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Crystal Quest Kickstarter Funding Fail Postmortem

The Kickstarter experience can feel like jumping in a pool with all your clothes on. You may want to be in the pool, but you didn't prepare right and now you are drowning. Here are some suggestions. Ignore at your own risk. There is no lifeguard on duty.

John Ardussi, Blogger

March 9, 2015

5 Min Read

Crystal Quest Classic is a revival of the 1987 award winning video game. The original was played on almost every Macintosh computer in existence before being ported to the Apple IIgs, Amiga and the Game Boy – followed many years later by a reawakening on the Xbox360. We did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to port the game over to new hardware but, as of last night, we failed to reach our funding goal.

When I set up our Kickstarter project for Crystal Quest, I did an estimate of what we could potentially return in terms of backing. My estimate was $3000-$30,000 with the low end being much more likely. This was based on projects similar to ours on Kickstarter. We actually got $4,477 from 171 backers. Here is a link to the campaign page. I hoped there would be an influx of people who remembered the original game, and there was, but not nearly enough to get us even close to our goal.

Doing a postmortem on our Kickstarter project was actually pretty easy. Last week was the Game Developer Conference (GDC) so I got a lot of very educated opinions as to why we really had no chance to succeed. Not because there was no way to succeed but because we did not have enough going for us to succeed. Here is a summary:

  1. We did not have an organized following. While we had many very motivated fans of the game, we did not organize them in any fashion ahead of launching the Kickstarter campaign and did not make sure we had enough to even have a chance of succeeding. In hindsight it is easy to see we needed at least 10,000 followers to make sure we met our goal. Between Facebook and Twitter, Game Mechanics has more like 1000.

  2. We did not have a presence on all the social media sites. You never know where people are going to come from. In our Kickstarter a year ago, almost all traffic came from Facebook. This year Facebook was less and Twitter was more. Who knows if another site could have done more.

  3. We had no demo that people could run. Telling everyone we were porting a really fun Mac based game that people liked 25 years ago was a bad pitch. A better pitch would have been – Try it out.

  4. We did not have a stable of media people all ready to write about what we were doing. I only started contacting the media and putting out a press release after the Kickstarter launched. Big mistake. When the numbers started coming in lower than what we hoped, I stopped my effort and switched to what I was going to do if the campaign failed. Which insured it failed. Out of the 30 days, the campaign stayed pretty idle for 15 in the middle. I was not prepared and shut down.

  5. We did not have a marketing person involved. Some people love this stuff. In fact I met one at a MeetUp recently for game developers. I could have easily pulled him in for the campaign. I was trying to save money but instead lost quite a bit.

There were also exterior influences:

  1. There was an article in Kotaku (a well-read online gaming magazine) that said Kickstarter campaigns were stealing people’s money.

  2. Kickstarter itself has switched towards funding more solid products like board games and gadgets. Software now has a much higher failure rate.

  3. Crystal Quest is considered a casual game which puts it in a category that is often skipped over. Not enough guns and zombies.

  4. The timing is at a low period for funding on Kickstarter. Mid-March towards the end of May has historically been better.

The important thing to note is that even though the game’s development will not be funded through Kickstarter, we got a lot of exposure. That lead to individuals, companies and prior developers all wanting to get involved. At GDC we had a few meetings with companies who were interested in publishing the game. It wasn’t based on the success of the Kickstarter, since everyone could see it was likely to fail, but based on their memory of how successful the game was the first time. And they found us because of the Kickstarter.

I really feel bad about all the things I did not do. The great opportunities offered that I didn’t take advantage of. The whole thing happened so fast. Things came at me from so many directions. And I had to keep paying the bills on top of it all. Would doing those things put us over the top? Not likely. But if nothing else I would have found out how much they helped.

It was a great learning experience. Was there a way that we could have reached our funding goal? Without the demo, I would say ‘No.’ With the demo, probably. But even then it would have been hard.

"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great." 
— Jimmy Dugan - A League of Their Own

The good news is the project is continuing. I am estimating the project will take 3-5 months longer at least. It is a back burner project for now until we figure out the finances. We have lots of options. We just have to pick the right one and move forward.

Thanks to all of our backers and Crystal Quest fans for your support!

If you want to vote the game up on Steam Greenlight, here is the link.


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