As the world of independent gaming continues to rise, so the struggle of makin’ it rather than breakin’ it continues to plague young indie developers around the globe. Sustaining game-making is no easy task. Often the equipment needed to produce quality games can cost a pretty penny; couple that with bills to pay, and it’s hard to justify the time and effort.
But still, they persist…these game-makers that bring us the likes of Angry Birds and World of Goo. And they’re doing so using a variety of mediums to help make it possible. One popular platform for both raising funds for your game while also building your fan base is Kickstarter.
Kyle Weik, the co-creator of popular survival game On My Own, successfully launched his game on Kickstarter in 2015. On My Own now has over half a million users worldwide and is launching soon on XBox One.
Michael Norton is a Fargo local and Kickstarter consultant who has helped launch over 20 Kickstarters, some raising over $100,000. Recently he helped launch a campaign for Sentris, a musical game that successfully raised $56,361.
With thousands of Kickstarter campaigns live everyday, it’s hard to stand out. We spoke with Weik and Norton to gain some insight on how to launch the most ideal video game Kickstarter. (And found the advice is applicable to many fields along the way.) Take a look.
Before you launch…
1. Launching a Kickstarter… is like getting pregnant.
The biggest misconception people have when asking for Kickstarter is advice, Norton said, is they do so when they are planning to launch their campaign in a week — or it’s already launched. In reality, preparation for a Kickstarter should begin at least 6 – 9 months in advance, Norton said. Adding more people doesn’t mean it will go faster any more than creating a team around an expectant mother will help her give birth quicker. (His words, not mine.)
Pro Tip: First things first, set a 6 month timeline.
2. Treat it like a business.
The second biggest mistake Norton sees people make, is they forget that raising funds means you have to deal with other financial legalities. Like paying taxes. One woman he worked with was caught off guard when she raised $130,000 in her campaign, placing her in the top bracket for United States taxpayers. She was now paying 30% of her income to taxes, and she hadn’t budgeted for that.
“Be prepared for either scenario,” Norton says. Ask yourself, “If you raise this much can you still do it? Build in the buffers. It’s a big wild card.”
Pro Tip: Prepare for taxes.
3. Create a board of advisers early on.
Now that you have faced the facts and have time to prepare, the best step is to consult with other video game developers, and successful video game Kickstarter creators. Ask them for help in advance and show them the work you have so far, allowing them plenty of time to help you craft your campaign.
“If they get emotionally invested, once you do launch your campaign, they will support you,” Norton says.
Pro Tip: Establish your mentors well in advance.
4. Bring everyone along for the ride.
This goes for more than mentors. Many successful Kickstarters have an audience that is already attached to the person and/or product.
“The most powerful way to prepare is spending a long period of time nurturing a community,” Norton says.
Case and point: A friend of his, an artist, announced her idea for a personally designed deck of cards a year in advance. As she worked on the project, she posted updates on her Instagram and Facebook accounts. Slowly she amassed a niche following of people who wanted her product. By the time she launched her Kickstarter, she raised over $10,000 in a day.
Pro tip: Build anticipation well before the launch.
5. Know your audience.
Be sure to promote your Kickstarter through the venues where your audience is most active. For instance, video gamers are particularly active on Twitter. This means that in your preparation, establish your Twitter account and keep it active. Use this to keep your followers updated on your progress and to push your campaign once it is live.
If you use Reddit, just be sure to arm your self-esteem. Them peeps get nasty.
Pro Tip: Know the social platforms of your fan base, and get involved.
6. Prepare for follow-up in advance.
As you near the date of launching your campaign and lock down the rewards you are going to offer, begin preparing for the follow-up. This is what caught Kyle Weik and co-founder Chad Close off guard with the success of On My Own. Follow-up requires a lot of energy and will likely eat up most of your time after the campaign.
Pro Tip: Brace yourselves.
Crafting your Kickstarter…
1. Sprinkle the text with gold nugget gifs.
If you’re bored looking at your Kickstarter, so are other people. Avoid big blocks of text by sprinkling your description with images and gifs. Treat these images like gold nuggets; lure your audience to read the text, and then “reward them with a gif,” Weik says.
Pro Tip: Use visuals to make your campaign exciting.
2. Launch your game on Steam Greenlight at the same time.
If you have any kind of minimum viable product (MVP) that is functional and playable, Weik recommends launching it on Steam during your Kickstarter campaign. This not only shows that you have an actual game, but it also creates an incentive for fans to become evangelists.
As Kyle put it, “The internet is the ocean and you are casting your net.” This is just another way to gather in more fish.
Pro Tip: Stack your internet exposure. Cast your net wide.
3. Be very clear about where the money is going.
When people are giving money, they want to know that it’s not just to buy you more Red Bull and gummy worms. Create pie charts, specify where the dollars are needed, and how they will be used.
Pro Tip: Let em know about the dough. When in doubt, use pie charts.
4. Let people know you’re a real person.
Once you have a Kickstarter out there, it can become a full-time job, Weik says. This means you have to practice basic tenants of customer service. Respond to people’s questions. But more than that, show them you’re a person who really is trying to bring an idea to life, not some swindler looking for dough. Make jokes. Show emotion.
“Let them know you’re real people,” Weik says.
Pro Tip: Be human.
_ _ _
While we’ve focused this on the indie game developer crowd, know that many of these pro tips can be applied to any field. And successful or not, Kickstarter campaigns can be a beneficial…kickstart to getting your business in the spotlight and off the ground. Cheesy, but true.
Best of luck, Kickstarter-ers.