Over the past year or so, we've seen plenty of developers turn to Kickstarter, asking players to fund their projects in lieu of traditional publishers. Games like Double Fine Adventure
, Wasteland 2
, and The Banner Saga
have demonstrated that crowd funding is both viable and potentially lucrative, and surely there are plenty more success stories still on the horizon.
But securing funding on Kickstarter is just the first step. If your campaign succeeds, you'll have to take on a whole new set of responsibilities. You'll have business plans to sort out, backer rewards to produce, and of course a new video game to make. So where do you start?
We spoke to a number of developers who've already found success on Kickstarter, and found they had plenty to say about the challenges developers face once a campaign comes to a close. Whether you've already completed your Kickstarter or are just considering the platform, these tips will help you ensure things go smoothly once that backer money's in your pocket.
1. Tie up the loose ends
Regardless of how organized you were throughout your Kickstarter, you'll have tons of logistics to sort out once it's all over. At the very least, you'll have to answer tons of emails from your backers dealing with dropped pledges and credit card issues, and you'll likely have to send out a survey to your supporters to determine how to fulfill their backer reward orders.
And as Replay Games told us, gathering that information can be quite difficult. The studio, which is publishing and co-developing the Leisure Suit Larry reboot
, found Kickstarter's communication channels to be one of its biggest shortcomings.
"We weren't expecting the deluge of red tape to come with the closing of Kickstarter," Replay CEO Paul Trowe told us. "The downside is that you can only send a Kickstarter backer questionnaire once for each tier. So once you send out your questionnaire, you better make sure that all your questions are in there, because you don't get to send out another one."
2. Make time for business
On top of dealing with the deluge of backer information, Doublebear Productions' Brian Mitsoda (Dead State
) pointed out that you'll also have have to take on a number of important business responsibilities.
Once Amazon and Kickstarter take their commission from your earnings, you'll have to determine your final budget, sign business contracts, and chart your production timeline. Based on his experience, Mitsoda said developers should expect to spend at least 10 hours per week on these and other business and production tasks.
"Having a budget to make your game is a dream come true, but it's also loaded with new responsibilities and obligations," he said. "You're now a developer and
business manager -- welcome to the wonderful world of fiscal responsibility!"
Replay Games' Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded
3. Be careful who you work with
In some circumstances, you might want to use some of your Kickstarter funding to recruit or hire outside help, but if you do, be careful not to rush into anything. Replay Games tells us that it learned that lesson the hard way, as it had to abort a key business partnership at the last minute.
The company planned to use its Kickstarter money to partner with an independent studio in Tel Aviv. This unknown development house had already created a working Leisure Suit Larry
prototype, but once the Kickstarter ended and Replay met with the team in person, it found that the studio just didn't have the resources to work on a game of this scale.
"We also encountered a great deal of hostility when we parted ways with that developer, because we had sold the Kickstarter on the strength of [that studio's] demonstration artwork," Trowe said.
The team has since signed a partnership deal with the New Jersey-based N-Fusion Interactive, which will co-develop and help represent Replay's game in the months ahead. While Replay admits that it should have been more discerning about its partners from the beginning, the team's mistake is an important reminder that you should always carefully evaluate outside help before signing them to your game, otherwise you're letting your Kickstarter dollars go to waste.
"If you're working with a partner, make sure you've either worked with that other developer in the past, or get to know them very well, because you're about to embark on a huge adventure that can potentially put your entire company at risk," Trowe said.
4. Don't forget your backers
Now that the masses have given you their hard-earned money, you need to make sure to keep them in the loop. After all, they're the whole reason you can afford to make your game, and you'll want to maintain that good will to continue generating excitement for your game.
"Try to establish a normal cadence of communication with your backers," said Republique
lead developer Ryan Payton. "Achieving success on Kickstarter is an incredible journey, and many of your backers now have deep, emotional ties to your project... Setting that established cadence will put your backers' minds at ease."
But if you're used to the freedom working independently, just keep in mind that your backers will have lots of requests, demands, and expectations, and you might have to adjust your approach to development to consider and address their concerns.
developer Justin Ma explained, "We have obligations to be reasonably transparent with our [backers] and take their opinions into consideration.... While none of this has severely impeded our ability to work on the game, it's definitely makes us less agile."
An early concept shot for Wasteland 2
5. Make your game!
While handling backer questions and business issues is certainly important, your biggest responsibility is to actually get started on your new game. You've secured your funding, so now you owe it to your backers to bring your vision to life.
"Take advantage of the focus you have been given," said inXile CEO and Wasteland 2
developer Brian Fargo. "Don't worry about anything else except making sure you are firing on all cylinders. Do not get distracted and work harder than you have ever before. The ones that deliver will be able to continue this kind of relationship."
At this point, you should have the resources you need at your disposal, and Alexander Thomas, one of the developers behind The Banner Saga
, said the key is to look forward and continue giving your project everything you can.
"Just keep it up," he said. "As long as you keep your backers informed and happy, stay transparent and get the thing done you've already locked in some degree of success. Not many people get that opportunity!"