How four indies conquered Kickstarter Part II

May 12, 2013 in Community

Last Friday we published Part I of our story on how four indie customers successfully funded their games with Kickstarter. Part I focused mainly on the content the teams worked hard to produce before launching their Kickstarter projects, and how that effort paid off in attracting backers and press coverage. In today’s post the customers talk about how they spread the word for the project, budgeting, and the positive power of community.

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Start spreading the word as soon as you press Go, and target the audiences you know will want to play your game.

“We targeted sites and blogs where there is a high concentration of people interested in RPGs, like RPG Codex”, says Jonas. “We knew our target audience and we found them and talked to them. Even though the audience for some of the RPG sites we targeted is smaller than that of general news sites, the quality of the exposure we got was much more valuable”.

Jake and Tamas spread the word through their Chicago-based community of developers. “It’s a great community here of independent developers that really helped us out”, says Jake. “I also emailed my contacts at blogs like rock paper shotgun and indiegames.com. Within a week of launching we met our funding goal and over the next three weeks we earned an extra 15-20% on top”.

Klaus says they benefitted from enthusiastic backers who have their own networks who promoted their project. “You can actually follow people on Kickstarter and get a notification when they back a project. So they end up acting as a kind of ambassador for your game”.

About the money: Set a realistic and modest funding goal, offer nice rewards not just for the highest tiers, but the most popular ones, and be prepared to learn as you go along!

Jake says that when it came to their funding goal, “we decided to be really specific about where all the money was going. Kickstarter is still a really valid option for just starting out and setting realistic and precise goals, such as ‘I need $200 to pay an artist or $300 to pay the band’”.

Michael and Aaron set their funding goal for the minimum amount they needed to complete Blindside and anything above that would go towards extra production value. “You should also expect to lose about 10% of what you raise to fees for payment services, to Kickstarter itself, and to people whose credit cards don’t work”, says Aaron. “And make sure your tax structure is correct! You don’t want to end up raising a lot of money and then losing a big chunk of it to poor or incorrect tax reporting”.

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By reading up on other Kickstarter campaigns, the team at Logic Artists learned that the most popular tiers are 15 or 30$. “So, you want to get people to pick $30”, says Jonas. “We offered beta access for $30. But it’s is hard to figure out what rewards should go with what tiers, especially the high-level tiers. What kind of reward do you offer for $10,000?”

Jake and Tamas also provided physical rewards, such as posters and CDs. “We did a really bad job of budgeting the time it would take to make the items and forgot to include shipping costs, so it cut into the money, but we made up for the loss with some of the extra funding we got”.

“Tiers are a huge thing to nail the campaign”, says Klaus from the Back to Bed team. “We figured out early on that we’d have to make new tiers with physical rewards. People reach a limit where they don’t want to pay for digital items, they want t-shirts. One reward we offered was a framed piece of artwork, and that was quite successful”.

And beyond the money: Whatever happens, take the long-term view that you are building up a new community of people interested in your work

“Now we have this community for our game! We’ve even had to hire a community manager”, says Ali from Logic Artists.

“We’re all invested in the game now”, says Jonas. “We use our Kickstarter community as testers and get a lot of valuable feedback. We even gave them access to our bug trackers”.

“It’s been really nerve wracking. We bet our reputation on it and it was so much work. But Kickstarter has been a way for us to show our skills and make a name for ourselves as a brand new studio about to release their first commercial product”, says Jonas.

“In game design you always want people to test and iterate and tell you how to make it better”, says Michael. We didn’t have a budget for testers. We didn’t have an office. So it was fantastic to have this huge community invested in BlindSide. It was the easiest play-testing experience I’ve had and we got tons of feedback. It was remarkable and really helpful”.

Jake and Tamas had about 30 people sign up as beta testers and “the feedback was extremely helpful”, says Jake. “We also sent out a monthly newsletter to our approximately 200 supporters, showing them some secret stuff and prototypes”, he says.
“These were the folks connected to the game since its inception, so they talked about it and spread the word when it was released”.

As Jake sees it, supporters who act as evangelists for your work are as valuable as the money itself. He talks about a friend of his whose Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its funding goal, but who walked away with a huge community.

“We were hearing about Kickstarter exhaustion already when we launched our campaign”, says Jake. “I know the landscape has changed, but I think the platform is still there for folks doing small, realistically established projects. We were totally ecstatic. To us it was great that you could be a creator and decide for yourself what it means to be successful. And the support we got early on has been amazing for us and super helpful”.

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