My name is Alix, and I will be your co-pilot today!
Since our Kickstarter, we have been asked several times how we made our Kickstarter so successful, I’ve been writing this in my spare time to give everyone the best advice I can. (Calvin says I’m insane for spending so much time on this >.>)
I’m not a pro at marketing, but I did learn a lot during the time I spent working on the Legend of Dungeon Kickstarter. I did a lot of research, and I learned from a few of my own mistakes as well.
This is really just scratching the surface and I highly recommend doing your own research, and also look into the links I’ve left at the bottom, they should help in all aspects of marketing!
To start off, these were our Kickstarter numbers:
The Goal was $5K, the kickstarter ended with 33K.
We had 1,823 backers, and about a dozen failed payments.
About 3.5K went to kickstarter/amazon fees. I guesstimate another 4-5k will go to taxes.
Plan your project well.
- Take the time to really think through everything.
Everything will affect the outcome… from the timing of your campaign and how/when you contact the press, to your reward tiers and how much time a day you spend on the kickstarter while its running. We looked at other campaigns and tried to create our project with their failure/success in mind.
- Timing is hard, and it’s impossible to tell the future.
The timing of our project was fairly poor in that the holidays made it tough for many reasons, for instance, on black friday we saw a lot of cancelled pledges. Planning the beginning and end dates of the kickstarter, you’ll have no idea what other game projects will launch or end the same day as yours, so focus on it ending at a time and day where lots of people are online. We checked for AAA game releases, and avoided those days.
- Everything takes three times longer than expected.
This isn’t true, but when you are trying to decide on a release date for the game, add in some extra time for potential issues. If you put in reward tiers where you will be working directly with backers for added game content, add in a lot of time for that. we tried, but still underestimated the time that it would take. We devs are the ones setting our release dates, and missing our own deadlines will worry backers, and doesn’t speak well for indie game devs.
- For the Goal $$$, time is money, but no one wants to know that.
Backers don’t seem to like hearing that you need to eat, but to be fair, they are paying to help you make something you can sell. When planning your goal amount you need to consider the money you and your project needs and the expected response from people.
- You can use Kickstarter as a project viability test.
We had no idea what the response to Legend of Dungeon would be, so we set our price as low as we could and pre planned stretch goals in order to achieve more features. This definitely worked for us. We reached Multiple stretch goals and we got extra attention because our goal was met in under 24hrs. Had we failed to reach, or barely reach our goal, it would have meant that it was not a “hit” game. knowing that would save us months of work on features for a game that no one cared about. Needless to say I am glad that wasn’t the case!
- Price out any physical rewards properly.
Manufacturing, packaging, man hours, and shipping are all important and can be costly. We stayed away from as many physical rewards as we could because we felt that most of the money pledged ought to go to the project, and physical rewards can use up a lot of time and money, in shipping especially.
- $5 for a game copy might make you more than $10 for an item.
Backers will think they are helping more, when really, because of costs, it just makes more work for you if you aren’t careful. The only reason we did posters was because I did the math, and we ran an early bird special including 100 posters. It would have been too expensive if we weren’t printing at least that many.
- Remember there will be dropped payments, fees, and taxes. Plan for them. Kickstarter and Amazon get a portion of the money, and there are taxes as well, make sure you consider these when pricing out the goal amount. Not doing so could mean you get underfunded, something nobody wants.
Make a good video and Tell your story.
- Odds are the video will be seen far more than anything you write.
Make your video as grabbing as possible, informative, and short (people have a goldfish attention span, and you can always link to more videos in the page). We weren’t lucky enough to have friends in the film industry or money etc, so our video was not very professional looking where the two of us were concerned. We chose to show clips of the game instead for the majority of the video to compensate for that a little.
- What happened with our Video.
About 27% of people watched our video to the end, there were about 23,301 views and 1,823 backers total, so every 1 in 13 views backed it. I don’t have much reference, but that doesn’t seem too bad, though I imagine many projects have a better buy rate than that. We probably lost a good handful of potential backers because our video was not very well done.
Design a simple, well thought out rewards system, make them count, and make it visual.
- People can get overwhelmed by too many options so try to restrain yourself from having too many rewards. I would say aim for 5-8, depending on what you have to offer and the scope of your project.
- Make the rewards count by encouraging people to pledge.
An early bird special can work very well to help you get a good boost in the beginning (don’t forget to price it out though!). pre-selling the game, having exclusive additional content, input into the game, etc. seem to be fairly good approaches for videogames as well.
- Images catch peoples eyes.
It’s true, so use that to your advantage. Make your stretch goals into an image, and show images for various rewards if you can, as well as graphics for anything else you can justify in your Kickstarter page.
Find ways to spread the word, and when you do it, make it count. Obscurity is death.
- Research writing good press releases.
Have a few people read it before sending it out to the press, if it seems boring or sounds “self promotey” you might lose the interest of a good handful of journalists, especially the more well known ones. As I get more experience writing I get a little better at it, but I always bounce it off of someone when I can, the more knowledgeable the better.
- Get a mailing list ready in advance. When sending a press release to journalists, bloggers and websites, try to make the e-mails personal, especially when its a popular site (You are more likely to get a response if you tailor your e-mail to the individual instead of a mass mailing) and only send to relevant people (if its not an MMO, to MMO sites it will be spam).
- Social sites, get on them all right now, don’t wait.
This is where things can be tricky, and can be time consuming. Each social site functions differently but in general having an early presence is very beneficial. Reddit is different from both forums or Twitter, it is highly popularity based per post, and knowing your way around the site and having some Karma will be good. Search reddit for all the groups relevant to what you do. On forums, you hold more impact with your post if you have some history on the site, keeping up with threads can be time consuming though, you may want to focus on a few of the larger sites. For Facebook you should have a page for either your company, or the game, or both, and promote it and keep it active as best you can. The more followers you can get for Facebook and Twitter etc. the better your reach will be when you announce your Kickstarter.
- A dev blog is a really good thing to have for many reasons, A cozy place for fans to interact and keep track of progress is only the start. Make one and update it with info about your development, opinions on the game scene, and other game relevant things.
Fundraise like it’s your job, not an obsession.
- Unless you have someone on your team purely for PR who will handle all of the kickstarter stuff, expect your Dev time to suffer for the majority of the campaign, and plan for it.
- During the campaign, try to spend your time efficiently, it disappears quickly. We ended up spending almost all of our day doing something regarding the kickstarter. Taking breaks might have been a good idea, we both felt exhausted by the end.
- One thing I learned was to focus on the things that reach larger audiences. The time spent on little things will add up, with little to show for it, and often putting your energy into larger ideas is more valuable.
This is the top ten backer sources from the Legend of Dungeon kickstarter.
Give incentives to spread the word whenever you can.
- People are much more motivated to share when they gain something from it. We saw a noticeable boost from an Ouya giveaway that we stumbled upon near the end of the Kickstarter. Adding the possibility of getting the game onto the Ouya encouraged people to talk more about the game, and also gave them something to talk about.
- Stretch goals also fall into this category, they not only allow you to expand on your idea, but they entice people to share the project with friends in hopes of reaching that goal.
Give them the best impression of you and your game that you can.
- How well you can show off your game does not entirely depend on what stage your game is at. having a Playable Demo and gameplay footage are probably the best, but screenshots are also good. Concept art is always good too, but if you don’t even have concept art, at least find a way to show off some of the artist’s other work to showcase their skill and artistic style.
- Give frequent updates to your backers during the kickstarter if you can, this will show them how dedicated you are, and that the project is very active. After the kickstarter you should keep them up to date as well.
- Prepare yourself and team for the ride. You will have backers drop, good press, bad press, who knows.. maybe your idol will tweet about it, or maybe it will fail. It was almost impossible to stay focused with everything happening, and all the crazy could potentially cause tension in your group/life. Be warned.
- Whenever possible, thank and interact with people, connections on even a small scale will not only feel fulfilling and create a small bond, but it’s just the polite thing to do :P If you go about it earnestly you can make great friends too. We have some loyal followers/friends that go back to our very first game, two of them we even brought to the IGF ‘11!
Press releases are very valuable, and the more newsworthy the better.
- With no budget, Press is your savior.
Have at least one to announce the kickstarter and one for a few days before the end. During our kickstarter we would have probably benefited greatly if we’d had enough news near the middle of the campaign for a third press release.
- If you already have lots of progress done on the game, and you haven’t already, you may want to announce the game before the kickstarter, and show off a few screen shots and try to start building your audience. Saving gameplay videos for the kickstarter might help your initial press release though.
- Treat the press like people. Thank them, joke with them, bond with them. Having a journalist or blogger that likes you can make all the difference. 1 friendly blogger is easily worth 10 strangers.
- Steam is a huge percentage of the digital distribution market and greenlight is your ticket in, do your research and make a greenlight page, it certainly can’t hurt!
- I’m not sure when the best time for submitting your game to Steam Greenlight is, but having a link to Greenlight on the kickstarter page and press releases helped boost our game well into the top 100.
- Use the resources the sites offer you!
Many websites offer ways for you to promote your game,indieDB and Kitcktraq.com has some useful things, and there are widgets for Greenlight and Kickstarter. You should use them!
- If you do everything right and your project is still not successful, look at it all and figure out what went wrong. You can try again if the game is not the issue. If the game has some flaw, that is better to know now, rather than later. If you marketed well, you will have gained followers either way, be sure to thank them, and guide them to your next step, win or lose!
That is about all I can think of! If I missed something, just ask me anything you want, I might learn something!
-Super useful dev resources-
http://www.pixelprospector.com - tons of helpful marketing information, resources and other good stuff, my favorite resource, I send people here all the time!
http://pds271.wordpress.com/ -Start up gamers
http://www.gamasutra.com - Major place to get all kinds of helpful game related knowledge
http://forums.tigsource.com - a good forum for game devs!
http://www.indiegamegirl.com/ - Lots of good thoughts on marketing etc.
http://www.nathanielhansen.com/film-fundraising/the-ultimate-crowdfunding-to-do-list-before-you-launch/ - For films, but still very valid points.
http://www.jokeandbiagio.com/kickstarter-tip-get-more-facebook-likes-and-tweets-on-your-page - an interesting tactic I just discovered.
http://crowdfundinghelp.com/ - just what it sounds like.
http://www.magicpixelgames.com/kickassist/ -chance for an extra $500 towards your kickstarter
http://www.promoterapp.com/calendar -Game related events calender
Please vote for Legend of Dungeon on our Steam Greenlight page if you haven’t already, getting onto steam would be a dream come true!
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