#653: Elan Lee, Co-Creator of Exploding Kittens — How to Raise Millions on Kickstarter, Deconstructing Mega-Successes, Secrets of Game Design, The Power of Positive Constraints, The Delights of Craftsmanship, and The Art of Turning Fans into Superfans
Manage episode 354304077 series 1578275
Brought to you by Athletic Greens’s AG1 all-in-one nutritional supplement, Helix Sleep premium mattresses, and Shopify global commerce platform providing tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business.
Elan Lee (@elanlee) is the co-creator and chief executive officer of Exploding Kittens, a leading gaming and entertainment company. Under his leadership, Exploding Kittens has expanded its portfolio to nearly 30 different games with more than 20 million games sold in more than 50 countries since its founding in 2015.
Before founding Exploding Kittens, Lee was the chief design officer at Xbox Entertainment Studios, where he led the Interactive Entertainment Portfolio. Prior to that, he was the founder and chief creative officer of Fourth Wall Studios and co-founder of 42 Entertainment. He began his career at Microsoft Games Studios as a lead designer on the original Xbox.
Lee has won a Primetime Emmy for the series Dirty Work; Game Innovator of the Year for Exploding Kittens; a Peabody Award for the world’s first alternate reality game, The Beast; and an IndieCade Trailblazer Award for a distinguished career in interactive entertainment, among others.
This episode is brought to you by Shopify! Shopify is one of my favorite platforms and one of my favorite companies. Shopify is designed for anyone to sell anywhere, giving entrepreneurs the resources once reserved for big business. In no time flat, you can have a great-looking online store that brings your ideas to life, and you can have the tools to manage your day-to-day and drive sales. No coding or design experience required.
Go to shopify.com/Tim to sign up for a one-dollar-per-month trial period. It’s a great deal for a great service, so I encourage you to check it out. Take your business to the next level today by visiting shopify.com/Tim.
This episode is also brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could use only one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually AG1 by Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system.
Right now, Athletic Greens is offering you their Vitamin D Liquid Formula free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit AthleticGreens.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive the free Vitamin D Liquid Formula (and 5 free travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive all-in-one daily greens product.
This episode is also brought to you by Helix Sleep! Helix was selected as the #1 overall mattress of 2020 by GQ magazine, Wired, Apartment Therapy, and many others. With Helix, there’s a specific mattress to meet each and every body’s unique comfort needs. Just take their quiz—only two minutes to complete—that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. They have a 10-year warranty, and you get to try it out for a hundred nights, risk-free. They’ll even pick it up from you if you don’t love it. And now, Helix is offering 20% off all mattress orders plus two free pillows at HelixSleep.com/Tim.
[06:00] Poetry For Neanderthals and collaborating with creative cohorts.
[16:41] Kitty Test Pilots and core gameplay loops.
[22:21] Crowdfunding, alternate reality games, and internet archaeology.
[25:54] Matthew Inman and The Oatmeal millions.
[32:18] The perils of operating faster than the speed of Gmail.
[34:06] Converting casual fans into superfans.
[34:51] What not to do when your Kickstarter goes better than expected.
[36:51] The budget of production needs to fit the fun.
[43:01] Does size matter?
[44:44] From direct-to-consumer sales to being featured in big box stores.
[47:07] Building a game from scratch quickly.
[52:26] Guiding principles.
[56:37] Foundational game recommendations for beginners.
[1:05:10] Is Settlers of Catan the game you think it is?
[1:07:35] Lessons learned from game design veteran Jordan Weisman.
[1:08:50] If you built Jar Jar Binks’ neck, they practically let you run the place.
[1:11:38] If you can’t rock the vote, then clothe the vote.
[1:15:35] Other practical Jordanisms.
[1:16:55] Steven Spielberg and The Beast.
[1:23:19] Hate playing Candy Land with your kids? Design new games with them.
[1:28:02] Growing Exploding Kittens from a game into a company.
[1:32:56] International shipping nightmares.
[1:36:13] Why an open-door policy had to be shut.
[1:38:27] Employees and their roles.
[1:43:06] When big asks get big results.
[1:47:18] Investor expectations.
[1:52:15] What kind of retirement does someone who makes fun for a living envision?
[1:56:07] Dance partners, algorithm defiance, and other parting thoughts.
For show notes and past guests on The Tim Ferriss Show, please visit tim.blog/podcast.
For deals from sponsors of The Tim Ferriss Show, please visit tim.blog/podcast-sponsors
Sign up for Tim’s email newsletter (5-Bullet Friday) at tim.blog/friday.
For transcripts of episodes, go to tim.blog/transcripts.
Discover Tim’s books: tim.blog/books.
Past guests on The Tim Ferriss Show include Jerry Seinfeld, Hugh Jackman, Dr. Jane Goodall, LeBron James, Kevin Hart, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jamie Foxx, Matthew McConaughey, Esther Perel, Elizabeth Gilbert, Terry Crews, Sia, Yuval Noah Harari, Malcolm Gladwell, Madeleine Albright, Cheryl Strayed, Jim Collins, Mary Karr, Maria Popova, Sam Harris, Michael Phelps, Bob Iger, Edward Norton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Neil Strauss, Ken Burns, Maria Sharapova, Marc Andreessen, Neil Gaiman, Neil de Grasse Tyson, Jocko Willink, Daniel Ek, Kelly Slater, Dr. Peter Attia, Seth Godin, Howard Marks, Dr. Brené Brown, Eric Schmidt, Michael Lewis, Joe Gebbia, Michael Pollan, Dr. Jordan Peterson, Vince Vaughn, Brian Koppelman, Ramit Sethi, Dax Shepard, Tony Robbins, Jim Dethmer, Dan Harris, Ray Dalio, Naval Ravikant, Vitalik Buterin, Elizabeth Lesser, Amanda Palmer, Katie Haun, Sir Richard Branson, Chuck Palahniuk, Arianna Huffington, Reid Hoffman, Bill Burr, Whitney Cummings, Rick Rubin, Dr. Vivek Murthy, Darren Aronofsky, Margaret Atwood, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, Dr. Gabor Maté, Anne Lamott, Sarah Silverman, Dr. Andrew Huberman, and many more.