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Funding Games via Crowdfunding, Kickstarter, IndieGoGo Etc: Advice from Those in the Know

June 8, 2013

Updated! I’ve added info from Quo Vadis 2014 and other bits I’ve learned!  Thanks. Also worth checking out ICO Partner’s blog on the subject

All this info is not from me btw – this is all advice gather from attending sessions at Quo Vadis and also from conversations with people who’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt (or at least are having the t-shirt printed as tier gifts…)

Preparation

  • Originality is key. Don’t do what others are doing, seek your own clear blue waters.
  • Also look to the right platform: Kickstarter is the biggest one currently and if you fail you get nothing. IndieGoGo is the second biggest but has the option to create a reduced project with whatever is raised. CrowdCubed crowdfunds investors in your buisness, so you can get much more money but they are buying a share of what you do. There are also games-specific crowdfunding platforms such as GameLaunched.
  • Look at people who’ve done well in this area, not to copy them but to see how they make it work for their ideas. Amanda Palmer is a great example of this. In general, musicians have been doing this longer to see what works for them.
  • But also look at what does not work. Around 20% of games Kickstarter’s succeed, so the majority of them fail. It is key also to understand what does not work. Try talking to those for whom it didn’t work out and see what they learned too (e.g post-mortem here)
  • The amount of money you’re asking for is also a key decision. A rule of thumb is that if you are an unknown without an IP then getting more than $50K is hard. If you have a moderately known IP or some of a following then you might make $100K but if you are looking for more than that then you need either/both a large following/name and/or a killer IP.
  • The video is absolutely, totally key. For games there is now a push for demos too, but it is still the video that makes it happen. Great examples of this include Project Clang and Broken Sword. Don’t make it more than 2 minutes, be creative, let the emotions show – convey to people why this project matters. Music is also key, so get it right!
  • Prep Time – The more you’re asking, the more time it takes to prepare. In general expect to put at least 2 months into prep for your pitch. This needs to include getting all the materials and press ready and lots more. While some assets may need to be released in response to questions and comments, prepare as much as you can (art, demos, videos) before as you can. The better the assets, the better the response.
  • Some genres of game work well and others not so. Casual games have not done well whereas RPG, strategy and adventure have done well. So far the original, hardcore gamer and ‘anti-app store’ vibe has been what’s been working. However just because it did (or didn’t) work before does not mean it might not work now…
  • Do share the biographies of key people; funders want to know who they are giving money too.
  • Do create interesting tiers of gifts. They help to define the creativity of the project as a whole. Physical goods are popular but so are quirky things. The high-end tiers really need to be a talking-point; something really cool. These can also help to create coverage.
  • While being original helps – having a name also helps. If you can get support from somebody with a rep and/or get an IP that people know and love, that can make a huuuuge difference to how the campaign will be received and promoted.
  • Don’t do the campaign during Mid January, Mid July, End August or when major games events are on GDC, E3, Gamescom etc. You need the press to cover it and they won’t if they are away.
Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter Art

‘Cthulhu Wars’ Kickstarter Art

The Process

  • Don’t go for 60 day campaigns. Most of the money is raised during the first few and last few days. The middle matters much less and all the longer campaigns do is sap your energy.
  • The first few days are crucial. Very few campaigns do poorly here and recover. Make them count!
  • Don’t do Steam Greenlight before; do it after when you can lever your fan community to help.
  • Note the average pledge per video game project is currently around $70 (it’s $90 for board games!)
  • Expect to be full-time for the duration of the campaign. You need to have people answering comments, responding to questions and all that, 24 hours a day. Just because you’ve gone to bed, does not mean the community has – if you can’t organise enough people to be online for the duration then hire community managers who can.
  • You can keep selling after the event; some projects are making 15%-30% of the total income after the deadline selling tier-related goods.
  • Ideal currency is the dollar; currently all the major projects that have succeeded have done it via a US facing approach.

Promotion

  • It goes without saying that you need to be all over Facebook and Twitter – with the latter piggybacking of popular hashtags can help as well as creating your own. Repost on popular Facebook communities, hassle famous people to RT you and all that.
  • Keep your page active for the duration – be on it with updates, stretch goal, new art and videos. It needs to look like a buzzing thing that people want to be part of. Aim for one press release per week and also weekly asset drops on the site linked to these. Do relaunches around 10 days in and also last 2 days, as it helps keep the momentum.
  • Use your quirky high-end tiers to promote the project; they are great news-hooks.
  • When you are ready to announce, go to the community first and the press second. Get the buzz going first.
  • Don’t make the press about ‘We’re doing a Kickstarter’ as everyone is – make it about an amazing new concept or project.
  • If there are opportunities to talk in person; do it. If you can get on the road and tour some key places to speak and promote it; do so!

Interesting Articles/Links

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