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Jamie Fristrom, Blogger

May 22, 2013

5 Min Read

The Energy Hook Kickstarter may not be up there with Brian Fargo's stuff but for what's pratically a one-person shop it's doing quite famously. So people are asking me if I had any secret sauce.

Strategically, I think the Spider-Man 2 nostalgia has been really helpful, and the $1 thing was unique and a lot of press were interested in that, so those two things combined drove a lot of backers. 

So I'd definitely recommend finding a bit of nostalgia that hasn't been tapped yet. (Skaff Elias encouraged me to lead with "I made Spider-Man 2" rather than "Check out Energy Hook", and this tiny article by Seth Godin concurs - http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/10/no-one-ever-bought-anything-on-an-elevator.html.) I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing a $1 funding goal (I think it's a pretty cool thing to do, obviously, if you already have a viable game made, but it may not make much news the next time somebody does it) but I'd definitely recommend doing something out of the ordinary or seemingly crazy with your Kickstarter. That's my strategic advice. And I think that's probably what's really important, though bad tactics could easily undermine a good Kickstarter.

For example, selling a bunch of t-shirts at $25 might give you what looks like a high funding result but in actuality makes you a t-shirt merchant instead of a game developer.



(My t-shirts, at $60, were priced too high--I haven't sold that many of them--but backers also get the game, and it means I get to keep the Kickstarter money for funding development instead of shipping t-shirts.)

Tactical advice is a lot easier to give, but I broke no new ground here. A fellow by the name of Erik Sebellin-Ross gave me tons of advice and help in this area and I recommend you give him money for his services if you have any to give.

He pointed me to this article, which changed the way I think about Kickstarter: http://www.thedominoproject.com/?p=2228 The important thing here is if you don't already have a community, Kickstarter isn't going to magically find you one. So I upped my efforts to build community and tell people about the game. I spent somewhere between a third and half of my 'work' time doing this. Not only did I blog more; I youtubed; set up & maintained the facebook page; got on twitter and used it almost daily (I've had more bang-for-buck out of twitter than out of facebook. YMMV.), and shared all my news to G+ as well. It was slow going, but at the moment I launched the Kickstarter (excuse me for flopping out my social penis here, such as it is) I had 200 likes on facebook, 901 twitter followers, 501 people who had circled me in G+, 350 Facebook friends, 745 e-mail newsletter subscribers, and 682 Reader subscribers to the blog, which averages 170 hits/day according to Typepad. (Some of those numbers are suspiciously round but that's really what they were at the time.) So there's some data points for you.

Kickstarter takes your existing reputation and catalyzes it.

Possibly more important than those efforts was when I thought I was going to launch the Kickstarter several months ago, contacted the press, and then changed my mind and decided to wait until I had a build I felt willing to let people play. I sent out that first round of articles a week before I intended to launch, following the advice of Indie Game Girl: http://www.indiegamegirl.com/category/crowd-funding/ and http://www.indiegamegirl.com/how-to-get-press-with-a-0-pr-budget/ - a note on that press article. I've cold-called press with previous games, and usually hear crickets. You have to do what Emmy says, but you also have to have a story worth repeating. Nobody cared about Sixty Second Shooter, but Energy Hook was remarkable. Anyhow, not sure how much of my communties growth came from my efforts and how much came from a couple high-profile websites; and the websites that covered it gave testimonials I could use on the Kickstarter page; and I knew who to contact when it finally was time to launch the Kickstarter for reals.

One more note on contacting the press - I did not send out a carpet bomb form letter. I e-mailed every one individually, often taking a moment to read some of the stuff they'd wrote online to see if my thing might be the kind of thing they'd be interested in. And I hadn't even seen this Mike Bithell how-to-do-promotion video yet, which also says to do just that.

Finally, this is a good one about setting reward price points and remembering that Kickstarter is about people who really care about your project putting in extra - it's tempting to devalue ourselves - (Will people really pay $35 to playtest my game? I wondered. Apparently some will!) - so, um, don't do that. http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TroyLonergan/20130503/191665/ 

And Reddit. I recommend hanging out on r/gamedev some just to get a feel for how Reddit works. Posting to the #screenshotsaturday thread every couple of weeks is easy and fun and you'll discover that it really matters when you post (as soon as possible) and that it helps to tell people on other networks that you've posted to give the post a spark of upvotes that might help it get noticed. Doing an Ask Me Anything once your Kickstarter has leveled out can give it a nice spike.

One piece of advice that turned out to be a bit disappointing was to launch on Steam Greenlight as well: I expected the large number of eyeballs on Greenlight would click through to Kickstarter and get me some backers but it didn't seem to work that way for me. I may have had more luck going the other way, with people who weren't quite willing to back the project but were willing to help out a little with a Greenlight vote. Still, worth doing. One piece of advice I'd have is prepare your Greenlight ahead of time, or launch it first, because once your Kickstarter is up it's hard to find time to do anything else. I didn't do that, I just wished I did.

So that's all that comes to mind right now. Any questions?

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Jamie Fristrom


Jamie Fristrom is a partner, technical director, and designer at Torpex Games and he's writing this in the third person. Prior to Schizoid, Jamie was a technical director and designer on Spider-Man 2, his biggest claim to fame being that he invented its dynamic, physical swinging system. Other games he's worked on include Spider-Man for PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube, Tony Hawk for the Dreamcast, Die by the Sword for the PC, and the Magic Candle series of RPGs. Jamie wrote the "Manager in A Strange Land" column for Gamasutra, blogs at www.gamedevblog.com, and (he thinks) holds the world record for number of post-mortems written for Gamasutra and Game Developer.

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