There have been plenty of articles covering the pros and cons of crowdfunding as well as the various differences between all of the available platforms. Gamasutra has done well to cover these from a game developer perspective, and there are tons of other resources to help you determine if doing a campaign would be right for your idea. The blog post below reflect the experiences of Eric Cleckner, co-founder, GraFighters.
“As a developer who has gone through the crowdfunding cycle twice, on two different platforms, for the same game, I feel there is a lot more to consider than the topics that are normally covered in these articles. Yes, it’s going to be difficult. Sure, some platforms have a broad audience and others are gaming specific, and some are all or nothing while others let you keep everything. These are all very important factors in deciding what platform to choose, but they shouldn’t be the only consideration.
Doing a crowdfunding campaign is similar to game development in that launching your project does not mean that you have reached the finish line. In fact, the work is just getting started. There is a ton of prep work that goes into the project, but your journey is just beginning. As much as you might think your project is about getting enough funding to work full time on your game, it’s actually more about building a relationship with the people who have donated to your project, so that you are able do it full time. After all, they are the ones who are paying, playing, and reviewing your game. Building a great relationship with this group of early adopters will provide many more benefits than the cash they’re pulling out of their wallets, and its been my experience that some platforms are better than others at fostering these relationships.
The game my team and I tried to crowdfund on both occasions is called Grafighters. The basic premise is that players can draw their own characters and then battle against the drawings of their friends. The fighting style and skill level of each character is based off of how it has been designed. It’s a concept that my co-founder, Dave Chenell, and I came up with during a class that we had took together in college. We were drawing monsters in our notebooks during a boring power point session, and arguing about whose character would win in a head to head death match.
Our first crowdfunding attempt came later that year, in 2010, as we did a $20,000 Kickstarter campaign. Ultimately our project was unsuccessful, barely raising over $3,000. We failed for the same reasons that most projects do:, too large of a funding goal, not enough effort on marketing, and weak rewards. However, a few months after our project ended, we received an email from an investor who saw huge potential to build a company around our idea, which led to an investment of $200,000. It was 10x the amount we were originally looking for, and opened our eyes to the variety of external benefits that crowdfunding platforms could provide. Along with the funding came some good press. We told Kickstarter about our story and they wrote about us on their blog, which eventually led to articles on TechCrunch and a few other mainstream sites. It was certainly a learning experience for our team in many ways. The lesson that resonated most loudly was to keep an open mind and make the most of any chance to get exposure for our game. We learned that even when failure seems certain a greater opportunity could be right around the corner.
Fast forward two years later and we’re doing another crowdfunding campaign. This time we chose an up-and-coming platform called AppStori, which focuses exclusively on mobile apps. It fits with the new direction of our company and gives us an opportunity to improve in the areas where we failed last time. We launched a campaign with a funding target of $2,500 and reached our goal within the first week. Toward the end of our campaign, we had raised more than $3000. We took our own advice and set a very reachable goal, made sure we got the word out, and had rewards that we knew people would want. It’s amazing how well that combination works.
It’s been really interesting to compare our two experiences: Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding platform with millions of users, and AppStori, a new, targeted platform that fosters engagement exlusively within the app community. . Despite their differences, we raised almost the exact same amount of funding. In terms of additional benefits, like investor connections and press, we have also gotten strong responses from our AppStori relationship including interviews with journalists and introductions to venture capital firms. While the obvious benefits of both of these platforms have been very similar, I feel it’s their differences that really show how far the second generation of crowdfunding (or crowdsourcing) platforms like AppStori are coming along..
All of the current platforms provide capabilities to successfully fund projects, but as I mentioned earlier, there is more to a campaign than getting contributors. AppStori has also built features to help engage your audience, get actionable feedback on your app, allow your users to become beta testers, and provide ongoing support. While it’s possible to get funding from either a crowd or an individual (as we have experienced first hand), building an audience will always take time and commitment. It also helps to get members of the app ecosystem to support your efforts. In the case of AppStori, one of their partners, Millennial Media, not only contributed to our project and are providing us with free ad credits, but they have also included us in industry conferences like AppNation.
It’s really encouraging to see crowdsourcing platforms like AppStori taking this into consideration. After all, one of the most important parts of game development is growing the community that supports it. That said I’d like to conclude with some candid advice for any game developer considering crowdfunding a project. Do it.
Find a platform with a community that would be excited to hear about your game, and understand that you are competing against a 1,000 other things for their time and money. Crowdfunding is about getting organized, putting your best foot forward, and marketing the shit out of your game (and yourself). And guess what, you’re going to have to do this when your game launches, so you might as well get started. Use the tools that the platform provides to build an audience. Get your game some fans, feedback, and funding.
Yes, it’s hard. And yes, you are actually going to have to call, text, and email your friends and family to get things started. It’s going to completely dominate your time (if you want to do it right), and it will feel like you’re not making any progress on development. But, you’re actually making progress on something equally important: building a community. Focus on building relationships with the people who care about your game, and who knows, you might find yourself in a meeting with a publisher, investor, or journalist very soon.”