Affordable Success: Why I'm Postponing the Kickstarter for Utara Dice Game

Utara Dice 2
I've decided to postpone plans for kickstarting my dice game Utara. Here's why.

Utara's biggest problem is that it calls for so many custom dice. I thought I could manage it as a small outfit thanks to new tools like Kickstarter. That opened up opportunities for high engagement and distributed costs. Those would compensate for high up-front production expenses of custom dice. That expense was just from the relatively affordable option of laser-engraved dice. Each of those would cost $1.10 to make at a quantity of 2,000.

Pricey, but at least it followed the model of similar novelty products like Mathematician's Dice and Writer's Dice. We figured a goal of ~$4,000 would get us where we needed to be. The trick would be focusing on the novelty and flexibility of individual dice, rather than the game Utara. We'd need to develop more properties using one, two or three Utara dice, but at least it could be done.

As I sought feedback on the tier rewards, it became clear that if I was to focus solely on the dice, most people wanted something a little more refined. The ideal would be ivory dice with black inlay engravings, like old piratey artifacts. Unfortunately, the cost for that spec would be $2.50 per die for 2,000 dice. The rule of thumb for retail is mark up about 3x-to-5x your production costs. That means a single die would be a little under ten bucks! Even with bulk consumer deals, like a set of ten for $30, the price point would be much higher than a similar product from a larger company. (Martian Dice comes with more dice for a fraction of the retail cost, for example.)

So, the next viable alternative is to actually go for an injection molded run of dice, custom made just for Utara. There are international options for just this purpose, as I learned from Fred Hicks. Turns out those prices per die were something like pennies per die, but required much higher quantities in a single production run. The ballpark guesstimate was something like 30,000 dice for around $7,000. However, those would take months to produce, go through customs, and travel by freight ship across the ocean. Then I'd need to hire a warehouse to store, sort and fulfill individual orders (unless I wanted a mountain of dice sitting in my living room.)

Even then, assuming a single retail unit contained 30 dice, for all that trouble I'd only get 1,000 units to sell. To be truly feasible, I'd need to order far more than 30,000 dice. 50,000? 100,000? I had enough trouble carrying a box of 2,000 from my car to my doorstep. I shudder to think about how much more of a hassle a larger quantity would be.

It's clear that I'm in this transitional period between boutique designer and middle-sized producer. What I kickstart next has a strong chance of succeeding, based on whatever social capital I've accrued over the past three years. That being the case, I really need to keep affordable success in mind.

That means if the Kickstarter succeeds and I can't fulfill on what I promise, or if I have to compromise on quality, that social capital will be squandered. So, I can't pursue a Utara Kickstarter right now. Even if I set a Kickstarter sky-high and it succeeds, I just don't have the time or infrastructure necessary to make it a product without compromise. It'll just have to wait for a partner with deeper resources somewhere down the line.

Thanks for following the ups and downs of Utara. It'll come some day, just not right now. For now I'm going to pursue formats that are much more feasible for a small guy like me. Card and party games with minimal components that can be domestically manufactured and distributed in small runs. I have plenty of options in that space.

Superhero Audition, Belle of the Ball, Dead Weight, Dung & Dragons, Stupor Market, What's Your Excuse?!, and For The Fleet are all worthy candidates. Which interest you?
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.