Developer Diary Entry #5: Why We Kickstarted

Guest Post Written by Katie Hallahan, from Phoenix Online Studios

Kickstarter and adventure games have gotten a lot of attention lately thanks to the campaign being run by Tim Schafer and Double Fine Adventures—in less than 24 hours, their promise of an old school adventure game raised over $1 million, breaking records for number of backers, most money raised (in 24 hours, and in total), and as of this writing, it’s reached $2,250,660 from 65,456 backers and still has 15 days to go.

Say it with me: holy ****!

As a designer and lover of adventure games, I find the success of this campaign awesome and fascinating. As someone who ran a Kickstarter campaign, I find it remarkably impressive…and, yes, I’m a little jealous! But it’s really shown just how fantastic a tool Kickstarter is, and how powerful the love of the people can be.

In November and December of 2011, Phoenix Online’s Kickstarter for Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller raised a total of $34,427 from 634 backers over the course of 44 days. We are currently Kickstarter’s 8th most funded video game project. There are in fact a number of crowdfunding sites out there, among them IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, RocketHub, and more. So, why did we go with Kickstarter?

Frankly, even when we used it in the pre-Double Fine days, Kickstarter was the more well-known of the crowd-funding sites out there. We looked around a little, but deemed it our best option—the site’s design is easy to navigate, and there are a number of ways for your campaign to be displayed and catch the eye of anyone who’s passing through: Projects of the Day, Staff Picks, Popular This Week, Recently Launched, Ending Soon, Recently Updated, and so on. The category pages are also easy to click through. The payment system is easy to use—it uses the Amazon payments system, so if you already have an Amazon account, you’re good to go. Updates are easy to post and to include videos, audio, or images. Once you’re done, sending surveys to your backers to get the information you need to fulfill their rewards is a remarkably simple matter as well.

Plus, there are resources both from Kickstarter and around on the web giving tips on what to do and what not to do that I found very helpful while we were setting up our campaign and preparing to launch it.

And a great feature we didn’t even know about until later was the Dashboard with live stats. This is the single most addicting screen to watch when you’re running a campaign! The graph showing your progress, the breakdown of where pledges are coming from, the average amount, etc. I had always intended to try and survey how people had heard of our campaign and where, but this dashboard did it all for me!

Most of our backer support came from our own webpage, in the end. And while we did make it as a Staff Pick in our first week, and were often in the Popular This Week section for Video Games, we were never featured as a Project of the Day on the front page for Kickstarter. So if you’re running a campaign, or considering it, don’t count on being featured to do the work for you. Your network of existing network fans, friends, and family members is your best resource. Set your goal realistically: enough to get you going, but not necessarily every cent you need. Because the risk with Kickstarter is that if you don’t make your goal, you don’t get anything. Our original goal of $25,000 was ambitious, but, we felt, doable. It still took us 25 days to get there, however, and until then no matter how well we were doing, it was a nail-biter. We learned a lot of things about how to run this sort of campaign over those 44 days, but in the end, I would absolutely recommend Kickstarter to someone looking for a way to crowdfund a creative project.

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