Mages of Mystralia: Crowdfunding as a promotional tool
A late-stage crowdfunding campaign can be the ideal opportunity to create buzz around a game launch. It was a winning strategy for Montreal studio Borealys Games.
- Production/project type: Video game (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
- Financing period: March 16 to April 15, 2017
- Target: $25,000
- Funds raised: $234,238
- Number of contributors: 4,912
- Average contribution: $48
- Organization: Borealys Games
Borealys Games is an independent video game studio located in Montreal, whose talent base includes developers who previously worked for studios such as Ubisoft, Gameloft, Artifice, Ludia and Ankama.
Mages of Mystralia is its first game. It features a story by Ed Greenwood, creator of the Forgotten Realms fantasy world for Dungeons and Dragons, the role-playing board game. Mages of Mystralia stands out for its spell crafting, a mechanism that is unique in this genre of action and adventure game.
A promotional crowdfunding campaign
The Mages of Mystralia crowdfunding campaign was unusual in that its primary aim was not to raise money but rather to generate enthusiasm for the launch.
“Mages of Mystralia had won several awards at conventions like Pax, but the team did not think there was enough noise around the game, especially given its quality. We saw a financing campaign as a way to get the word out and create a community that could test the game pre-launch and help us refine it,” explained Chris Chancey, who spearheaded the campaign.
The Kickstarter campaign was a success from start to finish. Traffic on the Mages of Mystralia Steam page exploded, several articles were written about the campaign, and Borealys Games received over $230,000. This money was not needed, given how far along game development was and the funding received from the Canadian Media Fund, but it allowed the company to add functionalities that had been dropped during development.
Mr. Chancey does not think all studios can handle a late-stage crowdfunding campaign, as they often need the funds raised to finish the work. However, there are many advantages to the strategy. “The game was almost finished, so it was a lot easier to sell it. This makes the job easier, because all the artistic content needed, like screen captures and videos, has already been created. We also put the campaign together in just two weeks, which is very fast,” he added.
The sizable amount raised also shows that buyers were confident the game really would be finished, not always the case with crowdfunding campaigns.
Finding the expertise to run the campaign
Another interesting feature of the Mages of Mystralia campaign: Borealys Games opted to mandate another studio to handle the campaign instead of running it internally, as usually happens.
Although he spearheaded the Borealys campaign from start to finish, Chris Chancey is, in fact, the co-founder and Vice President of ManaVoid, another Montreal studio. His career as a crowdfunding consultant came about unexpectedly.
“Borealys Games’ CEO, Louis-Félix Cauchon, is a former teacher of mine. One evening, he asked me for help on Facebook. We got together the next day,” said the developer. Borealys Games was thus able to draw on his expertise and focus effort on game development.
Having prior experience was a big help for Chris Chancey. “During our first campaign, in 2014, we learned to communicate with the community properly, and manage the post-campaign period,” he explained. “We already had a fairly long press list. which we combined with the Borealys list to reach an even larger pool of journalists.”
Five tips for a first crowdfunding campaign
Chris Chancey has five tips for studios that are preparing to launch their first campaign.
- “Preparing a good video and introducing yourselves is essential. The community doesn’t want to buy a game from a faceless company. They want to see the people behind it.”
- “Do your homework and focus on the journalists who could be interested in your product. Send a personalized email to each one.”
- “Put animated GIFs on your Kickstarter page, and spread them around. When they move, they draw attention, getting visitors to read more.”
- “Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by providing overly expensive rewards. Unfortunately, many studios lose money with the rewards.”
- “Resist the temptation get people interested by promising the moon. We need to set realistic, achievable goals. The Kickstarter community can help you, but it can also turn against you if you don’t deliver the goods. That can kill a business.”