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Opinion: Kickstarter campaign isn't looking so hot?

In this reprinted <a href="http://altdevblogaday.com/">#altdevblogaday</a> opinion piece, Novaleaf's lead developer Maethee "Eddie" Chongchitnant examines what went wrong with a Kickstarter campaign that's had difficulty taking off.

Game Developer, Staff

September 28, 2012

7 Min Read

In this reprinted #altdevblogaday opinion piece, Novaleaf's lead developer Maethee "Eddie" Chongchitnant examines what went wrong with a Kickstarter campaign that's had difficulty taking off. Kickstarter campaign isn't looking so hot? Well, dang it. Well, that's currently what's happening to our Kickstarter campaign, God of Puzzle. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what you need to know if you're planning to start a Kickstarter campaign. This time, let's talk about when your campaign doesn't go as planned.

What did we do?

So, the first thing that happens after your project is launched is that you'll get a little traffic from people who go into the "Recently Launched" page on Kickstarter website. This initial traffic gave us 1 or 2 backers. After that initial traffic, you're on your own. So, what's next? Here are a few things that we tried after our launch:

  1. We started posting in gaming forums and communities. We posted to a few places a day, so we could adjust the message to see if we could get better reactions the next day. This included sites such as Reddit as well.

  2. We sent emails with a press kit to gaming news sites and bloggers.

  3. Team members tried to spread the word about the game on their Facebook and Twitter.

So, what happened?

After a week of posting about the project on almost every place we could think of, almost nothing happened. So, we've stopped working on promoting the page because we weren't doing it right, and it's a waste of time. Instead we decided to refocus our manpower into figuring out what went wrong and are taking actions to fix it while there's still time left before our deadline. The rest of this article offers information on what we've learned from our own experience trying to breathe life into our dying Kickstarter campaign. Let's first look at some stats. Kickstarter doesn't tell you exactly how many people visited your project page. But it does tells you how many times your pitch video has been played, and the percentage of people who click play and watch the video all the way to completion. We were actively spreading the word about our project for about one week, and we'd get around 80 too 100 views a day on the video. At the end of week one, we got approximately 650 views on the video with about 20 percent of them playing to completion. At this point, the total number of backers was 18. Scary, right? Very; especially when you know that you need at least 500 backers to be anywhere near your funding goal. So, with that information, this is the list of things that we've learned:

1. Some projects are a hard-sell for Kickstarter

Not matter how well you construct your pitch, there's a chance that your project is still a hard-sell for the Kickstarter crowd. Now, I'm not saying that our pitch is perfect, but we do realize that our target market is pretty niche; maybe a bit too niche for Kickstarter… According to the stats on our project, out of 600 to 700 people who viewed the pitch video, less than 20 people are willing to back the project. So, that means, for the people who we've showed the project to (mostly hardcore gamers in online communities), our project has a 2-3 percent chance of landing a backer. Which means, for us to get 500 backers, we need 20,000 views on the pitch video. I have no idea if this number is low or high compared to other projects, but it would be great if the project only needed 2,000 views to get 500 backers, right? So, how do you know if your project will appeal to the Kickstarter crowd? Well, this is a good question, and a tough one to answer. But I can tell you that there are two types of projects that have higher chance of success: projects that already have a large fanbase and projects that truly innovate. Unfortunately for us, we failed to show innovation in our pitch, and the fanbase for our project (Puzzle Fighter fans) is not as big as we had hoped.

2. Forum marketing is very tricky

Before I explain why forum marketing is tricky, let's look some stats related to forum marketing. And before I continue, I should also say that we did not use any guerilla marketing or sophisticated marketing techniques; so teams that are doing more sophisticated marketing stuff are probably going to get different results. For one week, we've posted to about 10 different relatively big gaming forums. Each thread that we started would get around 30 to 100 views (i.e. people that actually click on the topic to view the content). Almost all the threads have zero or very few replies. For every day that I posted on forums, the next day we would get about 80 views on the video, and anywhere from zero to a few backers. So, a lot of the views on the video are probably coming from our forum marketing, but we're still way off. To get 500 backers in 30 days, we need at least 17 backers a day, not zero to a few. So here's why I think that forum marketing is tricky:

  1. Your topic must make people curious enough to click it. Otherwise, not a lot of people are going to see your message.

  2. Your topic must generate discussion. If your topic doesn't generate any discussion, your thread is going to fall off the front page within one or two days for a relatively active forum.

  3. Your message must make people want to click the link to your project page. Otherwise, you'll get no action on your project page.

After learning the points above, it became obvious to me that starting a thread to directly ask people to "check out our Kickstarter page" may not be effective enough to get 500 backers.

3. Making your project viral is everything

Your project is "viral" when it effectively promotes itself. It's when you can stop promoting your project because other people are already talking about it everywhere. Basically, if the number of backers for your project grows at the rate that you need, without you having to do anymore marketing, congratulations, your project is viral and probably awesome. Unfortunately for us, this never happened. As soon as we stopped actively promoting the project, we got absolutely nothing. And because our project isn't viral, it means that if we want 500 backers, we have to find ways to get them all by ourselves, which isn't easy, especially if you didn't plan it in advance.

4. Strengthen your social network and research how to do it right

If you're at all counting on the power of your social network to save the day, make sure that your social network is a strong one and that you know how to effectively promote on social networks. If you think about the "reach" of your initial post and the chance that your followers/subscribers will share or retweet your post, you can probably estimate how many people are going see your post. But out of everyone that saw your post, how many of them will actually click on the link? Your post might just be a short sentence plus an image, but it has to do so much. It has to capture the attention of people who are scrolling through hundreds of items on their feed, stop them from scrolling past it, and click on the link. There is a lot more to social network marketing, so some research in this area will probably help.

What we're doing to fix it

For our project, we have one last round of ammunition left, and we've been trying to make sure it will hit the target. This last shot has to be something interesting enough for people to share and make the project more "viral." This last shot is our playable demo. It's still pretty rough, but we've been trying to make sure that it will leave a good impression on the people who play it. We're also revisiting all of our marketing plans, as we didn't really do it right the first time. Yes, you could say that it is a long shot, but we have to at least try everything before we admit defeat, right! Oh and a little miracle would help too, I guess… [This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]

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