Guest post from Katie Hallahan of Phoenix Online Studios, the creator of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thiller. Consumers can support Cognition Erica Reed’s Kickstarter campaign.
Kickstarter (described towards the end of the first Cognition Developer Diary) is an interesting new extension of social media. If you’ve ever wanted to be creative in a professional capacity, you’ve also run into the eternal problem of the starving artist: it’s not easy to get paid to create. But it’s really easy to blog and tweet! Enter the Kickstarter, a place where creative projects can utilize social media to share their projects and ideas and, hopefully, get the funding they need to get off the ground.
For the Cognition Kickstarter, we knew we couldn’t just jump into running one haphazardly. Kickstarter itself gives you some great tips on how to run one and how to make it successful, and there are a lot of resources around the web on this, too. First up was deciding on what our goal amount would be—video games aren’t cheap to make and while we’ve worked successfully without a budget or income before, we aren’t eager to repeat the process. But as many sources warned, Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing thing: you either reach your goal and get every penny that’s raised, or you don’t and you get nothing, no matter how close you were. For Phoenix Online, we set a goal that was ambitious but achievable: $25,000. Is this every penny we need? No, but it’s a good chunk of it, and the goal of a Kickstarter is really more to make sure you get money than that you necessarily get all of the money.
And the good news is, we hit our goal! Currently, we’re at over $29,000; we hit $25K with about three weeks to go, in fact. We’re now guaranteed to receive our funding, and since we can keep going until we our end date of December 11th we’re able to continue raising money for development. So if you’re interested in supporting our game and getting in on the rewards, there’s still time!
Speaking of which, rewards are also a very important part of running a successful Kickstarter. They encourage you to make sure your rewards are related to the project, and that you don’t save all your good ones for the upper levels. We assigned rewards we believed the fans would like at reasonable levels, meaning we made sure the reward wouldn’t cost us more than we were asking for it. A digital soundtrack for a $5 donation, for example: there’s no physical production cost to worry about there, and to get a full soundtrack for just 5 bucks is a great deal. A pre-order of the game itself at $20: this is a great discounted cost for a copy of a 4-episode game.
At the higher levels, keeping things “in budget” was again a concern—how do you make $1000 worth it without spending all the money you’ve earned? We took a look at our strong relationship with our fans, who had already saved The Silver Lining not once but twice, the success of which made Cognition possible, and that spawned the idea to give people an opportunity to take a look inside at the development process and even become a part of it. We found it to be a unique reward, based on what we found in looking at similar Kickstarters, and appropriate not only to our game and team, but our fanbase.
And indeed, the biggest key to making a Kickstarter successful IS the fanbase. We had a lot of people following us already, thanks to The Silver Lining, but especially after our campaign’s first few weeks it was important to keep the campaign’s momentum going. Facebook posts, Twitter posts, visiting relevant forums, sending newsletters, posting Kickstarter updates, messaging friends and family—all of these things and more went into our work of reaching our goal. Communication is key!
It’s been an amazing month since we launched the Kickstarter, and the support we’ve gotten has honestly moved me to tears at times. Even if we hadn’t met our goal, I could take that away from this: not only do we believe in ourselves and our team, but a whole lot of other people believe in and support it, too. And that’s a huge part of what makes this all worth doing.