Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Keep System Interview






Greetings friends and welcome to a new Kickstarter Conversation with the creator of “The Keep System” Robert.   Thanks for joining us today Robert.

Thanks for having me!

So some might not realize this, but this is your second attempt at running this very Kickstarter, why are you back for another try?  What’s different this time around?

There were some serious flaws in the first Kickstarter. We tried to do too much at once.  Basically we were asking for a lot as a new player on the block and we were completely held hostage to order minimums and molds.

What have you learned from your first Kickstarter to help this new campaign?  

We started a survey to determine the best set of trade-offs in functionality. The audience for the rugged shell just wasn’t as large as the demand for the organizers, so we found a way to get those transported without an insanely expensive mold. Order minimums for textile goods are also quite a bit lower than for injection molding, which means we don’t need to sell quite as many and thus can have a lower funding goal.

We completely revamped the Great Chamber and I’m so glad we did. It’s improved in every way and no longer requires a mold, further reducing costs - and again, with lower order minimums, we can afford to do this with less capital.

We’ve also learned more about how to run a Kickstarter and how to be more engaged with our backers.

Finally, we’ve learned that this is a new concept for a lot of people!



Looking over the campaign you seem to be doing many of the key things successful Kickstarters do, you have multiple levels, chances for add-ons, updates, a video, and even lots of pictures and media comments.  What more do you plan to do?

We’ll continue to do all those things, but beginning next week we will begin sharing videos of how to store specific games. We’ve also sent off some Great Chamber prototypes to game reviewers so they can share their findings. Lastly, we’re working on some exclusives with certain game publishers that should have fans of Dominion, in particular, pretty excited.

So this interview was suggested by one of our loyal readers Michael Pedersen and he suggested several key questions to run by you Robert.  Here’s the first one, “Why is the goal so high?”

There are two main things that are driving our costs:
1. Complex molds, tooling, and other manufacturing startup costs
2. Minimum orders sizes. In other words, we have to have a certain size order to have them manufactured and that amount has to cover materials, labor, and more.

A project like this really does require a large base of support - in effect our minimum order.

When Plano makes a case - their minimum order could include every Walmart and Home Depot in the US. They are negotiating such high quantities that they can often get the molds for free since the manufacturer wants their business so bad. We’re just a small company and The Keep System isn’t going to be in Walmart.


“With such a high goal why did you set the campaign length to only 30 days?  Why such a short time period?”

Having a sense of urgency is important for getting something done on Kickstarter. There is a level of intensity that has to be maintained and I haven’t seen many Kickstarters that benefited from a longer duration.

This next question comes not only from Michael, but from Starla Lester and myself, “The number one question I have from my fellow gamers that see The Keep System is ‘This is just fabric and plastic.  Why should I pay that much money for that?’  How do you answer these folks?”  Or as I like to say personally, “I did that with a tackle box for a fraction of the cost, why buy your system?”  

And a game is just a bunch of cardboard and ink. A car is just metal and plastic. There’s a lot that goes into these products to make them a reality. The Keep System uses high quality fabric and plastic with a specific purpose - organizing and mobilizing games. A lot of luggage and individual messenger bags cost more than this. Check out the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger in a comparable size. It’s about the same price, but you’re not getting the two Great Chambers, the five Magic Chambers, the five Bit Pits - all of which are designed specifically for the games you play. There are cheaper ways to store and transport your games, but I haven’t been able to find a better way.

Look - time is money. Someone can research all sorts of messengers bags and different organizers that might work for some games and some components and pull together a hodgepodge version of the Keep. You might do it for less money, or you might not.  What happens when it’s time for a new game and nothing fits. More research? More DIY? And while tackle boxes are cool, I’ve yet to see a tackle box that handles boards well. You can work hard and piece something together that will work for your specific situation. Or, you can save yourself the time and get the “right tool for the job”.

This all started in DIY. We’ve done this work for you. But we are four gamers with a dream - not Walmart. We don’t have their resources and can’t match their order minimums, so for now, we can’t match them on sales price. We DO get you your money back by saving you time: no more DIY, no more research, faster setup and clean up, a reusable system that is never obsolete and now your games can go anywhere, so you get to enjoy them more!

How does your system support games that don’t appear to be good fits?  Examples include” Descent: Journeys in the Dark which features really odd sized and figurines and tiles (2x2, 2x10, 8x8, etc).  Warmachine is in the same boat with really large and small figures.  

We have future enhancements planned to handle miniatures that require special handling. Having said that many odd shaped pieces fit quite well - our dividers have custom placement, so that you can make subcompartments within our chambers.

So besides weird shaped and sized pieces what’s the best organizer for the smaller bits?  Bit pits or baggies?  Do you have a prefered method you’d recommend for those looking to buy in?

It really depends as you have even more options than that. You can also put the pieces between dividers without baggies. There are two main ways to set up organizers - for maximum space efficiency or quickest setup time. If you want to stuff as many games as possible in - you probably should go baggies. If you are going for quick setup, then we recommend Bit Pits as they have labels and can act as an in-game tray to make life easier.

Many of my gamer readers have LARGE collections, how many games do you expect to be able to carry in one standard Keep with the “MBGer” configuration?  What about the “Horror” configuration?

Let me begin by saying that a large collection doesn’t mean you are currently playing those games. We are not suggesting you carry your whole collection, but rather the games you regularly play.

As for how many you can store - well it depends! This is a hard question to answer since everyone plays different games and there is a ton versatility, do I care about space or quick setup. I’ll do my best! For the MBGer:

  • One Great Chamber we’ll put in 4 Ticket to Ride boards, destination cards for those boards, 1 set of trains and 1 set of train cards, as well as all the rulebooks. Done.
  • The other Great Chamber we’ll store all of Kingdom Builder, all of Puerto Rico, a Power Grid board, an Arkham Horror board
  • One Magic Chamber with the Settlers of Catan base game with the 5-6 Player Expansion
  • One Magic Chamber for all of Race for the Galaxy
  • One Magic Chamber with a deck of playing cards, Tichu, Sticheln, Rook, Ascension, Guillotine and all of Bang!
  • One Magic Chamber split between tokens for Arkham Horror and Power Grid
  • One Magic Chamber with Citadels and Quarriors

Let’s see that’s...about 19 games and there is room for more.

For the Horror, you are actually going to get fewer games in! Why? Because you are playing games with a lot more parts and have difficult setup and clean up. The intent of the Horror is to get all of Arkham Horror in the Keep with a room for another expansion or two and to make setup for these type of games easier.

Do you have an estimate on when “The Adventurer” will come out and what it’s carrying capacity would be?  Besides being a backpack how is it different than standard Keep?  Or different than the Warhammer 40K Imperial Guard backpack I already have?

So The Keep Adventurer will be easier to carry and less expensive for one. This is not quite a secret, but we are working to modularize the Great Chambers so they split into two pieces that each can hold two or three standard hex-folded boards and other pieces in the smaller mesh pockets.

Our default configuration would be one Great Chamber, but split, and three Magic Chambers. You still have configuration options like the Keep though. Remove one Great Chamber half and get an extra Magic Chamber in. Completely remove the Great Chamber and get three more Magic Chambers in - and of course, ditch the Magic Chambers and carry two full Great Chambers (all stored as halves).

Assuming a successful Kickstarter, we’d hope to get this launched early summer of next year.

So how much weight are these things expected to carry?  I know some of these games like Twilight Imperium can get quite heavy, especially if you put all those expansions in one box!  

Ripstop can take some serious weight. Comparable ripstop messengers of a similar size can hold over 80lbs.

You’ve definitely gained some good attention on Boardgame Geek and other gaming blog and reviewers, has that turned into support for the actual campaign?  

It has! Not as quickly as we’d like, but I’m getting to meet a lot of cool backers that see the need. I think people have been without a solution for so long, and past solutions are so specific that it’s hard to believe this will meet their needs.

How can backers support you beyond just pledging?  

I’d say our biggest fault is not taking enough time to reach our audience and give gamers enough time to think through why they might want this. I’ve had several come back and say “I thought about the price, then looked at what I’ve done and spent in the past, and realized this makes a lot more sense.”

We really need backers spreading the word! Help get this made by getting other folks on board and don’t wait until the last week to do it. Even if it’s not something you’d use personally, maybe you know someone that this is perfect for. Let them know about it, or pledge for them as a gift. Tweeting the Kickstarter link to gaming celebrities such as Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day increases our exposure. We only need pledges for about another 1,500 Keeps, and there’s definitely another 1,500 folks out there that can use this. Spread the word!

Have you done any ad buys or interviews to drum up new support or remind folks that you’ve relaunched the Kickstarter campaign?

We have, and we plan to do some more, but there is no ad that can beat a friend saying “hey, check this out!”

Are you using Kicktraq or any other metric to keep track of the progress and help adjust the campaign in mid stream?

We registered on Kicktraq the very first day, and we’ve even had a few backers that came from there!

It has been a pleasure speaking with you today, are there any thoughts or comments you’d like to leave with my readers?

This is going to be carrying my favorite games too, so we genuinely care about quality. We are not planning to go away after releasing The Keep System either. We plan to continue to fulfill the storage, organization, and travel needs of gamers everywhere.

We love questions, feedback, meeting new gamers, and talking with backers so drop us a line anytime!

Thanks again for your time!  We wish your campaign the best!  

Best wishes to you too!