Launching a Kickstarter Campaign – Do’s and Don’ts
Launching a Kickstarter campaign can be daunting. But it can also be exactly what you need to get your project completed. However, there are a ton of projects on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding websites. So you’ll need to make yours stand out as professional and polished as possible to catch your audience’s attention and convert them into investors. Recently we covered a few of the best Kickstarter game projects we could find for May. And while working on that list I found one campaign that made a number of mistakes that others can learn from.
Full disclosure, I have never launched a Kickstarter campaign myself. However, I have backed a few of them. And that is why my advice is coming from the point of view of a potential backer.
The Good First
While there are a number of things the example campaign has done wrong, I’d like to focus first on the parts that it got right. And when it comes to putting your best foot forward they did a good job with one important aspect. The name of the campaign. It might seem pretty simple to just call the campaign the name of the game you are working on. And you would be partly right there. But, really the title needs to convey a few different things succinctly. And in this example, the campaign manager has done that. The title is “NeitherWorld – MMORPG Video Game”. A simple title but it works well. The name of the game is interesting in itself, and following it up with the genre of game and confirmation of the type of project are both wins.
This may seem like a pretty obvious setup. But you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow that scheme. By providing this information upfront in the title you increase the chance that people who will be interested in the project will find it. While you might gain more clicks with just an interesting name for the game it is unlikely that people that are not interested in the genre will be converted unless your presentation is absolutely spot on. More on that soon.
The second aspect they did right, however, arguably less so than the first point. Is passion for their project. The developer briefly explains the history of his idea and that he wants to make it a reality because no one else has.
Star power and prestige
One other quick thing I’d like to cover that doesn’t apply to all projects is previous accolades, achievements, and status. If you’ve made a previous project that was successful such as Sabotage Studios The Messenger, then it is absolutely ok to mention that in a Kickstarter for a new project (Sea of Stars). The same thing applies if a member of your team has a bright past in the industry. Such as Sea of Stars working with the composer from Chrono Cross. Not only does this bring in some immediate credibility, but it also serves as an easy to market angle for your project.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you need to be consistent in your presentation. Game development is often not a linear trajectory and sometimes games are renamed or rebranded during this stage for a multitude of reasons. What you want to do is to make sure that any changes are applied wherever required. I’m using the name of the game as an example but it could be any aspect really. If you state one thing at one point and another later on people will lose faith in your project.
Going back to the title this applies to our example of what not to do. While the game is called NeitherWorld in the title, the key artwork refers to it as NetherWorld, the main body of the text goes back to NeitherWorld and then one of the perks incorrectly spells it as NietherWorld. 3 different spellings for the name of the game out of 4 times listed puts up some red flags. Especially seeing as one of them is the title art because that takes a lot more time to put together. Time that should have picked up on the mistake before the campaign started.
As a general rule of thumb, you want as few spelling and grammatical issues as possible. Ideally, you’d want none. But that’s not always going to be possible even for native speakers of the language. Heck, even professional writers make mistakes. That’s why proofreaders exist. Now you don’t need to go as far as hiring a proofreader, but I would highly recommend having a few people read over your work before you launch your campaign.
Don’t be afraid to make your campaign long. A reader who is interested will either read it all or skim for the parts that stand out to them. Either way that’s a better outcome than having a vague outline that tells people very little. There are hundreds of campaigns out there, if you don’t offer reasons for people to back yours then they won’t. Once again our example campaign is guilty of this. While it starts off with the history of the project (mentioned earlier as the developers desire for a game that doesn’t exist and his decision to make it himself. It quickly falls apart thereafter simply by omission.
A polished campaign will give you as much information as you need. Basic things such as influences and reference points. But also break downs of what they are doing differently. For instance, how their combat works, the quirky story they are writing, the lovable characters, etc. This is something that our list of the best entries excelled at. Breaking up the information with easy to read headers makes things simple for readers who are skimming through or looking for a specific aspect of the game that interests them.
It is also paramount to include images, as the old adage says a picture is worth a thousand words. So who can say how much a good GIF would be worth. Even if the game is in the very early stages you can include concept art. And honestly, if you can’t put together enough images to get people interested in your campaign then you aren’t ready to launch one to begin with.
As a potential backer, for me, the best campaigns are the ones that show a breakdown of where the requested money will be going. Generally, this is placed at the bottom of the campaign after the more exciting stuff. But it is no less important than the stuff above. Breaking down the requested budget for your campaign helps backers to understand why their donation is important and why your target is what it is.
Omitting this from your campaign will have people think that you’re either asking for more than you need or have yet to figure out the costs and are just asking for a ballpark figure. Either way that’s not what you want. Listing your budget break down could also have unintended effects. For instance, if you list a certain amount for freelance art you might be contacted by an artist who will do it for half as much.
Naturally, our example of what not to do has no budget breakdown. It also has a fairly high target goal and very few images that show lower grade graphics. Which sort of brings into question where all this money would be going, a budget or at the very least a list of goals and intentions would do a long way into clearing this up.
Once you have your content in place, your title sorted out and your budget worked out the next thing to think about is the pledge tier perks. Ideally, you’ll want quite a few tiers to work for backers of all budget sizes. For a game you’ll mostly see lower tiers including a limited “early bird” version that is cheaper than normal. A normal version of what the game is expected to cost when it is released. More expensive tiers would contain limited physical versions of the game or other physical items. And then progressively more costly tiers in which you actually get to impact the development of the game either developing an item, an NPC or a boss, etc. Naturally, these higher grade tiers are usually fairly limited for various reasons.
Our what not to do example sort of follows this trend. However, due to a lack of tiers the price skyrockets almost immediately (starting with two $15 tiers and then jumping up to $100 and $500). It also doesn’t mention a copy of the game in any of the tiers except for “beta testing” in one of the $15 ones. The game is supposed to be an MMORPG and there is a long history of them being free to play with optional (or not so optional) in-game payments. But the campaign does not mention this at all anywhere. And also brings into question why the average backer would want to spend money on something that will be free when it comes out.
Don’t be afraid to fail
Plenty of campaigns fail to reach their target goals. Don’t be discouraged by this, use it as a chance to learn. Make sure you connect with the people that did back your project. If you can find out what appealed to them you can emphasize it. If you can find out what they didn’t like you can adjust it. Maybe between the campaign starting and ending you’ve developed new concept art. Launching the campaign again immediately is not something I would recommend. But if you take time to make adjustments and polish it success could be right around the corner.
You also can’t forget the importance of marketing. If no one sees your project then no one will back it. Marketing can be anything from trying to build a following on social media. To hiring a marketing team. Or even reaching out to people with followings to get the word out. Don’t be afraid to contact a Let’s Player or reviewer especially if you have a playable demo you think they’ll enjoy. If you truly believe in your project then you’ll find others that will too. It’s just a matter of connecting with them.
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.