A look back to good old 2014 and our crowdfunding we ran for STASIS
When Nic and I decided to take on Kickstarter we wanted to run the smoothest and best campaign possible. Now, while the road certainly wasn’t without its bumps and bruises, I think that the campaign for STASIS went remarkably well.
Below are a few thoughts and things to consider when setting up your own campaign. Some are obvious, and others are things that we only realized once we were neck deep into our campaign.
SETTING UP YOUR KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
When you’re planning your Kickstarter campaign, it’s very easy to be caught up in the excitement and forget a few fundamentals when dealing with Kickstarter. One of the main points to remember is that Kickstarter has to verify your campaign before you’re able to hit that big green launch button.
This can throw a spanner in the works of any ‘pre Kickstarter marketing campaign you’re planning, as this is a manual process and could take a little longer than expected. You are completely at the behest of Kickstarter’s all-too-human managers who have to manually sift through your campaign – amongst others – to ensure that you have met all of their requirements.
I’d recommend that you set up the base skeleton of your campaign as early as possible, and submit it to Kickstarter. You’re able to modify the campaign indefinitely afterward, right up to the launch.
We didn’t do that. We put the entire ‘final’ campaign together, announced our launch date, and submitted it to Kickstarter with (what we thought) was a healthy lead time. Our idea behind this thinking was that Kickstarter would be awestruck with how complete the campaign was, that they would approve everything in a day or two.
After a week, our mistake started to loom over us. With our announced launch date closing in fast and little feedback from Kickstarter, we halted our plans and pushed our dates out. In hindsight, this was possibly the best thing we could have done for the campaign (more on that later!), but at the time it resulted in sleepless nights and frustrated emails!
USE THE PREVIEW LINK FOR FEEDBACK
When you’re setting up your campaign, you can share a preview of the incomplete campaign in order to get feedback. We planned the campaign by looking at other successes and failures, reading post mortems, and generally going on our gut about what would work and what wouldn’t. Once we had external feedback and opinions on our campaign, we could adjust things accordingly.
Those that are providing feedback are your end-users. At the end of the day, you aren’t trying to sell your product to yourself – you are trying to sell it to other people, and feedback from YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE is probably one of the most important and valuable things you can do.
DECIDING ON YOUR DATES
We picked November for our Kickstarter launch. The chosen month was due to our personal deadlines and current work schedule. To be honest, it probably wasn’t the best month to launch! We had to compete with Call of Duty, the Next-Gen console launches, AND the Thanksgiving holidays. Had we released a month earlier, perhaps the ride would have been much smoother – but having said that, it was a case of November 2013 or February/March 2014.
When choosing your dates, keep two things in mind:
1 – Your audience. Are there any public holidays coming up? Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, Summer vacation…all of these factor in whether pledgers have access to extra money, and B) have access to a computer and the internet.
2 – Your schedule. Anyone who has run a Kickstarter campaign can attest to the fact that it’s almost a full-time job. You need to put in an insane amount of time! We had three of us running different aspects of the campaign for the entire 33-day run.
Managing press, managing Kickstarter itself, Steam Greenlight, community management on other forums, YouTube Lets Players, technical support on the Alpha, cataloging feedback and emails, updating press lists, spell checking interviews and releases…all of these take a HUGE amount of time, so ensure that you do it when you have available time!
For Nic, Kristal, and I, it was especially difficult because we also have a business to run at the same time.
THE CAMPAIGN PAGE
So you have your game, you have your Kickstater page waiting for info, you have decided on your dates – now what?
The campaign page itself is your gateway to success or failure. When we were setting up the STASIS page, we looked at hundreds of other campaign pages – noting points and aspects we liked from each and interpreting them with regards to STASIS.
Consider the use of animated GIFS. Having that small element of movement can really bring life to your campaign page. We chose to have actual gameplay in the GIFs, which went along with our philosophy of IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GAME. We had an actual game to show, not just a concept and that formed the core of the entire campaign.
You are going to get A LOT of traffic through Kickstarter, so be aware of that when hosting files externally. Even what you perceive as small things, like externally hosted screenshots, can bring your server to a grinding halt and end up costing you a lot of money. We hosted all of our external files on Amazons S3 hosting service, ensuring that we never had crashed servers or stressed-out phone calls.
The first thing that page visitors should see is the most important points of your campaign. We started out with our video with the game trailer, showing actual gameplay footage. Another important piece was a link to the STASIS Alpha download (right at the top of the screen), followed by bullet points about the game and then screenshots. Assume that a person visiting your page isn’t going to scroll down to find out more. Once you have them scrolling, you can start to add in extra information about the game and more about the campaign.
TIER PRICING AND STRETCH GOALS
There are articles available about choosing the correct tier prices, so my advice would be to look at other successful campaigns and see how their pricing points were set up. I feel it’s important not to have too many ‘big leaps’ in pricing, and initially, I’d avoid mega tiers (in the $1000 and up range); this can easily cripple you at a later date. Having just one mega-tier pledger pull out on the last day could kill the success of your campaign.
In the planning of our campaign, we decided that in the long run, it was better for us to have a larger pool of backers at smaller pledges than a small number of backers at larger sums. This was a community-driven approach that helped us during the later parts of the campaign – we could have called on a large group of interested backers to increase their pledges by a small amount if we ran into trouble.
We also chose not to round off the pledge amounts. A hundred years of retail conditioning has informed us that $19 is psychologically less than $20 and we wanted to apply that to our tier amounts.
Stretch Goals are a bit of a touchy subject, but I will say that they are important in a campaign. We were careful in our choice of goals to not include anything that would affect the integrity of the game and its story. In a way, it was a disadvantage coming to Kickstarter with Stasis in the state that it is in because we are very limited by changes we can make to the game – but again, our core philosophy of ‘It’s all about the game’ won out, with our Stretch Goals adding to the world and the experience, but don’t alter what we are trying to achieve.