How the Kickstarter is helping us
That’s the big worry for most who consider doing a campaign, but I’ll argue that the work has been incredibly valuable to us. So hold on - here comes a really long reflection on our learning points, that will hopefully be useful for others in our situation.
Not having a more traditional «presale campaign» also meant that we had to think more in the lines of creating a fan club - telling the story and theme of the game and creating rewards that are meaningful to people who want to identify with - and support - our cause. This also aligned well with our main goal, which wasn’t really the funding (although we obviously have a great need for the money). Since our game is quite different from the classic entertainment games, we know that we have to fight for visibility and word of mouth to market it, and that we need to work hard to find the people who will care about our game.
Here, we’re touching upon what is one of the most important factors for a Kickstarter these days. A successful Kickstarter is proof that you are able to find and engage an audience for your project - so it’s «proof of concept» and will make others trust your project and potential to be successful. We’re already seeing great results from this - and believe that updating Polygon on our «successful Kickstarter» was the piece of info that finally made them cover us - and what a great article it turned out to be! We also see a much more positive tone in all our networking work now - how people are taking us much more serious. Having 366 persons believing in us really opens doors!
The other side of the medal is of course that a failed Kickstarter tells the complete opposite story - that you’re not able to communicate with your target group and /or that your target audience isn’t interested in your message. So you’d better be clever about the design of the whole campaign. And that means setting it up so that you can look successful. For many Kickstarters, this means asking for the whole budget for a project, which is in line with the whole «no cure no pay» structure of Kickstarter. We, however, knew we didn’t need complete funding. Doing a campaign to get «top up»-funding gave us some freedom in the budgeting and also meant that we had to be smart about the goal we set us.
We estimated that we had to do at least $ 10.000 to be taken seriously as a Kickstarter, and knew that we had almost zero community for the game. But we had reasonably good personal networks and an upcoming trip to GDC. So, we did a pre-Kickstarter campaign to get people to sign up to our newsletter, and got 210 professionals from GDC that we could mail. That helped a lot. In hindsight, I wish we had also had time to prepare by doing A/B-testing of our messages and target groups with Facebook ads and that we had prepared and used services like Thunderclap, which would have given us better visibility for the start of the campaign.
During the campaign, we saw that posting and following up to our own networks was what worked best. We got very little from regular Kickstarter-visitors and are semi-happy with our Facebook ads (probably because we didn’t utilize the possibilities there well enough). What worked very well was using Green Inbox to send personalized mails to our LinkedIN-networks and getting friends with large networks to retweet and share. And - we didn’t use any of the services that were offered to us from strangers messaging the campaign. Our project has such a specific theme and message, so we didn’t believe in this being shared in the random networks these services offer.
So, as you can see - it takes a good deal of «engineering» to create a package that can work. And you also have to think of rewards that will really appeal to our target groups. For our campaign, our goal was to reach out to our personal networks and to people who are either working professionally in the gaming industry or are especially interested in a wide specter of games - such as serious or emotional games. So, for our campaign, we made two different sets of rewards - one for backers who are mainly interested in the topic and cause of Children Born of War, and another for the game enthusiasts, who’re more interested in physical game boxes and art books. As an example, the first silver heart reward doesn’t include a physical game box, and the quite expensive Indie heart reward includes lots of opportunities to participate in the game development, but without the silver heart. This seems to have worked quite well for us - and we were really elated to see that we reached our goal after just two weeks!
As we’re also saying in our Kickstarter video - this project has been all about «proof of concept» - building a community of ambassadors and getting the message of Children Born of War and the game My Child Lebensborn «out there». The Polygon article was the first big, important result, and we think this has been important for us being chosen to showcase and present our game at the Games For Change 2017 festival. And there is more to come.
We might have managed it without this campaign, but our gut feeling is telling us that it would have been much more difficult - and that we wouldn’t have gotten so much done in such a short time.
So when we keep thanking our backers over and over - we really, sincerely mean it. It has been more than worth the hard work. Now, we have both extra funding, the start of a great community, a better understanding of our audience and messages and marketing material we know work.