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The Crowdfunding Revolution: Making Your Choice

May 5, 2011 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next
 

[Following both an initial article which included the views of developers who tried crowdsourcing projects and an article in the May 2011 issue of Game Developer magazine, this latest look into the crowdsourcing revolution compares and contrasts the options available to game developers.]

In March of 2009, Josh Freese (a session drummer who's played with every band you've ever heard of) combined preorder-funding, tiered pricing, and a huge dollop of punk rock ridiculousness to fund his second album, Since 1972. For $7, you could download the album. For $50, you would get a signed CD, a T-shirt, and a personal thank-you phone call from Freese.

For $1,000, Freese would wash your car, take you out drinking, and then you'd give each other haircuts in the parking lot of the Long Beach courthouse. For $20,000, Freese, Tool's Maynard James Keenan, and Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh would take you mini-golfing, and then drop you off on the side of the freeway.

The publicity stunt was a huge success, getting write-ups everywhere from Wired to NPR, and "crowdfunding" took off. This was a huge boon to Kickstarter, a crowdfunding service that launched a month after the release of Since 1972, and quickly established itself as the market leader.

Crowdfunding services – websites that act as both a social network to connect projects with backers and as a marketplace or escrow house for project funding – have become a popular business model in the last two years, and several more have sprung up alongside Kickstarter, each with their own perks, quirks, and twists on the basic model.

Crowdfunding is a natural fit for an independent game developer who needs to connect with an audience and secure funding at the same time; rather than having to "prove" your game to a publisher, you're "proving" it directly to your customers, and you don't have to go out on a limb funding it yourself with no idea of whether or not you'll sell enough copies to recoup your investment.

While Kickstarter is the most well-known crowdfunding service, it may not be the best fit for every video game project, so we're taking a look at five different crowdfunding services for video game projects to help you decide what will work best for your needs.

Kickstarter, the leader of the pack, has successfully funded over 6,500 projects since launching in April of 2009, 67 of which have been video games. IndieGoGo actually launched over a year before Kickstarter, but limited its funding to film projects until 2010.

RocketHub and ulule are two young up-and-comers who launched last year and are taking the basic crowdfunding model in interesting new directions; RocketHub is building gamification and an incubator of sorts on top of the basic model, while ulule is coupling its crowdfunding service with a message board and keeping costs to a bare minimum to create a very friendly and inviting space. Finally, 8-Bit Funding is the underdog of the bunch, launched at the beginning of this year as a crowdfunding service exclusively for video games.


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Comments


Maurício Gomes
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I have to ask people to do not support Kickstarter, since they insist in searching for no substitute for Amazon (And Amazon does not allow non-US users to create projects).

Stephen Dick
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You are right, this is a common source of frustration I've heard from many would-be backers of our Kickstarter project to fund RoboArena.



There is a whole international audience, specifically in European countries, that are interested in funding and helping get games made but cannot.

John Polson
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That's why efforts like 8-Bit Funding seem so great. Anyone from around the world can contribute funding (and projects, too). The indie scene is an international one, indeed.

Andy Baio
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Not true. Anyone internationally can pledge to Kickstarter projects using a credit card. Try it and see!



The only people affected are potential project creators, who are required by Amazon Payments to have a U.S. bank account and address to accept funds.

Stephen Dick
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O rly?? Well that's cool! I didn't realize that!



I bet you that Kickstarter will be switching platforms soon for their payment system. They are building up some pretty decent steam these past few months, and will likely be able to either build their own system or find one that works.

R. Hunter Gough
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As Andy Baio pointed out, Kickstarter only accepts projects from the U.S., but accepts BACKERS from anywhere in the world.

Craig Timpany
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Yeah, that table is depressing.



1. Players tend to form unrealistic expectations very easily, so structuring the project as a series of all-or-nothing phases seems much more equitable than the tip-jar-style services.

2. As the minecraft scandal showed, PayPal can't be trusted with large sums of money.

3. I'm outside the U.S.



None of the options are appropriate.

Tim Carter
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@R. Hunter Gough: That doesn't solve the problem for non-US game developers.

R. Hunter Gough
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true, but the other four options I've listed in this article DO! :)

Nathan Solomon
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I'd suggest that for most indie game development purposes, superfluid http://thesuperfluid.com is better than using a crowdfunding site. Game developers don't usually need cash as much as they need collaborators. superfluid was built specifically with game development (as well as other media) in mind, and with the concept of bringing together collaborators without funding. You don't need to ask folks for money; it helps you pull together your existing social network, and to extend that with a collaboration and virtual currency system derived from MMOs, that brings in the broader tech, creative and business community of superfluid.



-Nathan (co-founder, superfluid)

scott anderson
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I know you're just pimping your site, and I like the idea of a team building social network, but unless you are independently wealthy, are a student still being supported by your parents, are doing a small game, or are ok with a very long development cycle, its not feasible to make a quality game with zero budget. Most of the talented developers I know have no trouble finding other talented collaborators, but many of them to have trouble paying the bills.

Nathan Solomon
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If you need money, definitely raise money too; I'm not saying not to do that. I'm just suggesting not raising money to hire other humans.



Something to remember is that 80-90% of the funds raised on crowdfunding sites come from people that the project owner brings to the site. There isn't a huge base of additional funders waiting there for you. We are slightly similar, in that in many cases 80% of the collaborators you work with on superfluid, you'll bring. -We have a focus on social project management that adds value to them. But, in addition, there are ways to use superfluid without bringing any of your own people in, and just using your skills and the skills of people already in the system.



So, if you know people willing to give you 80% of the money you need, crowdsourcing cash will work. If you also need collaborators, or only need collaborators, superfluid may be useful. btw: here's an invite link to the indie game community on superfluid: http://thesuperfluid.com/?token=758e736073a43eb14a4f9eeef0f6e45d



-Nathan

Allan Rowntree
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I'm trying out 8-bit Funding, RocketHub and IndieGoGo to help raise fund for Cure 'Em Up! (WIP).



I think that they all lack good charting / tracking / analytics to give you any feedback on what works at bringing traffic and funders to your project page.



So far the race is neck, neck and neck at $0,$0,$0 ;0)



Wish me luck, or help fund me, please!

R. Hunter Gough
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Follow Gibson's advice and do more shameless self-promotion! :)



Also follow Strickler's advice and put yourself in your video.



Your game looks a lot like MicroBot ( http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/MicroBot/66acd000-77fe-
1000-9115-d80258410a9c ). Maybe you could play up this angle for people who might've liked MicroBot but want something portable.

Luis Blondet
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I was able to secure funding for my game using both Kickstarter.com and IndieGoGo.com and raise more than $4k, not bad for someone that has never made a game before ;)



My strategy was to use Kickstater because of its popularity, and then IndieGoGo to reach out to non-USA funders, then I would raise funds in the physical world and referred them to the site as part of the pitching process and just let anyone I didn't know just happen to stumble upon it.



I liked IndieGoGo better than Kickstarter. In Kickstarter, you have to meet or surpass your goal in order to get paid, while IndieGoGo let's you keep whatever you raise. Also, IndieGoGo gives you some metrics to help you tweak your marketing, it also gives you a basic HTML editor. Kickstarter doesn't give you any of that. Finally, my project was picked to be featured sections in IndieGoGo, perhaps because of all the traffic and funds I was bringing in while pitching my project, Kickstarter in the other hand, gave my project subsequent bumps due to traffic and funds raised...however, something weird started happening halfway through; even though I was raising funds and attracting traffic, my project started to stall and even sink towards the end in comparison to other projects that were not even raising as much and I think this is because Kickstarter is very arbitrary. You must be personally approved by an admin in order to be able to post and they tend to cherry pick projects that they want to be ranked higher.



I was really shocked when a board game based on the Mafia was featured over my game that is based on seamless education of ancient history. Do not expect for Kickstarter to help you at all if they don't like your project and do not expect to be ranked higher either.



I still will use both, or any and all available funding channels, for my next project, but the main landing page will be IndieGoGo instead of Kickstarter.





I still have my old pages up, if you would like to see how I did it, it may help you form a better strategy for your own fund raising;



Kickstarter - http://kck.st/es30Jf



IndieGoGo - http://igg.me/p/13572?a=58489&i=shlk





I hope this info helps someone. We indies need to help one another. Good luck.

Jonathan Bacchieri
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Hi guys,



Just for your information and for the people who are searching for alternative crowdfunding companies (outside of the USA), Digital-Coproductions is a French crowdfunding company specialized in video games which goes a little bit further than the other standard crowdfunding companies.



First, it's totally free to create a project on our website and to get some feedback from our members. Our specificity is that we don't only make our members contribute financially to projects, they also follow and contribute to the development of the project itself (Game design, Story line etc...).



For more information, visit our website http://www.digital-coproductions.com/ and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.



Jonathan

Cedric Ulule
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Hi everyone,



I'm Cedric, community manager of Ulule.com : freshly launched on October 2010 to everyone in the world (creators & backers). Ulule exists in english, french and (tada!) portuguese since yesterday. Bem-vindo!



We welcome arty, tech and humanitarian projects, as you can already see here: http://www.ulule.com/projects/status/success/



We do use Paypal, which is convenient for everyone and allows us to work on an "all or nothing" basis. As you can read on the article, like Yancey we feel it is the best way to keep spirits high and not end with a project lacking funds and quality at the end of the line.



I can understand how the "keep it all" approach may seem appealing to the creators. But how can you create a real funding dynamic without any target in mind? I like IndieGogo, but they know that too, I think that's why their commission almost doubles between an unfunded and a funded project.



The good way to use crowdfunding is really to think of the minimum budget (and I mean minimum) required for the making of your project. This is where the "all or nothing" philosophy has its roots, not in the crowdfunding system, but in the project need itself. Many project owners fill in the amount randomly. If what you really need is $2.000 and you end up with $400 in your bank account... where's the success? How are you gonna do a great thing for those who supported you?



You need a crowdfunding service that inspires good things in your supporters. One they can understand and trust at the first glance. This is the one that's gonna help you. Not the one that will give you the money regardless, or the one that makes you look like the popular kid on the block, or the one that shouts loudest for every project published. It's a difficult balance... But I'll say that we try our best at Ulule. ;)



All the best, crowdfunders.

Cedric(at)ulule.com

Luis Blondet
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How does Ulule determine Feature ranks?



I attracted plenty of backers and traffic to IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. IndieGoGo had my project featured while Kickstarter started to inexplicably sink my project after rising for weeks despite being the site that had the most directed traffic and backers, not to mention that I was losing to other game projects that were not getting any funding. I message the Kickstarter admins and was met with deafening silence.

Cedric Ulule
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As for the Paypal thing on Minecraft: do not forget that the story ended well. Even if sometimes, Paypal can be a little overprotective, it's for the safety of the funds.

"$700.000 stolen from the Minecraft genius by a hacker" would have made a rather sad headline. Better safe than sorry, no? ;)

Josh Leeper
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I decided to launch a project on Kickstarter as an experiment of how well it could generate interest and funding for an indie flash game. We decided on a small donation goal and a short time frame, which we've since learned is probably not the best strategy with Kickstarter (they recommend 30 days and we went with 15). There was an initial surge of interest before things slowed down, but we're hoping that we can drum up some interest before tomorrow night when the funding cycle ends.

The goal was to get members of the community to become playtesters, design levels, submit stories that could be integrated into the game, and also send pictures of themselves to be turned into game characters. While our Kickstarter project page hasn't generated as much traffic as we'd hoped, it's been an interesting experiment, and there's still a chance we'll meet our funding goal. And if we don't, we at least have a small following of people who will be interested in seeing how the game turns out who wouldn't have otherwise known about it.

Check out OVNI at http://kck.st/hJQQGN and let me know what you think!

Jon Covey
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Hi guys, it's great to listen to all your comments above and discover how you have found crowdfunding. Without sounding like I am plugging our own platform we have been listening to creators needs for over a year now and have developed a platform that went into beta in Dec 2010 and we are about to go live with version 3.0. Feel free to check it out at sponduly.com the v3.0 will be going live this coming week so expect major changes, the current version has had most projects parked until the new site goes live. We have listened to everyones likes and dislikes about crow funding platforms and developed a platform that hopefully works for all.



We have created a reserve style funding which is similar to that of all or nothing however you set a reserve so you still get to keep the funds raised for all your handwork as long as you have reached your reserve. We feel this protects the end user/ your backer but more importantly ensures you the creator raise enough funds to bring your project to life.



Enough about us we love to help and our team are all from a background of helping others. I think above is some amazing advice to running a successful project and all platforms can work if you have the right focus and desire. The intro videos are in my opinion imperative to getting your message across, not only will hold peoples attention longer and keep them on your page for a longer period of time but you explain your idea to everyones VAK learning styles.



One last point that we have found makes or breaks a project is your rewards, we have seen so many projects knock up rewards with little or no thought but ultimately the rewards are what will help you succeed. The good old saying is speculate to accumulate, and this has never been more true don't be afraid of being creative but remember what's important to you may not be important or attractive to others. Work with the admin team on any of the platforms and they will give you the best advice on what works or doesn't, every project that has worked with us closely has seen great success and so far have raised in excess of £150'000. I wish you all good luck with your projects.



Regards

Jon

Sponduly.com

Tim Carter
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The stockmarket is the original crowdfund.



What would truly be a revolution is if you could really crowdfund on the Internet without having to go through the $50 to $100k fees for an IPO along with all the regulatory oversight. You could raise millions.

Stephen Dick
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Actually it's even older than that. The whole concept is based of off how artists and playwrights like Shakespeare would take their play ideas to their fans and find patrons who would help fund their production. Those who became patrons would get early screenings, better seats, copies of the manuscript, and other things like that.



It's a new spin on a rather old concept.



At least that's according to the Kickstarter founder guy in one of his interviews I watched.


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