April felt a little bit like crashing back down to earth. My Cowgirls Vs Cthonimon Kickstarter fizzling out was disappointing, especially after putting so much time into it. However, in hindsight, I can see where I went wrong with the campaign, and for future Kickstarters (and when I eventually relaunch Cowgirls) I will be better prepared. I am confident I can make Kickstarter really work for me – once the campaign is handled correctly.
I thought it might be useful for anyone reading this (who is considering starting a campaign) to mention some of the things that stood out for me. The following info and observations may help your first campaign be more successful than mine.
Numbers – it was the numbers that really threw me off on Kickstarter. I had assumed (so very wrongly) that just by being up on Kickstarter (with a Greenlight submission running in parallel) I would see some reasonable eyeballs on the project. The reality however was very different. The campaign flatlined around the halfway mark, so I pulled the plug with 1 week to go, but for the first 3 weeks of the campaign, the promo video was watched just 825 times. That’s right – just eight hundred and twenty five views. And that was with a Greenlight submission ticking along. The lesson learned here is – Kickstarter alone does not supply near enough visibility for a Video Game project to succeed.
Project We love – I have seen others whose Kickstarters did not do well lament the fact that they never got a “Project We love” tag on their project. That tag could have made all the difference, right? More visibility, more pledges, greater success? In my experience (having been tagged after I uploaded an improved promo video) being tagged actually made very little difference. So don’t fret about whether or not you become a “Project We Love”. (Note that I still appreciate that Kickstarter tagged me in this manner, it tells me that they believed in the game itself and felt the page presentation was up to scratch).
Competition – when I was running my campaign, there were around 150 or so other Video Game projects live on Kickstarter (149 as I write this). That’s quite a lot of projects directly competing for eyeballs. Not to mention there were many more projects (554 total) under the broader “Games” category that many people would also have been distracted by. Many of the Video Game projects were in a somewhat similar vein to mine too – retro, action RPG, pixel art etc. – which is something else to consider. It’s good to be aware in advance of how much competition you can expect.
As a side note, for anyone developing in GameMaker: Studio who is active on the GMC, a handful of those 150 games that were live as I ran my campaign, were also being developed using GameMaker and were advertising on and pulling a few pledges from the GMC at the same time as mine. So bear that in mind.
Funding Goal – For Cowgirls I purposely set the funding goal quite low (but not low enough) in expectation that it would be achieved quickly and that I could follow it up with Stretch Goals (all the way up to 20k!) and Backer Bonuses once it was reached. That was a bad idea. For big Kickstarter projects, ran by well known games industry vets, or people with massive social media followings, setting the funding goal high is the right way to go (the only way to go if you’re looking to make a full time gig out of your project). But if you are a small indie, relatively unknown, without a large initial support base, with a small social media presense, and without an advertising campaign, then I suggest you go as low as possible with your Funding Goal. My reasoning here is that you can set a note of positivity early on in your campaign when the Goal is reached in a few short days. This makes current pledgers happy, gives you something big to post about, and gives any new project viewers more confidence in the game – which makes them more likely to pledge.
The following is a list of the most important things I will focus on for future Kickstarters and for the Cowgirls relaunch:
1. Have built up a solid base of people interested in the game beforehand.
2. Have a professionally edited promo video that fully demonstrates all features.
3. Don’t launch until the game is far enough along in development.
4. Have a playable demo available from day 1.
5. Have Stretch Goals available from day 1.
6. Prepare all bi-weekly feature info and milestone/ unlock posts beforehand.
7. Build up hype for the campaign on social media beforehand.
8. Cross-promote similar projects via social media.
I hope this little post-mortem was useful. Feel free to comment below. I am interested in hearing other people’s opinions on and experiences with Kickstarter.