By Julie Coniglio
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.
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.
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”.
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.
Promo video for the multimillion dollar campaign, “Double Fine Adventure.”
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.