“Getting laid off was the best thing that could have happened to me,” says Nate Chatellier. “I’d often considered starting a business, but never had the time or motivation. My hand was forced when I was unemployed.”
Chatellier, a Spokane software engineer, and local artist Manny Trembley spent hundreds of hours developing “Dice Throne,” a board game they describe as “kind of a battle version of ‘Yahtzee.’ ”
To cover startup costs and generate a modest profit, they launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign in January with the goal of raising $15,000 in pledges.
They invited game reviewers to play “Dice Throne,” and traveled to San Antonio for PAX South, a popular gaming convention, where they unveiled it alongside six other tabletop games from around the country.
What happened next may be unprecedented.
“I’d optimistically hoped we could raise about $20,000,” recalled Chatellier, “and that producing ‘Dice Throne’ would enhance my prospects for designing more games.
“The worst-case scenario would have been falling short of our $15,000 target. My wife would have been very unhappy, remembering all the times she came home when I was unemployed and found Manny and me screwing around rolling dice.”
The PAX South convention put those fears to rest.
“Our booth was completely packed the entire time,” Chatellier said. “One guy wrote an article afterward saying not only was ‘Dice Throne’ his favorite tabletop game at the show – it was his favorite game, period. That was huge.”
Checking his Kickstarter numbers became addicting, Chatellier admitted. “I probably looked 200 times a day.”
Amazingly, he and Trembley reached their goal several days into the Kickstarter campaign – before PAX South even started.
“We expected most people to pledge $29 for a standard edition of the game,” Chatellier said. “Yet almost everyone chose the $39 champion edition, which includes extra heroes and special dice.”
A $1,000 pledge earned the right to help design a new hero. “We offered four of those,” Chatellier, “and actually sold five. One backer bought two.”
Reaching the $30,000 mark meant each game would come with five heroes, instead of four. Passing $60,000 added a sixth.
Chatellier’s phone buzzed every time he got another backer. “By last Wednesday morning, we were averaging $50 every 10 seconds.”
When the Kickstarter campaign concluded Friday, “Dice Throne” had raised $181,162, with pledges from 45 countries.
Not all the money pledged goes to Chatellier and Trembley. Kickstarter takes a fee of 8 to 10 percent.
Also, the total includes the cost of shipping thousands of games to backers.
Producing the standard-edition game in China will cost around $10 per unit.
And then there was the unanticipated “ad spend.”
“Facebook allows you to spend X amount of dollars per day, and target your ad based on demographics, lifestyles, interests – anything,” Chatellier explained. “We started out spending $50 a day, and got a four-times return on investment.”
As they spent more on Facebook – $3,000 last Wednesday alone – the return on investment remained close to fourfold.
Now that “Dice Throne” is a success, Chatellier’s immediate goal is taking his family to Legoland.
“I would love this to be my full-time career,” he said. “Normally, people don’t have anywhere close to this level of success with their first tabletop game Kickstarter campaign. And as you build a fan base, subsequent Kickstarters do multiple times better.
“Manny and I can’t wait to launch our next iteration of ‘Dice Throne,’ which will probably be in November. We have four or five products already planned, so we’re looking ahead many years.
“With luck, this will become a whole industry for us.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.