You’ve started work on a game, but if you ever want to finish it you’re going to need money. LOTS of money. “No problem,” you think to yourself. “If industry dinosaurs like Tim Schafer and Jordan Weisman can do it, surely a young buck like me can do it too!” And while it’s a nice sentiment, there are a lot of Kickstarter projects that never quite reach their target. If you want a chance to cross the finish line, it’s best you seek out the advice of someone who’s succeeded before; someone like Michael Paeck.
Paeck is the co-founder of Cliffhanger Productions, a company whose Shadowrun Online project completed on Kickstarter for a whopping $558,863 – 10% above their target of $500,000. But getting results like these didn’t happen overnight. Paeck put a lot of hard work into this, and during a lecture at Casual Connect Kiev, shared some of the secrets to his success. Now we pass those secrets on to you.
Don’t do it in the summer – “People are on holidays, people don’t read their mails … so don’t do it. Either do it in Spring or in Fall. Also, most of the people check Kickstarter at work. You’ll get most of your donations between 8 and 5… which shows that people on holiday just don’t do that.”
Be prepared to take time – “It will take some days for Amazon to approve your project [for payments]. We’d do something wrong, and every step takes about 2 days. … after one and a half weeks we had it – but all in all, from tax research until we could hit the button was a full month procedure for us… that’s why we started in summer. We wanted to start in May, but it turned out to be summer because it took so long, so prepare yourself.”
The first days and the last days matter – [Paeck showed us a graph of donations, with the vast majority being in the first and last few days] “This is why you have to prepare so much for the first day. The first impression is really, really important. If you start slow, it’s very likely you’ll fail.”
Respond to every inquiry – “We had two people on the day shift, two people on the night shift … and we answered every message within one hour. In the end, we had 6000 backers and answered about 4000 messages. So basically, for two thirds of our backers we had a 1-to-1 relationship.”
Build a community BEFORE launching – “Don’t just have a product nobody knows… get a web page, get people excited about your project beforehand. There have been some studies that if you have 10 Facebook fans for your product, the likeliness of success is 2% or 4%. If you have 100, it’s 8%. If you have 1000, it’s 40%. Somewhere there is the sweet spot. Get the people first, not afterwards. During the campaign is too late.”
Know your audience – “Is your product really suited for Kickstarter? Kickstarter has a certain audience, and they’re slightly older than the usual gaming audience. Like 25+. And they’re more alternative. If you have a game for kids, maybe not a good idea. If you have a game solely for women, maybe not a good idea. The best genres and types of games are PC games, old school RPG’s, point-and-click adventure games – those are the games that go well there.”
Have a simple rewards structure – “The simpler the better. If you think it’s simple enough, make it simpler. If people go and say ‘What will I get? Will I get this?,’ it’s too complicated and they go away. It’s pretty much like in free-to-play with payment options; every click, every thought is too much already.”
Video is the most important tool – “People make up their mind really quickly, so much that only 35% of people watch it to the end. So whatever you want to tell them, tell them at the beginning. People will turn it off after 30 seconds. The main audience is American, so have it presented by an American. With us being Austrian, we started off with not so bad English, but it’s still clear that we’re not Americans. People are going “Where are they from? That sounds strange. We don’t trust people that sound strange.” We then produced more videos with a Hollywood actor … suddenly, “They have that guy? I understand him. Here’s my money.” There was a difference of trust.
Show trustworthiness – “They need to trust in your skill. They should believe you can do it. They’ll only invest in your product if they see you’re invested in it. Ideally you’re one of the old guys [with gaming fame] like Tim Schafer … but if you don’t have that, it’s great if your team has been part of a successful product, or if you have a known brand. If you don’t have that as well, get endorsements. People will go “I don’t know these guys and I don’t trust them, but I know that guy and I trust him, and he trusts them, so I trust them.” It’s complicated, but it works.
Word of mouth trumps everything else – “Have a Facebook page ready, have a Twitter page ready. Make everybody subscribe to those pages and tell your people that they should share the information. That we need more and more. Prepare banners, Facebook avatars and other images for your backers. Make people a part of your campaign. Make them shout out for you. Create incentives to bring friends. What we did was every person that brings in a friend will get a special miniature. Whatever works [to get people inviting friends] in free-to-play games also works on Kickstarter.