After Calico, Flatout Games has again run a board game with Cascadia as crowdfunding via Kickstarter for financing - and the campaign is at least as successful. Instead of cats, it is now about the Canadian animal world; once again the illustrator Beth Sobel has her pen in the game. The success at the debut was therefore no coincidence, Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich seem to be doing something just right to inspire with their projects. We asked what Flatout Games is all about.
If you look at the Cascadia crowdfunding campaign, there are currently almost 6.000 fans who have already pledged their support and invested around 25 euros. In return, the "backers" get a strategic board game for up to four players, including solo mode, which takes up the theme of the ecosystem of the Canadian province of British Columbia. Once again, animals are the focus and that works as a driver of the campaign: Instead of cats as in Calico – the extremely successful Kickstarter debut from Flatout Games – this time it is, among other things, deer, bears or birds of prey that the illustrator Beth Sobel has staged Has.
Flatout Games hits trends precisely
While Calico was able to motivate around 6.700 supporters in retrospect, Cascadia currently has almost 6.000. The balance in the number of supporters is probably no coincidence: Flatout Games seems to have gathered a small fan base with its two titles. In 2017, Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich founded Flatout Games. With their debut Kickstarter, Calico, they collected over 200.000 US dollars, and the game is now even making it onto the market in Germany via Pegasus games. So how does it feel when the first board game ideas have been so well received by fans?
"The most beautiful thing is how much people enjoy the games," says Molly Johnson. "We wanted to develop games that are easy to learn and fun for many people." If people enjoy the games, that's the best feedback. "It's probably a great motivator too!" Shawn Stankewich agrees: "It was a validation for us! We wanted to focus on games that a variety of people would enjoy, and so far it's worked out quite well!”
Wanting to design board games myself, this desire also arose due to influences from the European board game market. Molly Johnson says, "We've all always loved board games. When two of us - Shawn and I - moved to Seattle, we discovered our local game store, Blue Highway Games. The store brought shipments of games from Europe and hosted many great special events. We met a lot of great people and played a lot of games. We did some reviews for games and then decided to design them with our friend Robb.” The creators then took the early designs to Gen Con and tested them there.
"The games got good feedback, so we kept working and promoting the projects," says Molly Johnson. “We like creating things, solving problems and learning about the industry itself.” It seems like it has taken on a momentum of its own, which Shawn Stankewich then confirms: “One thing seems to go into another and then into another again to lead. We were excited to see what to expect next.”
Cascadia continues the mini series of successes
Flatout Games has long since exceeded the targeted financing target of almost 7.000 euros with the board game Cascadia - and how. Fans have already invested more than 150.000 euros in the Kickstarter campaign, which is around 22 times the amount set. And the crowdfunding will continue for a full two weeks: enough time for undecided fans to consider participating.
The creators are more than impressed with their success, which Molly Johnson comments: "Of course we're happy that people are enthusiastic about Cascadia! It's a great game and we had a great time with board game designer Randy Flynn and illustrator Beth Sobel creating this Kickstarter project.”
Shawn Stankewich confirms that many of the Cascadia supporters have been involved with Calico: "It's been great to see that a lot of the people who trusted us in the first game are back for the second." That feels like a good sign. "We have the best supporters!"
Kickstarter as a platform has also contributed to the success, the makers let us know. In particular, they emphasize the concept of "swarm financing" as ideal for being able to implement creative projects at all - and not exclusively in relation to games. "Kickstarter is so cool," says Molly Johnson. The platform provides opportunities for creators to pitch projects to potential backers, not just games.” In particular, outreach would have been much more difficult if you didn't have a crowdfunding platform. "We love checking out the range of projects on Kickstarter and seeing the community that revolves around those projects." It is also interesting to think about how a project will change or has already changed.
Shawn adds, "It's a wonderful platform for us to test our ideas and help shape how our games are changing!" We've had great feedback and ideas from backers. "We love the community aspect," says Stankewich.
The magic behind the success? Hard work, a network - and luck
If two board game projects in a row go so well via "swarm funding", then there must be more to it than mere coincidence. When asked about the secrets of her success, Molly Johnson answered soberly: "I don't think we have secrets or magic. We love games and we want to try to make great products. We're also part of a great community. In the early days, Joseph Chen and Justin Faulkner (Fantastic Factories), Emma Larkins (Abandon All Artichokes), Nicole Jekich and everyone at Playtest Northwest joined forces at a Tuesday game design meetup (including Cody Thompson, Rob Newton), Scott Cooper (Owner at Blue Highway Games) and his excellent collaborators (Amanda Erven and Tom Rorem). This is exactly what made the small but subtle difference, especially at the beginning, when it came to initiating an ambitious project in the first place.
"We asked a lot of people a lot of questions," Johnson said. "We read all about crowdfunding, asked people about their experiences, got into very specific details, listened to a lot of podcasts and tried to connect with as many people as possible." Also helpful: Combining different skills in a team. Molly Johnson: “I think internally we have an interesting balance of skills and personalities. Robb is very level-headed and a very good salesman, Shawn is driven and relentless with a single-minded focus, and I'm skeptical and cautious.” So everyone brings their individual perspectives directly to the game design. Shawn Stankewich sees it similarly; for him, too, the different “skills” of a team are a decisive factor. Molly Johnson, for example, has amazing skills when it comes to judging a game: "She understands what it takes to make a hit game that will be accessible to a wide audience. She also has an incredible eye for detail.”
Molly describes herself as the greatest entertainer and fun killer at the same time, "which is probably true," Shawn jokes, but she brings so much more to the table than that. “I think our unique mix of skills and perspectives is a big part of what enables us to be successful. That and, as Molly said, the amazing community of people in the local scene here in Seattle."
Sometimes you have to get off the beaten path, says Shawn: "We're not afraid to do things a little differently either. We are critical of processes and always try to think about how we can work together to make things better. Our CoLab model was born out of the question: Why are publishers set up the way they are and can we do things just a little bit differently?”
This co-lab model – the three of them founded it in 2019 – is intended to bring together several major players in the industry for joint projects. The creative minds have already proven how well this can work with Calico. To bring the board game to the Kickstarter platform, they used the "CoLab" and sat down with Kevin Russ, David Iezzi, Dylan Mangini, and Beth Sobel. So that too is one of Flatout Games' "not-so-secret" secrets.
Molly Johnson explains, “We had a wonderful core group at the Co-Lab to work with. Kevin Russ, Dylan Mangini, David Iezzi and Randy Flynn are all very passionate about gaming and bring so much talent and skill to the table. We've built a great collaboration with Alderac Entertainment Group, both on our games (Point Salad and Truffle Shuffle) and through the joint release of Calico, and we've learned a lot from everyone's experiences there.” Cascadia won't be the last project , that's for sure. Molly and Shawn didn't want to reveal exactly what the future is about, but new projects are already in the works.
"We're always designing and thinking about combining mechanics and themes," says Molly Johnson. “We work on both our design projects and our publishing projects. So many ideas are on the way!” Shawn emphasizes, “We're very busy and we're not seeing the end of it!” We have a couple of game projects that we're really excited about. So keep an eye out for the coming months!”
The Crowdfunding campaign for Cascadia on Kickstarter: Players have until October 22 for their “pledge”: It costs around 25 euros, plus shipping costs of just under 13 euros. Cascadia should then be delivered in August 2021.
Last updated on 26.01.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API