How the Kickstarter is helping us

Kickstarter-annonse-hjerte.pngSumming up our recent Kickstarter, we’ve just had almost three months of hard work result in a successful campaign that raised over $ 12.000 from 366 backers. Fantastic! And we met our goal half way in. However, how successful is really a Kickstarter where only app. 40% of the raised money is left to support the project, an amount that doesn’t really reflect all the hard work that we’ve put into the campaign? 

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.

Fan club, not «presale"
First, some thoughts on the amount we raised. It might not sound a lot when considering that many game projects have made hundred of thousands of dollars. But there is a large difference. We’re making a mobile game that will only cost a  few dollars in Apple Store or Google Play, so we can’t have a campaign which in reality is an early-bird presale campaign. Without the opportunity to do a presale of console- or PC-prized titles, the more average sum for a Kickstarter actually closer to $10.000 than $100.000. So we did really well.

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. 


A «proof of concept» campaign
This fits well with the fan club idea for our campaign, and leads to the first advice based on our recent experience.  Creating the pitch for the campaign is an extremely useful experience. You really have to consider your target group for the campaign and how you can present your project in a relevant way. This should govern everything, from the way the campaign video is made to the contents of the rewards. 

Polygon-MCLforside.pngHere, 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.


What if only 2% back you?
That was really important to us. Because - the goal of a Kickstarter can in a way be calculated. Try to estimate the average sum people will pay, the number of people you will be able to contact and that something around 2% is a quite good guess as to how many will support you. This is really helpful. Have you made rewards that are tempting enough to get a good average sum? How many will you be able to reach - either with clever use of networks or advertising? Multiply those two numbers with 0,02 and see what kind of goal you can set. For most this is a very humbling exercise, but it also shows what you have to work with. 

ElinGDC17-SanFrancisco.pngWe 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. 


Make sure you «can» reach your goal
Runa-heart.pngWhen it comes to the formula I mentioned above, another thing that we did deliberately was to create a high-value reward that would help us get a higher average sum. The silver and gold heart pendants that we got made by a Norwegian goldsmith are both a good fit for the message of our campaign - showing how compassion is important - and also a reward that warrants a higher pledge. Without the pendants, I’m not sure that we would have been able to make our goal. Just to do the math - 366 backers would need to donate at least an average of $27 to reach our goal - which means that we’d need interesting rewards that cost a good deal more than that.

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!


You have to do this job anyway
To sum up - after all this technical campaign talk - the most important thing in all this is that the Kickstarter has really kickstarted (sorry about the pun) our whole marketing! We’ve started to build and communicate with our audience in a totally different way, have published countless updates and posts, had online discussions about the project and received masses of input and encouragement. And, as mentioned already, the campaign has proved to us and others that our project has an audience and that we’ve managed to communicate it’s core. This was a job that had to be done anyway, but the Kickstarter gave us the deadlines that forced us through this difficult process.Skjermbilde_2017-05-10_kl._13.53.32.png

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.


Kind Regards


  • Elin Festøy
    published this page in News 2017-05-10 13:29:26 +0200