Video game development costs serious money! Indie game developers are constantly against it in terms of finances and crowdfunding is a great way to solve all of your funding needs.
So how do you kick start a video game? Follow the steps below:
Choose Kickstarter as your platform
Network on social media/high traffic sources
Announce your launch date and implement influencer marketing techniques
Launch your campaign and provide regular updates
Deliver your promises
There's obviously a lot more that goes into these steps in order to make your campaign a success. Keep reading to find out the specific actions you need to take in order to execute them.
Step #1 - Choose Kickstarter
I'll come right out and say it: Kickstarter is the best platform for raising funds for your video games.
And no, I'm not being paid by Kickstarter to say this.
The fact is that the numbers bear this out. Take the chart below for instance.
Kickstarter hasn't disclosed information beyond the middle of 2018 so unfortunately, we don't have data beyond this as of this writing. However, you can clearly see that the platform has provided close to half a million dollars since 2015 regularly.
This is just mobile games by the way.
The chart below reveals the picture for all video gaming projects.
Yup. That's an average of 16 million dollars raised over three years from 2016 to 2018. Frankly, if you aren't on Kickstarter, you stand very little chance of being successful.
There are other avenues you can consider such as Ulule and Patreon. However, the former works only if you're aiming at a particular geographic location and the latter doesn't have the potential to raise large sums of money.
This brings us back to Kickstarter as being your best source of raising funds. Perhaps the biggest advantage of Kickstarter is that the users of the platform are used to viewing video game projects and have likely contributed to them in the past.
This makes them more open to contributing to your project as well. In addition to this, there are a few other benefits you should be aware of.
Benefits of Using Kickstarter
Here are some of the other benefits of using Kickstarter.
Recognition - It's the biggest crowdfunding platform out there and attracts the highest amount of traffic. When it comes to choosing a crowdfunding platform, you want to go with the one that has the highest number of people visiting it. It just makes the likelihood of you succeeding better.
Standards - Kickstarter provides you with an initial review of your campaign and this is invaluable feedback. Using their data, Kickstarter can reasonably predict your chances of success and whether your campaign stands a good chance of raising its targeted amount. Backers know about the platform's process and trust projects on it to a higher degree.
Interface - While the backend interface of Kickstarter leaves a lot to be desired, the front end is perfectly fine. Backers love the engaging interface and the UX is great in terms of aiding you reach your goal.
Ownership - Projects listed on Kickstarter remain yours and the platform doesn't seek any sort of a stake in it. This protects your IP to a large extent. You should however trademark and copyright all of your content to avoid any problems down the line.
Now that we're clear on why you need to be on Kickstarter, let's move on to the next step and see how you can get ready for a successful campaign.
Step #2 - Pre Launch Prep
Both this and the next step cover pre launch activities. The fact is that a successful crowdfunding campaign is created well before launch.
In the earlier days of crowdfunding you could rock up with just a campaign page and a few videos and expect to raise money. These days, that's hardly the case.
You need to begin pre launch prep at least four months prior to your planned launch date. In fact, you should be using the pre launch stage to figure out whether you should even launch your campaign or not.
Thus, you will not be announcing any campaign dates at this point in time.
Instead, your aim should be to drive engagement and increase your reach. It's time to build your audience and you should spare no effort doing this.
Some campaign creators resort to using paid ads during this stage but frankly, these are a waste of money no matter which stage you're in. Instead, you want to focus on building organic reach as much as possible.
Your first step should be to develop an SEO strategy and leverage your social media profiles. SEO takes time to deliver but it's the best form of traffic there is. It's primarily why you need to begin pre launch prep a few months prior to the event.
YouTube is a fantastic platform for all video game developers to be present on. Make your presence known on popular forums as well as on platforms such as Reddit.
Other forums such as NeoGAF, GameFAQs and IGN need to be on your list as well. Don't announce your launch date or anything about your campaign just yet.
Simply use this time to drive traffic towards your blog and your development process. Use feedback from these users and incorporate them as needed into your game.
Social media will give you a great way to measure the engagement of your audience. Are users liking and commenting on your posts? Are they subscribing to your videos?
Monitor the progress of these metrics over time. Each platform has its own standards of engagement and you want to make sure that your channels have higher than average engagement.
This is also the perfect time for you to reach out to other game developers who successfully Kickstarted their games. Message them and build a connection with them.
Don't pitch your video game campaign to the just yet. Instead, engage them on their platforms and try to score as many backlinks as you can.
Ask them about their experience and let them know you might be launching something down the road. Score a list of traffic sources from them as well. Do not ask them for their email lists at this point.
It's just too early.
The idea here is to build your network. You want to build authority and credibility with your audience and this takes time. Don't be in a rush to launch. The longer you take to execute this stage, the higher are your odds of success.
Looking at Metrics
Once you notice that your average audience size is around 2,000 or so, you're ready to move onto the next phase and announce a launch date.
I didn't pull this number out of thin air. It's just simple math. The average Kickstarter backer contributes $25 to a campaign. If you can get 20% of your 2,000 audience members to contribute this amount, you'll raise $10,000.
Remember, these 2,000 people are your core audience. They're the ones engaging you even before your game has been released. You're probably still in the story board stage!
The fact that you've got them excited means there's a high probability that this audience will convert. Thus, 20% is an extremely conservative estimate.
Build towards this figure and only once you reach it should you announce your launch date. Doing so any other way will only result in you falling short of your funding goal.
Step #3 - Pre Launch Part 2
That's right! You're still in the pre launch phase and haven't reached the launch phase yet. Your launch date should be set around three weeks away from the end of the previous phase.
This gives you enough time to carry out all the serious promotional activities you need to be doing and it also builds enough urgency in the minds of your audience.
In short, it's near enough to build excitement and far enough for you to do what needs to be done.
Your first step is to attend any live events or conventions that might be occurring. Yes, this will cost you money but if you want to taste success, this is a necessary step.
Besides, it gives you the opportunity to network and increase your audience size. Most importantly, it gives you the chance to meet influencers in the space.
Whether you know it or not, you've already been conducting influencer marketing. The other campaign creators you've reached out to are influencers!
These people have existing mailing lists and a built in network. Chances are there will be overlap between your networks. However, you need to get in touch with them and let them know about your launch date.
Many campaign creators engage in tit for tat marketing. In other words, they might have a campaign going on and could use your help and donation. In return, they'll provide you with a donation and access to their audience.
Consider the pros and cons of this well. On one hand you get increased reach but on the flip side, there might be a brand mismatch. Know your game thoroughly as well as your audience.
More importantly, these creators might have scored a few media contacts. Media exposure is invaluable for your campaign. You might need to provide additional favors to these creators but it will be well worth it.
A single review in Indie Gamer might put you well over your funding goal!
Reach out on Twitter to journalists who cover this space. You'll have a sizable audience by this time so it's not as if your tweets will be missed. Search their publication websites for contact information.
LinkedIn is also a great way of getting in touch with these people.
Next, reach out to YouTubers who review indie games. Here are some of the channels you can reach out to:
Indie Games Searchlight
Ideally you want to stagger reviews from these channels. It will take you around two weeks or so to get all of these people on board so the week before your launch date, you'll likely see a huge spike in traffic from these sources.
Throughout all of this, keep your email list and social media channels updated with all of the things you're doing. If a review of your game is about to drop, let everyone know.
These channels are also a great way to collect feedback with regards to your rewards. Let your audience know what rewards you're offering and run a poll.
You might want to consider deliberately offering less than exciting rewards and then having
your audience propose exciting ones. This gives them the chance to take part in your campaign.
Another great idea is to collect feedback on how much you think your audience members can contribute.
You can do this by setting up an anonymous form and have audience members enter their contributions. Be upfront with your reason for collecting this data. It just helps you figure out whether you'll be successful or not.
If your audience indicates that they can contribute at least 20% of your overall goal at this stage, you stand a great chance of being fully funded. This should be your goal at this stage in fact.
A day before your campaign launches, host a webinar or a play through along with other influencers or gamers. You could even invite selected audience members to take part in this event.
Remind them that the launch date is tomorrow and plaster your channels with the links to your campaign.
While all of this is happening, you'll need to create your campaign pitch and your video. Getting your video right is crucial and you should follow these tips for a great pitch video.
Your campaign pitch needs to include a lot of pictures and sample play through animation. You need to give your backers as authentic an experience as you can.
Remember to let them know who you are as well! A lot of crowdfunding is driven by people who are looking to back creators who have cool ideas. Let them know why you're passionate about this project and design your pitch with care.
Alternatively, you can have a professional design it for you and boost your chances of success instantly.
Prepare all of your game play videos and upload them to your YouTube channel and social media accounts. This is especially true if your game is still in the prototyping stage and you're seeking funds to move it past this.
Once your pitch is ready, rewards are fleshed out and audience mobilized, it's time to launch!
You might be wondering how long your campaign ought to run? Well, I've written about campaign length previously.
Use that post to figure out what your ideal campaign length needs to be.
Step #4 - Launch!
Counter intuitively, your workload decreases drastically one you've launched your campaign. This doesn't mean you're done though!
You'll need to provide updates to your backers and let them know what's going on. If you're delivering their games shortly after the campaign ends, you'll need to release tutorials to help them understand the game better.
Keep updating your campaign page regularly and encourage them to share your campaign with their networks.
Utilize your social media channels to keep pushing your message. If you managed to get in touch with any media contacts, let them know of your campaign and check when your story might run.
Meanwhile, keep working on your list of influencers and have them post reviews (in case they haven't done so already.)
If you game is at an appropriate stage, then scheduling a walk through is a great idea during this time.
If you've managed to secure at least 20% within your first few days, you'll be receiving a nice boost from Kickstarter's algorithm at this point. Stay steady with your updates and you'll see a steady flow of backing coming in.
Remain engaged with your email list. Once you move past the halfway point of your campaign, you'll need to focus on the social proof aspect a little bit more.
In other words, you should begin to thank people for their support towards raising how much ever has been raised. This will help pull in those people who need some additional motivation.
When crafting emails, remember to go easy on the HTML and preferably use full text based emails. This will help you land in the 'Primary' inboxes of your subscribers.
As your campaign draws to a close you will most likely see your goal being hit. You might want to start planning on delivery and any additional tasks you might need to carry out.
What if your campaign doesn't hit its goal? Well, here's what you need to do if your campaign fails.
Step #5 - Deliver
There isn't much I can tell you to do a this stage of your campaign other than: Keep your word!
The number of campaign creators that raise funds successfully and then disappear into the night without delivering on their promises are distressingly large.
Don't be that person!
Provide regular updates to your backers and involve them in the development process. If you've done everything right, this is also the best time to brainstorm stretch goals and get your audience excited!
Gather feedback and plan any patches that you need to release. Work to provide your backers with a great experience and you'll find that raising money for your next game is going to be a cinch.
Don't deliver and you might find yourself getting sued!
Kickstarter is a great way to fund your indie game project. However, this is not an easy process and you need to spend a lot of time on it.
Execute your pre launch tasks successfully and you'll see that the latter stages of your campaign will take care of themselves.
Above all else, deliver on what you promised and you'll find that your little studio will gain a ton of respect in the community and you'll build a great fan following!