In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Hjalmar and Lorenzo, game designers, owners, and everything in between for Horrible Guild. They’ve produced various creative games, including Railroad Ink, Dragon Castle, King’s Dilemma, and most recently, Tiny Turbo Cars, a frantic racing game where you use sliding puzzles to program the movements of your remote-controlled toy cars. Hjalmar and Lorenzo have also supported the crowdfunding community as super backers by helping fund over 144 different projects. Learn how their company Horrible Guild raised over two million euros over the course of their 7 campaigns.
Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways
  • Insight into how to build a community centered around your product
  • The different ways direct contact with backers helped Hjalmar and Lorenzo find success
  • How Hjalmar and Lorenzo decided to use Kickstarter as their crowdfunding platform
  • Lessons the Horrible Guild Team learned over the course of launching 7 products
  • Advice on how to launch a board game on Kickstarter

Links

Sponsors

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Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy Morejon:
Welcome entrepreneurs and startups to Art of the Kickstart, the podcast that every entrepreneur needs to listen to before you launch. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president and founder of Enventys Partners. The world’s only turnkey product launch company that has helped over 2,000 innovations, successfully raise over $400 million in capital since 2010. Each week, I interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level. This show would not be possible without our main sponsor, ProductHype, a 300,000 member crowdfunding media site and newsletter that’s generated millions of dollars in sales for over a thousand top tier projects since 2017. Check out producthype.co to subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Now let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today, we are speaking with some super backers and some super creators. We are talking with Hjalmar and Lorenzo, game designers, owners, et cetera of the company, Horrible Guild. So they have raised in total for their seven campaigns over two million euros. Not only have they created seven campaigns, but they’ve also supported the crowdfunding community as a super backer supporting over 144 different projects. So you’ve probably seen some of their super famous games that are out there, Railroad Ink, a recent one, Dragon Castle, King’s Dilemma, as well as another recent one, Tiny Turbo Cars, just some really creative projects. So Hjalmar and Lorenzo, thank you for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Lorenzo:
Thanks to you, Roy. It’s a pleasure to be here for us.

Hjalmar:
Thanks.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So I’ve got to go and jump back a little bit, Lorenzo. Let’s tell the audience a little bit about your background as the owner. What led you to being an entrepreneur and finding and founding this company?

Lorenzo:
Well, it started back in 2009, and it was a different company. I was studying in university, and with a friend, we decided to try to make game. It was just for fun at the time, and the company was Chronic Creations. It’s a company that still exists, and game after game, things started to grow a little bit. In the beginning, was super hard, and in 2014, I decided to split from my old friend, and I decided to start the Horrible Guild. I joined with Hjalmar in 2016 as lead designer of the company, and so here we are.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, seven campaigns later. Let’s talk a little bit about the motivation, right? We see crowdfunding extremely popular, and the category that you’re in terms of game design is one of the most popular on Kickstarter itself. So how did you know that you wanted to, or potentially how did you come across Kickstarter itself in terms of being a viable means of launching your first product?

Lorenzo:
Okay. To be honest, the first product we launched on Kickstarter was Alone, and it was also our first game with miniatures. So at that time, that was 2016, if I’m not wrong, because it was our first game with plastic miniatures, and it was a very big investment for us comparing with the other kind of game we usually did, we decided to try to use a Kickstarter and you know, Kickstarter are always looks like a good way to make some money to create your ideas and projects. Well, the campaign was good. It was a success, it was not a huge success, but it was our first, and in that period, we found out the many, many costs behind a Kickstarter campaign. Well, we started learning how to do a campaign.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So how did you first get introduced to crowdfunding in Kickstarter?

Lorenzo:
Sorry, what you mean?

Roy Morejon:
What was your first introduction to Kickstarter in terms of it being a viable model to launch your first game with?

Lorenzo:
Hmm, I don’t understand the question, sorry. Hjalmar, help me.

Hjalmar:
Yeah, the fact is when you are in the board gaming industry, you obviously see all those companies launching their products on Kickstarter, community or not, as a notable example. So I think we were watching them doing the stuff and not really knowing what was behind in terms of costs, as Lorenzo said, but seeing the success and the wide spreading of the games, I mean the community around it and engaging in these online events of selling the game. It seemed a very large and big thing, and we were also buying stuff on Kickstarter. So it came as a natural thing while projecting miniatures game to say, why not to wait on Kickstarter? Why not try out this platform? So I think that the question of, if we knew if it was a viable option on the economic side, the answer is no, but still, while encountering all the difficulties, we try to find out a way to make it work for us, I mean, for the first project obviously, afterwards, we learned many things.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, now, I can imagine. One of the things you brought up Hjalmar was the fact that there’s this community inherent to Kickstarter specifically around the games side of it. Again, we see a lot of different products launch, and many folks there isn’t necessarily that strong of a community that ties them all together. But it seems with the board game community specifically, there’s a massive community around it that could be very difficult for potentially an outsider to get into. So where does that board game community typically hang out? Where are they online? Where do they have conversations?

Hjalmar:
That’s a good question. I mean, talking about community, I think it’s one of the most or we think, because it’s something we discuss a lot is, one of the most interesting things about Kickstarter, and we also try to leverage it, I mean, to enhance it by doing the mini games, so we can talk about that later. So you were asking where they hang out? We don’t know, but we are trying to create spaces for our fans, for the fans of the company to express their preferences on some of our upcoming projects to see content in preview. So we are building a space, a community, and that’s the same thing we were trying to do on Kickstarter. We are trying to do on Kickstarter, I think, since the launch of, I don’t know if it was Vendetta, the first one where we tried this model.

Hjalmar:
So the idea is we are not doing stretch goals connected to money, but we are trying to engage to community. So if they engage in our activities, we’re going to unlock stuff, and it has a nice success with Vendetta, with Unicorn Fever. People were cheering for the races of the unicorns, but Railroad Ink, we built lots of puzzles in the world where people trying to solve them for hours and hours, and they asked us to make a book of them to give them some content like the one they experienced on Kickstarter, and those activities, we did the same with Tiny Turbo Cars, people racing, I mean, solving puzzles, and yeah. So the thing is we are trying to engage them into the game and let them have something that resembles experience of the game while they are entrusting themselves inside the community, communicating with each other, and expressing their preferences about the product. So I think this thing of the community is one of our main focuses, and we are thinking to expand it by building ourselves a community and by continuing to enhance the activities on Kickstarter.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, we are diving into that a little bit more, because I think that’s super interesting in terms of what you guys are doing and moving away again from the monetary stretch goal in terms of, if the campaign reaches this, we released that. What were you doing differently, and what was some of the success that you were seeing based off of your shift in modeling? What those stretch goals or additional perks and benefits of the campaign success would be to the backer?

Lorenzo:
Okay. I go?

Hjalmar:
Yeah, go Lorenzo.

Lorenzo:
Okay. Yeah, the point is that after a couple of campaigns, we found out that one of the most interesting things in a Kickstarter campaign was the direct contact with the people that this is something that, as a company, we usually don’t have this direct feedback and this direct contact with our customers and with our fan. We meet our customers only during shows like [inaudible 00:11:18], but for the rest of the year, we’re just closed in our office, and we don’t know what people think about what we do. So we found out that this direct contact was amazing. We found out that every campaign, when people can express what they want and demonstrating that we can listen to the needs and to the preferences of the players, the community was super happy.

Lorenzo:
We decided also to propose to them games also to make them learn the game we were trying to launch on Kickstarter. This was a very good thing because people can understand the basic of the game, and while they dive deep into the game mechanics and into the game rules, they also have more feedbacks and good feedbacks on how to improve things. This was super good at one point when we sold it. This was working very well. We also decided that the campaign should have been more a big show for our fan and for our community more than a money raise. So when we plan for our Kickstarter, we don’t plan on how many money we will do. Okay, we have a founding, but then we plan. Usually we try to plan for our daily stretch goals, so something that we give every single day. So the campaign is already planned from the beginning, but the people can discover and can choose what they will have just playing our game, and we think that this is perfect for a board game Kickstarter campaign.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I think that’s incredibly interesting and such a unique take on the community that you guys have and bringing them back. I think, the Exploding Kittens and The Oatmeal of the world have done that really well with continually updating the campaign, making it entertaining and making the backer, the crowd, the tribe that you have want to engage and share with their audience. So I’m interested to hear in terms of the overall scope, if you will, of the games that you guys created from survival horror games to unicorns, to vampires, to dungeon fighting, to Tiny Turbo Cars and Railroad Ink. How often are you listening to your crowd and community in terms of creative direction? Because you guys are about to launch another campaign here in a couple of weeks, how much decision-making does the crowd that you guys have go into the creation process on your end?

Hjalmar:
Yes. So for sure, a lot of it, because as Lorenzo said, we have a plan. We have the stretch goals planned out, but as we saw with Railroad Ink, we noticed that people were really excited about expansions. We had a lot of expansions already studied and developed that we thought we would never put out. But when we saw that people were so excited that they were asking for them, we took them out of the drawer and we developed them further and put them on the Kickstarter, and that brought us to a total of something like 27 expansions. So we are listening and sometimes we are listening too much because we saw it with the [part Rulebooks 00:15:28] in Railroad Ink challenge, again, where you try to make them all happy, and in the end that you find out that you’re actually making them less happy because you’re giving them something they thought they wanted, but at the end you have the constraints of production, and so you’re limited in what you can give them.

Hjalmar:
In some cases, it’s better to stick to what was planned and we are learning those kind of subtle differences. But yeah, we’re trying to listen a lot and to be flexible about what we do, because we really care about that moment, that thing that’s happened during the Kickstarter which is all around the community, all about the community, like something we do is also, me and Lorenzo played the game with the community, which is was very special during Railroad Ink because we have a lot of people participating, commenting, and playing along, which is possible with Railroad Ink. So it was super cool, people sharing their votes and commenting and asking questions and sharing some love, I mean, for the product, for the work we were doing. So at the end and the whole experience was, while we want to do that kind of thing, we want to celebrate the birth of a game with a community and we want to give to that community the ability to speak out what they want to engage with us in a creative process. Yeah, so that’s kind of what we think about.

Lorenzo:
Yeah, and we loved to do this so much that we started a community on Facebook and on Discord, and we started to play Railroad Ink with our fan once, every two weeks, and also on Discord and on Facebook, we started to do include our community into the development process, and many of the people in our community come from our Kickstarter. So we ask to the people, what’s the best logo for the box? What they prefer for the cover or for the packaging? And we asked many things and we also started around of play test with the previews print and play of our games. So we love too so much this contact on Kickstarter that we started to do it even outside Kickstarter.

Roy Morejon:
Incredible. Now, I know when you ran the first campaign, a thousand backers is nothing to sneeze at, but now with the Railroad Ink and 10,000 backers, talk a little bit about the evolution of your preparation in launching crowdfunding campaigns. You have another campaign that’s about to launch in two weeks, Sound Box, really excited to see that on May 18th, but what are some of the things that’s changed in terms of the prep work, leading up to the Kickstarter launch?

Lorenzo:
Basically, we know how to spend the energy of the team a little bit better, so we are faster now. So for example, the preparation of Unicorn Fever was something like three months, and for Sound Box, I think that we did everything in around one month. Well, we also have a bigger team, and everyone in the team has more experience. So we know a little bit better where to spend the marketing money even if it’s always a risk, because you never know what will be the return, especially because, as you said before, we continue to change the style of the games we do. So these sometimes doesn’t help us very much because we did the run and ride, we did a miniature sci-fi game, we will do, the next Kickstarter Sound Box will be a party game. So many of the things that we learned with the previous game probably will not work with a party game on Kickstarter, but we always try to experiment because we always want to deliver something new to the people.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely.

Lorenzo:
And that’s our main goal.

Roy Morejon:
No, that’s great. I mean, again, you’ve built this massive community. It’s great to see that you’re building relationships offline off of Kickstarter, Discord as you had mentioned, Facebook groups, et cetera, maybe some subreddits on, Reddit itself in terms of where some of this community may be hanging out, but you’ve definitely built a tribe, and it’s great that you’re able to not only listen to them, but now play the product with them online, which is really great.

Lorenzo:
Yes, for the next game Sound Box, for example, because it’s a game with where people have to imitate the sounds of some cards that are on the table, and we have to create an application, a web application where people can make the sound that the app ask and they send the sound they create to us, and we will have a database. During the Kickstarter campaign, we will make the community play a real game of Sound Box using the sound that the community is sending to us. So we always try to give you the real experience of the game to the people, and sometimes we have to create and invent some strange things to do that, but it’s super fun.

Roy Morejon:
I bet. Yeah, I mean, speaking of fun, I mean, our team over here to Enventys Partners loves working with you guys. We’ve worked on multiple campaigns with you now. Lorenzo, what were some of those considerations that you guys were going through in terms of looking for an agency to partner with on your campaign?

Lorenzo:
Well, it’s super important that the agency understands the kind of product. So it’s very important, our communication between the creator and the agency. Well, with you, we worked on pre-marketing and we’re on the marketing during the campaign, so it was great. It’s super important to have the support of a marketing agency. This is something I would suggest to everyone that wants to launch a Kickstarter campaign, because sometimes people think that they can, if they have a good product and their product will work, but this is not exactly how things go in the real world, because people have to be aware of the existence of your good product, and that’s the meaning of the marketing agency like Enventys.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, this has been invigorating for me. I can’t wait to get some of these board games out this weekend and play some. But Lorenzo, this is going to get us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a few questions at you. Are you good to go?

Lorenzo:
Yep.

Roy Morejon:
So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Lorenzo:
Sorry, I didn’t understood. It’s started very bad.

Roy Morejon:
No. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur to start your own company?

Lorenzo:
Okay, just craziness. I have no idea what I was doing. I was like 25.

Roy Morejon:
Beautiful. So if you could play a board game with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Lorenzo:
Oh my God. Elon Musk.

Roy Morejon:
Elon. All right. What game would you play with him?

Lorenzo:
Probably, I don’t know. Kismet.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. There you go. Any book that you would recommend our entrepreneur and startup friends listen to or read?

Lorenzo:
Not really.

Roy Morejon:
No books. All right. What about any websites, newsletters, podcasts to stay up on the gaming industry?

Lorenzo:
Oh, hard question. Hjalmar, help.

Hjalmar:
I don’t know. I think we are really, really into Shut Up & Sit Down. [crosstalk 00:24:53]

Roy Morejon:
Yes, absolutely Shut Up & Sit Down.

Lorenzo:
That’s a good answer. Thank you. My brain is like empty.

Roy Morejon:
Last question, then I’ll get you off the hook early. Considering again, just that you’re a massive supporter of crowdfunding. You’ve created seven campaigns, now working on your eighth, really interested to hear your take, Lorenzo on what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Lorenzo:
I hope it will be great. Otherwise, all the investment of the last few years would be lost. So, no, I think that the crowdfunding is growing and will continue to grow. I think that people love to be part of the creation of something and have part, and they can see what they prefer and how they liked the game, and they love to be part of it. So I think the future is bright.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. I agree. Well, gentlemen, this has been amazing. This is your opportunity to talk to our audience, give them your pitch, tell them what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should check out your next campaign.

Hjalmar:
Join our community on Facebook, we are Horrible Guild, and on Discord and follow our new projects. It will be amazing. We were going to do a great show. You’re going to play the games during the campaign, interact with us, and at the end, you’re going to have, I think, a really good game. You will already know it while you are founding it, since you are going to try it. Yes, we want to have a great time with our community, creates really entertaining good games and original games. That’s our main focus like we did with King’s Dilemma. King’s Dilemma was really, I think, one of a kind game. So that’s the kind of things we want to do. We want to enjoy the creative process with the community, with people that play games, that love games, that love the creative process, so we are waiting-

Lorenzo:
May 18th on Kickstarter for Sound Box, and we wait for you guys, and it’s a crazy party game. So it would be something interesting to follow I hope.

Roy Morejon:
I bet. I can’t wait to see it. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript links to all the campaigns, of course in the new one Sound Box that’s coming out on May 18th. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and ProductHype. Hjalmar, Lorenzo, thank you so much for all that you’ve created, and thank you so much for being a guest on Art of the Kickstart.

Lorenzo:
Thank you.

Hjalmar:
Thank you. Bye.

Lorenzo:
Bye-bye, it’s a pleasure.

Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning into another amazing episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, show us some love by giving us a great rating on your favorite listening station. And of course, make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the previous episodes. And if you need some help, that’s what we’re here for. Make sure to send me an email to info@artofthekickstart.com. Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you on the next episode.