Indie Game MarketingCrowdfunding Spotlight

Kickstarter failure and how to avoid it

The good and less good of Kickstartering your game.

Kickstarter Failure Part 1: Kickstarter is bad ass!

With Kickstarter, games and other projects are funded by strangers who believe in your plight. The community wants to see you succeed, and they share your vision. They will buy your product before you’ve even made it! Amazing! Kickstarter failure is obviously a myth that only makes itself true for people with dumb projects.

With crowdfunding, big investors are kept out of your hair. You aren’t enslaved by the dollar; you can make the game you want! Yes!

And Kickstarter is the best platform because people can easily find your project, Kickstarter itself will put their own little heart icon on your project and when people see how great your indie game is, they’ll click that little button!

And you’ve got about thirty days to get your project funded, so that’s plenty of time to build an audience and find backers that believe in the project and think like you and and and the project will practically fund itself when people see how awesome it is!!

Wrong! What are you some kind of idealist? Jeez!

Here are some things you probably want to come to grips with:

Attempting to fund a project via Kickstarter is tantamount to starting a business

If you don’t think of your project as a business, you will probably fall in with the 64 percent of Kickstarter projects that never get funded. Kickstarter casually mentions that the majority of projects that successfully get funded do so by raising less than $10,000.

Of course, there are a few high-dollar successes on Kickstarter but of the almost 8,000 games ever funded, only about 700 managed to raise more than $100,000. Which sounds rough, but the games category has had the most million-dollar successes of any category on KS.

Basically, if you hope to raise a substantial amount of money, the deck is stacked against you. Of course, indie devs typically have an uphill battle anyway; so that shouldn’t scare you.

Another point to take into consideration:

You want your project to succeed.

Seems obvious, but I think there are plenty of would-be fundees that throw a project up just for grins to see if it will work.

Don’t do that.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. If you aren’t committed to your project, what will you do in the off-chance that it does get funding? And if you’re not serious enough to really invest some time in marketing and promoting your project, not only are you doomed to Kickstarter failure, you will also crowd the market. Which makes it more difficult for me to find awesome, thoughtful projects that I’m excited to back.

Kickstarter isn’t a sure thing

If you really want your project to get funded, you should acknowledge that, whether the community or a major company is funding your game, you are an entrepreneur. I think the reason so many KS campaigns fail is the same reason so many indie games fail: the market is crazy crowded with top-notch offerings. Having a presence on Kickstarter doesn’t hurt, but it won’t change a thing if your game doesn’t stand out.

You can refer back to some of my previous marketing articles and all those points apply to this as well.

Will you get to the point?

Nope. This is all you get.


Naw, I’m just kidding.

If there is one point you can take to heart to avoid that Kickstarter failure, it’s this:

Before you throw your project on Kickstarter, get real with yourself. Are you prepared to start a business? Are you an entrepreneur? Do you really have the gumption to commit to the project itself and the onslaught of marketing, promotion and community engagement necessary to bring your project to fruition?

Sure I do!

Maybe you do. I can’t tell you you don’t. But you need a plan.

Many KS campaigns feature a little pie chart that shows potential backers where their money is going. That way, backers feel confident that their money is not being wasted on executive indulgences like private jets and exotic wombat breeding. One thing that almost all these pie charts lack is a slice dedicated to marketing.

Niche did it right. Thanks, Niche!

Niche – a genetics survival game is 236% funded as of this writing, with 13 days to go. This is absolutely amazeballs. They blew it out. And you know what I notice?

Niche has dedicated 15% of their entire budget to marketing.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the game has amazing art direction and a beautiful style that appeals to all ages and both sexes. But what matters is that people got to see it!

Here’s a riddle:

If a tree has amazing art direction in the woods, but nobody’s around to look at it… Does the tree even exist!?

Marketing is one of those things that most civilians think is annoying. I was personally sick of Got Milk by 1994, and yet you still remember it. Why? Because the phrase annoyed its way into your heart, burrowed into your brain and laid its eggs there.

I’m not saying that annoying people is the key to selling games, but if you can create a memorable marketing campaign that grooves with people, then make it available on social channels and update your audience on what’s going on, provide pictures and words, GIFs and video, keep your audience engaged on all your channels by responding to comments helpfully and gratefully and create a community around your project . . . then you might get funded.

The creators of Niche knew that the world’s greatest game will never sell if nobody can see it. They dedicated money to the cause of getting their game out there and it worked.

This post is getting long

I’ll try to have some actual tips for you on my next installment of Kickstarter Failure. Hopefully my rant has convinced you that marketing is indeed important and can make or break your Kickstarter game.

Marketing is often under-appreciated. Especially by artists and creative types. Idealists and cynics alike. And yes, a game with great art direction and spot-on gameplay should get funded and should be successful. But capitalism doesn’t work like that. For every well-intentioned game developer, there is a cadre of money-sucking sharks that have paid marketing staff that know how to work the system (and have probably read all my articles!).

If you want your game to succeed, you’ve got to play by their rules. At least a little.

Stay tuned, kiddos!


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Steven Long

Steve is an IndieWatch O.G. He has long supplied marketing information for the aspiring developer. More recently he has been creating content for retrogaming enthusiasts on his YouTube channel. Find him on Twitter @Longie_long and at Patreon.

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