THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES
What a big month this July has been for Robots Love Ice Cream, and the Kickstarter project we’ve launched to promote it, we’ve experienced a lot. There’s been a lot of excitement, a few surprises, some achievements, and some challenges, as well.
I’ve decided to use this post to share what the process has been like for us, in hopes that it’ll provide some illumination for anyone else who’s thinking about using this platform.
EXCITEMENT AND ACHIEVEMENTS
I can say without a single doubt that doing a Kickstarter launch was a great first step to raise the profile of the game and of our studio. We’ve received some amazing coverage and support from local, national, and international writers and media outlets, including the following:
WIRED MAGAZINE – support our Kickstarter launch.
NOTCOT – our beautiful reward poster, reminiscent of 20th Century space propaganda.
INDIE GAMES CHANNEL – Disasterpeace.
We’ve also received some great Atlanta hometown love from the innovation bloggers at IGDA’s curated Kickstarter page.
STILL IN IT TO WIN IT
I can also say that from a short-term fundraising standpoint, as things currently stand, we would have been better off using the many, many hours (and a few dollars) we spent creating and promoting the Kickstarter project to just go earn some money contracting to help finance our software and contractor needs. Much better off, actually, because if we fall short of our Kickstarter goal, we’ll get no financial payoff for our efforts.
However, I don’t want to jinx the project because I absolutely have not given up. I still believe that the universe can rise up and everything can fall into place by Saturday at midnight to get us the $18,000 we need to fund and finish the game.
We’ve seen plenty of examples this past month of games that lagged for nearly their entire term on Kickstarter and then took off in the last 48 hours to meet their goals (see encourage friends, colleagues, family, and strangers to pledge.
WHERE WE STAND
As of 7pm this evening, Robots Love Ice Cream on Kickstarter stands at $6425 pledged by 96 backers, with 4 days left to go to meet our $18,000 goal. We’ve broken 35% funding, which according to Kickstarter’s historical data is the point after which over 90% of projects succeed.
One of our challenges has been breaking past our immediate circle of friends and family for support. Looking at the data, I was surprised to realize that the number of our supporters is broken down nearly 50/50. Forty-nine of our supporters are friends or family; forty-seven are strangers to us or friends of friends whom we don’t know personally.
When we look at the overall levels of pledging, it’s a different story. We’ve received $4240 in pledges (66% of total) from friends and family, and $2185 (34% of total) from strangers.
It’s not surprising that the people who have known us all our lives would pledge larger amounts. But it underscores the importance for our project of breaking through to the general public to be able to achieve the level of support necessary to reach our goal. And that’s what we still need to do, despite some great coverage and the goodwill and help of a lot of people who are influential and well-networked on the periphery of our work.
LESSONS LEARNED FOR NEW PROJECT LAUNCHES
This process has taught me a thing or two. The biggest lesson: just because you have an amazing looking project, and just because other Kickstarter projects in your same category have met their goals for similar levels of funding, doesn’t mean you’re anywhere near having it all locked up.
It appears that mobilizing a large relationship-based network in advance of your launch will get you a lot farther than will a beautiful, compelling presentation that’s presented to the general public.
Our impression upon launching the project was that we would promote aggressively to our personal and extended networks, and the Kickstarter public and gamedev community would find our project thanks to buzz and word of mouth.
While we’ve received great coverage, and our approach has worked at turning out our closest friends and family, my impression is that buzz and word of mouth are still too ‘soft’ to bring in pledges at the level at which we need them.
If you take a look at Kickstarter projects that successfully meet high goals, you’ll notice that they’re likely to have hundreds of backers. They may have fifty backers on their first day. This represents not just a broad network outreach, but also a mobilized network that’s already been sold and committed to action. This means they either had name recognition or project recognition, or both, before the project launch. As newbies, we’ve been using our Kickstarter project to build our brand rather than the other way around. Not necessarily a bad thing for our studio in the long run, but not optimal for meeting our funding goal.
For Robots Love Ice Cream, the best practices I’ve identified weren’t possible at the time we launched our project, because we launched very early in the development process. We did this in order to schedule the project completion on a date that would let us receive the funds in time to keep the project moving without a break.
THOUGHTS ON THE PROCESS
If I had it to do over again, and had the option to do things differently, I’d have a more finished project to show for launch and I’d have a networks of gamedevs and game journalists who were already familiar with the project and had pledged to write about it. I’d seriously consider making my project longer than 30 days (sorry @GMSarli)to have more time to cultivate media coverage and let publicity grow.
I’m also feeling a bit ambivalent about Kickstarter’s ‘ask for what you really need to finish your project’ guideline. We asked for what we really needed to finish the project, and we’re still 65% behind with 4 days remaining. So if the project doesn’t succeed, not only will we not have the funding to finish the project; we won’t even have the funding to half-finish it. I definitely understand the concern over creatives who use Kickstarter to raise funds for a project that never gets finished and leaves backers hanging. But I believe it should be possible to manage backer expectations to find a middle ground that enables the production of something that won’t get produced without community support.
Ultimately, the jury will be out on this one until Saturday at midnight Pacific time. If we had broken the project down into smaller chunks, we could have funded it in three rounds and taken advantage of successive rounds of publicity and buzz. But we still would have run into the problem of what rewards we’d have available for backers who funded only the first one-third of a still-uncompleted project.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Addo Games definitely going to need an infusion of capital to bring Robots Love Ice Cream to life. Burton and I are working for free, but software is expensive and our artists are professionals. We’re hopeful that it won’t take another few months of working/saving/bootstrapping to make that happen.
We’ve been approached by some potential investors, but Burton and I both we need those people to put their money where their mouths are. Will the community turn out? We’ll see. Many of them already have, but we need many more to make this dream a reality.
It’s clear that the project is already beloved and admired. My hope is that at the end of this year, Robots Love Ice Cream will not only be fully funded–it’ll be the number one iPad app on the app store. So stay tuned and we’ll see you around the AltDevBlog!
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