When we had a 90%-ready game, it was not possible to fund this project using our own resources anymore. At that time the financial support of our game seemed obtainable only with the help of borrowed funds so we decided to choose a crowdfunding platform as a source of our additional capital.
One of the main game posters
To start our first campaign we needed a presentation of our game in English. The search for a copywriter capable to make a good campaign description that would be strong enough to attract potential investors began. The choice was made in favor of the freelance "professionals", but all the texts they proposed looked cold hearted and written without any desire to understand the essence of the game. Despite the dozens of pre-casted writers we still had a hope for good results.
We decided to focus on the best candidate. After 2 weeks of work he gave us texts that were still requiring our participation, constant changes and additions through the whole process of writing. As a result, all the texts about the campaign on Kickstarter have been rewritten from the very start and fulfilled with our own deep understanding of the idea and product features. "If you want something done well, do it yourself." Getting exciting content from a person that's not involved in the product creation is quite difficult.
The first part of the presentation was text, the second was the schedule. Next we started selecting the most valuable screenshots and game arts.
Demolition Lander screenshot for Kickstarter campaign
There are several specific design restrictions on the Kickstarter platform. Besides the standard format, text size and graphics resolution rules, it's not allowed to have more than one break line between the paragraphs of your campaign's text. If you want to create a paragraph or split the sections of your text with some additional space - try to insert a transparent rectangular image to replace paragraph indent. We have solved this problem and used stylized images to cover spaces:
The end of previous paragraph separated from the beginning of the next one
Presentation was ready. Remember that developer's team photos and personal information about each employee make potential investors more confident. Real people are always better than faceless brands.
During the making of our presentation we began to search for a studio to create the promotional video. We were immediately connected with a local video producer. His creative team and lots of interesting ideas won our trust and we continued to communicate. After long negotiations we have not discussed the final cost of the full package of their services. Cooperation with our video producer turned into a stunning amount of money that our budget was not able to carry out. Do not waste your time and try to set up the third-party services costs in advance! But it was not over yet. We have managed to find a less tempted and more hardware-simple team. Their ideas deserved our attention and the work began. Part of the scenery was ours, other part was provided by video producer. Acting staff was carefully selected, the plot and the script were approved and the filming started.
After 2 days of video shooting we were able to combine art (opening scenes in the office) and technical (gameplay and voice) parts into this video trailer:
I knew it would be better to add the voice of a native English speaker for the main game features and gameplay part voicing, but after collective discussion we decided not to use it at that time. Anyway, native speech makes a developer stand out from a crowd of developers that are foreign to a targeted customer.
Texts, images, video, campaign design and presentation were ready. Our next challenge was to find a PR agent for promotion of our crowdfunding project. We focused on agencies that promised a flow of visitors on our campaign landing page for ultra-low budget (under $100). We found one, indeed, and started our collaboration. CrowdfundBuzz guaranteed traffic delivery to our campaign for one hundred dollars over the phone. They got their money and the project started.
During the campaign there were some backers. Every one of them donated a certain amount of money and became a real fan of our games. CrowdfundBuzz really gave us some visitors, but none of the 1,000 hits per page turned into any financial investments. Apart from the official fundraising campaign, PR agency was running Twitter, Facebook and YouTube profiles. Since the use of aggressive following and spam mechanisms Twitter account was closed and YouTube threatened us with complete removal of our material from their website. After some manipulations with traffic on Facebook, about 600 subscribers with almost zero activity appeared.
Our efforts brought us some money, but the goal was not achieved and our product was not known by anyone. We decided to cancel the crowdfunding campaign, think over all of the nuances and start again.
First campaign infographics: collected funds First campaign infographics: video views
The Second Campaign
After the 1st try we were pondering for a long time over some improvements and new promotion methods that should be included in the second campaign. The main innovation was to increase our PR budget with a view to hire a reliable and experienced person for the upcoming campaign promotion.
Welcome back, freelance. More than 10 candidates were revised, including Indian managers, who promised up to 10,000 visitors a day and few "veteran" PR persons, demanding a fee that is three times higher than our most ambitious goal on Kickstarter. We stopped at the PR manager from the United States, who seemed a surprisingly adequate person during our conversations and started our collective work instantly: rephrased existing texts, substituted them with a native speech, slightly polished our graphics and video. It is very important to understand that the key factor in achieving success is an interesting, exciting presentation movie. People always make their first impression looking at your video and then they read texts.
The PR roadmap for a moderate budget looked like this:
o Press release about the launch of our Kickstarter campaign distributed to bloggers, journalists and gaming press.
o Active Facebook and Twitter accounts of the game
o Subscription to YouTube channels of leading game reviewers and video bloggers.
PR agency delivered some results: an article on Cliqist, GamerHeadlines and a few blog posts. In addition, the agent offered a variety of prizes after detailed research about certain topics: "the most popular payment amounts", "how much money does the average backer invest in game projects" and "what are the top prize lists offered by competitors." In our first campaign we offered 9 different rewards for those who supported us. Prizes depended on the contributed amount of money ($1 minimum).
For one dollar we proposed to perpetuate Backer's name in game credits. For $5,000 or more we were ready to make backers co-authors, implement their ideas and keep them up to date with our latest news. Second campaign had 19 awards, including the "early bird" option for most popular investment options: 1, 4, 4EB, 10, 10EB, 15, 20EB, 25, 35EB, 45EB , 50, 100, 200EB, 350EB, 500, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000.
The second campaign started. This time we decided to ask our friends to invest some money in our project. We thought that their funding will make the project look alive in the eyes of potential investors. Kickstarter works pretty simple: funds displayed on the counter of the project are withdrawn from cardholder's account in case of successful campaign funding only. The Kickstarter community just makes a promise to transfer you some money, that's why contributions are called "pledges". As a result, our friends have funded a larger half from our campaign total.
On the 11th day of our campaign we have received a negligible amount of traffic on Kickstarter and attracted about 20 investors. Then we decided to reanimate our project performing cross-promo with other games that were still running their campaigns too. The idea was to promote a partner's publications on our page in response to similar from a partner. I wanted to let everybody know about Demolition Lander! At least it did not require any additional costs. My plans could have been done, but I had to catch up only to 1 day. After hundreds of cross-promotional messages within one night, we were almost shut down for spamming. There was a tiny effect from such a process but it was far away from a total funding goal.
Second campaign infographics: collected fundsSecond campaign infographics: video views
Crowdfunding is a very complicated way for iOS game fundraising. Kickstarter is not the best platform for mobile game promotion as such. People think that console and PC games are more creative than mobile for some reason. That's why PC and console projects are getting their goal more likely than any other crowdfunding campaigns dedicated to video gaming.
The bottom line is: try to start spreading news about your game and its plans to raise funds with the help of crowdfunding before you start any actual fundraising activity; create social media accounts, develop contacts with press and bloggers, let the world know about you while everything is on the stage of idea and invest more in PR.
In spite of our multiple attempts to raise necessary amount of funds within crowdfunding platform, our team brought the project live on their own. Now there are 2 games available on the App Store:
o Demolition Lander: Planet Earth. Free version with only one planet and one ship available.
o Demolition Lander: Universe. Full version.