The motivation to pledge to Kickstarter projects seems not to hinge on flashy perks, previously published titles, or even social media buzz. It's all about the spoken word, the majority of respondents said in last month's Gamasutra-conducted survey.
While Kickstarter has shared internal data regarding project success rates, the information around who pledges and what motivates their pledges remains ambiguous. This survey sought to disambiguate that information. For two weeks, the survey was publicized chiefly on Twitter, Facebook, Gamasutra, and its sister site IndieGames.
The following is a look at the trends of the majority of respondents. This feature also examines two specific sub-groups: those who average out as Kickstarter "big spenders" and those with certain operating system preferences.
While some flaws were discovered in the course of this unscientific survey, these questions and their answers should help begin a dialogue on an unexplored but crucial element of Kickstarter projects: the crowd that funds them.
Out of 1,445 respondents who completed the survey, the vast majority play games weekly (95 percent) on a Windows machine (87 percent), have played for over 16 years (82 percent), do not work in the game industry (65 percent), are men (91 percent) between the ages of 21-40 (85 percent), do not know someone who created a Kickstarter project (80 percent), but do know someone who supported a project (55 percent).
The gaming platforms respondents own, their fields of employment, and their yearly income are below:
How Respondents Evaluate Projects
The survey first asked respondents to rate how important certain elements were when evaluating a Kickstarter project -- on a four-pronged scale from unnecessary to essential. The only item chosen by a majority as essential (at 62 percent) was having a perk that includes a copy of the game, followed by another 23 percent who felt it was very important.
Possibly debunking some Kickstarter myths, the majority stated a few elements were unnecessary: a game from an established series (at 77 percent), a project with a demo to try before pledging (at 52 percent), and a project from a well-known, published developer (at 42 percent).
The last four polled elements were variably important. An itemized breakdown of the budget was somewhat important to 47 percent and very important to another 25 percent. A project with in-game footage was somewhat important to 36 percent and very important to an additional 33 percent. A video with the developer(s) speaking on camera was somewhat important to 36 percent, with 26 percent saying it was very important. Finally, 40 percent said a project with physical/limited edition perks (shirts, CDs, boxed versions, plushies, etc.) was somewhat important, with another 38 percent actually saying such perks were unnecessary.
With regard to important elements for a project, the data suggests a copy of the game is largely imperative. Those polled seem to take developers at their word, preferring the details behind each project (footage, budgets, and developer commentary) over a history of published games as requisite for pledging.
However, development details alone don't compel people to pledge. The most common reasons why respondents didn't pledge were because the spoken and written text or footage fell flat. Specifically, 65 percent said the text and videos did not convince them that a project was interesting, followed by 48 percent saying the text and videos did not convince them a project would be completed successfully.
Interestingly, 39 percent said the project idea was interesting but they lacked confidence in an unproven developer -- almost as many as those who said it wasn't important that a developer previously shipped titles.
Pricing a game seems as important on Kickstarter as in retail and digital markets. One third said they declined to fund a project because a game was not available at a low enough reward tier. While no specific price was polled, 55 percent of respondents stated the game perk should be less than the final (retail) sale price followed by 36 percent who felt it should at least be the same.
Reinforcing how essential a copy of the game as a perk was, 26 percent declined funding a project because the game itself was not part of rewards. Finally, 29 percent felt rewards were not interesting, suggesting that contributors were looking for something to compel them to invest beyond the project itself.
The above chart illustrates roughly three clusters of perks respondents felt were important beyond a downloadable copy of the game. Rather than tangible or collectible perks, people chose the "behind the scenes/making-of information/documentary" perk as second only to the game itself. This further suggests that respondents value word-of-mouth -- in this case, the developer's experiences while making the game.