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Kickstarter/Greenlight: The answers you won't find on blogs from a real indie dev ("Mid-Mortem" Megapost)

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[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=helvetica][background=rgb(250,251,252)]View my original post here: https://www.reddit.com/r/gamedev/comments/5tczef/kickstartergreenlight_the_answers_you_wont_find/[/background][/font][/color]

[color=#0000ff]I've been offering some insights lately on Kickstarters as I've been doing it myself after a year of research and currently-live myself. My Kickstarter is about 44% funded, however the trends show $5k short of our $20k goal. However, the "end bursts" and our continued reach will likely still get us funded. Let me tell what I would have done to 100% be funded and tell you what not to do:[/color]

  1. DON'T HIRE A PR AGENCY FOR PR PUSHES. These guys are great for release and overall awareness - esp. if you have a demo. However, for Kickstarter, this is untrue and your PR agencies will NOT tell you this. I posted a gilding post a couple weeks ago about a Kickstarter staff member telling me virtually no pledges come from articles/blogs during KS. If you missed , read this (and the useful comments) here. Save thousands of dollars and put it towards fb ads.
  2. DO hire a PR agency (gaming-only one) for Kickstarter editing and to write a press release for you. This was money well-spent. I kept switching from 1st person to 3rd person without realizing it. I also missed some standards that were super useful. Don't hire a Greenlight/Steam editor -- just take your main snippets and throw it in there with bbcode (bbcode accepts images!)
  3. Consider your asking amount ($$) stupidly low. If your game is 100% coming out regardless of KS (for example, the KS is to improve quality and release earlier), start your goal at $100 or something ridiculously easy to get to. This means 100% funded, 100% stretch goals, people are more excited, you get your money no matter what. I was conducting a case study earlier and it's considered more wise than shady. If you HAVE to have funds to get your game out, then you cannot do this. Don't forget, it's better to do this than go with Indiegogo because the point is to get KS's awesome organic traffic!!
  4. Have a marketing budget. Don't have one? Save up for one and start early. 5 years ago, you could have a stereotypical 2D platformer that could raise $100k np. These days, even with an online 3D game, you need an ads budget. FB ads, specifically -- super targeted. Sure, your game itself needs to be good, but the one thing all indie games lack is awareness. It's not that your game is bad, people simply don't know about it! Practice FB ads to your website wayyyy long before you start your KS. Also add a FB pixel and get a newsletter email list going for retargeting/remarketing. Google these terms. Also, Google for "Buffer" -- it's free, you can queue up auto-timed messages for x posts per day on MULTIPLE social sites. This is godsend.....
  5. Pay per click is gold. If you have extra budget. Don't put your budget anywhere else. Per-view? Nope. Unless you're AAA, you don't just want to be popular -- you want conversions. People that pay will tell their friends to pledge too and gets you closer to goal. The only exception that I found is Reddit. I love Reddit ads: You can target competitor /r/ and it shows up at the top of their /r/ randomly. Super cheap. Every 1000 views 100% targeted audience, I pay almost nothing. I threw $100 of Reddit ads in last month and it's still going on 4-5 related /r/! Other than that, don't have a banner that rots on a site. FB ads. Google AdWords are not bad too because they're super cheap, although not very targeted, by comparison.
  6. Don't believe any Kickstarter blog unless you see numbers. Over time, we've noticed that most of these blogs lead to the same sites -- and some simple whois and cross referencing will make you realize that these blogs are all owned by PR companies and "kickstarter" agencies.
  7. Don't believe everyone on /r/gamedev or client lists. I was initially sold to a PR agency and almost an ad agency by hearing tons of good reviews. I realized that if you click on their name, they'll have like 1 karma and the only post they ever made was telling us "xx company was bad, but xx company was AWESOME!". These are agencies trying to be tricky by uptalking themselves on an alias account. If you are taking these guys serious, always check WHO they are. There was an ad agency (one of those kickstarter boosting sites that take a performance-based %) we almost went with where on their website, they had so many clients! My wife had an idea to message the top 10. 8 out of 10 claimed they had NOTHING to do with that agency and the 2 that did claimed it was only a Skype conversation -- they didn't actually involve them in the KS with actions.
  8. Greenlight + Kickstarter. Our PR agency initially told us to separate Kickstarter from our Greenlight page. We were Greenlit within 15 days with over 600 votes. We decided to add Kickstarter 1 day before we were Greenlit and we had so many people comment "backed!" and not 1 person complained. We missed out on hundreds and hundreds of potential backers of a 100% demographic. This was probably one of the worst tips we've ever had. DO promote your Kickstarter on your Greenlight page! There's even a special KS link section where it will show a nice widget on the side.
  9. Greenlight + Pics + Body Text. Our PR agency initially told us A) Have 7-10 pics max at the top B) Don't add any pics, gifs, or images in our body -- only header pics. These tips were also a mistake. While we had a 98% approval rating for months on our Greenlight page with countless images/GIFs, we launched our Greenlight page with negative reviews "Wheres the gameplay"?. We added 5 more images/GIFs and suddenly people stopped asking as much. Some people still did. Our main GIF's we didn't add because of the 2mb limit (@ eww quality). However, bbcode allows for imgur embedding! We embedded our 5mb epic GIFs on the main body and boom! NOT ONE NEGATIVE COMMENT for the rest of the campaign! That was when I mentioned earlier we were Greenlit within 15 days. We shot off after that.
  10. More than 50% don't believe it's gameplay if there's no UI. WOW this was something I never read in a blog.... all of our GIFs and video trailer showed the game without the UI. Think UI should go last? Nope! Our minds were blown by this: People kept asking when we're going to have ACTUAL gameplay gifs...... I explained it was -- they said nope. Finally, I posted the exact same GIF's with UI. Everyone spams "yeppp there's the gameplay!". What a difference this made.....
  11. Create a Discord server or even two. We created a Discord server with live chat. We added a BOT with some mini games. We also added a greeting for every new person that joined (NOT that left - keep energy high) and to also send them a PM with our Discord link. We separated the channels like a forum -- general, off topic, feedback, etc. This has been great. However, of our 400 active members, only 0.1% backed. Surprising! We made an exclusive backers-only server, and ~40% of the backers upgraded their pledge the minute they were invited by an average of 3 tiers higher. They love exclusive stuff. One another epic find is to add ranks based on KS backing. If they back $100, show they backed $100. Name your tiers. For example, we have "Knight" "Baron" "Prince" etc .... then each rank will show higher than the other in Discord. This does 2 things. A) They feel awesome B) This adds pressure to those that didn't pledge and allows you to see exactly who pledged and how much. We kept the rankings in both the public and private servers.
  12. Ignore "boost" requests for Greenlight. Don't reject. Just ignore. If a spam agency asks if you want bots for your Greenlight campaign (they won't literally say that, but that's what I read), DON'T REJECT THEM! Simple IGNORE them!! There's an infamous Russian dude that we rejected (even kindly) and suddenly our "no" trend on Greenlight magically had 300 "no" votes in like 2 hours, completely different from that trend. Luckily it didn't effect us in the end :D but still, WOW! I looked him up later and he was very bad news. I wish I had read what I'm typing before. (EDIT: Added WHO specifically to avoid @ bottom of post)
  13. Don't forget there's a BURST at the start and end of your KS campaign. Don't freak out if it's slower in between. Don't also fret if you are trending away from goal. For example, our campaign is not trending so well, but we're not too worried yet -- as you get closer to goal, you get in all kinds of special Kickstarter searches and people start pledging. It's more exciting, more promoted, AND many people don't like their card being charged like a month later. People forget and freak out. I have $500 alone I'm counting on for people that specifically told me they like to pledge at last second. Don't worry.
  14. Make ALL pics 700px wide. Consistency = professionalism. We didn't do this at first. Everything is left-aligned, meaning it looks awkward if it's not 700px. Our KS is completely different now than what it used to be at launch. Don't use giphy for GIF's -- they're only 420px. Use www.zamzar.com >> They are 640px! However, that's not 700. If you look at our KS page, what we did is bring it to photoshop, make the canvas 700px, add a layer behind it and make it glow with shadow. What this does is it aligns it CENTER and shows some shadow on the outside, giving a cool 3D appearance at the same time. Make everything have an ILLUSION of center by making white backgrounds (fake white padding).
  15. GIF's are king. We ended up switching almost 90% of our pics to GIF's. This is what Square Enix recommends to their partner program individuals and it's what KS staff also recommend. GIF it up. Everything. I mentioned earlier to keep UI in GIF animations to prove it's gameplay. Have badass artists? If you show art, make it flip between art concept and actual in-game screenshot every few seconds. USE TRANSITIONS (smooth transitions from slide A to slide B). Photoshop does this well with their "frame timeline". You can even convert videos to GIFs with tons of tools. Even VLC player allows you to crop video "clips" in 3 clicks! Do that to get clips of your trailer with ease and toss it to a GIF converter.
  16. Some pretty big upcoming changes to Greenlight, both good and bad. If your game is epic, put it on Greenlight now to get it voted onboard for only $100. If your game is difficult to be Greenlight, you can still get your game on Steam, but for $100 to $5k (no prices announced, yet). Here's more info from /u/_malicjusz_[+1] to read here.
  17. Open Steam directly with a redirect link from your site.

    We got Greenlit FAST, even after a bad start due to bots from a pissed off rejected PR guy. The biggest thing we did was this: http://greenlight.ThroneOfLies.com Make a redirect. 1) If you detect mobile, redirect to greenlight. 2) If not mobile, attempt to open steam directly (or they'll have to login from the website // they'll need to enter an email code to get in // too annoying so you lose the vote). Check out my code snippet. Feel free to reproduce it. I found it from an olddddd Reddit post that's lost in here somewhere. Either way, be sure to include an organic link, just in case they don't have Steam installed on their desktop or they WANT to visit it on the site (rare).

If I missed something, AMA. If I'm slow, you can contact me directly @ https://discord.gg/rFAXXQB , just ping @i42-Xblade.

(Thanks @Khawk for recommending a blog and @Navyman for the final encouragement push!)

If you want to see our Kickstarter for reference or throw in a few bucks if you found what I wrote useful, it can be found here:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/imperium42/throne-of-lies-the-online-game-of-lies-and-deceit [color=#ff0000](Ends 2/24)[/color]

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Just an update: We have 12 hours left and about $21.5k out of $20k, overfunded!

I'll write a similar post-mortem later -- We barely made it, whew!

If I did it again, if we would have definitely went for 1/2 of our real expectation. We reached for $20k and got almost exactly $20k -- pretty good guess, eh? So for example, if I did it again, I would have put the goal for $10k instead of $20k. This way, I wouldn't have been so stressed and working more-than-full-time to fill the "slow gap" in between.

Custom Private messages were definitely the most important effort for this campaign. Custom, as in, say something at the beginning unique about them so they know you aren't bulk messaging them. We had some people back $500 and even $1000+ out of private messages. Don't be afraid to ask close friends and family. They really surprised me by how much was given to the KS. Emphasize to people they won't be charged AT ALL unless we reach goal. This also helps.

More on that later.

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so, you think it's a good idea to do a kickstarter, even if you don't need the money, just because it creates exposure for your game?

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so, you think it's a good idea to do a kickstarter, even if you don't need the money, just because it creates exposure for your game?

Not solely for this -- and you must need money, or it's not worth the most stressful, tedious, time-consuming campaign you'll ever do in your life. Pretty much, our situation -- we DO need the money. However, losing the Kickstarter wouldn't kill the game. This is the only time I recommend to start with a low amount (when you can launch regardless, only at the cost of quality and timing). Be honest with your fans -- we flatly said in our FAQ that if we fail, we'll still launch, however at the cost of quality, support, and launch timing.

However, whether you fail or succeed, you'll still get massive amounts of exposure. Not necessarily good exposure if you fail, so it depends what you are after -- ANY media, or GOOD media? 

Don't forget that if you fail, you don't get access to the email list. This means that you want to be in it for the win, or it will immortalize the company that failed, how badly they failed, and you lose your Kickstarter contacts. 

It's a full-time job to gain this exposure and it's more stress than I've ever experienced in my life. I'm so glad to be back to coding. I honestly don't recommend Kickstarter for anyone unless you already have thousands of people on your existing email list, the majority personally told you they'd back your KS if you had one, and you were able to get by with a lower $$.

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Ok, thanks for the answer. So that sort of rules kickstarter out of me anyway ;)

The Reddit advertising sounds interesting though. If I put the advertising on a forum of a game in the extact same genre as my own then I have the perfect audience. But spending only $100 really gets results? That sounds kind of low.

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