A little over a month ago, I covered the first Hey Cutie Kickstarter as part of our Crowdfunding Spotlight series of TR Originals. I had previewed the game after One Method Monkey's Brian Sowers handed me a copy at Play NYC 2019 and, like all crowdfunding campaigns I covered, had wished for it to have the best of success.
Unfortunately, not every crowdfunding campaign can be a winner. The first Hey Cutie Kickstarter didn't reach its goal, but Sowers isn't the sort of person to give up—he revived the campaign as a slimmer experience with an easier to attain goal. I realized that this was a somewhat rare position that I hadn't personally been involved with before: the resurrection of a failed crowdfunding campaign.
With the revived Hey Cutie Kickstarter well underway, I elected to reach out to Sowers and see what he thought about the course his first campaign took, the reasons behind the launch of the rebooted crowdfunding campaign, and what he'll be doing in the future.
What's Hey Cutie All About?
To understand the situation, it's perhaps best to understand the game that was being crowdfunded first.
In short, Hey Cutie is a dating sim. There's tons of those out there in the world, so that alone doesn't make it particularly interesting. What does make it interesting is that it's a player-vs-player tabletop dating sim.
Players start the game with a handful of cards and a character board which has four different stats on it that players can select from. Each turn, they can slightly tweak their stats, which allows them to buy different cards. Those cards are then used to woo prospective dates. The person who scores the most dates wins.
The concept instantly hooked me, and I was quite keen to play it. Once I did, I loved it, and I was certain that the Kickstarter campaign would go off without a hitch. It didn't, though, and I was puzzled as to why. The game's creator was just as equally mystified.
The Failure of the First Hey Cutie Kickstarter
Sowers and One Method Monkey had already had one successful Kickstarter under their belt for their previous game, Hero's Crossing, and they thought they were more than prepared for their next one. Unfortunately, things didn't seem to be going well right from the very beginning.
"I started realizing things looked bad after the first few days, and before the first week was over I suggested potentially canceling it to my partner," Sowers said via email. "By week 2 I was actively mulling over what Plan B would look like."
As time went on, it was becoming increasingly clear that the Hey Cutie Kickstarter might not make its goal. That's surely not a position that any creator wants to be in, but he held out hope.
"I wasn't certain it would fail, I actually maintained some lingering hope right up until the last couple days. But I was very skeptical."
Regrettably, the Hey Cutie Kickstarter failed in the end. The first go at a crowdfunding campaign had a realistic goal of just $13,000, but it had only been able to make it to $5,869—not even halfway to where it needed to be. Despite a relatively cheap price point of $25, it seemed that, for one reason or another, it wasn't able to make it over the line.
"I worked on this game for a long time, so seeing it flop so completely was like a blow to the stomach," Sowers said.
"I also felt like I was letting people down," he continued. "The two fantastic artists I worked with don't have a games credit, and I really wanted to get their names on the box of a finished product and get their art out there. I don't play the role of 'art director' very often, and having to tell those guys we didn't make it... I don't really have a name for that feeling, but it wasn't great.
"Eventually I was able to land on some kind of acceptance, but I can't say I've completely shaken those feelings."
Failure and success go hand in hand. Indeed, it's said that the road to success is paved with failures. However, it's quite easy to make the same mistake if you don't understand why something didn't work the first time around. I asked Sowers why he thought the first crowdfunding endeavor didn't make it.
"That's always a tough question," Sowers said. "You read a lot of articles about Kickstarter success and failure stories, but it's hard to separate 'what things we did' from 'what things we did actually helped or hurt.'
"Compared to [our previous crowdfunded tabletop game] Hero's Crossing, we did a lot of stuff we thought was going to lead to a better launch," he added. "Our marketing was more rigorous, we hit bigger conventions with more focused crowds, we targeted a smaller price point, we had a game that was easier to pick up & play, and we thought our audience was broader. Plus we could tap into our previous supporters. On paper, everything suggested we'd do better.
"My hunch—and it's a hunch with no real data supporting it—is we targeted a younger crowd with a little less money that isn't quite as into board games, and all those factors combined to work against us."
The Hey Cutie Kickstarter, Revived
Typically, one of three things happens when a Kickstarter doesn't make it:
- The team behind the project eschews crowdfunding and finds a different way to raise money.
- The project is canceled entirely.
- The Kickstarter is relaunched with changes that will (hopefully) make it a success.
In the case of the Hey Cutie Kickstarter, the third item on the list is what happened. A retooled campaign with a smaller goal of just $3,000 is now live, and things seemed to be going well when I had first spoken with Sowers.
I was curious what changes had been made to their plans. Sure, I could see a lower per-unit cost and a lower goal for the campaign, but what changed behind the scenes?
"Our biggest change, and the change that drove the other decisions, was reducing our production & shipping costs to the point where we could target a smaller goal on Kickstarter," Sowers stated. "When you look at Kickstarter numbers, it's clear that projects with a lower goal have a higher chance of success."
This time, his insight was correct. At the time of writing, the second Hey Cutie Kickstarter is nearly at 200% of its goal and with plenty of time remaining. Some of those changes, however, came at a cost.
"Of course, there's no 'make the game cheaper' button, so to pull that off we had to revise the game design," Brian added. "The trick there was keeping the core of the game and what made the game fun while still trimming whatever we could get away with. To that end, the turn-to-turn gameplay is nearly unrecognizable from the previous version, but a lot of the concepts that composed the heart of the game remain."
The Future of One Method Monkey
The Hey Cutie Kickstarter campaign, though already successful, is still ongoing. At the time I spoke with Sowers, it had not yet reached its humble goal of $3,000. He nonetheless had his eyes towards the future of the company. After all, rare is the game developer (video games or tabletop) that only has one project in the works.
"We're in active development on a couple board games, including our first co-op game; we're not quite ready to unveil that, but it's playing super fun so far," he said. "Hoping (hoping!) to reveal it at Super Magfest next year."
One Method Monkey is also expanding outward from the world of tabletop games, expanding into their first video game venture as well.
"We're also doing some video game work," Sowers added. "Our current project is a dungeon crawler with a weird dating app component. Expecting that out early next year, and it already has a Steam page."
There's more than a week to go in the revived Hey Cutie Kickstarter, and one thing is for certain: Sowers thinks he's got a game you'll love.
"I think we've got something you don't see much of in the board game space: a combination of humor, inclusiveness, and a dab of strategy in a setting inspired by modern-day dating sims. I hope that resonates with people, because I personally think it's a very fun and very pretty game and I'd like to get more people playing it."
If this seems like the sort of game you'd love to play, you can pledge to the Hey Cutie Kickstarter right now. Don't delay, though — you only have until Nov. 30 at 1:50 p.m. Eastern to make your pledge. You can also add One Method Monkey's upcoming game, Heroes Swipe Right, to your wishlist on Steam.