Make a Successful Indie Game Using Kickstarter… Why? (part 1 of 7)

So, you’ve been thinking.

You’ve been watching television. You’ve been reading internet news. You’ve been reading the newspaper and magazines and books.

You’ve seen that Kickstarter is a great way to get money directly from fans/customers for you to use to create your product.

You’ve seen that many indie games have achieved success on the site.

You’ve decided that you will make a Kickstarter campaign for your game!

Stop for a second… take a moment… breathe in… breathe out…

Making games and using sites like Kickstarter (or Indiegogo) to promote it take a lot of time and effort. Before you begin, you should ask yourself two questions:

1) Why am I making this game (or project)?

2) Why do I want to use Kickstarter.com?

Recently, I’ve taken a University class in game development. As part of an experiment, the class was combined with a business class in marketing. The students met with each other, and were tasked to come up with a game idea to pitch to the professors of both classes. Do to differences in opinion (both from students and the requirements/suggestions from the professors), both sides of the class ended up presenting completely different ideas in their own class: the gaming students pitched ideas that would appeal to gamers, the marketing students pitched ideas that would appeal to education-based businesses and parents looking for games with benefits outside of fun.

Near the end, the two classes split off again as they originally were, but both professors made interesting comments. The marketing professor noted that he learned a lot from the gaming perspective, and compared the gaming industry to “the film industry” and called game developers “artists,” both of which tend to make things with little to no promise or guarantee of the product actually selling well, and thus being very difficult to actually come up with from a business stand-point. The gaming professor stated that “game developers (my students) probably don’t come up with the idea with selling it in mind… they make the game because they want to play that game themselves, and making money is like a bonus.”

 


“… game developers… probably don’t come up with the idea with selling it in mind… they make the game because they want to play that game themselves, and making money is like a bonus…”


 

This story is the right state of mind for indie game developers. Yes, making money is technically possible, but very unlikely. When you answer Question 1), if you mention money or fame or being your own boss or hiring your friends, you should probably stop right now and give up on the project. Indie developers are artists of the purest form. They make things because it is a part of who they are. They go to great lengths, investing their time and effort into their ideas and ambitions. If you answer Question 1) by saying “because I want this game to exist” or “I want to play this game,” then you’re on the right track.

Question 2) is little different, and can have different opinions from different people. When I look at Kickstarter.com, I see two reasons why it is worth putting a project up there:

A. You need money to actually make the game exist.

B. You need as many people to see the game as possible.

Reason A is the obvious one. Kickstarter campaigns are crowdfunding campaigns, meaning you are asking crowds for funding, meaning you are asking for money. If you really don’t need money, then Kickstarter probably isn’t for you. But you probably do need money… you’ll need money to submit the game to sites like Steam and sell the game. You’ll need money to pay you back to host a website for the game. You’ll need money for hardware to make sure the game actually runs properly, and maybe for software as well. You may want to hire people to help you improve the art, music, or game design. There are always reasons to support asking for money.

Reason B is what most people look down upon, using Kickstarter purely as a promotional gimmick. Some hugely successful indie devs and artists have used Kickstarter when they probably didn’t need to, and have received hundreds of thousands of dollars without risking time and money themselves. But like it or not, Kickstarter is a well-known site, and is a great way to get your product out there in the eyes of people. For my Kickstarter campaign for “James – Journey of Existence,” almost 2,000 people watched the campaign video on the page, which is more than my videos on youtube or posts on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or this site have ever seen, all for a game that did not exist on the internet only months ago. And if not for advertising, Kickstarter can also be used to get valuable feedback. Making a game for months or years can take a impact on your perspective, and sometimes letting other people praise or criticize the game can help you shape it to be better in the end.

Basically, I’d suggest requiring both options above for justifying a Kickstarter: you should need the money in order to ask for it, and if a lot of people already knew about the game then you could be certain to make back your money upon release without crowdfunding. If both options sound like they fit your description, then you’re on the right track. And if reason A) fails upon the end of the campaign, reason B) will still give you valuable feedback and support that makes the process worth while.

Finally, if you want to make an indie game and sell it properly, keep in mind it will take a lot of time. A lot of work. The gaming community is also known for being very hurtful with its feedback (sometimes fairly so, sometimes unjustified), and you can be certain that people will criticize you the second you start asking for money for your creation. This journey will break you physically and emotionally, but if you endure it, you could come out stronger than you ever have before.

So, you’ve been thinking.

You’ve read this blog, you’ve reviewed some other opinions on the internet.

You’ve considered whether or not this path is right for you.

You’ve decided that you will make a Kickstarter campaign for your game!

Stop for a second… take a moment… breathe in… breathe out…

Your journey begins now.

One thought on “Make a Successful Indie Game Using Kickstarter… Why? (part 1 of 7)

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