Think you know what makes a successful Kickstarter campaign? Get the inside story from five teams who met their goals.
What do you wish Kickstarter did differently?
Holdwick: In an ideal world, Kickstarter would already have PayPal support built in. I know that is a tricky issue, and I realize why they don't have that, but I do think it would make the service better. There were a lot of people who didn't have credit cards and because of that couldn't back [our campaign] via Amazon. PayPal has a system in place to handle that situation, and that's why we ultimately added PayPal to our campaign ourselves.
Shumaker: I think it would be nice if Kickstarter let you message everyone in a given backer group. As far as I can tell, they don't do this, which is frustrating. I also think it would be nice if they had some sort of feature that exported all backer data into an Excel sheet that had info about email addresses, backer levels, additional comments, rewards, all of that. Maybe this is something in the works, but the process of organizing backer info is very tedious and can definitely be made faster and easier. Also, a lot of the questions we got asked were actually answered in our FAQ, so I think the FAQ section needs to be more visible.
How would you describe your relationship with your backers?
Coombs: Excellent. You get vocal people who disagree with your approach, but that's OK. They're just passionate about your project. They want it to be awesome, which is exactly why they put their money in. Bottom line: they gave up their hard-earned money (in a recession no less) for what essentially amounts to a hope and a promise. You really owe them, and if you talk to them with a genuine voice, they return with equally genuine feedback. We love them. They let us chase our dream, and you really can't thank them enough.
Shumaker: We realize that we owe this entire game to them, that Barkley 2 would not be happening if it hadn't been for the generosity of nearly 5,000 people who, for some reason, decided our ridiculous idea about a basketball-less, post-Space Jam world was a good one. We would like to have a completely open relationship with them, and we plan on sending monthly emails out that show not only our progress, but who we are as people and as a team. We also maintain constant contact via Twitter, where we regularly answer questions and post stupid garbage that I guess in some way indicates that we are, in fact, working on the game.
I think it's important for people who run Kickstarter campaigns to constantly show progress. They don't need to be specific about what they're doing, but it's really important for them to let backers know that their product is constantly being worked on and the money is being put to good use. I have seen so many Kickstarter backers getting disgruntled about projects that have stopped updating or responding to fans. People who run Kickstarter campaigns absolutely have an obligation to be as transparent as possible.
How beholden do you feel toward backers with regard to design? If the majority of backers agreed on an idea that you and your team thought was bad or did not fit with the game's design, how would you resolve the issue?
Smith: It's an interesting question, and something I'm sure many studios have had to wrestle with. For us, as we were so far along the development pipeline, most of the decisions with regards to design had already been made. Ultimately, I think it's important to stress that while feedback and ideas from a community is fantastic, final say has to be with the designers--the professional creatives the studio hires for the very purpose of making such decisions. I think backers know you have the game's best interests at heart, and hopefully they can trust those decisions. Again, it's about transparency; if you clearly explain why that idea doesn't fit the design of a game, there shouldn't be an issue.
Shumaker: I guess one example of this is the Space Jam song. To us, the Space Jam song represents resting on the laurels of the previous game, kind of like saying Barkley 2 would have the same jokes and content of the original game, but it's something people supporting the game really wanted. We looked up how much it would cost to license the song (it was prohibitively expensive) and made it a stretch goal. We never reached it, but this was an example of something similar to this.
I think backers know you have the game's best interests at heart, and hopefully they can trust those decisions. Again, it's about transparency; if you clearly explain why that idea doesn't fit the design of a game, there shouldn't be an issue.That said, I really don't think people who run Kickstarter campaigns should feel obligated to include ideas the majority of backers agree on. People run Kickstarter projects specifically to avoid publisher and outside influence. Kickstarter is all about receiving the capital needed to have autonomy over your own projects, and if people did not like the ideas we have for our own game, they would not have supported it. I don't think most of the people who support Kickstarter campaigns do it on the condition that developers make weird fan concessions to them; they have a better understanding of the game development process than that.
We were in a fortunate position where we weren't forced to make considerable design concessions to meet our goals. If things had been different I really don't know what we would have done. I can understand why people would want to do this but I think what we wanted happened to coincide with what backers already wanted.
Coombs: We feel that we are beholden to one thing: a great game. They invested their money to see the project come to life, and we made a promise that it would be as good as we could possibly make it. For example: we had originally promised to have a game that was like X-Com in nature with turn-based squad combat. We were really far into making that happen, and we just realized it wasn't fun. We had to make the switch to real time. And yes, when we told everyone that, people were, understandably, pissed. But, again, we promised the best game, not the best design doc. There have been a ton of design changes to the original concept, but we think the game is more fun, and that's the bottom line. We think they would agree.
What impact do larger, celebrity-driven projects, such as Obsidian's Project Eternity or Molyneux's Project GODUS, have on the ecosystem of Kickstarter?
Smith: They certainly bring a wider audience to Kickstarter, establishing crowd funding as an acceptable route of funding for any developer, regardless of size or status. Our industry figureheads (Schafer, Molyneux, Chris Roberts, etc.) are instrumental in establishing the platform as a valid one. While there has been a slight backlash against developers relying on their status, and the overreliance on nostalgia, I don't see an issue here at all. When you consider the bigger picture, [their presence] can only be seen as a good thing.
Clairvoire: It's hard to say, though they certainly inspire folks like me to give [Kickstarter] a shot. They were just a group of folks who had good ideas and the ability to make those ideas happen. I certainly don't have the pedigree they do, but seeing folks backing them--just because they wanted to give them the chance--was just inspiring.
It's kind of like Aerosmith getting on Kickstarter to make a new album--sure, it's cool that they're on there, but is it really the right venue? We like seeing the little guys get a chance.I think what will make the most difference is once these games come to pass. If they flop, it will be incredibly harmful to everyone's confidence in Kickstarter. Kickstarter is built on confidence, essentially, and without that there's nothing. Double Fine and all the other bigger Kickstarters have set a pretty high bar. So if they were to do poorly, after building so much confidence, it would put a lot of doubt into people's minds. I'm pretty optimistic this won't happen, but if it did, folks might be too wary to ever try it again.
If they succeed, then hopefully crowd funding will take off. I might be looking way too far ahead, but it would be nice to see an end to publishers and all the problems they bring to the creative process of bigger games.
Coombs: They're good but very dangerous in our books. Clearly Kickstarter is an open platform, and everyone should be permitted to put whatever project they want on there. However, the spirit of kickstarting is giving people their first shot or helping projects that never would have seen the light of day get going. So when you look at a project like Ouya, that's interesting because without going to the public, it's hard to say if that ever would have been a reality.
The same goes for FTL, Oculus, and countless others. But when guys like Molyneux get involved, it starts to get very gray. This guy has a track record and can seek out publishers, private venture, or even his own capital. It's kind of like Aerosmith getting on Kickstarter to make a new album--sure, it's cool that they're on there, but is it really the right venue? We just like seeing the little guys get a chance. We will have to see how that all works itself out though.
kickstarter sounds good for established developers (like Obsidian) who can make a game for the fans without compromising on the aspects hardcore gamers want and big publishers stay away from... so it's basically a chance to give that developer you have faith in the chance of realizing his vision which you're sure you'll like. just think about some great games that were missing features and content just because the publisher rushed the game (KOTOR 2 comes to mind)
@tachsniper Constantinople is the real historical name of that place since the Byzantine Empire era
I sadly have had no money of my own to spare for Kickstarter projects lately, but I'm incredibly excited about each of these games. Particularly the sequel to Barkley, Shut Up And Jam!: Gaiden.
Good discussion going on here but semantically one thing needs to be made clear. This is not an investment of money. An investment provides the opportunity of increasing returns. This is a simple donation of money and at best some sort of no-guarantee-of-delivery all-sales-final purchase. If this is to last these companies need to start making good on their promises, there are some lofty goals being promised right now. Deliver and we're all good, and I believe as gamers, better off for it. But this system still needs to prove itself to me a little bit more.
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@blastmaster2k2 Though I will say, sooner or later - lots of money is going to be "donated/invested" into a project and nothing will come of it - and legal action will surely arise... making a change for Kickstarter.
@blastmaster2k2 That's not the point of the Kickstarter.
In effect it basically becomes a pre-order with no guarantee of ever getting the product offered and no recourse to get your money back if the product never materializes. So basically it's a gamble. If I'm going to gamble with my money then I'd rather buy some lottery tickets. At least that's honest.
It's a game of luck , your investment may flourish or maybe you will just lose money. Just like Stocks and Shares.
I've always been curious about KickStarter.. so many ideas I've had before.. maybe one day they'll come into being.
"they said they'd kick me out if I showed up with that many packages."
Please tell us that you fired back, "And that's why you're probably going to be shut down soon." USPS should be thrilled that someone still needs them. The only thing I get in my mail box are ads, bills (which I can check online), and notices from the office saying I have a package to pick up.
And the USPS employee was most likely joking. Those guys have a painfully grinding job and most of them joke around a lot with customers to help the time pass (for both them and the customer). No post office is going to kick anybody out for having too many packages to send.
As a banker in my former life, I can honestly state that most, if not all of the projects submitted to the Kickstarter entity would not have been financed via traditional type loans. Sourcing funds for what the individual(s) need to push their dream(s) to reality is a momentous undertaking. Most business plans for start-ups tend to contain a lot of fluff rather than hard, cold facts that will ensure a better rate of success. Kickstarter is a relatively new alternative funding source that does not, as far as I know, involve banks, venture capitalists, etc. Instead, it is a vehicle through which many small investors, like myself, make a leap-of-faith in the project that interests said investors on a much smaller investment level. However, as always, there is strength in numbers. I firmly believe the majority of projects deemed appropriate have been necessarily scrutinized by Kickstarter giving investors some sense of security. It is a given that the majority of projects funded might never see the light of day...therein lies the risk that so many of us are willing to take. I, for one, have believed in the Ouya console since its inception. Updates from Ouya to the backers are provided on a regular basis indicating real progress and concern for its investors. Ouya is keeping to its timetable and will most likely deliver a console like none other. The SDKs have been delivered and the console is still scheduled for retail beginning in late March 2013!! This, to me, is proof positive that the Ouya will come to fruition as promised. In the interim, I sincerely wish the best of success to all those who attempt to realize their dream with the support of the Kickstarter program and the investors who participate each and every day. Investment in new innovation is always a good thing!!
@ljspeece That was quiet enjoyable to read, I really liked your perspective on this, well done!
@ljspeece I really enjoy reading comments like this, from gamers that have a professional background and talking about how certain areas of the world work (eg banking). It's a shame that comments like these are too few. Also, aside from informative, this is well written and not negative, which is also rare and fantastic. If you ever start getting "into the whole blogging thing" in Gamespot. I'd definitely read them.
its not any different from what PBS does for public funding...
i always think of that when i see kickstarter
Kickstarter is just the online version of what most people do everyday to survive. They look for investors, try to win their trust, promise them rewards for investing in their project if it becomes a success. I wouldn't say Kickstarter is just "begging". Begging is more about doing nothing and waiting for people to drop some change into your little tin can. Kickstarter is more about showing people that you actually have the skills and the team to get things done, except you don't have the money to "kickstart" the project.
@jaifrecap Kickstarter is perhaps the only way the gaming industry can possibly get innovative and fresh gaming ideas so I wouldn't knock on it too much.
@jaifrecap they are pitching their ideas to possible investors and hoping people will invest. Similar to every single project made that requires some investment from an outside person.
@modernsocks It's not begging dumbass.
Its more risky to ask the public for money how ever if your successful..Things will be that much better for you..Dont need to be pushed into deadlines bye the big boys like microsoft an sony..Other people trying to buy your company out like ea..Obsidion can show what kind of game they can make with out some one breathing down there necks...Games that couldnt be funded because publishers didnt want to take a risk wing commander, being made..Games like dungeon keeper 3 under a different name being made..Cant wait for that game coming to steam in august..Also elite the space game being made..Its a lot of good games coming down the pike for the pc..Exclusively that wouldnt be touched because its not cod name..Im all for kickstarter.
Concerning the last question: What impact do larger, celebrity-driven projects, such as Obsidian's Project Eternity or Molyneux's Project GODUS, have on the ecosystem of Kickstarter.
I think we get the best of both worlds when an established developer joins Kickstarter, we get a game that never would have been created otherwise and made by people we know has done it before with good results. They would probably go to a publisher if they could get the money for their game instead of seeking crowdfunded money, which is more risky.