ABOUT ALGO-BOTGiving you a bit of context, Algo-Bot is a challenging 3D puzzle game in where programming logic is the player's weapon. Players don't directly control the robots (yes you can control several ones) but instead, players manipulate sequential commands to order them around and complete the level objectives. In the beginning, players are limited to telling the robots where to go: straight, left, right... But as players progress in the game, it gets much more complicated with the introduction of more advanced elements such as functions, variables, conditions, and other, more advanced, programming principles. OK now you know what kind of game is it and how different / similar we are to other games. Now let's move on the Kickstarter topic.
GAME OVERIn January Fishing Cactus launched Algo-Bot on Kickstarter. It was our first experience on the platform and we were pretty confident about the success of our game. Why wouldn't it be a success? Even as a niche game, everyone who played it liked it. We were ready. Our Kickstarter page was nice, our video looked very pro. Moreover we read all about "how to run a successful Kickstarter" annnnnd we failed... Things happen! When I say that we failed it's not completely right. Less than two weeks after the launch day, all of us secretly knew that it wouldn't make it but when you worked so hard on something it's even harder to admit your defeat. We had two solutions: run it to the end and fail or cancel it. After analyzing the situation, the second option looked more appropriate and more in control of our fate.
Step 1: Cancel a KickstarterTo cancel your project you have to push that cancel button on the page. I noticed that it felt a bit like pushing the green button to launch your project. You feel excited, insecure and full of doubts. You ask your team twice if they are really sure they want to cancel it. It's like: "ok I'm doing it" "I'm really doing it! Is everyone sure about it?" "I mean it, I'll do it". Then you press it and it feels so wrong and so right at the same time. You failed but you learnt so much from it.
Step 2: Analyze the situationWhen you are running a Kickstarter you have access to quite a complete dashboard. You can see who your backers are, where your traffic comes from, your funding progress and what pledges are the most popular. You can't see how many people have visited your page but you can evaluate it by seeing how many times people clicked on your video. This dashboard is really helpful during and after the Kickstarter. The first day, our backers were mostly people living in our country which is not a lot when you live in Belgium. They were friends, family members, people from our network or people who simply found us via the geo-localization on Kickstarter's home page. The others found our project thanks to the fact that they are Kickstarter regulars and they probably sorted the game category by launch date. Or, you suddenly appeared in the by default "sorted by magic", which, according to Kickstarter, shows you what's bubbling up right now across categories and subcategories.
"It's not about money. It's about backers"That first day we raised 2% of our goal which is clearly not enough. According to many sources, if you haven't reached 10% within the first 24 hours you're screwed unless you're Notch... or Tim Schafer. Are you Notch? No you're not-ch. Anyway, what experience taught us is that your success is not about money, it's about backers. Of course, the money you raise that first day is important but less than the number of your backers. Having two backers at $500 is way less powerful than one hundred backers at $10. It shows that your project is valuable and it helps you catch the staff attention to potentially become featured. That first day, your goal is not to raise money but to raise a community. There are approximately 20 new game projects on Kickstarter every 24 hours and the "discover" page sorted by launch date, contains 20 projects on it. It means that the shelf life of your project lowers every time there's a new project on the page. Of course, backers are still able to find your project by scrolling down and press "load more" but it requires involvement from the backer and a very catchy picture ;) So, these first 24 hours are crucial and won't give you a single breathing space. One more thing: keep in mind that Kickstarter is extremely viral. If backers love your project, make sure they will spread the word around them. So, past the first day, unless you're featured, don't count on Kickstarter to drive a huge traffic towards your page. Same thing happens with magazines. If you are not on a big one like Mashable, Forbes or Rock Paper Shotgun don't believe you'll create a buzz with one isolated article. It will drive 10 maybe 20 backers but that won't be enough compared to what Facebook, Twitter, and blogs can generate. With all these elements in hands, we were able to spot some of our mistakes: Message and visibility
Step 3: Spot the errors
The visibilityThe first error we made was to think that our network was enough to bring backers. You can see on the picture below that our network drove 2% more money than Kickstarter. But it only says that our friends are generous. Like I said earlier, money is not our goal. We want to know who our backers are and where they come from. Like many Kickstarter we built a small community around the game, approx. 600 people but clearly not enough to support the launch of the campaign. According to the tab below, our backers mainly come from Kickstarter, social networks only come at the second place and videogame websites at the third place. It proves us that our social networking has really gone wrong. What's funny is remembering us being glad to see that more and more backers found us via Kickstarter when it clearly meant that nobody was talking about our game outside of Kickstarter. Ouch!
The messagePreview Talking about Kickstarter traffic, one of our biggest error was to broadcast the wrong message about our game. On the preview of our game you can read "Code smarter. Not Harder" It doesn't say anything about the game. It only says that it's something about coding, targeted for a niche. Moreover, it makes the target confusing. Is this game for programmers? Is this even a game? Then you read the small description. "Awards winning 3D game in which you achieve your missions using Code Logic. No developers were harmed during the making of this" What the description tells us about the project?
- It's an awards winning game
- It's a game and it's 3D
- Achieve your missions using Code Logic
- No developers were harmed during the making of this (...)
- Exclusive wallpapers
- Infinite gratitude
- Digital downloadable copy for PC
- Algo-Bot papercraft
- Your name in the credits
- Participate in project development surveys
- Vote for the future programming language the game will support
"It's not about selling your game. It's about sharing a dream."The last pledge confirms it well. For $80 they would have an early access to our level editor and submit their levels for the final version of the game. They didn't care about the t-shirt or the poster. What they really wanted was to participate! To sum up what backers really want:
- Participate in your project (surveys, level editor, vote, design an element of the game,...)
- Alpha/Beta access with a decent price
- Multiple copies of the game
- Physical rewards