In just a few days, Auroboros: Coils of the Serpent opens on Kickstarter. In a world of 5e campaign settings looking for money from Kickstarter, Auroboros deserves a little bit of a longer look. We might learn something from it.
Warchief Gaming was founded in 2018 (their Facebook page wasn’t created until 2019) by Chris Metzen and Mike Gilmartin. Originally it was just a physical space, a haven for hobbyists, and then they announced plans for Aurboros: Coils of the Serpent, a setting that uses D&D 5e’s rules.
Metzen and Gilmartin are ex-Blizzard Entertainment staff; Metzen credited as a pivotal world-building for games like Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft and Overwatch. Big games press took notice of the news, and Warchief was ready with an interview video. They knew what they were doing. Geek Native even used it when I suggested Warchief could be big. Ahem. Of course, they could be!
At the time of writing, nearly 9,000 gamers have pressed the “Notify me on Launch” button on the Kickstarter holding page. That’s more than most Kickstarter campaigns get in several lifetimes.
More than 3x more people have indicated, through this holding page, that they’re willing to give Warchief some money for another D&D setting than there are people who follow Warchief Gaming’s Facebook page.
That’s not because Warchief is doing a lousy job on their Facebook; they’re not. It’s because people are reluctant to add more commercial noise to their Facebook feed.
Warchief have been counting down the days to their launch, showing lovely renders of STL files to appeal to model collectors and makers, of great art, of game snippets and of the deals available.
As you might expect, Warchief have access to great artists, and we see that in the teasers too. This Ma’ll illustration shows one of the Shapeshifters of the Tanaroch and hit up tabletop gamers who like the idea of cool wolf companions or having a character that looks badass.
The company has two sites. The main Warchief Gaming site is running on WordPress and they’re now sharing development updates. Many smaller publishers will have been sharing development updates for longer, in part because it takes them longer to get into shape and build up an audience of potential backers through the tactic. Clearly, Warchief didn’t have to do that.
The second site is Warchief Gaming Gear, powered by Shopify and thankfully showing no signs of being a dropship.
However, the merch is logocentric, showing the 8-styled Auroborus serpent or text for Warchief Gaming or the setting name. We’re not getting any art sneak peeks.
At the top of the merch site, there’s a link “Back to Warchief” that returns to the main site’s homepage. This suggests to me, and it’s only a guess, that someone at Warchief thought about the user experience, didn’t expect many people to come straight to the leading site and rightly worry that the Shopify pages might become a bit of a dead-end that less net-savvy gamers struggle to get out of.
Facebook is where Warchief is doing most of their recruiting. We can see the struggle they, and everyone else, have with organic reach. So they’re using ads.
Facebook’s ad library suggests Warchief are running about 12 ads in total.
In practice, there are about 9 core variants, and you can see them below.
The call to action is consistent; sign-up now and secure an exclusive coin if you back later.
Warchief have teamed up with BackerKit for this. BackerKit started off as a fulfilment company but quickly got into helping companies run their Kickstarter campaigns.
You can see the Auroborus: Coils of the Serpent – A 5E Setting page on BackerKit. It’s added at least 1,000 other people to Warchief’s incoming notes of interest.
Once again, Warchief has used a video with the charismatic Metzen to tee people up.
Dropping into incognito mode on my browser, neither of the two Warchief sites or BackerKit asks my permission before dropping a cookie, but using Ghostery I can see that cookies are likely.
It’s unwise to dig into the legality of cookies these days, as it’s a mess, complex, and I’m not a lawyer. I’ve not looked to see whether I actually have cookies from any of these sites, but with my local laws, all three sites need my permission.
I can see that Warchief uses Facebook tracking, which is wise since they’re spending money on Facebook ads.
I can also see DoubleClick, the ad platform Google bought an era ago and these tags are still used for Google Display Network tracking and third-party networks. I don’t see DoubleClick tags in Warchief’s code, but using Google Tag Manager (and a WordPress plugin to manage Google Analytics permission and deployment – usually best just to pick one), so DoubleClick could be coming from there.
Warchief’s site doesn’t appear on any of the free tools I have easy access to when it comes to display spend. Likely this is because their spend is too small and the company too new.
It’s a community-centric approach from Warchief, offering exclusives, emphasising the scarcity of the offer and running a countdown.
I’m sure this is the standard approach Blizzard, the difference being Blizzard will have much more extensive data pools and clever maths with cohorts to predict the interest and direct game development.
Warchief, for now, is leaning on Facebook, and they have plenty of assets to turn into ads.
I don’t need another 5e setting; I really don’t. I don’t want to miss out either, so I’ve signed up for notifications anyway.
Thoughts? Can you contribute to this article? Share your insight in the comments below.