When crowd funding websites like Kickstarter first emerged on the scene many indie developers thought it was their path to success. However, anyone who has experienced the disappointment of an unfulfilled campaign goal will attest to the fact that it is not as easy as just asking a bunch of strangers to buy into a dream and donate their money. Tristan Moore, Designer and Creative Director of survival horror game Grave, discusses the steps his studio took to make their Kickstarter campaign a success.
Not exactly a Kickstarter veteran himself, Moore explained how his attitude changed when his first attempt at Kickstarter failed, “I tried to Kickstart a project early on, and I just put it up and waited for funds to roll in. The reality is that we needed to do a lot of things to ensure our success.”
Moore learned from that initial failure and when he decided to plan another Kickstarter for his pet project Grave he had a plan in place, “We were planning the Kickstarter for 4 months,” explained Moore, We had over 1,500 Facebook likes and several thousand downloads before we even started the Grave Kickstarter.”
Moore believes that another important factor to a successful Kickstarter campaign was when Grave was invited to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) to present his unique horror game at a press event called "The Mix."
“A lot of people go there (GDC) thinking they are going to a party and they will just meet the person who is going to fund their game,” explained Moore, “It doesn’t work that way.”
GDC can be an extremely useful event for indie developers hoping to network or increase publicity for their projects. But Moore explains that it takes a lot more than justshowing up to make a game premiere productive, “You have to have an incredibly clear plan about what it is you are doing and why you are there,” he said, “Being at GDC helps a lot but if you don’t know you’re coming here to promote a Kickstarter or know the people you need to talk to or an event you want to be involved in you can’t get started as easily.”
Laying a firm ground work and business plan before attending an event such as GDC and "The Mix" was integral to Moore's successful launch of Grave, “The Mix gave us access to a lot of press that we wouldn't have had otherwise,” and conceited, “I honestly don't think we would have been able to complete our funding without it," Moore emphasized.
Moore was clear about how important GDC and press coverage was to Grave, but included another component to the Kickstarter success that he wanted to highlight, namely a group of game enthusiasts. “The YouTube gaming community played a giant role in closing the gap at the end,” explained Moore, “We had a bunch of videos from popular YouTube gamers. YouTube allowed us access to people with substantial interest in the game, and getting to watch it play out in front of them was a great way to show what the game was all about.”
While these various outlets helped push Grave over the edge, Moore stressed, “I'd say one thing we tried really hard to do was make a solid playable game," Moore added, "A lot of Kickstarters focus marketing and showing something rough as a proof of concept.”
Moore feels that while this method could work, and has obviously worked with previous projects, he would take another path and says, “We'd been developing the game for months prior to our Kickstarter launch, and because we didn't have the name recognition that some projects do, we wanted to make sure what we showed was really solid.”
Even though the Kickstarter campaign for Grave was successful, Moore advises developers to also seek funds elsewhere. “At the end of the day, only 27% of our income came purely from the game being featured on Kickstarter,” explained Moore, “The rest was earned by getting into media outlets and attracting an audience via Let's Plays and outreach to the press.”
Moore explained one of the most overlooked aspects of his success by emphasizing the importance of press association. “I can't stress enough the importance of having a strong connection with press,” and added, “Being featured in pieces is a really great way to get the word out about your project, and it adds to the general awareness of the game and it adds legitimacy for the public.”
Grave is another exciting launch that gamers have enthusiastically supported and while it has garnered the attention and success it deserves, it was produced with a lot of hard work, planning and public relations along the way.