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Tim Schafer’s Top 5 Pitch Tips for Kickstarter Success

I attended an exclusive presentation and Q&A with Tim Schafer at the Double Fine studio. I listened to Tim candidly discuss the Adventure Kickstarter project and the special ingredient to its success, the pitch. Here are some critical take aways...

Chelsea Larson-Andrews, Blogger

April 17, 2012

8 Min Read

Tim Schafer’s Top 5 Pitch Tips for Kickstarter Success

By Chelsea Larson-Andrews, design3.com


Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last couple of months, you’ve probably heard about the recent Kickstarter phenomenon, the Adventure project, launched by Tim Schafer and his Double Fine team along with 2 Player Productions. I was lucky enough to attend an exclusive presentation and Q&A with Tim Schafer at the Double Fine studio in San Francisco along with the GDC 2012 IGDA Scholars. It was there we listened to Tim candidly discuss the Adventure Kickstarter project and the special ingredient to its success, the pitch.

Before I jump into his pitch advice, here’s a little background on the project (in case you do, in fact, live under a rock). Double Fine and 2 Player Productions turned to Kickstarter to fund a point-and-click old-school Adventure game, as well as a video series that documents every step of the development process. They knew they couldn’t get publishers to fund the Adventure project, “so we went directly to the fans,” says Tim.

“We asked for $400,000. $300,000 for the game and $100,000 for the documentary,” Tim continues to note. “We ended up hitting our goal in the first night.” Not only did they hit their goal, they reached $1,000,000 in backer support the first day. They closed out the project receiving a total of $3,336,371, making Kickstarter history as the most well-funded project ever.

Funding Successful!

How did they exceed their goal by nearly $3,000,000? They did it by creating an event, a movement that all adventure game fans wanted to be a part of. Through the Kickstarter pitch they convinced people that this project must not only be made, but it must be made NOW. Through the pitch they convinced people that Double Fine and 2 Player Productions were the ONLY teams for the job. They also convinced people that if this was not just a project, but an event that called upon the fans - fans NEEDED to be a part of this.

What’s In A Pitch?
“Like they always say, a good pitch is a good story,” explains Tim. In the end, the success of getting your game funded, either through a publisher or through crowdfunding, boils down to telling a great story to inspire support. As I listened to Tim talk it became clear that there are 5 key tips, or “forces” as he referred to them, to crafting the perfect pitch. “All of these forces come together and this game just has to be made,” he states. “Do you want to be the people that benefit it and pay for it? A pitch is like that,” Tim concludes.

So, what are the 5 forces to creating an effective pitch? Without further adieu, here is advice for creating the perfect pitch, courtesy of Tim Schafer:

1. Prove why the game has to be made.
No matter what your project idea is, you need to make sure it’s clear to potential backers why your project fills a void and is significant enough for them to fund it.

The Adventure example is an easy one to examine within this context. Tim explains in the pitch video that for years fans have been asking Double Fine to make an adventure game. Demand is proven. Further, the documentary aspect is a unique angle. No one has ever created a fully transparent documentary that shows the game development process “from start to finish, with all the passion, humor, and heartbreak that happens along the way.” For game lovers, the documentary angle is really compelling.

Tim admits that “If I were to go to a publisher right now and ask for funding they’d laugh in my face.” So they thought, “let’s just use Kickstarter to fund the game!” Not just any game, but an adventure game where the fans can literally view and “collaborate” throughout the development process. The only way to bring this project into existence was to have the fans fund it, “so it was a good story” says Tim. It was the perfect opportunity to give the fans something they wanted AND allow them the chance to be a integral part in it. It was the perfect storm for a perfect story.

2. Prove why the game has to be made in a certain way.
How are you going to make the game and what makes your approach unique?

For the Adventure project, the collaboration aspect adds an extremely unique angle to the game’s development process. The Adventure Kickstarter page explains that “There will be a private online community set up for the backers to discuss the project with the devs and submit their thoughts and feelings about the game's content and direction, sometimes even voting on decisions when the dev team can't decide.” This is not just a project, but an event in which you can participate in a way that never has, and may never again, be available to adventure fans. This is something unique.

3. Prove why your team is the one-and-only team to make it.
What do you bring to the table? Why are you the unique team to bring your vision to life in a way that no one else can?

This is easily exemplified by the Adventure project because the man that invented the Adventure game genre, Ron Gilbert (Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island), is part of the Double Fine team. To boot, the entire Double Fine team is extremely skilled, comprised of some of the most talented artists, designers and programmers in the industry. They will not let fans down. They’re an ace in the hole for this project.

4. Prove why it’s critical the game is made now.
Is there a sense of urgency in why your project needs to get funded right now? You need to determine that angle and play it up in your pitch. In other words, develop a strong call-to-action.

In the pitch video Tim explains that “adventure games are a bit of a lost art form.” The Kickstarter text further illustrates the urgency of resurrecting the genre by stating “For fans of adventure games, this is a chance to prove that there is still a large demand out there for a unique medium that inspired so many of us.” Albeit subtle, the pitch definitely relays a sense of urgency in creating this game now. Additionally, the documentary bolsters the angle as it suggests nothing like this has ever been documented before - let’s do this and let’s do it now!

5. Prove that it’s more than game, it’s a significant event and fans need to be a part of it.
What can you offer to fans in return for their time and monetary support? It needs to be something of significant value, either tangible or abstract.

For the Adventure project, this is perhaps the most profound element. The pledge prizes are awesome and a lot of people probably backed the project just as a way to pre-pay for the finished Adventure game. The inclusiveness of participating however, really made the project special - a movement fans were called upon to be a part of. “Join Tim on his revolutionary adventure and become part of the experience” is the text that concludes the pitch video. The ability for backers to watch the monthly update video series and collaborate in the development of the game are priceless prizes in the eyes of many adventure fans.

The tangible prizes are also personalized. The Kickstarter page explains that “For anyone who wants to contribute above and beyond the call, we have a selection of premium rewards ranging from...unique posters, to original concept art, and even a mini painting of yourself done by the game's artist!”

Concept Art Prize Examples - Kickstarter Page

As the page describes, it’s an “adventure game for adventure fans, funded by adventure fans, developed by adventure fans.” There’s no denying this is a unique event happening, not just a game that needs a hand out.

History Repeating
So Tim, do you think this mega success can be repeated? Further, do you think indie teams without the fame of Double Fine can have as much success on crowdfunding platforms? Yes, he does. “I definitely think it can be done again,” states Tim. It’s not all about fame, it’s about having the right idea at the right time - all of the forces need to come together. Most importantly, you need to communicate this through your pitch. May the five forces be with you.

Tim Schafer Rolling In Post-Kickstarter Benjamins

Article Resources:
>>Tim Schafer's IGDA Scholarship presentation and Q&A
>>Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter page

Additional Resources:
>>View exclusive footage from the Double Fine IGDA Scholarship studio tour
>>Read an article about how Double Fine got started - From Rats to Riches: The Real-Life Adventure of Double Fine’s Tim Schafer


Chelsea Larson-Andrews is the CMO for design3, the premier game development e-learning portal. Chelsea loves online marketing, social media, mobile games and yoga. Please follow her on Twitter @design_3.

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