How to Kickstart your Creative Project
Good morning RPGWatch! Jake Way here again giving a shout out from Hawaii. Today I'm going to talk about funding a game project through a crowdfunding platform called Kickstarter. This article will be specific to games but the principles covered in this article can be applied to all sorts of creative projects.
First, what is crowdfunding? Crowdfunding involves showcasing your project to a large audience and asking for pledges in exchange for a gift. Think about it like going into a room full of people interested in what you are doing and each of them giving you a dollar. It's not at all a charity gig- so your gift in exchange for their pledge needs to be good. Crowdfunding is unique because it allows the indie-man to pull in income for a project when the product is not yet ready to ship.
There are a number of crowdfunding platforms online that where you can showcase your project. Kickstarter, the one our game used, was very easy to use, made our message clear, allowed us to present a cool video and provided our projects backers with a safe way to send money.
Kickstarter didn't have just games- it had about everything under the sun. Lights for your bike, coffee warmers, organic popcorn, indie music to name a few. Some of these pulled in a lot of money. I remember seeing a new pen that had a funding goal under $5 grand but left with over a hundred thousand bucks.
Kickstarter had a relatively high sucess rate that was very attractive. We believed it could one, help fund our game's development, and two help spread the message. Our game, I Shall Remain- just had a rough time on Kickstarter. At first it did great. In the first ten days we raised almost $1300.00 dollars for it. Then the pledges ended and never came back. Our Kickstarter page ultimately did not bring in enough money to reach our $12,000.00 goal. It wasn't all for nothing though. We learned a lot about marketing and we hope by sharing this knowledge we can help others be sucessful.
So, why did we end up with a flop?
Well we have a great idea driving us forward. The game is an original approach to the zombie survival games and is an absolute blast to play. The thing is- good ideas are a dime a dozen. Good ideas can fail just as much as a bad ones. What turns a good idea into something successful is the execution. We did a lot of things right, but there was a kiss of death that could have been prevented.
The most important thing we learned was crowdfunding is not the field of dreams. If you build it, they aren't necessarily going to come. Especially when you have a game. A lot of people surf the crowdfunding websites and pledge a lot of money and exchange are getting some really unique gifts in the mail every week. These people are going to have their own interests. When you have a video game, you can only attract the group of people that regularly visit crowd funding websites that are interested in computer games. From that already narrowed down group, your game will only be interesting to those who like your type of game. Something more generic, like a pen for instance- can be used by everyone so it has a greater chance of success on its own. No matter how awesome your message is or how great you gifts are, if someone doesn't play video games they're probably not going to support you.
Hopeless? Not at all. Before you throw your project up on Kickstarter you need to start to market it on your own. You need to develop a following, and once you have a solid fan base you can then put your project on Kickstarter and have a greater chance of success. I am still learning how to do this. Here's some of what I've learned so far:
The way marketing is today is very good for the independent developer. Never before could someone like me in a barracks room reach out to so many people in so many places. Years ago, as the marketing guru Seth Godin said, it was all about 'average products for average people.' See, make an average tube of toothpaste. Spend X amount of dollars on advertising. Expect Y amount of return on that investment. Today if you only do that and don't have the name of your space pen slapped on the side of a winning Nascar- you will surely die.
Today, marketing is a lot different. Major companies now have to compete against the average Joe like me in the social media scene. We are racing. We are racing for the good, unique idea to share with a small group of fanatics hoping that they will like what we have and share it with their friends.
Alright, so I need to market better. Wait a minute.. if I'm doing all the marketing work to drive traffic to kickstarter, why don't I just drive traffic to my own website?
Well, this is a question you're going to have to answer for yourself based on your needs. Do you need a secure payment system, need help pulling in some additional fans, have a video you want to present, need funding before you have a product to release? Kickstarter can help you. Do you not yet have a solid fan base, only want attention on your website, don't have any gifts to provide to pledgers? Kickstarter will be problematic for you.
Okay so you have a solid marketing plan, and some fans! What are some things you can do to ensure your success? I took pride in responding to everyone who sent me a message or a pledge within no more than 12 hours. I watched my email like a hawk. Not all Kickstarter projects do this, I ensured mine did to stand out. Your fans and pledgers need to be your top priority. Give time to them and be interested in what they say. If you're not sincere, you're wrong.
Carefully structure your gifts, and make sure you have something really cool at the $20 dollar sweet spot. The perfect set up is where someone wants to pledge a certain amount of money but sees for just 5 dollars more, he can get that really cool gift.
Make a good intro video! I am now a firm believer that everything you learn in life will help you someday in the future you just never know when. Luckily I had an obsession in high schol with making movies so years later when I busted out the camera to shoot an interview I was able to put together a very competetive video. This will lead into my next point. But for those who are unfamiliar with camera work I highly reccomend watching Film Riot's youtube channel on making movies. They are very fun to watch and you learn a lot. Watch other succesful Kickstarter videos and track what they are doing in their videos that you can do too. Ensure you explain your product well but don't eat up too much of the viewer's time. Don't spend days talking about yourself. "I am Jake, I am the writer.. poducer.. art director.. gradutate of this school.. currently do this for work ..." Get to the point.
Use what you have creatively and to the max. You can do a lot with a paperclip. You can clip up some paper, or your hair, get out of handcuffs and be stabby. Use thie principle with everything. In our game we dont have very many items we can build environments with but by using everything creatively I have never seen one part of a map that looks like another or is boring. All you have for a gift is a copy of your game? Well, what about a limited version of your game for a small pledge, the full game for a larger pledge, or pledge even more and get a copy of the game for you and a friend plus downloadable content for life. We just turned one item, the copy of the game- into 3 really cool gifts.
Taking on a creative venture is a lot of work. If you do it I hold you in the highest regard. I hope that you can take some good knowledge away from this that can help you be successful. We covered some basic marketing principles, interaction with fans, and the do's and dont's of crowdfunding on Kickstarter. To the young creator out there, keep it up! Continue what you are doing and always expand your knowledge. What you are doing is the lifeblood of this country. It's an entrepreneual venture, its risky, it's fun- its scary.
Remember, good ideas are everywhere. People who can execute a good plan and make an idea succesful are harder to come by. For any questions, comments or feedback feel free to get in touch with me. Hit up the contact page of our game's website at ishallremain.com. I want to hear from you!