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23 Dec 2013

Why Do Some Kickstarter Campaigns Fail?

If you have supported a few Kickstarter campaigns in the past, then you know that eventually, you are going to support a campaign that ends in failure. The same thing happened to me last week: I supported a game I really wanted to see become funded and ultimately be released sooner than later, yet the entire campaign failed by a huge margin. Why did this happen? Why do some games seem like an awesome idea, yet when pitched via a Kickstarter campaign, they fail terribly? I’ve been thinking about it for a few days, and I’ve come to a few conclusions as to why this happens. Avoid these pitfalls in your game’s Kickstarter campaign, and improve the chances of your game getting funded.


The people that are fans of your game is too small

Here is a problem that many indie developers fail to realize: just because you launch a game on Kickstarter, that doesn’t mean you are going to bring in a wealth of new fans, thus making your campaign go viral and your game getting funded before the funding period ends. If nobody knows about you, your studio, or your brand in general, nobody is going to fund your game. It’s as simple as that. Sure, there are some games that are an exception, but by and large, if nobody knows you? Forget about it, don’t use a Kickstarter campaign to fund your game.

You need to have a following before you use Kickstarter to your advantage. Ensure you already have an abundance of followers via social media and people playing your past catalog of games before even considering this route. Once you do, you will be able to let them know about your Kickstarter campaign, share the news of your Kickstarter campaign, and the result? Many of those fans will fund your game and share the news regarding the campaign. From there, the snowball that is your Kickstarter campaign will start large, and will continue to snowball until you reach your goal (ideally, of course).

Yet that isn’t the only peril to avoid when striving for a successful Kickstarter campaign.


Nobody has a clear understanding of what your game is

You would be surprised as to how many games do not clearly state what makes their game unique. When people read a game’s description on the Kickstarter campaign, they shouldn’t walk away scratching their heads and wondering what they just read. Rather, they should clearly understand what makes the game unique, what makes it awesome, and the most important part? They should be excited about funding the game. Indie devs that do not take advantage of ‘pitching’ their game in longform to the masses and instead cause confusion regarding what makes their game so special are setting themselves up for a failed Kickstarter campaign, because after all, if nobody knows what your game is or why anyone should care, that’s exactly what they are not going to do: care about your game.

Furthermore, I have a suspicion that a failed Kickstarter campaign could actually hurt the overall brand of your game. There isn’t data to back this up (that I know of, anyway) but think about it: whenever you hear about a game that has a failed Kickstarter campaign and the indie developers try to get it funded again, what is the first thing that comes across your mind?

“Oh, that game that failed on Kickstarter the first time around.”

Is that what you think? It’s kind of the first thing that comes across my mind anyway. Or what about whenever you hear news regarding a game in an article, on Reddit, etc. that failed to be funded the first time around?

“Hey, isn’t that the game that failed to get funded on Kickstarter?”

It’s one of the things we automatically think about without even realizing it. Thus, my sneaking suspicion that failed campaigns actually harm your game’s overall brand. Therefore, ensure your Kickstarter campaign has solid footing before it goes live.


The Kickstarter video has to showcase actual gameplay

Here’s a good rule to gauge if your game is ready to begin a Kickstarter campaign: if you do not have solid gameplay to show off, wait until you at least have that. There are many indie developers that begin their campaign without even having gameplay to show off. Instead, the indie dev discusses the game and pitches the game to potential backers themselves.

Seeing is believing gang! If people cannot see your game in action for themselves, why in the world would they back it? Sure, your game may have one of the most unique concepts in the last several years, but if nobody can see your game in action? Forget about it. Concepts are cheap – actual proof that you have a plan to make this concept realized? That’s an entirely different (and more powerful) situation.

Take Hand of Fate’s Kickstarter campaign for example. When I interviewed Morgan Jaffit of Defiant Development on an episode of Game Academy Radio, Defiant Development’s Kickstarter campaign had just went live. It was off to a pretty solid start too – not outstanding, but it was gradually getting funded on a consistent basis, and that is what counts. Hand of Fate was successful funded, and it’s because the team over at Defiant Development gave potential backers a concept they could really hold onto. The video showed a demo that clearly demonstrated everything the team was trying to accomplish, complete with gameplay footage. Thus, even if you were confused by reading the concept, you knew what you could expect to play in Hand of Fate by watching the video alone.

That is how you should approach a Kickstarter campaign. Never give anyone a reason to pass on your game just because you opted not to demonstrate how your game actually plays.

These are just a few of the many reasons why some Kickstarter campaigns fail. What do you guys think? Do you have any hypothesis regarding why some Kickstarter campaigns fail to get funded successfully? Let us know in the comments below!

2 Responses

  1. Hello, I appreciate the advice you’re sharing on your blog. My hope is that 2014 is the year my own game company makes and sells its first game. However, when you say, “and people playing your past catalog of games”, that doesn’t apply to me. Do you have any advice for first-timers who want to try Kickstarter? Many thanks for helping show some of us the way.

    1. Dusty Wright

      I actually interviewed a guy this week that is putting his first game on Kickstarter, and believe it or not, it happens quite often. You don’t need to have previously released games to have a successful Kickstarter, although it helps since you have something to show for it. From there, you have to really pitch aggressively to show the world that you can make a good game regardless of not having any proof. It’s definitely possible, just a little harder to do. You know, I think you gave me an idea for Monday’s post 🙂 so check back then and I’ll have a series of tips first-timers can use.

      If you really want a tip you can take away and use this weekend though, it’s this: ensure you have a decent following on Twitter, Facebook, etc. as I mentioned in the post. It doesn’t have to be tens of thousands or even thousands necessarily, but you need to have at least *a following.* In other words, you need to have people that care about what you are doing and where you are going with your first game. These people that are excited about your game are more likely to share your game, and then the snowball effect begins as I mentioned in the post. You can start building up your following as you begin to initially develop your game (the same ideology behind marketing your game the moment you begin developing), and when you have at least polished, playable footage (i.e. something to pitch to the masses), you can put the game on a Kickstarter and share it with the followers you have accrued.

      It all comes down to visibility. If people know who you are and care about what you are doing, they are more likely to support you. If nobody knows you? They won’t find you and thus won’t fund the game.

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