Board games that hit Kickstarter are often small-scale passion projects, but the latest is something much bigger — and much less in need of crowdfunding. It’s a tabletop game called Marvel United, featuring dozens of classic Marvel heroes. While its developers may not need the funds to get Marvel United off the ground, the platform they’re launching it on is still an important part of the game. In fact, it was designed from the start to go big on Kickstarter.
Marvel United is a cooperative card game that has players controlling heroes while battling classic Marvel villains, and it marks the first time any officially licensed Marvel product has shown up on Kickstarter. The game starts at $60 and is supposed to ship this fall. Backers will be able to pay more for additional packs of cards with miniatures of specific heroes.
The game’s designers made specific creative decisions to appeal to a Kickstarter audience. That includes using the Marvel theme, which co-developer Spin Master Games had the licensing rights for, to choosing a cutesy chibi art style and expanding the game’s scope to make it all the more impressive to excited fans.
“The standards have grown so much as to what people anticipate out of a Kickstarter campaign,” Michael Bisogno, Spin Master’s senior design director, tells The Verge. “We had to design it that way from the beginning.”
Established businesses have increasingly been using Kickstarter as a marketing platform, rather than as a true crowdfunding platform. In exchange for giving Kickstarter a cut of the funds, a company can get access to an often passionate group of customers, letting it build hype around an upcoming release. Board games have been particularly successful on the platform, and Marvel United taps into all that Kickstarter has to offer for new titles.
Spin Master Games partnered with Cmon, another game developer that’s funded more than 40 projects through Kickstarter, to help develop the game. One thing Cmon noticed early on was that the game’s initial roster of heroes wasn’t big enough. The companies had initially been aiming for 30 characters, but a recent Batman game had launched with more than 50. To stand out, they expanded the roster to 70 characters.
“There’s so much expectation ... out of a Kickstarter now because [buyers] are looking for exclusives and special content,” Bisogno says. “They expect a wide variety of components and artwork and everything else to come along with it.”
The two companies have also planned out the crowdfunding campaign to further build excitement, rolling out new characters over time and promising backers access to exclusive expansions that won’t be available at retail. The campaign is also supposed to help Spin Master Games, which typically sells kids titles, reach an older audience.
“We knew we wanted to do something really big here with a ton of content, with lots of cool sculpts,” Bisogno says. “We needed a platform like Kickstarter to get all the content out there.”