For the third time in 14 months, tabletop game company Cheapass Games has turned its “try it for free” business model into a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Cheapass Games (not to be confused with Cheap Ass Gamer, an online bulletin board for video game deals) is currently running a campaign for Get Lucky, a card game version of its 1996 board game, Kill Dr. Lucky.
As with its first two campaigns, Unexploded Cow and Deadwood Studios USA, the company is proving proficient at crowdfunding; the Get Lucky campaign has more than doubled its funding goal with 18 days still remaining.
The company originally formed in 1996 and released around 100 games through 2006. To produce and sell games at low prices, it printed only the essential, unique elements of its games, knowing that many players already had things like dice, pawns and play money or could buy them for little money.
After a hiatus, the company reopened in 2011 with a new way of doing business—posting free, downloadable PDFs of its games on its website that players can print and assemble on their own.
The games vary in how difficult they are to assemble. Its most basic games require only PDFs (the instructions say players can go without printing them by putting the PDFs on their mobile devices), while more complex games require players to make cards and/or boards with the tools provided.
Players can donate to the site via PayPal. It even suggests the amount a player should give based on his or her enjoyment of a game and their job (as an estimate of their income).
President and game designer James Ernest has also created YouTube videos instructing players on how to play the company’s games and other tips for assembling the games at home.
In August 2012, Cheapass Games started using Kickstarter to produce “deluxe” (printed in full color and packaged with all necessary pieces) versions of its games.
A significant portion of Cheapass Games’s success is likely due to the generous nature of its business model. Essentially, the company offers its potential customers a trial version of its games, so they may become interested in supporting it with a donation or buying a deluxe version.
The difference between Cheapass Games and most companies is that its trial versions can be enjoyed just the same as their paid counterparts, in contrast to more common models like having a limited free version of a mobile game with a handful of levels.
By giving away the “cheap” editions of its games, the company becomes a brand that gamers genuinely like; not just one that makes products they like.
This sense of personal support and community is a large part of what drives Kickstarter; so naturally, the company has found repeated success through crowdfunding.
The gaming community in general seems likely to get the developers they love. Of the $500 million given to Kickstarter campaigns so far, $100 million have gone to projects in the “games” category (which includes both video and tabletop games).
These numbers show how a creative game developer can build an audience and cater to its enthusiasm. Cheapass Games is an exemplar for any tabletop company thinking about crowdfunding.