah, it was useful for us to be able to continue to accept late pledges through Indiegogo.

Alex: Your initial campaign on Kickstarter I was going to also ask about the length, was capped at 60 days, right?

Tim: That's right.

Alex: Yeah. Okay, got it. And then you basically, because of surging demand, you ported over to Indiegogo and now the campaign is still going?

Tim: Yeah we haven't really promoted it. Again, it was just fan service to let people who wanted to get into the beta or wanted to get collector's edition to be able to do that. But yeah, it's done surprising numbers given that we really don't talk much about it.

Alex: Yeah that, that's, I didn't even realize that you guys were doing a second one, which I guess brings me to the question of, you talked about having all this community to participation and you brought in people that were just big fans of Stormgate as well as your internal marketing team, as well as someone like yourself, Karen, obviously Tim, your time but can you tell me a little bit about the beats over the actual 60 days?

It sounds like you actually did a pre. A priest, a pre preview coming soon and then you open it up for 60 days, what was the, how did you promote the campaign's existence? Where did you promote it? How frequently did you promote it?

Tim: Yeah, I should let Cara talk a bit about the relationship with content creators, streamers that I think produced a lot of the awareness around the Kickstarter campaign because Kira had a really big role in coordinating that.

But we also did some traditional PR. We were at the Game Awards and we were super fortunate to have Simu Liu get up on stage and and talk about And so the end of that trailer presents that we're on Kickstarter. And that was the biggest beat in terms of marketing it. But there was a very conscious effort on our part to make sure that the word got out.

But I, I honestly think the content creator role was the most important of that. So I don't know, Cara, do you want to talk a bit about that?

Cara: Yeah, I think, I think it's the whole ball of wax. I think the marketing efforts. We're important. It's important that we thought of this in the context of a whole series of events so we could continue to remind people that we were doing this.

The content creator thing is interesting as part of the, really, the studio values was to be very transparent with the RTS community to try to reach out to the RTS community. We're hyper aware that these days, people on Twitch and YouTube, they really are like the sales force for gaming.

They are your business partners. You do need to work with them. You need to understand them as brands in their own right. And look for win wins. So we have been working very hard since the day the studio was founded on those relationships and to understand what their worlds look like, what their business models look like, what works for them, what doesn't work for them.

So by the time we arrived at the Kickstarter, we had talked to them a lot. They'd given us a lot of advice about the game. They were, I would say there were probably 70, 80 of them that were involved even in the early days in designing the game. Certain sense of wow.

Alex: That's a cool full circle moment for them.

Cara: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, they've been and they've been awesome to us we did offer an affiliate fee program because we thought we're raising funds and if they're working hard, we should give them something, we should give them some opportunity. Many of them actually elected not to pick up the affiliate fees because they don't like the hashtag ad that the FTC requires.

They put on their videos, they would prefer to maintain trust with their communities and be clean and presented, good or bad. So there's a, there, there's a complexity there that we were working with, but yeah, it's these guys were very good about helping the user base understand who we were, what we were building, why we were on Kickstarter, why they were helping super helpful.

And then beyond that, Sarah Lynn and Gerald and Howard put a lot of time into email campaigns. Around this, we had built a house list just by putting up a form on our website. If you love RTS, if you're interested in what we're doing, sign up here, we'll keep you updated with a newsletter.

So they were able to use that list, which by the time the Kickstarter happened, had hundreds of thousands of games on it. As a seeding mechanism to drum up some interest in the Kickstarter. And then Kickstarter itself has its own internal email system. People sign up to that coming soon page.

You build a second list and then it helps you automate the communications around that. But that's a lot of work. Those guys, they had a goal, I think of two times a week to communicate. with the folks that had signed up and they more or less stuck to that throughout. So that's a lot of, that's a lot of communication.

Alex: Yeah. It sounds like you guys had like a four quadrant approach. You had like at the highest bracket, it's just like famous actor on a stage at a game show or award show all the way down to like constant email lists. And then you also had like your content and streamer influencers in the middle.

As well as own because company owned communications that I, that Sarah Lynn and their team were running.

Tim: Yeah, and PR as well. But you're right. And I think it is important to understand going into any of these campaigns. This is true for the Kickstarter that we did. It's also true for the start engine campaign that's active now requires active work.

The platform brings a certain audience with it, but at the end of the day, It's on you running the campaign to really make sure that the word gets out and make sure that people feel like there's a reason for them to participate. And it's not a light lift and we were fortunate to have enough folks internally to be able to field it.

But there are a bunch of agencies out there for people who don't have that. And we got approached by a lot of them and many of them have their own. Lists that they mail to I think probably the biggest factor for us like we did have some dedicated staff that we could put towards these campaigns and we also had our own mailing list.

So we felt like we could get reach internally, but a lot of folks do go with agencies.

Alex: Yeah, that makes sense. One of my questions was how big is Frost Giant right now?

Tim: Yeah, it depends on how you count it, but we're over 50 on the internal team. There are a bunch of additional contractors around the world.

And then there's some third party companies that we work with on cinematics and various other pieces of art. Yeah, it's it's a good size effort to get Stormgate done for sure.

Alex: Yeah. But it sounds like you still had to rally a lot of your community to get the Kickstarter done as well. So it's, again, like you were saying before, it takes a village.

I wanted to talk also about we talked a little bit about the marketing beats and the campaign itself and how you guys structured that, how you got the word out, but obviously people are paying money on Kickstarter and they're getting the deluxe founders pack, right? I would obviously want to be really happy with what I bought.

So how did you guys design and decide what to give away in the founders pack and how did you guys come to that decision as well?

Tim: Yeah, this one is really. Product decision in a lot of ways, it's forcing us to think about what types of content bundles will appeal to players when we launch the game.

And so it was useful to get our heads in that space motivated first by this Kickstarter. We have a finance and monetization person named Howard Zane, who put a lot of effort into putting together proposals, gathering feedback from all the internal stakeholders. We got some external feedback from trusted stakeholders.

Folks in the RTS community that we keep in touch with and yeah, eventually settled on the tiers that Cara outlined, but even just architecting that was a lot of thinking and a lot of iterating to get there.

Alex: Yeah, I imagine that there might be there could be a lot of friction and also a lot of just different opinions about what's right to give.

Because again, at least the way that I would think about it is, it's okay what if I need this for later, or is this going to be worth to the value, or is it going to disappoint the community? And it sounds like you guys, in addition to the Deluxe Founders Pack, you had that, but you also had the beta access, so there was like, kind of something there for the people that wanted to play early versus the people that wanted to, Stuff.

Um, which is cool. And Kerry, you mentioned earlier in the episode that you did spend some time looking at other Kickstarter campaigns. For example, Obsidian has run some very successful ones in the past. Did any of your ideas that we've talked about where those influenced by prior research of other Kickstarter campaigns?

Cara: I wish Howard were here to answer this. Yes, it was Howard was constantly bringing examples to the table of what other people were doing. And I will tell you, funnily enough, I was sitting next at dinner next to some obsidian folks the other day. And they were talking about Kickstarter campaigns, and I was saying that we had not yet done the physical shipping portion of our Kickstarter, so we were, we're, we've got that coming up to to see if we can execute on well, and they said to me you are going to be working on that.

For years. Oh, you got to work it. They changed their emails. They said years later, people will come in to you and say where is my teaching? Because I bought in at this level and you're going to need to dig out the records and fulfill on that. And I thought, oh, interesting.

That had not occurred to me. Yeah, I think most of the recent examples of PC games on Kickstarter. There, there were fewer in more recent times, so we had a lack of benchmarking. So we looked also at a lot of board games, their look and feel, the emotional appeal. And then I guess now that I think about it, I, we forgot to mention at the very end of the campaign what you learn is that almost everybody buys in the first 36 hours.

So you have a surge when you launch, when you move from your coming soon page to your actual launch campaign. And then it falls off and it stays quite even and quite low for a long time. And then as you reach the end of the 60 days, it kicks up again organically. People think, Oh, I, it's over already and I didn't get a chance to buy.

So suddenly you see your, your rewards buyers, your backers coming in At that last kickup, Kickstarter came to the publishing team and said, we actually have an internal team of experts who do digital media buys. And if you can provide some funding, we can provide the expertise, pull together campaigns to help drive some extra awareness.

Now, we had not set aside anything for any kind of Digital media. We had purely appealed to our community. So our results were very organic, but they did come in at the end. I think. Do you remember what we spent, Tim? Was it 20, 000 or something like that?

Tim: Can't remember.

Cara: Yeah, and overnight they produced 30, 40, 50 pieces of artwork and started shooting out these campaigns and it did give us a little bump at the end.

So I raised that in case there are others out there who are interested in doing a Kickstarter campaign. Paid media was not our approach. It didn't really dovetail with the way we manage our money currently and how we spend. But could be. Potentially useful for somebody else doing another campaign.

Alex: Interesting. That curve is very funny. That reminds me of, if I'm closing my eyes and looking at the Overwatch business that's exactly what all the Overwatch curves look like to it's like beginning of Halloween, big swoop in the middle end of Halloween. And that's the pattern, I wouldn't have suspected that because I guess that was one of my questions was when did you hit certain targets of the total 2.

4 million that you raised? And it sounds like you made it all fairly early, but then you still had that digital media buys at the end to help kick up to help you get a little bit extra.

Tim: Yeah, the middle was still steadily trickling. So it's still added up in the end, but yeah, I think it was probably half within the first 36 hours.

And yeah, that other big surge at the end was important too. And carrot race is something that I think is easy to overlook or forget about in campaigns with physical goods, but yeah, there is a cost of goods component to this too. So it's not like the 2. 4 raised is all just funds available like that.

A good portion of that has to go to making statues and boxes and everything else that goes into the physical collector's edition.

Alex: Yeah, makes sense. You're also going to have a working capital problem as well. One of my good friends, she's a CEO of a board game company and she's I didn't sign up to be a CEO to work on working capital, but here I am in the board game business working on working capital will, I guess it might stay around for a long time as the Obsidian guys mentioned, and it will be the bane of your accounting team and your finances team existence for Only if only temporarily but I want to spend the next the last 10 minutes of the conversation kind of talking about, if you guys were to do it again and talking about some of the lessons learned the best practices the audience can take away from the actual storm stormgate campaign.

It sounds like for you guys. Everything went very positively. People really enjoyed the content. You had your community on board but were you nervous in the beginning, maybe, and maybe this is to a question of risks in disappointing the community? And what would you maybe do differently if you did disappoint anybody in your community this time around?

Tim: Yeah, I think it's a constant concern for us really. to have this fantastic audience of RTS players and being worried about are we making the right decisions? Are we going to live up to their expectations? I think that's something we think about every day with all aspects of the game. It I think Cara's role in helping to facilitate communication with content creators, because those guys are so plugged in to the audience really helped us a lot.

So I think that was one of the things that went right always along the way we're trying to pay close attention and trying to be out there reading what's being said in comments and on Reddit and. Even in the steam forums parsing that and figuring out, because oddly enough, there are always some critical people on the internet.

I don't know, it's a strange thing, but, uh, there, there are also positive comments there. So figuring out what's true north in all of that is a very subjective difficult task. determination to make. Yeah, I think paying attention and sincerely trying to listen is important. And then we didn't talk about stretch goals, but the, there are all these stretch goals that create incentives for people to hit the next funding milestone effectively.

And I think we were a little, um, we had come up with various ideas, and we had a little bit of adaptability on that stuff, so some amount of adaptability is important. I don't know, Cara any thoughts on your side?

Cara: It's interesting you say adaptable. It's a, there's a very experienced group of people here working on these projects.

They're very resilient. The very nice people, they have very good values. I think all that helps us at times of stress, but be assured we are always in a mad scramble, always in a mad scramble to meet the next marketing beat, to, to do the right thing, to, to fulfill our promises. And things do go wrong in spite of the fact of we did a lot of planning.

For example, for we didn't understand that a certain number of people who signed up on Kickstarter. Could sign up using their Apple ID, which essentially shields their email from you when they have or yes, and they were numerous. It was like 20 percent of people who signed up. And for a reward from us, we had no email for them.

We couldn't fulfill the rewards or reach out or communicate because they had this toggle turned on in their Apple ID. So that precipitated a tsunami of support emails, which we had not prepared for. So it was all hands on deck. There were six or seven of us answering emails around the clock, over a very long weekend.

Again, we're very lucky in our community. Our community grew up with real time strategy games with Warcraft 3 with Starcraft 2. They're older. They're they're smart. They're snarky. They're very funny. They're very proactive. So they wrote to us and, we're scrambling to make good for everybody.

But I have to tell you, these were like the nicest support tickets on the planet. You're sleeping. I see you on Twitter. You look exhausted, make sure everybody's eating well. We love what you're doing. Super nice support tickets, but that was a mad scramble. So if we ever had to do this again, or if anyone else out there is watching this and is contemplating doing a Kickstarter, beware of the Apple ID issue.

Alex: This just goes all with the trend of Apple being the everyday villain in the games industry. They just blow things up left and right for everyone. No one is safe, not even a PC game doing a Kickstarter. Oh, that's a really interesting story as well. I first it sounds like they, at least they were older and they were not reeing at you like redditors.

 But how did you guys end up resolving it?

Cara: They had to reach out to us. We posted repeatedly on the site. Okay. We have a blog that we post a newsletter, we push out to them. So we kept saying, we have this issue, please come to us. We posted on our discord on as many ways as we could signal that we were here and ready to fix that.

That we would, but of course, everything has an upside. The fact that all of us were killing ourselves to answer all these support tickets, it was hundreds and hundreds of touch points, emotional touch points for the community. So most of the community wrote back and went, Oh my God, I can't believe you're answering emails at three o'clock in the morning in California.

That's awesome. You guys are working hard. We, we see you. Yeah, it's all part of that relationship, honoring that relationship.

Alex: Yeah, it sounds like you built a ton of trust with your community and they were also more patient with you and because of that I guess a two final questions that I would love to ask you guys one is Will you guys ever run another campaign?

Tim: I think If we do another game someday, I was really impressed with The amount of positivity that came out of the Kickstarter, I think around the industry and even more importantly around the player base, there was just a tremendous sense of people coming together and like validation that real time strategy.

does have an audience that's excited about it. Those were really positive things to come out of it. Yeah, I think if we do another game, I would be very tempted. And then, yeah, I guess there's a question of even with Stormgate, cause we hope that Stormgate has a very long future ahead of it.

There, there may be other opportunities to do things physical goods or other offshoots of the game. So yeah, we'll see.

Alex: Terrific. And then another final question is you guys have obviously done this. You guys have run one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns for the video game space in the past, two to two to five years.

When should a studio actually think about a Kickstarter campaign? And do you think there's an element of timing to it where it should only be when you're about to run a beta, or you're about to offer something, or could it be earlier or later into launch?

Tim: Either should be fine, but that your expectations in terms of awareness should be different.

If it's early, Naturally, you won't have built up a big mailing list, you won't have a big following that you can market to but there is still some virality that's possible at that point and, usually if you're early, you're doing a Kickstarter to build awareness and also to, get some money to, to bootstrap.

So I, I think that is. a valid approach. Obviously our experience was much later into the product cycle. And because of that, we were able to get a bit more skilled, but yeah I believe either is.

Cara: It's funny, before I got on this podcast, I was talking to Howard. Howard feels it was important that the product was far enough along that people bought in and were pleased with what they were seeing.

Even though the product is far from being what it will be, by the time we finish and have an official launch, long after early access, he felt that it was important that the community of buyers could get in play the game, feel the mechanics. like what they saw and talk to their friends about it.

So that's your take.

Alex: Yeah. That's super valid. And this is great advice. Guys, this was such a pleasure. I personally learned so much here about crowd equity, crowd financing. All the different hiccups and hurdles of Kickstarter. And I'm super happy for your guys success in the campaign.

And I look forward to you guys delivering those keychains to everybody. Um, that's the top of our episode and thank you so much for coming on. If anybody wanted to reach out to you maybe there's someone here listening that realized that they signed up with their Apple ID and they haven't reached out to you.

 Um, how can they do so?

Cara: Support at There are six of us that receive that email. One of us will get to you.

Tim: Yeah, that's the best way for support stuff. And yeah, otherwise I'm on LinkedIn and I don't know if Cara has a social channel that she follows. Do you care?

Cara: I, I answer my LinkedIn messages every day.

Tim: So yeah, LinkedIn is a good way, but I did want to say, thank you to you for having us on, but also just thanks to everybody who participated in the Kickstarter, the Indiegogo, the Start Engine for CrossGion, it really, Has made a huge difference for us as a team to have that support and we are deeply grateful.

Alex: Yeah, I'm sure there are some people I know there are definitely some people who listen to this episode that have that are part of your campaign. On behalf of them, I guess I'll say thank you. But this is awesome guys again So it looks like if you need support support a frost giant comm or hit these guys up on LinkedIn But as always if you have feedback or comments, you can hit me up at alexandra at novak co.

I'm always open and with that we're out. See you guys next time.

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