Is Monte Cook Games Reinventing RPGs—and Kickstarter?

As the Kickstarter campaign for Invisible Sun closes in on what looks to be a record-setting conclusion, it’s clear that in addition to introducing massive innovations in the design and play of tabletop roleplaying games, Monte Cook Games is also blazing new trails in the process of crowdfunding. The campaign, which as it enters its final week seems likely to dethrone MCG’s Numenera as the most highly funded original property tabletop RPG, has included numerous features that are literally rewriting the book on how to run a Kickstarter campaign.

“If you look at the Kicktraq chart for this campaign, there’s never been anything like it,” commented MCG co-founder and Invisible Sun lead designer Monte Cook. “I’ve run nearly a dozen Kickstarter campaigns and backed well over a hundred, and this is something very different.” Kicktraq records the daily progress of Kickstarter campaigns. “Most campaigns start off strong, then have slow growth in the middle weeks, and then usually pick up speed again at the end. The Invisible Sun campaign has had loads of crazy spikes throughout the middle. Some days in the middle, when you’d expect practically no action, are nearly as big as first few days.”

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Monte Cook knows a thing or two about crowdfunding. Along with MCG co-founder Shanna Germain, he authored Kicking It: Successful Crowdfunding, an ebook on crowdfunding. Monte Cook Games’s crowdfunding projects have raised almost $2.1 million—not including the current campaign for Invisible Sun.

What’s driving these incredible spikes in mid-campaign interest? “We’ve focused really hard on the question of how to keep people engaged and active with the campaign throughout its run,” said Charles Ryan, MCG’s COO. “It’s not just about getting the backers to help spread the word—although that’s super important. But we also want to give them a really cool experience not just through the game we’re funding, but also in the campaign itself. We’ve built in surprises, activities, changes, and the revealing of secrets almost every day.”

Those surprises and innovations Ryan mentioned include a major overhaul of the campaign page at the Kickstarter’s midpoint, with all new art and graphics as well as thematic changes. MCG has also done periodic “keyfall” events, in which for a brief time backers can access reward levels with exclusive free upgrades. The company has created a number of puzzles that have spawned online communities seeking to unlock secrets about the game (including clues to the timing of future keyfalls). And those communities have seen a regular feed of fascinating game information through daily updates posted at midnight (EDT) throughout the campaign.

“These ideas have worked really well with Invisible Sun, because the game’s themes of secrets, revelations, and transformation suggested a lot of cool ways we could do this,” Ryan said. “But we’re learning some really interesting lessons that we’ll carry forward into other campaigns. And I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see a lot of other Kickstarters picking up elements of what we’ve done in the future.”

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Monte Cook Games, LLC, was formed in 2012 by Monte Cook and Shanna Germain, with the aim of revitalizing fan passion for RPGs through innovative, visionary releases. The first Monte Cook Games title, Numenera, released in August of 2013 and recently won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Game of the year and numerous ENnie Awards, including Product of the Year. The company also released The Strange in 2014, the Cypher System Rulebook in 2015, and No Thank You, Evil!, winner of the Gold ENnie for Best Family Game, in 2016.

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For more information, or to schedule an interview with Monte Cook or any member of the MCG team, please contact MCG’s COO Charles M. Ryan at charles@montecookgames.com.

Charles Ryan
Charles Ryan

Charles M. Ryan has written or contributed to titles in nearly every class of tabletop game—board games, card games, trading card games, miniature games, and roleplaying games—over a 25-year career in the game industry. He has also served as the global brand manager for Dungeons & Dragons and headed up the marketing department at the UK’s Esdevium Games, one of the world’s largest game distributors. He is the Chief Operating Officer at Monte Cook Games.