Are you thinking about doing a Kickstarter? Crowdfunding is an interesting way of finding funding, but it might not be as easy as you think. For this weeks blog post we decided to share with you our final update from our failed Kickstarter campaign. If you are interested in crowdfunding this might help you avoid a lot of problems on the way.
So, after a few very exciting and tremendously rewarding weeks with Kickstarter we have come to a point where the campaign has come to a standstill. Even our most enthusiastic supporters will have realized by now that we will not reach our funding goal. This might seem like a shame, but this final update will focus entirely on explaining why we are not too bummed about it, and why you should not be either.
What we have learned
We knew from the start that we would have very little time to prepare before we went live, and that getting enough exposure would be a challenge. If there is something that we as a studio constantly need to relearn is that no matter how hard you work or how dedicated you are 2 weeks will never be more than just that: 2 weeks. Most successful campaigns have months of planning behind them, and have a product that just needs that final push in order to succeed. We took a concept that we loved and have been talking about for a long time and spent two weeks creating a prototype, a card house of a game, and put it out there for all to see.
Now, we did not ignore everyone’s advice simply out of arrogance, but we wanted to time our campaign with the Scandinavian launch of Kickstarter. This gave us a two week time-frame and we just went for it, we did the best we could with the time we had. In hindsight that launch might not have had the impact that we hoped for, few media outlets paid attention to it, even though those that did mentioned us. Those two weeks still was time well spend though, and after going live we have learned a whole lot more about marketing, crowdfunding, and finding ways to reach out to our fans. Just writing these updates has been a learning experience, and answering your questions about the game and what we do.
Press is one of those things that we have always been a challenge for us. As a developer you always prefer showing things that you are proud of and that looks close to what the final product will be. With Kickstarter you don´t the luxury of waiting until you have something that looks like a finished product. This has actually been a good thing for us, showing something very early and getting feedback from both fans and press has been fantastic. Over 40 different sites have posted articles about Medusas Labyrinth since we first announced the game, and the comment sections have been pure gold as a source of input. VR-sites have been especially keen on writing about us and the project, which is a clear indication of how many people are craving a great horror experience for the Oculus rift.
Another interesting lesson is that there seems to be a huge misconception out there amongst gamers of how much it costs to make a game. This is partly on developers, and Kickstarter as a phenomenon has not helped with this at all. A lot of campaigns ask for so little that it would be impossible to make a game on such a tiny budget, and yet they promise their backers that they will deliver. We went through a long process of discussions about how much we should ask for and in the end we decided that we wanted to be completely honest and ask for the absolute minimum that would still guarantee that we could make the game full time. As a studio of eleven people this amount would still be less per employee/month than we get from studying at the university in Sweden, and barely cover food+rent. We would also take out of our own pockets to pay for other costs, such as the office rent, hardware, marketing etc. Still this seemed like too much for some gamers, and we got some negative feedback on it. This issue might also be related to the fact that everything is displayed in Swedish crowns, not USD. Since our campaign is one of the first to be displayed in SEK it’s hard to know how much of an impact it has had, but if someone is just casually browsing the page and fail to notice the currency then I can completely understand why they think we are asking for too much. 2.5 00 000 $ Dollars is of course a lot more than the bare minimum for us, and about 7.2 times more than we were asking for.
The thing is: We never expected that the campaign would be a tremendous financial success, or even to get funded. But placing a goal were might get what we ask for and not be able to finish what we started seemed like something far worse in our eyes then not reaching the higher goal. With our limited preparations are main goals with the campaign was twofold: Getting attention and gauging the interest from hardcore fans. What do people really yearn for when it comes to survival horror? We had our own ideas, but we could not be sure what you wanted, and that’s one of the main reasons we created our campaign.
What we could have done better
For me, personally, the thing that I will miss now that we leave the Kickstarter campaign behind us and look for other ways to fund the project is the direct connection to the community, not only through dialogue (we will certainly try to keep doing that) but through the actual product. I was really looking forward to play testing the game and seeing your faces, names and other things in the game itself. Getting that reminder that there are people that love what you do was something that really motivates me, and I think the entire team would agree with me on that. We have an idea of how to solve this though, but more about that later.
Another drawback is that some publishers, which is now our most likely way of getting funding for the game, will look at this campaign and say: “Well if the fans did not want to pay for it, then there is no market for a game like this” and turn us down. We’ve had roughly 6000 views on the video, and 110 backers.
Finally I think that our greatest failure is in focusing the page and video on what the bigger audience are looking for. We don’t have that many backers, but the amounts per backer is quite astounding. I was puzzled by this at first, until I realized that a majority of our backers were actually game devs themselves. Our reach within social media, our real life friends, and most of who they hang out with are devs, and they obviously really liked the campaign. We have got a lot of comments through different channels from devs that loved the first video, that appreciated the humor and supported our choices when it comes to the budget etc. We have also gotten comments about our production plan from the same group of people. Creating a campaign that largely was “By devs, for devs” really limited our audience and although they (you) have been very supportive and generous there are simply too few of you to fund a 2,5 million SEK project.
So what is next for Medusa’s Labyrinth? Well we have already begun talking to different publishers and investors about the game and what we hope to accomplish. Nothing is set in stone or signed yet, but we will keep working on pre-production and try to create something glorious and terrifying at the same time. Right now our goal is to produce a small gameplay section and see where we want to go from there, partly based on your feedback.
Another thing that we want to do is find a way to thank you for your support and engagement. I mentioned above that we want to see traces of the fan base in game. Our way of doing this will be to try and bring you your rewards, regardless if we are on Kickstarter or not. Did you want to come to our release party? We will save a seat for you. Did you back us to become immortalized as a statue in the game? We will do our best to put your visage in there, so that one day you can be a part of everyone’s Steam library. Backed just enough to get the game? When we have Steam keys to give out you will get yours.
This is why you should not be too bummed out; in the end things might still work out for all of us. It just won’t be through Kickstarter.