After publishing board games featuring branded art and complex designs, BARD Games launched Tater Freighter. Why did we launch a whimsical, light weight, family style card game?
2020 is the year to Try New Things!
We had a great year in 2019. We funded branded games like Fickle and The Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby and were on our way to bigger plans. Then the pandemic changed our trajectory; no conventions to promote our games, retail game stores closed for months, remote working halting our prototype and marketing work… and sales dried up. As we watched our plans crash with the March stock market, we thought… “There’s got to be a better way”!
So, we pivoted our game production plans for a few, good reasons.
The End of Gaming Conventions?
After 3 business quarters, 2020 has been brutal on gaming conventions. Cons are where we show our upcoming games and compete for Backer attention on Kickstarter. Cons are where we networked, built our community and kept production moving. Game conventions accounted for about 30% of our game sales, and 90% of our pre-kickstarter marketing.
Our games also feature unique brands that draw attention, if we can show them to gamers. The fairy art of Amy Brown, the Band of Orcs metal band and the sci-fi art of Josh Kirby helped us stand out when showing our games. Not having cons means that complex, art driven, brand building just wont work like it used to.
So, we pivoted to a game design without an Intellectual Priority and focused on the whimsy of Tater Freighter, hoping gamers will simply like the look and silliness when they see it online.
The pandemic of 2020 has impacted people in so many ways, including economic loss. To succeed on Kickstarter, the conventional wisdom is that you need to offer a mini’s heavy epic game for about $200 per order, or a very low price game. We deviated from our usual $45 game ‘price point’ with Tater Freighter, so we can offer a fun, family game at a price that is sensitive to those who want to support new games, but also need to watch their wallet, like the BARD is doing.
The Politics of Shipping
Just watch the news cycle in 2020, and you are reminded of the global trade war, Brexit, threatened sanctions, pandemic delays and disruption of the mail. Making a game is a complicated dance of building components across the globe, then distributing them to 100s of addresses around the world.
In 2020 we watched some backers of The Lost Worlds of Josh Kirby in the UK, Greece, EU and Canada get hit with unexpected fees and charges, hurting an otherwise wonderful customer experience. So we made a tough decision. We focused on a light game to reduce our sourcing challenges. We also chose to limit crowdfunding to US backers to avoid poor customer experience from customs and local fees out of our control.
People Love them Taters!
We shared some of the business reasons that led us to look at 2020 differently. But, why Tater Freighter?
Simple to answer. Because people love it!
During our 2019 play testing and prototype work (when we were at conventions), we discovered three reasons why gamers like this simple, silly game.
- First, the game play is great. Sam LaFleche designed an elegant game with simple rules that focus on the real fun, guessing what everyone at the table is going to ‘grab’, and trying to outwit them. It's simple to teach, but has the depth needed for fun at the table.
- When we signed the game, we intended to apply one of our brands to the game, but that’s when we learned severe number 2, everyone loved the art. The bright colors, silly rhymes and unique graphic style make card matching simple and reinforces that this is a light hearted card game. People implored us NOT to replace the art, so we listened.
- Finally, we learned that people simply liked the game play. Up to 7 players in less than 10 minutes makes this the perfect ‘filler’ for cons and kitchen tables. When we demo’ed the game, people consistently asked to play the game 2 or 3 times in a row!
2020 has challenged small publishers like us to shift or close their doors. We are determined to keep the BARD on the gaming scene! Crowdfunding, social media and game nights at the kitchen table will get us through a tough year. We hope games like Tater Freighter will help you keep the fun alive as we look ahead to a brighter 2021 and hopefully a game convention!
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