A little over a year ago one of my weekend Gamer’s showed up with a card game he bought through Kickstarter. The cards were stock, the quality of the ink wasn’t the greatest, and the concept behind the game was a little odd: players had to acquire a certain number of evil babies, babies who just so happened to be historically notorious individuals, most notably among them, a baby Hitler.
To put it bluntly, the game was quite quirky.
In the time since then, in all the sessions of Evil Baby Orphanage (EbO) I’ve have a chance to play, the details of the game may have changed a bit and there may be a few expansions, special cards and supplements added in for special favor, but the overall mechanics themselves have remained principally the same (a few less babies to acquire).
It’s a light, competitive game where players are dealt a hand of cards that include toys, disciplinary actions and play-time activities for the evil tots. Up for grabs in the game are these evil babies that players are trying to accumulate. These babies are a slew of historically evil personalities like Hitler, Idi Amin, Elizabeth Bathory and Kim Jong Il. There are more mechanics to the game but essentially the play is one of competitive de-resourcing of your opponents’ baby pool through turn-only cards and interrupts cards. For those familiar with Munchkin, as a gaming buddy of mine once astutely pointed out, the game breaks down towards a ‘use-only-against-winning’ mentality in that it becomes apparent that players should generally keep their best cards only for the moment when it seems that another player is going to win.
The interesting thing about this game, for me anyways was that in looking back at its Kickstarter story, Wyrd Miniatures, the company behind the game, succeeded with unbelievable and remarkable gusto. From an original funding target of 5K, Wyrd managed to get over 100K!
Now, perhaps I’m a little late to the party in talking about EbO’s meteoritic success, but I’ve always been a big fan of perspective. It helps in my view to take a cumulative approach to how things transpire.
So in looking at the Kickstarter for EbO, and comparing it to the actual game-play it’s interesting to note the relative disparity between the two.
Although the game is enjoyable, there many other, more competitive and more challenging games out there, and on Kickstarter. What Wyrd Miniatures had was an interesting combination of hype and presentation. As one blogger puts it: “The concept is quirky and the art is great.”
While the merits of the game are valid, what the game really had going for it, Kickstarter wise, seemed to be the already produced artwork, the already designed game-play and the backing of a legitimate company that had been in business for a few years and thus a proven track record.
But a lot of KickStarter games have that going for them. And a lot of them have more developed systems. The real question is, what did EbO have that the others didn’t?
In my view what they had were fans, legions of them. The idea that sparked the EbO game came from the minds of two well-known video blogging brothers: John and Hank Green (the following video is from their site):
Piggy-backing on their internet personas Wyrd Miniature designer Justin Gibbs and then fresh recruit Mack Martin built upon the concept, forming it into a wacky, quirky card game around babies who basically bit, wandered, bullied and creepily sulked their way into the minds of the fans. Spruced up with great artwork, the concept closely matched the wacky nature of the vlogging brothers and what’s more, it was built up around the idea of promoting not just the vloggers themselves, but their philosophy too.
Nerdfighters which the brothers coined, is their concept of not simply being ‘Nerds’ but taking their nerdiness to the streets. In their words, fighting against World Suck, by being composed of Awesome.
It’s a quaint idea, one that is emblematic of many of the personalities within the Gaming community. And one that clearly has business-side benefits; for instance the groundswell of fans support for a new game, the concept of which is theirs, while the implementation can be left to others. It’s a great tactic, one that crosses all industry’s; remember the 50 Cent Stock fiasco a few years ago, a little bit of personality and lot of bit of profit courtesy of celebrity. Hence the ever expanding idea of Nerd Celebrity (Will Wheaton, watch out). Ask any first year marketing major, I’m sure they’ll tell you all about this.
Basically what Wryd Miniatures did was turn a concept brought forth by the mind of a celebrity (or two) and turn it into a finished and polished product, with resounding success. And as much as Kickstarter is seen as a collaborative site by many, the steps that Wyrd did in bringing the game to market, chiefly the name brand approach, the promotion, timing of the launch (right before GenCon2012), all were a great recipe for success, and were primarily, as many have noted about Kickstarter, an early order product showcase. I guess the real question one should ask themselves is is that in the interning year, with the amount of hype and the polish that Wyrd put in, and the results they obtained has Kickstarter, is the site any different from the larger world of already established markets at all?