3. Staying True To The Vision
When times are tough, they can shake your values and make you desperate. For too many projects, when it looks like the funding goal won't be met, teams promise the moon and appeal to every request from folks in the community, oftentimes leaving themselves with an impossibly large financial commitment for the additional rewards and features they promised during their campaign. I know how tempting it is to compromise your vision in the hopes to achieve your funding goal, which I why I'm proud that we stuck to our guns and only made changes to our project that fit within the vision for our game.
This is one of the trickier aspects of running a Kickstarter campaign -- on the one hand, crowdfunding is all about making the community an integral part of the development process, but responding to every request can also doom your project.
In the case of République, we got both encouragement and seething criticism for announcing the game for iOS only. In general, it was industry colleagues who were patting us on the back for boldly throwing our support behind the iOS platform and committing to doing something new and different on iPhone and iPad.
On the flip side, it was mainly hardcore gamers who were extremely angry with us for announcing République (a game they admitted to wanting to play) for a platform that they not only didn't want to play it on, but a platform that they outright hated.
One of better-spoken critics led a mini anti-République campaign voicing criticism like, "We don't want iOS to be that platform. We are happy right where we are and always have been, on the PC. As more and more companies slouch towards Apple, we are told that it is inevitable that they will swallow core gaming as well. Whether that is true or not, it will certainly not happen with our facilitation. You are essentially asking us to help realize the future we fear most."
But for every well-articulated critique, we had dozens of hateful messages thrown our way for focusing on the iOS platform. The easy thing would have been to just listen to the community, quickly backtrack on our iOS aims, and announce the game for PC and PlayStation Vita, but that was never an option.
The team was settled on its long-term vision for République: our belief that iOS can and will be a serious game platform, and that it just needs more high quality games designed for the device from the ground-up. Even during some of darkest days early on, I had to remind myself that I would rather we fail in our Kickstarter and still hold on to our unique vision than to sell out and make promises that we didn't truly believe in, only to reach that illusive funding goal.
Still, amidst all the static, the community had a point -- we had entered the PC-centric space of Kickstarter, pitched them on a touch-only iOS game, and wrongly expected them to embrace it. It was then that the team kicked off a number of long meetings to discuss the creative and development realities of committing to a PC and Mac version of République.
From the very beginning, we all agreed that we would ignore those in the community telling us to "just port the game to PC" and instead focused the meetings on story and design changes that would play to the strengths of the desktop.
After a number of promising meetings (one of which we taped and shared with the community), we decided to pitch the community on a compromise: We would promise the game for PC and Mac, but only after the iOS version was designed and completed, and then we would use initial revenue to fund a reimagining of the game specifically designed for desktop play. The community response was extremely positive, and the praise we got committing to a unique development cycle for the PC and Mac version versus just porting the game validated our philosophies.
By the time the countdown clock winded down, it was the PC and Mac version that pushed us over the line of our funding goal, representing roughly half of the total pledges in terms of platform. In fact, as something of a happy accident, we stumbled upon a reward tier strategy that led to an increase in individual pledges: reward tiers that allowed pledgers to double-dip on the game, getting both iOS and desktop versions. For those interested, here are the survey results from our backers about which platform and OS they expect to play République on:
Committing to PC and Mac was the most exciting outcome of our Kickstarter. We stayed flexible and listened to the community, but also made sure we stuck to our vision and expressed that honestly to the community, who responded with generous pledges and words of encouragement. And most importantly, the team's happy -- we're still developing our dream iOS game while also knowing that we have a second Christmas when we can deliver a unique version of the game for PC and Mac users.
4. Generating Buzz
Our job in getting the word out about République was made much easier by the fact that both Logan and Camouflaj team members have been associated with dozens of high-profile projects, making it more likely that the press will pick up on the story of République's Kickstarter launch.
But it wasn't just our individual backgrounds that made the République story worth picking up. We also had an exciting story to tell: Console developers ditch the living room to make a console-like iOS experience built from the ground up. We prepped a press release and made sure to have plenty of screenshots and team photos available for any outlet interested in running a story.
All said and done, there were well over 100 articles written about République during our 30-day campaign and about a dozen podcasts that discussed the project, many of which were kind enough to invite me on their shows to chat.
One unique thing we did was show République to press members before we went live to give them a heads up as to what we were planning to do on Kickstarter. Kotaku ran a story that exclusively revealed République to the public, teasing our upcoming Kickstarter campaign and further adding to the online buzz leading to launch day. I believe this was a smart approach -- why keep your Kickstarter secret until launch? Give the community a heads up so they're ready to support you from the initial hours. Everyone needs a big first day on Kickstarter.
One unexpected source of online buzz was the surprisingly controversial nature of our game and Kickstarter. More so than any other Kickstarter project that I'm aware of, République was the focus of a number of forum debates ranging from iOS gaming to the true cost of game development to the press's role in this Kickstarter phenomenon. All of this attention (both positive and negative) led to a lot more exposure for the game, which was great.
While some of the criticisms we faced were quite pointed and harsh, we were not alone in defending ourselves -- the project had inspired a legion of supporters willing to go to battle with us. This made our last-minute success all the sweeter for our team and the thousands of impassioned République supporters.