Finally, let’s talk about making that Kickstarter campaign happen.
What is Kickstarter?
If you don’t know, Kickstarter.com is one of the world’s most popular crowdfunding sites. Crowdfunding means you don’t need to talk to publishers and let them decide if your project should get any money. That would mean talking to one rich organization and hoping they like your idea. Instead, crowdfunding lets you talk to the world, and ask them to share the funding you need, letting you take advantage of what real people want and what the niche market would support.
Even further, Kickstarter only allows “creative” projects, the types of projects that need funding more then anyone else. Kickstarter isn’t available for everyone, however. For some reason, they let almost anyone pledge, but only certain countries can actually post projects and ask for funding. At the time of writing, people from the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand can start a project. They try to expand these all the time, but one questions what would take them so long… If you can get a address from one of these countries, you can use that to fake your way into posting a project. Otherwise, consider using one of the many other crowdfunding sites: indiegogo.com is another popular site that is available worldwide, but doesn’t quite have as much attention as Kickstarter.
Making Your Page
To begin, you have to make an account on Kickstarter (you can sign in with Facebook or Twitter, but need a full account and password to post projects with). Posting requirements are different for different countries, but for Canada, you must be 18, have a credit card, a name or business number to represent your project, and a Canadian bank account.
Once you get through that, you get to start forming your page. Kickstarter does a good job modulating the process and making it as easy as possible to make your page, although some formatting issues and bugs are still evident. Here’s some of the stuff you’ll want to add:
- country of origin: make sure you get this right, people from your country might be more willing to support a neighbor.
- project description and picture: this is what people see when it is listed. Keep the main description short and sweet, try to attract people in. If there is any text on the picture, make sure it is readable when seen as a small icon.
- length of campaign: how long will you run your campaign? 30 days or less is recommended, but 60 days as maximum is allowed. I’d recommend 15-30 days, but make sure it is enough time to promote the project. Think about this one carefully.
- main page description: explain what your game is. What’s the gameplay? What’s the story? What makes it unique? Your game is the best thing ever… but don’t make it sound like you think that. Describe exactly what the game is, and make it sound like they think that. Add some press quotes if you have them.
- description (who you are): include who you and your team are, and what makes you qualified to make this project. If you have a good story to go along with how development proceeded (like “we sold our home to make this,”) add it.
- description (funding breakdown) and funding goal: most projects explain why they need funding and what it would go towards. This part is a little weird: a few people have mentioned that my $5,000 asking goal wasn’t justified, and that it brought question to my ability to make the game. But then what is the point of Kickstarter? Why do any projects ask for money? I’ve already said that any creative project doesn’t really need money to be made, so why do so many ask for it? List out exactly what you need for your game to exist: software for development with features you actually need, hardware you need for testing, publishing costs (Steam Greenlight needs a $100 fee), tax fees (yes, funding is taxable by most governments), fees for physical products if applicable. Avoid paying yourself a salary unless necessary, and say that in your description. In the end, how much should you ask for? Small goals seem like scams trying to make a quick buck, large goals are unrealistic and unnecessary. Whatever you set your goal at, try to keep attention towards the project itself: most projects don’t justify their funding requirements at all to most people’s standards, but if people just want the game to exist, then they won’t argue.
- description (risks): if there are any risks, put them here. If you’ve never actually completed a game before, that’s a risk. If the project requires many people to stick through with it to be made, that’s a risk. If you might not finish, that’s a risk. You might think there’s no risk and have full confidence in yourself, but be realistic and warn your backers here.
“…Kickstarter.com allows you to build your project page… but don’t release your page until you are certain you are ready… “
- FAQ: strangely, I couldn’t add a FAQ until after releasing the page (I guess after I got some “frequently asked questions” from backers). Feel free to put here release dates, platforms, and other stuff you think makes sense.
- rewards: do some research on what actual rewards you can provide, and which would be appropriate. The game itself is a obvious one (believe it or not, some campaigns I’ve seen don’t offer their game as a reward). Digital rewards like soundtrack, art book, script or wallpapers are good choices if available. What about physical rewards? The game on disc, a instruction manual, the digital rewards on USB or disc, and some kind of collector’s edition are good choices. However, these cost money to produce, and makes you seem self-righteous that you need physical rewards to begin with, so be careful (you can add rewards later during the campaign if popularity calls for it). Consider ways for the backer to be part of the project, like their name in the credits or likeness in a character. Try to aim for 8-10 rewards. But how much should they be? The lowest reward for your full game will be your most popular, aim for slightly less then what you plan the final game to cost, but make it around $10 at least for maximizing your funding. You can also limit quantity of a reward to encourage urgency.
- Another tip: keep your main Kickstarter page short, less than one page of a Microsoft Word document (12 pt font) not including images. If you want to explain your Kickstarter in greater detail, post updates and put material there, and link to it in your main page. Likewise, make a good, but short video for the main page that shows everything you want people to see.
Kickstarter.com allows you to build your project page and share it with people before making it public, at which point they would need to review and accept your project. But don’t release your page until you are certain you are ready. I put “James – Journey of Existence” on Kickstarter because I was still in school and had time to do so, and out of fear that I would not have time once I found a job, such that this would be my last chance to convince myself to pursue a indie lifestyle. But I rushed into it, and a few extra months would have done wonders to reaching my goal.
Certain parts of the campaign page can be updated and changed during the campaign period, but avoid that if possible. You don’t want to confuse people after they back your project, after all. And the page will be up forever, so don’t put anything you’d aren’t proud of.
When you think you are good and ready, click that button and make your project open to funding…