- The Gentle Nudge
- 🚀 This industry is bigger than most B2B SaaS markets!
🚀 This industry is bigger than most B2B SaaS markets!
The Gentle Nudge
Traditional board games (think Monopoly or Catan) are a $15B / year market.
That’s more than most B2B SaaS markets, roughly the size of marketing automation SaaS, e-commerce SaaS, or customer support SaaS. Wild!
Settlers of Catan - invented in the 90s by a German dental technician - was recently sold to a private equity firm for $1.4B.
Board games have one of the most passionate and active communities out there. 20% of all Kickstarter campaigns are games and, on average, finish 2x over the goal. Again - on average (sic!).
So today I’m going to nudge you with an interview with my good friend Leonie, who is currently in a process of launching her own board game, Biome.
Marcin (M): Leonie, you just finished presenting your game at Spiel Essen, the largest board game conference - almost 200k attendees - in the world. That’s almost twice as many as the popular CES conference in Las Vegas. How did it go?
Leonie (L): It was insane and exceeded all expectations! We finished our first ever expo with ~400 people playing the game over 4 days, multiple offers to distribute the game in different European countries, and around $4,000 in pre-sales. Our tables to demo Biome were constantly full, with people reserving a spot hours or even days in advance!
M: It must feel exhilarating!
L: I’m first and foremost incredibly grateful to all the people who helped me get to this point. I had friends and family flying in from Berlin and the US to support Biome during the conference, before that we had easily over 100 play tests. It really takes a village to make a board game. Even my grandma ended up cutting out cards.
M: I love that so much. So what is Biome about?
L: Biome is a tableau builder where players act as fearless environmentalists, collecting food and sunlight to build the most biodiverse biome. Some of my favorite mechanics are the baby rabbits and birds that you place into straw nests each spring, the predators that try to eat other players' offspring, and the natural disasters mini expansion. The game is for 2-4 players, takes about 60-90 minutes, and features stunning art (shout out to my graphic designer, Grzesiek!), 200+ cards, straw nests, adorable wooden resources, and baby animal tokens. The game was inspired by the popular board game Wingspan, my wish to show people the importance of biodiversity, my love for nature, and my bunny Remy!
M: Remy is too cute! Is Biome available to buy yet?
L: Not yet! But we do take $10 pledges for people who want to be among the first ones to play it. You can go to play.biomethegame.com. It helps us a lot with assessing the demand and financing further development.
M: Where did your passion for board games come from?
L: I started - like many - with Settlers of Catan in high school. I would play this game every day with my best friend. In college I started playing more social deduction games like Avalon. When I moved to Berlin, I would play games several times a week. A lot of my expat friends loved playing games too, and nearly every night of the week are game nights you can find on the Meetup App. These days, my go to games are Everdell, Wingspan, Splendor, Seven Wonders Duel, or That’s Pretty Clever, when I'm not play testing Biome.
M: One of my favorite professors at Stanford, Andy Rachleff, says that in order to become a great entrepreneur you need to commit to an industry and gain so called deep insight. You are clearly committed to and passionate about board games. What do you love about them?
L: So many things. I love that board games bring people together in the present moment and focused on one thing. It brings me a lot of joy when everyone is engaged in a board game. I love that board games challenge me and force me to use my brain in new ways. It’s also a great way to get to know other people faster, by seeing how they think, if they like to play more competitively or collaboratively, are they sore winners or losers and so on.
M: And when did you decide - “I’m going to create my own game!” - ?
L: I got a gentle nudge! Last October I was in Berlin and met up with old friends who told me they were thinking of making a board game. I think that was the spark, because my subconscious thought, you can do this too. I caught COVID in Berlin so the first day I got back to SF I locked myself in my room to quarantine. I woke up the next day at 6am and decided “I’m gonna make a board game!”.
M: What happened next?
L: I never felt so energized or focused before! Despite COVID, I worked that Monday from 6am to 11pm. I was researching all the plants and animals I wanted in the game. I used DALL-E to generate AI art for my cards of all the nature to be in the game. The rest of the week continued with me working early mornings to late at night, and within two weeks I was play testing my first prototype, which I had printed out at UPS.
The most recent prototype
M: In the tech startup world we would call it an MVP, or minimum viable product.
L: Exactly! The first play test night was with my parents’ neighbors. I gotta say, people have mixed feelings about AI generated art, but having that first version looking decent made a big difference. For the next 6 months I played over a 100 play tests to refine the logic of the game.
M: Looking for product-market fit?
L: That’s right! In March I went to my first convention in Reno, Nevada, and met first manufacturers. One thing I love about this industry: people are just incredibly collaborative, friendly, inclusive, and passionate.
M: Tell me more about the business landscape for board games.
L: It’s layered, a little bit like Hollywood. You have your publishers, consolidators, and your distributors. Some of the well known and big players are Asmodee, AEG, KOSMOS, Libellud, CGE, and Space Cowboys. What I learned is that - as a board game designer - industry standard means you'll only get 5% of royalties if you sign with an existing publisher.
M: What’s your strategy then?
L: I want to first try out the independent route. This way I should be able to retain 30% or more of sales. The first step was last week’s Essen Spiel convention, to gauge the demand for the game and kindle some hype for the Kickstarter. It's really important that the game is funded within 24 hours, ideally in less than 1 hour if possible. People who make a deposit are 30x more likely to pledge than regular people on your mailing list, so I'm incentivizing $10 "deposits" towards the Kickstarter on my website. I’m working with Launchboom, a marketing agency that specializes in successful launches on Kickstarter.
M: Any advice on how to be successful on Kickstarter?
L: There are 2 critical elements. You need to bring in your own audience. And you need to hit your funding goal the first 24h so that the algorithm picks up your project.
M: And what’s your vision for the future?
L: I am just so excited to get as many people to play Biome as possible. It’s truly my passion. In terms of financials, we would love to hit $2M in revenue within the first 12-24 months after the launch in January.
M: And I’m sure you will! Leonie, your energy and passion are contagious. I love how genuine you are and authentic to this market. I wish you all the best! Thank you for sharing your entrepreneurial journey with the TGN community.
L: Absolutely! If anyone is interested in learning more or is based in the Bay Area and want to play test, please reach out to me at [email protected].
Hope you liked this interview. Make sure to forward this nudge to all your board games loving friends!
Till next time!
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If you are new here - welcome! My name is Marcin and I believe that anyone can become a successful entrepreneur. I was nudged by two friends in my 20s to start a company, and it changed my life. I now made it my mission to pay it forward and nudge the next generation of entrepreneurs into starting their first business.