Kickstarter Postmortem

Running a successful Kickstarter campaign is a lot of work and the last thing you want to do at the end of it is think about it any more. Now a bit of time has passed, we thought it would be good to reflect on how it went.

Preparation

Kickstarter is a marketing exercise and therefore is about hotness and eyeballs. You need to have something awesome and a means to get people to take a look at it. A social media following, website, press kit, trailer, development blog and being involved in the community is a must. How was Defect looking before the Kickstarter launch?

  • 33 blog posts (2 in Gamasutra), 10 newsletters, 243 tweets, 56 Facebook posts, 2 trailers
  • 962 newsletter subscribers, 152 Twitter followers, 210 Facebook likes
  • 2 expos (including PAX Australia Oct 2014), one game industry event, multiple IGDA Melbourne playtesting sessions
  • Film Victoria and Screen Australia backing
  • Steam Greenlit (14th Feb 2015, took 8 days)
Demoing Defect at PAX Australia 2014

Demoing Defect at PAX Australia 2014

After 2.5 years of development, we probably only had the bare minimum in terms of social media presence and followers. We really needed to Tweet more and attend more expos. We needed to be more involved in the development community/forums. We should have started talking at conferences to get more well known. You need to get yourself and your project out there as much as possible.

The Week Before

We had the Kickstarter page locked down and were working on content for Kickstarter updates. You want to have a heap of content pre-prepared, as you won’t have much time to create it during the Kickstarter campaign. We emailed around 100 game sites/reviewers and another 100 YouTubers/Streamers with Steam keys for PC/Mac version of Defect Demo. Again, I would say that that is probably the bare minimum in terms of numbers and you should probably aim to have a contact list 50% bigger, depending on what type of game you are making. We told all our fans that the Kickstarter was only a week away. We had hinted at it for a while, but maybe we should have been more open about it earlier and even gathered feedback before launching.

During

The concept and the campaign in general was well received, but the initial response wasn’t strong enough. The campaign wasn’t hot enough and we weren’t getting enough eyeballs on it. It didn’t get much media coverage. The Kickstarter video could have been improved to put across the unique selling point (ie the defection cycle) better. PC players might have been put off by the game looking like a tablet game (HUD was too big).
 

What did we do during the Kickstarter campaign?

  • 12 Kickstarter updates, 8 blog posts (1 in Gamasutra), 6 newsletters, 262 tweets (146k impressions), 17 Facebook posts, two walkthrough videos, lots of reddit posts.
  • 20 new newsletter subscribers, 128 new Twitter followers, 44 new Facebook likes, 941 Kickstarter backers.
  • Pitched and demoed the game at the monthly IGDA Melbourne meetup and did a Twitch live stream.

After the ok start, we realised that we’d have to switch to plan B. Release a demo! This was our backup plan if the campaign wasn’t hitting certain milestones along the way. The Steam PC/Mac demo was released halfway through the 30 day Kickstarter campaign. It got 2628 downloads during the campaign and another 1100 or so since. It received 44 reviews, 90% positive. There was no major bugs or issues! We emailed the journalists and YouTubers/Streamers in our contact list again to let them know the demo had been released and we got a bit more coverage, including an article on Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

We ramped up the Tweets in the last week and it definitely helped. The more you put into social media, the more you get out. Tweet the same news 6-8 times across a day to hit people in different timezones. We should have been doing this in the lead up to and during the whole campaign.
 

It was looking pretty dire with a few days to go, so we basically begged everyone to back us if they hadn’t already, and if they had already backed us, to pledge more. It worked! We had our best day in terms of pledge amount and the third best day in terms of number of new pledges. We made our goal with just over a day to spare.

tl;dr

If you want to increase your chances of success, have a significant following before you even think about launching a Kickstarter. Get feedback on your Kickstarter video early and polish the message you are trying to get across. Be prepared to be be constantly posting on social media and answering questions during the campaign.