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ChipTheoryGames success story

How Chip Theory Games Kickstarted a Product and Built a Community Around It

7 min read

How it All Started

It started out just like any other board game success story: in Minneapolis. Josh and Adam Carlson, two cousins, had come up with a great idea for an interactive board game. They thought their idea was primed to blow the box-top off the board game industry.

The problem? Back in 2015, there were very few board game publishers. The big names spent most of their energy and resources on tried and true successful games, and didn’t like to deviate from formulas that made money.

Even worse than that—manufacturing a board game independently was really expensive (like, upwards of $50 per game board expensive). So where were Josh and Adam supposed to turn? To Kickstarter, of course! With the help of the start-up crowdsourcing platform, they were able to get their first game, Happlemachus, kick started. Other hits, like Too Many Bones followed. The rest is the stuff of board game legend.

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What Makes Chip Theory Games Work?

The secret to Chip Theory’s success is multifaceted, but starts with their products and how they see themselves as a brand. Their games have a bit to do with that old advertising slogan “if you don’t like what people are saying, change the conversation.” Chip Theory didn’t like the American board gaming industry’s emphasis on parlor style games with a heavy hint of nostalgia.

They wanted to bring the European style of board games (based on interactive storytelling) here, and so—they did! They helped change the way that American-made board games are thought about and commonly produced, and fed a culture of “grassroot gaming” that proved to be hungry for more.

Now, Chip Theory’s arsenal includes a wide array of stylish, and thoughtful board games, from the cult classic Too Many Bones to the tongue-in-cheek Game to Pick a Game. Not to mention multiple iterations (including a reboot currently on Kickstarter and coming to their site early next year) of the game that started it all: Happlemachus.

Their Secret Sauce

The other part of Chip Theory’s Success? Giving the people what they want. Yes, that applies to the games, which are funded by Kickstarter and for which Chip Theory keep their dms open for enthusiastic supporters to chime in with ideas, and likes and dislikes for the direction of the newest Chip Theory additions.

But additionally, because the minds behind Chip Theory are board game fans themselves, they know what board game lovers want: namely, content! They embody a spirit of generosity when it comes to what they make. They add Easter eggs into their games, even going so far as putting in hidden clues that can be collected and solved to unlock special game pieces, additional gameplay, and more.

They provide updates to games at minimal (or sometimes no) cost, giving their customers confidence in the idea that the relatively hefty price tags of their games ensures that they are both well-thought out, and loaded with carefully crafted built-in features and additions along the way.

This spirit of generosity takes Chip Theory beyond the board as well. They are active on Discord and in their Kickstarter comments, fostering community amongst the people who play their games. They specifically make one-player board games to expand the inclusivity of the board game community, and appeal to both big gatherings and people looking for entertainment on a solo Sunday afternoon.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, and as they came to understand social injustices in their Minneapolis hometown and beyond, they decided to give back to the local community, using 10% of their profits to benefit small business and grassroots organizations to help MN thrive and work towards better and more equitable community and small business practices.

This helped feed their business back, and local and global customer’s felt that the Chip Theory brand aligned with their personal values, and were enthusiastic about showing their support.

Chip Theory’s Favorite Ecwid Feature

It’s no surprise that Chip Theory Games turned to Ecwid for an easy-to-use ecommerce solution that embodies that spirit of adaptability. They started using Ecwid in November 2017, and found it a solid solution that helped them update their website’s design and interface.

“We loved how easy it was to stand up in a really really fast fashion right out of the box,” says Chip Theory’s Director of Marketing, Josh Wielgus, who helped get Chip Theory set up with Ecwid. They also loved Ecwid’s price tag: “[With] no transaction fees, Ecwid was way more affordable, especially as a small business,” in comparison to many other names in ecommerce.

Their Advice to Aspiring Merchants

For aspiring merchants looking to enter a vertical where engagement and customer loyalty is key, Chip Theory has some advice: “Give back to your customers whenever you can. Even if it hurts your profit margins, it’s never a bad business move.”

In a time when customer loyalty can feel like a novelty, they never underestimate the power of genuine enthusiasm for who they are and what they do. Chip Theory’s guiding principle continues to be the idea of “making a customer for life” as opposed to making a sale.

You can find Chip Theory’s arsenal of board games available to buy here, and their current Kickstarter campaign here.

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About the author

Nicole is a writer and Content Marketing Manager at Ecwid. As newcomer to e-commerce, it’s her goal to provide informative and user friendly articles that are accessible to all stripes of sellers. She is based in Southern California, the perfect place to chase the sun and watch old movies.

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