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Two Kickstarters Later...
by Henry Smith on 08/05/14 12:05:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutras community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


[Cross-posted from my personalblog]

I spent the last several months planning, running, and thenre-runningmyKickstarter campaign:

…and, organizing aworldwide Spaceteam tournament. I want to share some of my experiences.FundingProgressOverlay

Quick Summary

The two campaignswere extremelysimilar on the surface, but I did more work behind the scenes on thesecond attempt. While it’s impossible to tell exactly whattipped the scalesmy best guesses are:

  • Existing momentum combined with moreaggressive outreach
  • The Tournament helped keepthe buzz going fortheduration of the campaign
  • Someunexpected exposure near the end

I think the experiment as a whole was an important precedent but I’m not sure how easily it could work for a brand new team/creator. I believe a large part of mysuccess was because I already had an existing audience, from a game that Iself-funded,and spent the last 2 years gradually building that audience.


This was not a traditionalcampaign. The goalwas toraise enough moneytolive for a year makingfree games. I chose Kickstarter over Patreon (and Indiegogo) for this campaign because:

  • I needed an “all-or-nothing” goalso I could commit to making the games for free. If I promised to make free games and then ran out of money (eg. not raising enough on Indiegogo, Patreon supporters backing out, etc.) it would put me in an awkward position and wouldn’t be fair to supporters. It might mean switching gears and charging money for the games, and in that case I would want to redesign the game mechanics/presentation to fit that model. I need to know this ahead of time so I can plan. Because the Kickstarter succeeded I’m confident that I’ll have enough money to develop and release the games for free.
  • Patreon is definitely growing, but Kickstarter still has a much larger audience.
  • Patreon is better suited for short-form works that can be produced once a month or more. I’m still concerned that when I do tryPatreon I won’t provide enough month-to-month value since my games are going to take 6 months or more to finish. Maybe a monthly developer diary with in-progress art&designwill be good enough.
  • This kind of project is veryunusual on Kickstarter and I figured thatwould make itmoreinteresting to the press.


There are a lot, so this ismostlygoing to be a point-form brain dump. If you want more infoon any particularaspect, just ask!

Things that happened in both campaigns:

  • Talked to Kickstarter directly (by email and in person) about my project ahead of time to make sure itwaswithin their guidelines
  • UsedBufferto post to Twitter/Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn simultaneously whenever Imentionedthe campaign
  • Put links on my blog, forum, website, Twitter bio, email signature, every public facing place I couldthink of
  • Asked my game industry friends/connectionsto spread it around at their offices
  • Kept a database of Press & Community Contacts, where I stored emails of everyone who might be relevant. Categories like “Champions”, “PayPal donors”, “Translators”, “Potential Collaborators”, “Business Cards” (collected at conventions), “Interested in Accessibility”, “Interested in Customization”, etc.
  • Did an informal press release, to sites that had written about Spaceteam in the past, and others. A site I discovered during this process:
  • Posted in some relevant forums (Geek & Sundry, BoardGameGeek, etc.)
  • Whenever people emailed about the game (with praise or bug reports), I toldthem about the KS
  • Made a promo screen in the Spaceteam app itself linking to the KS (bit worried that Apple might not like this, but they never complained)
  • Tried to contact celebrities/influencers that might help. eg.Notch, Wil Wheaton, Penny Arcade guys
  • Got propositioned by a lot of services that claimed to help KS campaigns with flash-traffic, promotional services, or private networks of backers. Decided to sayno toall of them.

Things that happened differently inthe new campaign:

  • There wasn’t nearly asmuchpress the second time around (maybe they considered it old news?)
  • However, lots ofmomentum from the first project
  • Announced the new campaign a week in advance, with amailing list signup (got 1800 names)
  • Used mailing list, old KS,andnew KS to provide updates
  • Targetedspecific journalists that had written articles about game funding/new models
  • Organized aworldwide Spaceteam tournamentwith 25 regional venues, global high scores, and special achievements to unlock (this is a whole ‘nother blog post!). These were a fantastic success andkept people playing and talking about the game throughout the month
  • Posted a blog entry about the campaign/philosophy to theGamasutra member blogs
  • Paid for aservice calledKicklyticsthat provided someuseful meta-data about the campaign. The Cross Promotion Opportunities were fascinatingif onlybecause they introduced me to a bunch of otherinteresting campaigns.
  • Cross-promoted with a few other Kickstartercampaigns (limiting myself to Local Multiplayer cooperative games only). Approached by several others and felt bad turning them down, but felt they had too littleaudience overlap.
  • Wore aSpaceteam button on my shirt every day (probably didn’t help much, BUT… one time I went out jogging andalmostdecided not to wear it, and then after my run I discoveredone of thoseJust for Laughshidden-camera gags and they ended up filming me. They probably didn’t use the footage and the badge would have been much too small on the screen… but I thought it was a funny coincidence)
  • Tried to start an official Reddit AMA, but was not approved (I assume because of the crowdfunding angle?)
  • Instead, started aReddit discussionabout my philosophy (should have done thissooner)
  • Mid-way through the campaign, added extra tiers at $500 and $1000 to entice high-levelbackers to give a bit more
  • Near the end enticedalltiers to go one tier higher, withacalculation of the difference itwouldmake (eg. “ifeveryone at Tier 3 goes up to Tier 4, that meansan extra $10,000!”)
  • Promoted a Facebookpost for $43 (which apparently reached19,224 people and resulted in 148 “actions”). This was the only time I paid for any traditionaladvertising.
  • Made aThunderclap campaignto get a bunch of people to Tweetatthe same time
  • Got selected as a Kickstarter “Project of the Day”
  • Wil Wheaton tweeted about the campaign (thanks Wil!)

Lessons Learned

  • I had no way to measure the actual impact of most of the things I did. To date, the thingsthat have generated the largest download spikes (by far) have been:
    1. A mention by YouTuber Jenna Marbles (that I had nothing to do with…)
    2. A mention in a Reddit thread about “Your favourite game that no one has heard of” (that I had nothing to do with…)

    Lesson: Just try stuff and don’t stress out about whether it’s going to be “worth it”.

  • Constantly sending emails/posts/messages feels like you’re spamming the same group of people over and over again. In fact,only a handful of people see it each time. And each individual person might only see threeor fourmessages, even though you are sending out hundreds. After promoting thefirst campaign for a solid month, it ended and I still got told by alot of people that they were just hearing about it.Lesson:You are being exposed to your own marketing100x more thananyone else. Trustothers to tell youwhen itis “too much”.No one knows about your project.
  • I worried about the campaign pretty much constantly.I didn’t feel like I could start working on the new games/Lexicogulator/etc while the KS was running since I would be neglecting it and blame myself if it failed. This is a hard lesson to learn and I’m still second-guessing myself about it.Lesson:Don’t do this. You need to take breaks.
  • Even if your game already has 2 million downloads,that doesn’t mean you can reach 2 million people. I’m sure putting links the in game helped, but the only people who saw them were people who still had the app installed and whoopened it during the month of the campaign.Lesson: Numbers only mean so much.
  • According to the statistics myfirst campaign apparently had a 99.6% chance of success. It failed.So I honestly had no idea whetherthe second one was going to work until the very last day.Lesson:Unusual projectsfollow unusual patterns.When you’re trying something new, sometimesthe rules don’t apply.
  • Tournaments are hard work to organize but a lot of fun.

Well… I hope that helps for now. I’ll add more if I think of it.

Talk to you soon!

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