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Why Our Kickstarter Was Doomed From the Start

by Diane Mueller on 12/22/12 11:51:00 pm

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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.

"I don't think it was ready to be shown off to the world..."

Originally from

Just under a month ago, the team I’m involved with launched a Kickstarter for our first game, Schoolyard Snodown. We spent what felt like ages preparing, though in reality it wasn’t nearly long enough, and when we finally hit the Launch button, the anxiety began. Our first day actually went relatively well. We raised a little over 6% of our goal in that first day, which is apparently on-par with most successful Kickstarters. But that’s where the success ended. The second day, we rose about another 1-2%, and then we absolutely stagnated. Weeks went by, and nothing. Maybe we got a few dollars here and there, but nothing big; nothing substantial; not enough. We end off now, with just over 10% of our funding goal. A place we should have been on day two or three. So what exactly went wrong?

-- We asked for FAR too much money. Almost $10,000. For a game of our size, $5,000 should have been the absolute maximum. The game has a low production value, so itdoesn'tlook like a game that requires much money to make. Lowering our goal to match theperceivedproduction value may just be perpetuating the myth that games cost less to make than they actually do, but, sad to say, doing so would help us out more than presenting actual costs. This is a game thatwe'vebeen working on without income from it for a year, and we’re planning on finishing it regardless of the money, so we’re in a position where asking for less money is more beneficial to us. Asking for less and meeting or surpassing the goal is much better than setting the goal higher, but not making it.

-- Wedidn'treach out enough. Before we even started the Kickstarter, we should have had people and sites lined up that we were going to talk to. We should have made sure that we had a presence on every platform we were going to pitch to, and that our presence there was 100% ready to be shown to the world. Our website was unfinished and, frankly, unprofessional looking, we didn’t have any kind of press release or anything lined up, and it took us a week into the Kickstarter to get a Steam Greenlight Concepts page, when all of that that should have been done and complete BEFORE the Kickstarter even began.

-- We spent more time talking about “The Dream” than we did our actual product. Our Kickstarter didn’t talk nearly enough about the game, and our updates didn’t talk about our progress. We showed off a few things here and there, but it was very difficult (read: impossible) to get an idea for what our game actually was. A lot of people I spoke with said something to the effect of “Well, I’m not really sure what the game is like, but…” Our gameplay was hidden in a concept document linked at the bottom of the page. While the information within the concept document was interesting, nobody could find it, or if they did,didn'tcare to look through it.

-- Our page was super long and completely overwhelming. The video was extremely difficult to understand, audio-wise, anddidn'tshow many game clips. We had this really long section on “platforms” that I don’t think served much of a purpose. The rewards were at the very bottom, and story was four paragraphs long. We went through during the middle of the campaign and polished it, moving things around and shortening or removing confusing bits, but after doing that, we should have re-sold it to the public. There was no secondary push of, “Hey, check out our re-vamped Kickstarter!”

-- Most of all, I just don’t think Snodown was ready. I don’t think it was ready to be shown off to the world, and it certainlywasn'tin a state that would make people want to give money to it. We scrambled just days before launching the campaign to produce a demo, and at the time, I think we were still planning core features. At this point, we have a much more polished demo in the works, and when that's finished, I'm confident it will be the quality we're aiming to show off.

There were certainly a host of other reasons (our timing, our video quality, etc) but I think that covers the big ones. We'velearned a lot doing this Kickstarter, about production and marketing, and customers in general. I think we made the same mistakes a lot of young startups make, jumping into things before fully realizing the scope of it.
Our current campaign is technically still running, but at this point we're far enough away from the goal that it may as well not be. We may re-try later with a different approach, but for now, I think we’re going to spend some time letting the lessons sink in, and preparing our game to be shared with the world.

Note: This was a really difficult piece to write. I feel as if I'm being far to harsh. But at the same time, I wanted to present things as honestly as I could, and sometimes that means being a little rough and not sugar-coating anything. I hope that's alright...

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