Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites such as indiegogo are rapidly changing the landscape of gaming. As Triple A development slips, small development teams with low budget, niche projects are starting to gain more attention and often find success with crowd funding. Many players view crowd funding as easy, risk-free money, but for developers it can be an emotional rollercoaster where they’ve bet their very livelihood on the public’s generosity.
We, the gaming public have the power. We shall decide who will survive to code another day and who will have to take that internship with Oracle after all.
So why does your Kickstarter suck?
5. Your Thumbnail is Microsoft Wordart
You’ve been working on your pitch for months. Your game literally makes every other game in the history of existence look like trash. You even managed to resurrect the well preserved remains of Howard Hawks to direct your pitch video. It’s a pity that no one is ever going to see your work because you half-arsed the 200px x 150px thumbnail, which is the only thing people will see on the Kickstarter directory.
Now maybe you discovered that Howard Hawks’ reanimated corpse wasn’t much help at all so you’re in charge of your own video. Here’s a tip.
DON’T USE A SHITTY WEBCAM
That’s a golden rule you should not ignore. Know someone with an iPhone? Chan-wook Park shot a short film on that thing for heaven’s sake! It’s better than your terrible old webcam. Find a quiet spot, put the damn thing on a tripod or a least a stack of solid books and shoot until you’re comfortable in front of the camera. It may take more than one take. Audio is more important than video however as you should be cutting to game material as soon as possible, which brings me to my next point.
4. Your game is MIA
I know you think your concept art is the best and your lore is deep and meaningful but it does nothing to demonstrate whether you’re capable of producing a game. Here’s a handy table of the minimum you need to show potential backers.
Now if you’re Tim Schafer, feel free to call me day or night, but if you’re not you’re going to have to produce something of at least a little substance. Your dreams and promises are meaningless to us and you’re going to take the gamble and begin development seriously before you launch the kick-starter. Yes this means probably spending some of your own money. Kickstarter is not risk free.
The Prototype doesn’t look good enough to show off yet? Well then, you’re not ready to pitch.
3. We don’t know what you’re pitching
With the advent of stretch goals, we’ve created several new problems with crowd funded projects. Many developers will lower the funding goal for their projects so success is more likely but only promise a small part of the planned project for the lower amount, while upper tiers will eventually unlock the full scale game. Alternatively, we also have situations where raising more money can completely change the genre of the game you’re pledging for. Do you want a new Ecco the Dolphin? Well don’t pledge too much for that action adventure or that project is going to become an MMO.
If the project being produced significantly changes depending on funds raised, then those looking to back you can’t do so with confidence in what they are backing. Keep stretch goals to things such as higher production values, additional content and bonus materials.
Also keep your primary goal a reflection of the game you want to produce. People will be turned off by an incredibly low goal as much as by a very high one if it doesn’t suit the project.
2. You have dignity
Your time is worth something. Your work is valuable and you should not be taken advantage of. These are rules all artist should live by and as most of us are aware, they’re unfortunately complete bullshit in the real world.
First off, be prepared to whore yourself to anyone who shows even the slightest interest in your project. If you thought that posting the Kickstarter and sending a press release to a few media outlets would do anything, then unless you’re incredibly lucky you won’t be getting anywhere. Doing PR is work and you should practise talking about your game before you launch. Use updates on your projects page and social media and line up any interviews with game media if you can. Doing an Eight and a Half Bit Elevator Pitch doesn’t hurt either.
Secondly, swallow your pride. People don’t care about your personal dream. They want to know what you’re making and how you can make it. If you want to discuss your life goals then put it on the back end of your pitch.
Your game is in the scope of a $40 retail game? Well you’re not selling a retail game. What you’re doing is asking people to donate money to you on the promise that you’ll make something worthwhile. Depending on the state of your project when you launch your kickstarter it’s likely the public is going to be taking many leaps of faith in order to back you. The primary backer pledge will typically be for the game itself and while you may feel a small discount on the final product is worth a backer’s risk, you’d be better off thinking a little harsher. Steam Sale harsh.
Side note: Go nuts with higher pledge levels but try not overwhelm people with choices. Also remember that physical pledges cost more than just the items cost. Postage, storage and time processing can cause major headaches.
1. We are idiots
Sorry to let you know but most people playing games don’t know anything about development. Most of us can’t even do the simple maths involved to calculate our own wages by team size and development time needed. People see a $400,000 goal and think you’re greedy and that you could make 10 games for that cost. Crowd-funding has also demonstrated that although it will fund projects that big publishers won’t, people still like what they know and an ambitious original project from a new team is going to have a very tough time. We are dribbling idiots and there’s not a lot you can do about that other than not take it to heart when the masses scream at you for being a day late, or because there are bugs in your public alpha.