Running a successful Kickstarter campaign can incur a tremendous personal cost. So said Steve Swink in a candid talk delivered at GDC in San Francisco this afternoon. "I was pulled a long way from my center," said Swink of his successful Kickstarter campaign
for his game Scale
. "Since the game was funded I've been suffering from a period of malaise and it’s difficult to get work done. I’m still trying to recover from that."
Swink admitted that he rarely slept for more than five hours a night during the 30-day long Kickstarter campaign for his game, which raised more than $108,000, surpassing its $87,000 target by a significant margin. He advised that Kickstarter can have a warping effect on your game’s design. "There’s this torrent of feedback that comes with your campaign. It’s impossible to hear that feedback and not have it affect your game in some way."
For Swink, much of the stress derived from the pressure to deliver on his promises and to not let people down. "When you create a Kickstarter to a certain degree you are cashing in on people’s good will and belief in you," he said. "If you breach or violate that you can’t go back. Imagine if your backers were your own family: what would it be like if you took money from them and never gave them anything in return."
Swink had a number of concrete tips for game-makers looking to launch a Kickstarter campaign. He advised that people set their goal at less than $50,000. "People perceive this to be a modest goal," he said, referencing the fact that this figure is the median average wage for Americans. "Any more than this figure and it’s an ‘ambitious’ goal." He argued that the lower your goal, the greater the chances that you will pass it within the first week, giving the project a second wave of press attention as it's successfully funded.
He advised developers looking to find their project on Kickstarter to resist the temptation to use outlier projects as their references, or to set expectations. "Projects such as Broken Age
and Faster Than Light
struck a chord with people and you won’t know if this is true for your game until you put it out there.” He added that you will likely know within the first three days whether or not you will be successful due to the projected curve of the first three days.
Finally, Swink urged people to examine their motives for running a Kickstarter. "This is the element that people think about least and this can cause a great deal of problems," he said. "I lacked independent means so needed to raise money. This gave me other benefits such as a starting community, a good place to try out marketing. I am able to make what I want the way I want to make it -- but it comes at a cost."