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Kickstarting a nearly completed game, the beginning

A month of planning and the day is nearly here. We're kickstarting our game despite the game nearly being done, and documenting the experience. We're set up, lots of art, lots of rewards and incentives, and lots of sleepless nights.

The last couple weeks have been spent in preparation to start our Kickstarter campaign for Fish vs. Crabs. Weeks of research and planning and artwork and promotions even before the campaign is active.

 

Here’s a few things I have learned from experience, and some from study. Thomas Bidaux gave a great talk at the GDC about this, as well as an interesting panel at the GDC titled Kickstarter Lessons for Indie Game Developers that you can check out on the GDC Vault if you missed it.

 

Here’s an additional link: http://rubycowgames.com/kickstarter-stats-for-the-games-category/

 

Experience:

 

This is seriously time consuming. The number of things that are required to set up is nothing short of staggering.

 

1. Promotional/Rewards/Incentives - Be prepared to spend a lot of time setting up promotional items and know their costs. Physical goods must be created and shipped. Very often taxes will be involved in addition to packing materials. International orders require even more revenue.

 

2. Your video - Yes, you really do need to make an introduction video and probably more. Video creation and editing takes time. Our video is currently 4 minutes. I will be working to reduce this to 3 minutes and the total time to create it so far is around 7 hours. Takes and retakes and background footage and video editing, technical problems, lighting setup and more.

3. Artwork - Don’t skimp on artwork. Setup your page to be visually appealing or people won’t be interested.

4. Amazon payments are a hassle beyond belief. Despite already being set up for payments with Amazon, they wanted more. More than Apple, Google, Microsoft, my bank, my accountants, the IRS and Amazon is archaic. Be prepared to print and fax, print and fax and print and fax. Be prepared to be asked to send items you have already sent multiple times. In a digital world where everything they asked for can be verified online and when your bills and statements come electronically, they will put it on you to provide far more than anyone else. Who uses faxes anymore? Expect dealing with Amazon to take a minimum of a week to hash out.

Study:

1. Campaign funding generally has the shape of an inverse bell curve, meaning the early adopters chime in and you have an initial spike of revenue. Many of these are people who are simply paying attention and anxious to get in early, and many of these are simply friends and family who naturally already know about your title.

Then there is a taper off but relatively steady stream, but a vast majority of the people come in at the end.

For this reason, our 31 day campaign will start on a Friday morning. Our early adopters have a Friday and full weekend to make their pledges. This will also have our campaign ending on a Monday, leaving that last push for a weekend as well.

2. Kickstarter will take 5% of whatever you make. Amazon will take 3%-5% in the form of transaction fees. This probably isn’t news to many people. What certainly was news to me is that roughly 10% of the pledges will be rejected or chargebacks. If your campaign is $50,000, these charges alone will leave you with $40,000.. yep, $10,000 gone from the beginning. Oh, and you’ll have to pay taxes on that $40,000.

3. Set reasonable goals and make sure your audience knows they are reasonable for you to overcome. You have the skill, the experience and know-how to get it done.

4. 70% of kickstarter campaigns fail

5. Expect your life to be at the mercy of the kickstarter campaign for its entire duration. Your job is the kickstarter campaign. Live it, sleep it, eat it, love it. Be available and answer every email. You do not know who is going for that $5 contribution or the $1,000 heavy backer that wants something big.

6. Facebook, Reddit and other social media outlets are your best friends. We are running a Steam Greenlight campaign at the same time as our Kickstarter.


In the end, I do not know how this will turn out but I suspect I am in for a wild ride.

 

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