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5 tips on running a successful Kickstarter campaign

Running a Kickstarter isn't as easy as one might think. It requires a lot of prep work, dedication and a bit of luck. Here are the 5 simple rules I've used myself for crowdfunding campaigns I helped with.

I have been following Kickstarter on and off for the past 3 years. I was and still am fascinated by people's ideas. Over a year ago I have also started advising developers and game designers running Kickstarter campaigns. For example, I helped with Demigods Rising (I was also asked to help them with their second campaign launching June 9th, 6 PM GMT+1).

 

What I’ve learned about the platform in the past 36 months is that a great idea and amazing team isn’t enough; at least not anymore. Back when Kickstarter was just another emerging platform, anybody who launched a campaign became an instant story on every media outlet worldwide.

 

Today, launching a campaign isn’t enough. However, many people tend to forget about this tiny detail and start a poorly prepared campaign with an unrealistic goal, and fail in the end. Remember, only ~38% of all Kickstarter projects get funded.

What can we do to increase our chances? Well, you can follow these 5 simple steps to launch an effective campaign and increase your chance of succeeding.

Build a community

In order to succeed on Kickstarter, one has to reach his/her campaign’s goal. The only way to do that is to convince people to invest their own money. And it’s much easier to ask for money people who are already familiar with the project.

Remember, the initial 48 hours are crucial for your project. You have two days to collect as much money as possible, and your initial followers can help you do that.

Tyler Sigma, Executive Producer and Game Designer at Red Hook Games (Darkest Dungeon), got his campaign funded in less than 24 hours.


When Day 1 came, that core fan group turned up in great numbers! And we’re very thankful.  At that time, we had a mailing list of about 1,500.  We guessed that there was a good chance of getting at least half of them to pledge in the early phase.  Our average pledge is around $30, so 750 pledges represent a value of $22,500 by themselves!

Another successful project that started building fan-base prior to his Kickstarter campaign was Rob Lockhart (Codemancer).


When I launched the campaign I had about 950 twitter followers on my personal account, and just 20 or so on the Important Little Games company account. Sending out an email to my mailing list, and tweeting as soon as the project went up really helped with the next contributing factor...

Do your research

If you’re an indie developer with no budget, connections inside the industry and big projects in your portfolio the worst thing you can do is launch your campaign without a solid strategy behind it. And researching should be a the very top of your list.

Scott Stephan (Aegis Defenders) did his research and made sure that everything’s in place for the launch date.


We looked at other, similar Kickstarters (Roughly defined as retro, 2D, pixel art Kickstarters) and looked not only as how much they raised, but where they raised it, something we’ll cover in our Rewards article. But this research gave us a lot of data about what people liked and where they tended to back.

Also, check if there are any big events or games’ releases coming up soon. Trust me, no one will pay attention to your project during Call of Duty release week. Guys behind Twin Souls, one of my favorite up and comers from last year, made that mistake.


We wanted to bring Twin Souls to Kickstarter before August, and we could not have chosen a worst date for it. The Kickstarter launched just a few days after the E3 ended (in which every big company announces its games), so it’s no wonder we had a rough time contacting press and getting some attention for Twin Souls, as any news site was still writing about the E3 non-stop.

Video sells

The very first thing anybody sees when clicking on a Kickstarter campaign button is the project’s video. If the trailer is bad you instantly lose a potential backer. And it’s crazy to see so many people forgetting about it. Twin Souls created a not-so-appealing video for their campaign and see what happened:


This is the original Kickstarter video. Does it depict what’s the game about? Well, it doesn’t seem so. We made the mistake of creating a trailer focusing on the story. It takes about 1 minute for the gameplay sections to show up, and by then any watcher may have already lost interest and closed the video. Some days into the campaign we shortened the video so it’d start in a gameplay section but it was already too late.

Unfortunately, the problem is there are almost no good “Kickstarter video” guides available on the Internet, so if you’re not a video producer yourself you should hire someone to do it for you. However, you can still find some general guidelines like this small piece written again by Scott Stephan (Aegis Defenders)


The Video is really the thing that drove us to do a Post-Mortem in the first place. It was the thing that we feel was most important to the success of our campaign and is also the place that we see otherwise great games trip and fall down on.

Realistic Goal

This is one of the hardest parts when creating your campaign; besides the video of course. Evaluating your needs and your project’s potential is extremely hard. My best advice is to calculate how much money do you REALLY need and just go for it.

Don’t go for a lower goal just to get funded because eventually this might not be enough. Don’t try to grab more than you should because most of the time being greedy will kill your campaign. Matt Hackett wrote in his Crypt Run post mortem:


Our approach was to develop Crypt Run until we were almost out of money, then look to Kickstarter to see if we could gather a crowd who wanted us to continue development. Rather than estimating the budget to finish a complete game design, we decided to target a goal that we felt was within our reach, and design the rest of the game based on this yet-to-be-determined budget.

Hard Work

Running a Kickstarter campaign isn’t you just pressing the button. You have to answer e-mails, questions on Kickstarter, Twitter and Facebook. Get in touch with the press, bloggers and more. It’s basically your second 9-5. And if you won’t make it your second job for those 30 days you might as well just give up right now.

One of the best campaigns I’ve seen in the past few months was Dungeon Saga by Mantic Games. Their description is on point, their video hits the target audience, they were available almost 24/7 (I believe 2-4 people taking shifts), they did arrangements with the press and kept constantly talking about their newest game wherever they could. And that’s how you should run your campaign too.

Useful links

Here are the links I didn't manage to incorporate directly into the article. I strongly suggest you read them before you launch your campaign. You can also research hundreds of other post-mortems and guides online. Good luck!

 

Scraps Game post mortem
Dwarf Cops post mortem

KS post mortems to read before launching a crowdfunding campaign

Strike Suit Zero Kickstarter post mortem

Crystal Quest Kickstarter Funding Fail post mortem

Moon Hunters Kickstarter post mortem

How to successful Kickstarter

Stasis Game post mortem

Highlands post mortem

 

And an amazing guide by Aksel Junkkila from bugbyte.fi - MUST READ for anyone interested in running a campaign on Kickstarter. The Ultimate Kickstarter And Steam Greenlight Guide.

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