A lot of people have asked me about BlackCherry’s recent Kickstarter experience. In March of 2012 we launched a campaign called The Ant Experiment with the goal of funding a new game concept. While the campaign was not successful there were many positive outcomes. In business, as in life, not everything you try is going to be a success, but I’ve always believed, even in failure there is an upside. In this post I’ll take a look at what I think we did right, what I think we did wrong and what the outcome of our first Kickstarter experience has been.
I’ll also answer a lot of the questions I’ve received from people thinking of dipping their feet in the crowdsourcing waters. Hopefully these thoughts will help you achieve the success you are looking for. Also, as we were launching an indie game project, most of this discussion will revolve around launching a game campaign on Kickstarter. That said there is relevance for most any campaign type.
1) Probably the most common question I’ve had is how did you get on Kickstarter, it’s not open to Canadians? That’s a simple one, if you are Canadian, you need someone to sponsor the campaign who has a US address and bank account, that’s it. This is easy enough but it presents a problem, because, it then looks like the person sponsoring is the face of the project. That may or may not be a problem depending on who the sponsor is but for us I think it confused our identity as an independent game company. That said, I think the person we chose as our sponsor was a great choice. Though we made a good effort to establish this relationship, in our blog, news etc, we should probably have been more careful to make this clear our our Kickstarter campaign page.
2) The most common feedback we heard from potential backers was, we really like your project but we don’t really know who you are. If you aren’t Tim Schafer, or a similar game celeb, you need a prototype or a substantial amount of material to make it clear exactly what the game is. A prototype would be ideal. Then, you have to make every effort you can to let people know who you are.
3) When you submit your project, make sure you are ready for it to go live very quickly. We thought it would take two weeks for KS to approve it but it was actually a matter of hours. Due to a lack of communication on our part, our US sponsor likely hit a response link without realizing it and boom, we were live long before we expected to be.
4) Be sure to have a marketing/PR campaign planned across social media and any other means available and be prepared to spend a lot of time on promotion during your campaign. I think we put a good effort into our campaign but inevitably, we could have done more. Also be sure to include a decently produced video. One thing I think we did really well was producing our video. We may have gone overboard on this aspect but I have to say, we had a ton of fun doing it.
5) In advance of launching, try and line up as many friends, family and others who are willing to back you as possible. Momentum early on can mean a lot. Also, don’t count on everyone to back you. I found it surprisingly difficult to get people, even good friends, to come on board. Crowdfunding is still very new and most peeps don’t understand it.
6) Ask for less than $100K. In retrospect, given we had no prototype and our track record, we aimed too high. If I was to try it again, I’d set our goal at something like $30K to make a prototype and then go back to KS for production funding.
So given all that, what are the positive outcomes of our Kickstarter experience.
1) We did it. Never underestimate how much you learn from an experience like this. I’m happy about the fact we jumped in with both feet and if we were to do it again, we would have a much better understanding of what is involved.
2) There was a big impact on our profile as a company. Our Ant Experiment video has to date, had close to 8,000 views on Youtube and I think it’s something that shows our personality as a company really clearly. That can often be a tough thing to achieve. We also received a ton of great feedback from the indie game community through blogs and social media.
3) We received a lot of positive feedback on the Ant Experiment concept itself from both gamers and potential investors. While our Kickstarter campaign was not successful, we have a number of avenues to explore on the road to bringing ‘The Ant Experiment’ to life.
If you are thinking about a Kickstarter campaign, I hope you find this information useful. My advice, if you are sitting on the fence is, jump in. Crowdfunding is a new part of the funding landscape and the sooner we all understand it, the sooner we can use it to help our ideas come to life. And, if you don’t succeed well, just keep that song in your head: