The Soapbox: How to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, part 2

Five red flags to avoid
  • Asking for a lot more money than your game should require, or not explaining what the money is for.
  • No campaign video or a poorly written campaign pitch. You wouldn't pitch to an investor without preparation, and you are asking people for real money on Kickstarter.
  • No gameplay prototype or very little work done on the project yet. People want to see that you've already put in a lot of effort but now need funding to overcome hurdles.
  • The project is still in the idea stage or has very few hard details. Some people are happy to back projects based solely on the idea, but many need something a lot more tangible and convincing.
  • Unprofessional conduct in comments, forum posts, interviews, or articles.
The Soapbox How to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, part 2Engage with your backers

Be under no illusions: If you want to run a Kickstarter campaign well, it will become your full-time job for a month. You can't just throw the page up and wait for the money to start rolling in, as people are generally apprehensive about pledging to campaigns in which the creators are quiet. A good rule of thumb is to respond to every question in the comments and send each new backer a thank-you message. It seems like a lot of work, but in several cases we found that just starting this conversation eventually led to large pledge increases.

If you're an indie developer, a significant portion of your backers will be brought in through word of mouth. Remember that your backers want your game to happen just as much as you do, and many of them will help spread the word. Use funding milestones to encourage existing backers to post about the game on Facebook, Twitter, and any game forums they frequent. People will naturally help push you over your goal and stretch goals and will be most active in the final hours of the campaign.

The Soapbox How to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, part 2Marketing and media coverage

While blogs continue to predict Kickstarter fatigue, the people backing crowdfunding projects are as enthusiastic as ever and many projects still get coverage in the gaming media. It's always worth sending news updates to the major gaming news sites, but we actually found smaller niche blogs that focused on our particular genre to be far more receptive and helpful.

If your game is on the PC, contact Rock Paper Shotgun about being entered into its excellent weekly Kickstarter Katchup article. As long as your project looks like it might make it, it should be included in the feature every week until you hit your goal. This was the largest individual contributor to Predestination's pledges and writer Adam Smith is very enthusiastic about Kickstarter, so I can't understate enough how important it is to contact RPS. We also tried to have at least one big update per week so that news sites had something interesting to report on, and updates with videos performed significantly better than those with just images and text.

One of the most surprising things we found was that 56% of our pledges came from Kickstarter itself through pages like the main Video Games Discover page. Your project will appear on this page if it's included in the staff picks or becomes one of the top 12 most popular projects. Kicktraq has a similar effect if your project gets a lot of pledges, but in both cases you absolutely must get the ball rolling yourself. The easiest way to get into the Kickstarter Popular list and become visible on Kicktraq is to try to get some some day-one media coverage and build up a following of fans and friends who will pledge on day one. Since both sites use your average pledges per day as part of their metrics for popularity, this will shoot you up the lists immediately. Once there, the extra exposure will help keep the project in the top 12 for a while.

The Soapbox How to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, part 2Wrapping up

The unfortunate reality is that not all good games succeed on Kickstarter, but don't pull the plug half way through the campaign if the numbers don't look good. Instead, hit up your current backers for advice and use the remaining time on Kickstarter to build an audience for a later second attempt. Many of your backers will have pledged to dozens of other projects and are the closest thing you'll find to Kickstarter experts. They're also already interested in the game, and their feedback and day-one pledges can help make a second attempt successful.

The final few days of a Kickstarter campaign are the most intense; this is the period in which you'll get the most viewers, and you'll have to work hard to convince people to pledge and upgrade. Remember that every Kickstarter campaign gets a surge of pledges at the 48-hour mark when everyone who clicked the "Remind me" button gets the reminder email. Have a big update ready for this and someone manning the comments section to respond to questions as they come in. We also had massive success running a livestream for the final few hours and inviting other project owners on to speak about their games, an idea that Jeff Mc Cord popularised with his Kickathon event.

The Soapbox How to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, part 2
Running a Kickstarter campaign isn't an exact science, but there are a lot of small things you can do to improve your chances of success. If you're planning to crowdfund a game project, hopefully some of these tips will help you get the pledges you need. If you have any follow-up questions about running a campaign, how the back-of-house tools work, or my experience of running a campaign, please ask them in the comments and I'll respond as soon as I can.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively writers every Tuesday as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews and not necessarily shared by Massively as a whole. Think we're spot on -- or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!

This article was originally published on Massively.