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Starting a Kickstarter on the right foot

Would you like a first hand impression of how is it to run a Kickstarter campaign? This article explains in detail our pre-campaign preparation and the first 10 days of it. The first of a 3 part article where we'll discuss in depth our Kickstarster.

We're David Jimenez and Alejandro Santiago, two engineers at the European Space Agency. In our spare time we are developing Dimension Drive, our passion project. Dimension Drive is a game about all the things we love: space, science fiction, aliens, teleportation and great female heroes (Ripley from Aliens is our favorite).

We've put lots of energy, all our free time and even our money on the line for this project. Some people ask us if we are crazy for doing this, we normally answer positively to that. We hope it's the right kind of crazy and something good will come out of this. Being engineers we can mainly do game design and programming. So, in Januray 2015 we teamed up with a talented group of artists and musicians to bring our vision to life. We have been funding all the development from our own savings so far and before they run dry we decided to take a shot at crowdfunding. This article is the first of a 3 part article where we'll discuss in depth the process behind our Kickstarter campaign.

Pre-campaign work

We started our campaign preparation in Januray, just after we put the team together. However, work on the game and spreading the word started early on 2014. This is what we did prior to launching the campaign:

  • Work intensively to polish an alpha build and have it ready for press.
  • Create a custom website for the game that would serve as the focal point for all our marketing. Partly following the advice here.
  • Launch a story teaser 2 weeks before the campaign.
  • Create all the assets and produce the trailer. We followed the advice here and here.
  • Talk to as many prior Kickstarter dev teams we could.
  • Create gifs and graphic material to make our Kickstarter page stand out.
  • Make sure all our direct contacts knew about our campaign launch.
  • Showcase at Dutch Comic Con 2 weeks before the campaign.
  • Share our preview page with as many people as possible to gather feedback and improve it. Special thanks here to Indie Gamer Chick and Nelson.
  • Send press releases with our story, the alpha build and a short description of the game to more than 300 press contacts. Many of them with personalized emails following the advice of John Polson and Rami Ismail on how to pitch your game.
  • Prepare our Steam Greenlight campaign. This gamasutra article helped us a lot.

Launch

We launched on April 14th 1:38 AM CEST (yes, in the middle of the night) because we thought it would be better to end on a full day (we'll see if that works when we finish). In the first 24h we reached more than 10% of our goal and got selected as a Staff Pick. 

First 10 days

In the first 48 hours we crossed the 15% mark and we got featured in a lot of medium to small sites with very positive feedback both on the game and our story. However, as of now none of the big media outlets has written about our game leaving us with very little visibility (more on that later). Of course it could be that our game or story is not good enough.  This is always a possibility but we prefer not to think that way ;). By April 19th we were losing momentum and we got stuck at only 16%. We couldn't believe that after all the preparation and doing every, single, thing we were told to do we were already hitting the "Kickstarter slump". Sometimes you can be your worst enemy and only 5 days into the campaign we were already mentally defeated. Until on April 20th somebody (we love you!) pledged in one of the "crazy high" (1000€) tiers. That single pledge made us cross the 20% mark and put us back in the game. At that moment we decided that whatever happens we would fight till the end.

 
We've organised Twitch live streams to show our development. We also contacted youtubers and got lucky that some responded and did some let's plays. Cross-promotion with other Kickstarter projects brought us some more backers and visibility. And we've been showcasing for the last 4 days at AMAZE in Berlin. Today, we'll also showcase at MängudeÖÖ in Estonia. At the moment of writing we are at 23% of our goal and our chances of success diminish as time goes by. We have some plans for big updates next week and we hope the two conference showcase will also give us some more visibility.

What needs to improve?

Unfortunately there seems to be no way of measuring the traffic your Kickstarter page is getting in a direct way. However, you do get access to video plays statistics. Comparing our data to other Kickstarters it's evident that one of our problems is visibility:

We have less than 3000 video plays while other successful Kickstarter projects reached numbers one order of magnitude higher than that (30K-40K video plays) by the end of the campaign. Normally, Kickstarter projects get most of their visibility on launch and final days. So, we could safely assume that we should have at this point at least 40% of those 30-40K video plays, meaning we are 10000 to 12000 short of what we should have at this moment. Our plays completed percentage is quite good and this seems to be our saving grace, that could be good indicator of converstion ratio.

By the way, our Steam Greenlight campaign seems to be having a similar issue which is logical considering they are running in parallel. People like what they see but they don't get to see it.

Conclusion

It's clear that unless we manage to become more visible via big media outlets, youtubers or influencers it's going to be an uphill battle. We are, however, determined to fight it. We have several plans in preparation:

  • Launch a public alpha build.
  • Contact all our press contacts again once the new alpha build is live.
  • Keep reaching to youtubers and influencers.
  • Keep posting at least 1 update every 2 days (like we have done so far).
  • Participate on Twitch live streams with other streamers.
  • Do some more cross-promotion (a few with bigger campaigns).
  • Facebook groups, forums and keep beating the drum on Twitter.

Do you disagree with any of our data or conclusions? Do you have recommendations on what we could do to improve? Let us know your opinion in the comments.

-David and Alejandro

PS: Dimension Drive is live on Kickstarter and you can also follow us on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

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