WATCH: Exploding Kittens creator Elan Lee discusses the Kickstarter community, and how crowdfunding pushed the game into high volume production.
TORONTO — Earlier this year, three guys turned their idea for Exploding Kittens, a “card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats” into what became “the most backed campaign in Kickstarter history.”
Their plan was to raise $10,000 and print 500 boxes of cards. One of the creators, Elan Lee, said he envisioned “a really simple little weekend project” that would take place in a garage.
“Then instead, the Internet happened.”
The game pulled in a record US$8.7 million on Kickstarter from nearly 220,000 backers. To put that into perspective, the super popular Cards Against Humanity received around $15,500 from just over 750 Kickstarter backers in 2011.
“The process was literally as abrupt and sudden as [you] wake up one morning and see a number that scares the hell out of you, and then start making phone calls,” Lee said, “and just begging for help. So luckily, one of the first calls I made was to some friends at Cards Against Humanity.”
Those guys, of course, have no shortage of experience when it comes to print and shipping out high volumes of cards to the masses. And, fortunately for Lee, they had no problem stepping in to help with what has morphed into an order for roughly one million decks of cards.
While Lee is no stranger to game design (he did it for 15 years at Xbox), this is his first go at a card game. He compares it to building the airplane while flying it.
“Turns out it’s really hard to print little pieces of paper. You’d think you could do it in a few hours, but man is it complicated.”
It’s apparently also quite costly. According to Lee, the profit margins on the game won’t be that high because of all the money that goes into production and distribution. But he, along with his partners Shane Small (also formerly from Xbox) and The Oatmeal‘s Matthew Inman have big plans for Exploding Kittens, including a potential app, video game and television series.
For now, though, the team is focused on “moving mountains” to make sure they can ship the Exploding Kittens cards to their Kickstarter backers in July, as promised.
Toronto is one of seven Canadian cities that gets to put the decks to the test.
“I think people are having a lot of fun with the nastiness,” said Emily Smith of Geektropolis, which hosted a playtest party at Toronto’s Ryerson University on Thursday.
Much of the other feedback Smith received from players centred on the rules, which the creators admitted they need help with.
“They want to make the rules as small as possible so they fit in the box, but also make it easy enough for people to play. And I think there are a couple of things that probably they should add, even if it does make it a little longer.”
When asked about any similarities between Exploding Kittens and Cards Against Humanity, the consensus at Toronto’s playtest party seemed to be that they’re different, but with a similar humour.
“I think that Cards Against Humanity sets out to have that quirky kind of humour but also engage people in a way that Monopoly couldn’t. So the strategies are more simple than usual. And I think that [Exploding Kittens] kind of does the same thing,” said 20-year-old student Mary Zhao at Thursday’s playtest.
“I mean, we’re talking about kittens. We’re not building empires or anything like that…It’s just fun and brings a bunch of people together.”
If you missed out on backing the project (and scoring yourself first dibs on a deck), you can add your email to a wait list. Lee hopes to have more cards printed for the holidays, but isn’t making any promises.
You can also test out the game yourself at the following locations across Canada:
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