Hi there, my name is Diego M. Martínez! I am the founder and CEO of the game development studio Quarantine Interactive, based in Argentina. I wanted to share with all of you our experience crowd-funding our game, maybe this could help some other developer trying to do the same thing.
I'd like to introduce you to NoseBound, a cinematic point & click adventure for PC and Mac that combines old-school gameplay with unique noir visuals. We've been developing this game for more than four years working on weekends and between client contracts, but it's time to wrap it up and deliver. We have been looking for additional funding for a while and decided to run a crowdfunding campaign to secure development for the first episode of the game and maybe fund the development of the second episode.
You can visit the official site here: http://www.nosebound.com/
We decided to launch our campaign at Indiegogo, because they are a major crowdfunding site, they support projects from the entire world and offer flexible campaigns. The possibility to keep the funding from a non-complete campaign was very interesting for us.
Since we have a game concept in a popular genre, a great demo, and nice promotion material - we thought that the campaign would take off immediately and that we within a couple of weeks would be fully funded.
But instead, we got a very slow start that today has given us only $564 (about 2% of the $30.000 goal) from 30 funders. After four weeks the campaign now has frozen. No matter what we do in marketing, social media or press; nothing happens. Scary!
We have increased the PR and social media efforts! The result has been more than 10 articles published on indie games magazines, hundreds of shares and likes. Most importantly; more than 15.000 visitors. This numbers are not great but good enough, because most of them are due to our own efforts in marketing and promotion. It turned out that Indiegogo has a really small network of backers in the video-game field. We estimate that a campaign may get about 50 new visitors each day from the Indiegogo network, unless you get featured.
So what went wrong?
-- Is it the game?
---- Is it the campaign?
-------- Is it the pitch?
Well, now I think all of that can be improved. The pitch video is too long and informative, takes too long to get into the point. Also there's too much explanatory text on the campaign. People don't read these days, it's better to use more graphics and keep it simple.
But, on top of that we encountered with another issue. It seemed that the major problem was within the Indiegogo payment platform. The payment provider had multiple troubles processing payments with our backers, specially from Argentina. We received more than 40 personal messages from friends and colleagues that couldn't back us because of this issue. They keep getting a "card rejected" or "card invalid" message and they can't pay no matter if they use Paypal or a credit card.
To verify this issue I myself tried this - and I couldn't back my own project using my wife or my dad credit cards. We have been working endlessly with Indiegogo representatives who have been very kind and cooperative but unable to identify and solve the problem. Our frustration was reaching a maximum while the campaign stood still.
Indiegogo says it’s a problem between the card and the banks, but we know there's something else because most of these backers are regular Indiegogo backers that had no problem backing other projects. Even some of the backers took the time to call VISA to pre-approve the payment and then tried again, only to get the same rejection message. Take a moment to think about this; if only 40 friends took the time to let me know that their payments were rejected, how many backers that we don't know personally could have been rejected?
We raised U$564 to this date. As a flexible campaign there are no refunds. We will keep the money and use it in a good way! First priority is to secure German translations. With a few more bucks from us we can secure German translation in good quality. This is important for us because Germany has one of the biggest markets on Adventure games so we want to deliver them at least with subtitles.
Another good news is that thanks to the publicity and exposure of the campaign we had a few offerings to get French, Italian and Portuguese translations for free.
We will keep this campaign running until the end, which is somewhere near Christmas. Maybe we can raise a few more bucks. The plan is to collect all the data, learn from this experience and re-launch on KickStarter next year, somewhere between March and April hoping for better luck.
Aside from this payment processing problem, what else did we learn?
- Flexible funding is not trustworthy. No matter how transparent is your campaign, people think is a SCAM. We couldn't change that prejudice. We thought that with a transparent campaign, a playable demo and an advanced project we would be able to use this method.
- You have to talk to you friends and family a few weeks before launch to secure their contributions. And be very clear, most people you know that doesn't work online or in the game industry don't have a clue of what crowd-funding is. We failed to do that, we believed that funding came from outside our circle, and this is wrong, your inner network circle must be the first one to back you up in order to build confidence from the gaming community.
- Have a few friends back your project in the first hours, with at least 5% of the goal you ask. Because if your inner circle fails you, you better be at 10% by the end of the first day. We couldn't even do this because of the payment problem.
New backers are coming to the campaign at the last hours of the first day, strange unrelated backers, and to get their attention they must see that someone had backed your project before. This might be perceived as dishonest, but is just a solid marketing strategy, ask out and you'll see that every successful kickstarter or indiegogo campaign have been friend backed at least by the 10%.
- Save a few friend backers to close the campaign. If you reach 95% of the goal and on the last days nothing happens you´re going to need a few friends that help you close the campaign with their support in order to reach the goal and collect the funds. Save those for the last hours. Try to sum 5% of the goal between all of them.
- You have to talk to press and have press releases ready to go days before the campaign starts.
- Indiegogo has a small network on gaming, so the campaign relies on your marketing strategy alone, and if you don't have a budget for that, the campaign will die on the first week
- 60 or 30 days campaigns are both ridiculously long periods, campaigns reach their funding goals at 15 days, after that is more or less the same. You can make a final push at the end, but not of a 50%, you have to reach 80% of the goal before day 15.
- All or nothing model, is the way to go. People don't actually pay you until you reach your goal so this gives more confidence to backers, because it gives a sense of group support, that we are all in this together or no one is. It makes more sense to me now. Who doesn't risk, doesn't win.
- The amount of the goal has to be realistic. I think we had this one right, but not for a videogame on Indiegogo.
- Fame is a value. We are hardly famous, we've been in the shadows of this industry for more than ten years. Working hard, but unnoticed. So this makes all the difference in terms of trust. We will have to do our best to show how transparent and serious we are.
So we are going to polish the campaign, the pitch, texts and strategies and re-launch next year hoping for better luck. In the meantime we will keep working on the game.
Ok, that would be all. I hope this helps someone, feel free to comment and share your own experiences on crowd-funding your game.
Thanks for reading!
Diego M. Martínez