How to use Kickstarter to crowdfund your game

By Julie Coniglio

A character from “Socks Inc.”
Crowdfunding is a great option for games for good – especially for causes that already have communities attached to them. With supporters and end-users funding your game project, you don’t have a publisher or investor vetting your ideas. Essentially, online crowdfunding platforms are vehicles to create change from the bottom up. While they can be powerful tools, they are uncharted territory for many people. This post outlines the importance of a strategic approach to three main aspects of a crowdfunding campaign: community, incentives, and your personal impression.

Kickstarter is the most powerful crowdfunding platform. A few months ago, the makers of the D-Day Dice Board Game raised over $170k to manufacture and distribute their award-winning game. The goal was just $13k. Our favorite “Secret Headquarters for Worldchanging Game Developers”, Gameful, was also funded on Kickstarter and raised $62k more than they set out to. Veteran game designer Tim Schafer reached his funding goal of $400k in eight hours and reached over $1 million in less than a day!

Every campaign doesn’t need lots of dollar signs – the platform offers flexibility for creators looking to launch small initiatives for an under-addressed or niche cause. There are other platform options such as 8-bit Funding, Rocket Hub, IndieGoGo, and, newest to the scene, Lucky Ant. Whichever platform you choose, these are some key insights to keep in mind.

Community

The first question you need to ask yourself is “who the heck is going to contribute to my campaign?!” Not sure? Well, I’ll tell you. The people who contribute will do so because they are asked to. There are a few “angel funders” out there… people who actively seek out campaigns that excite them; but, a majority of people are pushed to the site. You need to bravely reach out and ask people to support your campaign and then ask them to evangelize, evangelize, evangelize.

A promotional image for “Wisconsin Hustle”
The easiest people to tap first are your friends, family, coworkers, industry contacts, and community groups. Then you need to move on to the people who will use your product or service and the people who admire the project’s goal and those aligned with its ideology. Outreach needs to happen both digitally and in real life. Email bloggers, launch an email campaign, and use every last megapixel of social media. Call up papers and magazines, mail out post-cards, and go to meet ups and networking events. I’ve even seen Facebook ads for Kickstarter campaigns. By speaking directly to a community, you can not only build a successful game, but you build a community to activate in the future.

For Socks, Inc., we started reaching out before we even kicked-off our campaign. We sent postcards and game themed scout badges to everyone who had played our previously released game. We also sent mail to industry leaders, influencers, and bloggers. We went to meet ups and passed around post cards. Our message was not “give us money” but “this is exciting – spread the word”.

Incentives

Every reward system is unique to the project being built – but think of it as a pre-sale. Even if a game is for “good”, bringing along an inherent reward system for its supporters, you still need to design a system that entices and motivates. For Socks, Inc., we designed a system based on the finding that most people contribute $25. We made $25 our “sweet spot” and inspired people to give at our sweet spot by making the reward for $25 thrice as awesome as the reward for a $15 contribution. We also made sure that each reward cost us less than 5% of the pledge level. (Don’t forget to take the costs of rewards as well as the Kickstarter and Amazon’s cuts into consideration when determining your goal.)

A recent example of an innovative reward system is used by the creators of For the Win. They limited the number of people who would get the game at $10 and $15, rewarding the first 800 contributors with a huge discount. They added a board extension as a reward for everyone who pledges $15 or more, but only if they reach $25,000 (their original goal was $15,000 and the campaign ended on Feb 8th). Additionally, they offer retailers the opportunity to order the game in advance for around 67% off.

Personal Impression


Promo video for the multimillion dollar campaign, “Double Fine Adventure.”
People are not just contributing money to your campaign, they are contributing to you and have faith you will accomplish your goals. You must be transparent and sincere. Tell your audience about yourself – what inspires you and what keeps you motivated. Why do you think this is a worthwhile project…. and show social proof that others agree. You should also show off any playtesting or research you have done. This also means being accessible – add links to places that reveal things about you and your work. According to Indiegogo, adding personal links to Twitter, Facebook, Website, YouTube, LinkedIn (listed in order of effect) greatly increase the amount of money raised.

Prior to Socks, Inc., we made an indie Alternate Reality Game that had a small but passionate fan base. In our campaign video we use that project to talk about the new one; we speak about the usual barriers of entry for ARGs and how we are using our experience to eliminate those barriers with Socks, Inc.

Speaking of videos – you must make one. If you can’t be bothered making a video, then you can’t expect other people to bother caring about your project. If you can’t shoot at a high production level, you should be sincere and point to (by showing, not telling) the reasons why your video production skills aren’t necessarily important. If you are a critically acclaimed game maker with a production team, a la Tim Schafer, then you should do exactly what he did; make an awesome video that guarantees an extremely well-made game and raise $400k in only eight hours (w00t!).

Speaking of tremendous success on Kickstarter, be prepared for both unanticipated success and disappointing failure. If your project becomes tremendously successful, you may need to consider new models of production and distribution… not a horrible problem to have. The ugly face of failure can come in two forms; a failure to raise money and a failure to pull off the project after collecting the money. If you don’t raise money, maybe you aren’t offering the right product or service. Do some more research and consider trying again. If you can’t pull off what you have set out to do, you better be ready to save your reputation or change your name.

Bottom line is, be prepared girl scout.

*** 

Coming to GDC this year? Check out Julie at the Indie Summit where she will be speaking with Cindy Au from Kickstarter about the crowd funding for game projects.

This post has been adapted from Julie’s case study deck – “Crowdfunding with Kickstarter

Julie is co-founder and producer at Awkward Hug.

COMMENTS

2 Responses to How to use Kickstarter to crowdfund your game

  1. Joey Sasvari says:

    Kickstarter denied our project for their website b/c they said we are too "cause related." This was even after multiple conversations that we had with them through email. While they were very responsive to our arguments, they didn’t change their mind on whether Raise the Village for Facebook was the right fit for their website. They even went so far as to say that if we took the "cause related" portion out of our project, then they’d accept us. We have instead had to launch our campaign on indie GoGo at:

    http://www.indiegogo.com/Raise-the-Village

  2. Jon says:

    Hey I’m Jonny O. I have my music campain running on kickstarter. I’m trying to figure out this whole reaching out to people thing, but its kind of hard, but good luck Joey. It’ll work on indiegogo bro…

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