If you drop everything and decide to dedicate years of your life to creating what you claim to be a masterpiece, you should aim for the top. Whether it’s the great American novel, the film that will mark a generation or, in this case, the Spanish board game you aspire to watch from you to you to the international ‘blockbusters’. This is what the economist and wealth manager thought Joel Torres and the graphic designer Fernando Gamero when they decided to launch Synergic Games and jump into the pool with a board game set in feudal Japan, ‘Harakiri: Blades of Honor’, which in its ‘crowdfunding‘ from Kickstarter has raised 654,130 euros.
Namely, more than 4,000 people worldwide (among them, around 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Spaniards) decided to pay around 163 euros at the end of last year for a copy of the game. Hundreds of them did so as soon as the ‘crowdfunding’ was opened. In just 15 minutes, they managed to reach their funding goal: an initial €100,000. “We are very satisfied with the figures, but we did not consider them unattainable, because we have worked very hard for years,” explains Torres.
“We intend to compete with the big companies in the sector in the US”
That is one of the great differences with respect to other Spanish products: the ambition to compete head-to-head with the big projects in the global market, which has caused the project design to be lengthened for five years, a period of time in which the sector has finished exploding. “Our operation has been to go to the highest level and compete with the large companies in the sector in the US, which is the absolute leader, and those in Poland and France at a European level,” continues the economist, a Gamero fan of games table for a quarter of a century.
‘Harakiri’ is, beyond the numbers, the symptom of various trends: of ‘crowdfunding’ as a business model; that Spain, generally focused on more modest games, can compete globally, and that there is an audience for a market for almost premium products. The creators boast of being able to count on their ranks with collaborators such as David Velasco (responsible for the gamebooks’ Anunnaki File’), the miniature sculptor Robert Chaudonthe tile maker Henning Ludvigsen (the one with the famous ‘Bloodborne’) or companies in the sector such as Barruz Studio, as well as a series of illustrators, including David Benzal, David Demaret, Joseph Diaz either Daryl Mandryk.
A strong bet for a new company that was clear that they should have familiar names on your campusAlthough it was not always easy to convince them. So much so that on occasions they had to prove that they had not taken ownership of the designs: “Being newcomers and a company from Spain, a country that is not known for being a great power, we have come across professionals who do not respond to you or those who are difficult to convince”, he adds. It is a delicate process, because the patrons (more than 4,000 in this case) are increasingly demanding and it is very easy to make a false step in terms of image if the communication is not adequate. For this reason, they opened a Telegram channel to be in contact with the patrons.
How to sell thousands of games without them knowing you
Theirs is an elaborate ‘marketing’ plan, but it has turned out well. How do two Spaniards (and 30 collaborators) manage to arouse interest in such a large project? “When we decided to carry out an ambitious project, the first element was to hire the best in the sector: with that, you begin to generate a powerful project image and you draw the attention of content creators in the American market, who start to turn the wheel and help us get 5,000 people who had signed up to receive the notification”, he recalls.
“They are willing to pay more for better quality: our miniatures are for exhibition”
For there to be demand, there must also have been supply. In other words, Synergic Games has jumped on a wave that is growing from year to year (in Spain, 10% year-on-year), especially since the pandemic recovered the value of the home, but which had been increasing in size for around a five-year period. The interest in board games has been growing, but in the last five years, what sets it apart is a premium trend, as the 80 miniatures of the game show. In many cases, patrons may not even get to play the game and just paint or leave them on the shelf.
“In the last five or six years there has been a very strong tendency towards overproduction: before you could make a character with a piece of cardboard, but now it is required a miniature designed by a sculptorTorres recalls. “It has been promoted because they are willing to pay more to have more quality: our miniatures have almost no exposure. Five years ago you could present yourself on a patronage platform with some more or less well-done drawings, but now people want to see what the figures are going to be like”.
This drift towards the premium is determined by the profile of consumers of this class of products, which in the global market number in the thousands and are very loyal. Usually people 30 years and older with a certain purchasing powermost of them Americans or Scandinavians, who, in the words of Torres, “are not so hooked on ‘online’ technologies and videogames, they want to interact with people in their own homes and products with a good finish and quality that allow them to exhibit the components”.
Although the figures for ‘Harakiri: Blades of Honor’ may sound impressive to the neophyte, they are by no means the most spectacular that have been achieved in projects of this type on a global level. ‘The Witcher: Old World’ has managed to raise almost seven million dollars with 45,162 patrons (as if the entire population of Tres Cantos had bought a copy at a rate of 150 dollars each). Some Spanish projects have also achieved high amounts, such as ‘Skull Tales: full sail!’, by the Spanish Eclipse, which last year achieved 609,189 dollars with 5,171 backers, and the controversial ‘Hero Quest: 25th anniversary’, which also moved by similar figures with 680,000 euros.
“As in other sectors, the market is more global and has fewer intermediaries”
It is also a symptom of how the market is changing, not just games. Even large comic book publishers like ECC in Spain, which holds the rights to DC, have launched campaigns to release some of their most expensive volumes, a decision that has drawn some criticism. In the field of games, some publishers complain that taking on ‘crowdfunding’ means ceasing to take the risks associated with business proposals and that this class of formulas bypass the shops.
The editors of ‘Harakiri’ recall that in their case it would not have been viable to sell it to stores, since the cost would have doubled or tripled, and they rule out doing so in the future. Another thing is that, as is usually done, reprints are made at a higher price. As Torres clarifies, there are stores that join the ‘crowdfundings’ negotiating with the creators to acquire copies, although in their case they could not have afforded those discounts: “It is one more sector in a world that tends to the globalization and the elimination of intermediaries”.
Ok, what is this about?
In an increasingly saturated market such as that of board games, it is difficult to offer something different. ‘Harakiri’ has started off on the right foot with an average score of 9.1 in BoardGamesGeek, the reference page for board games. What distinguishes it from other similar games? “It is a cooperative game like others, where players embark on an adventure, but we have tried to give them a different vision,” they respond.
Hector G. Barnes
The idea is not just to offer a sample of ‘dungeon’ come to more (if you remember the ‘Hero Quest’, that’s ‘dungeon crawl’), but add a strategic component in battles throughout feudal Japan with tactical combat. Production is also important: they have contracted the production of the game directly from the factories (“unremittingly Chinese”).
The key, in fact, perhaps lies in reproduce the Spanish that spectacular character that have ‘Gloomhaven’, ‘Mage Knight’ or ‘Descent’. Like trying to make a Marvel movie from a corner of Spain. Now, they face the new patronage phase in Kick & Go, one of the last opportunities to get the game before it enters the second-hand market, where prices skyrocket (there are already those who sell it for more than 700 dollarspure speculation, as it is still available).
But for the faithful, it is rare for something like this to go unnoticed: “Today there are tens of thousands of people aware of each product that comes out, it is an increasingly global and well-known sector”. Does anyone want to bet on him?