13 August 2018 | 60 Comments
At Gen Con this year, John Wrot of Gate Keeper Games stopped by our conference room to say hi. John takes time out of each of his Gen Cons to organize and host a panel about Kickstarter. It features an array of panelists (creators and other industry folks) each year, including me a few years ago.
John mentioned that this year was particularly interesting, because despite the wealth of information available about Kickstarter now, the vast majority of questions asked to the panel were fairly fundamental. It was a good reminder to me that I need to provide content for first-time creators from time to time, something I do all too rarely on this blog.
Fortunately, John took notes during the panel, and he was willing to share them with me. I’ve narrowed the 20 or so questions/answers down to the 7 you see here, but John is posting the full transcript here.
The following answers come variously from this year’s panelists: Mark Streed (Dice Tower), Michael Mindes (Tasty Minstrel Games), Lance Myxter (Undead Viking Reviews & TMG Media), Chandler Copenhaver (CrowdOx), Conor McGoey (InsideUp Games), Steven Cole (Escape Velocity Games), Aldo Ghiozzi (Impressions Distribution), and John Wrot! (Gate Keeper Games). I (Jamey) may also chime in with some thoughts of my own.
Q: “What’s the difference between wanting to make my game versus wanting to be in the publishing biz myself?”
- Becoming a publisher, and having your game published (by another publisher), are two very different things. If you want full control and to spend a lot of time working for bits but have the reigns to all decisions and to potentially form a business… self-publish. If you just want to make games and see people enjoy them, sell/license out your design to a publisher.
- [Jamey] One way I try to explain this is if you want to manage all of the different people on this list, consider becoming a publisher. If not–if you mostly just want to design games–submit your games to other publishers.
Q: “What are the top mistakes a first time KS creator can make?”
- Guessing at costs instead of properly budgeting.
- Not building a crowd in advance. [Jamey: I would add to this, “Not telling people about your project in advance.” There’s no reason for a first-time creator to keep their project a secret–talk about it openly and frequently from the beginning.]
- Trying to please everybody with game design, look, content, terminology, etc.
- Adding every suggested stretch goal to the campaign.
- Not planning shipping correctly.
- [Jamey] One other mistake I see is creators launching because they told people they were launching on a certain date, even though the project isn’t ready. Please read this.
Q: “What do you wish you knew before you started?”
- How much freight would cost.
- How many backers I’d have in each area of the world.
- What optional goals people would want.
- How my manufacturer would treat me (delays, etc.)
- That people would have an issue with the video as shot.
- That Kickstarter isn’t going to make me rich.
- [Jamey] I wish I had fully realized that Kickstarter isn’t about my dream. That is, backers aren’t there to make my dream become reality. Rather, backers are there to get something awesome and connect with you/backers in the process.
Q: “What are your top tips for running a successful campaign / What elements make a game KS successful?”
- Budget every detail.
- Playtest, playtest, playtest.
- Make the campaign page clean and pretty.
- Don’t give in to all stretch goal suggestions.
- Be communicative and honest.
- Clear pledge tiers.
- [Jamey] Make something people want.
Q: “Is it viable to hire a consultant to run a Kickstarter or does the largest success come from designer engagement with the community?”
- The panelists agreed that consultants are simply not necessary at all and can likely be a waste of money. They can help, but it’s a good game that sells itself.
- Creator-backer engagement is worth a million dollars. If the Pacific Rim Kickstarter were run by the unique passionate individual that created the game instead of the machine that was just trying to make money, it would have done a lot better.
Q: “How do you gain a following prior to launch? Vlog/Blog? Mailing list?”
- Demo at local and national cons.
- Start a Facebook company page, and boost posts. (Nobody sees your post unless you boost it anymore.)
- Starting a blog isn’t what it used to be. [Jamey: While there is some truth to this comment, I think it might be missing the point in starting a blog. If you start a blog and gain a readership, you shouldn’t expect for those readers to become backers someday. Rather, the point of a blog/podcast/YouTube channel/etc is to have a hub where people can find you and get information from you. It also trains you in the art of online conversation, as well as the abilities required to create content that focuses on the consumer rather than the creator.]
- While it’s helpful to have a following, you really only need about 50-100 people willing to back on day 1. Multiple people with massive followings have had Kickstarters fall on their face, so it’s no guarantee.
- [Jamey] Here are some small daily actions that can help you build a crowd. Make sure you have a hub with an e-newsletter signup before you do any of these things.
Q: “What are some good ways to push up the middle slump of a KS?”
- Personal emails to backers thanking them.
- Continued updating of the campaign with updates and new photos.
- Don’t front-load all review releases to the start of the campaign, save some for middle.
- Interact on Facebook groups. Get people talking about your campaign, and asking questions.
- [Jamey] Here’s a blog post about this specific topic.
If you’re thinking about running a Kickstarter campaign for the first time, feel free to ask any question below, and John and I are happy to answer. I may link to a specific blog post as part of my answer, but please don’t be afraid to ask a “basic” question–this is a safe place. :)