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A Backers Story
by Adrian Goersch on 07/12/13 06:41:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


My name is Adrian Goersch, one of two Managing Directors and one of five founders of Black Forest Games.  But this story isn’t actually about me.  Nor is it about our studio.  It is not even about Kickstarter. This is a story about the backers -The human beings behind the comments, e-mails and pledges. This is not a story about raising money, but rather of the passion behind.

In July 2012, less than a year after Double Fine Adventure, we as Black Forest Games launched our Kickstarter campaign for Project Giana which has been released meanwhile as Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. Before the launch we did our homework and read a lot of stuff about how to set up your campaign, structure rewards, manage pledges, work with the community, etc... Since that time, there has been even more information shared, which is good, as Crowdfunding is a big opportunity for independent studios and it is changing all the time. So keep sharing information! With this article I want to show a bit more about the human beings who make all these projects happen: The backers - Those people who you hardly know but at the end of a Kickstarter-campaign feel like friends.

Some people believe the average backer is a fellow in his thirties or forties, and just has so much money he can randomly spread it around and pledge for games that won’t be seen for a while. What I learned tells a different story. Every backer can cancel his pledge during the campaign, at any point. And it happens. During our campaign I wanted to know why they did this. I e-mailed every single backer who canceled a pledge. I said, look, you canceled your pledge and that is fine. We just want to know if there was something we did wrong, so that we can consider changing it for the rest of the campaign. Almost everyone answered.   I thought I’d share some of those answers with you.

Most common reason - Three words: Personal Money Issues. This was mentioned frequently. People pledging their last 10 or 15 Dollars and then the’ve been hit by an insurance not covering a doctor’s visit.  Perhaps they suddenly needed hurricane supplies or they were not sure if their money will be sufficient for the end of the month. I’ve had an answer from a Polish student in London, trying to survive in this expensive city, a man telling me he simply wasn’t very good at managing his money, and another who just pledged so much for games that his wife finally forced him to cancel all his pledges.

In other words, these backers have to care about money and you better take it as a big responsibility. They spent their last dollar to support you.  Take care of it!

The next two answers I want to quote with a big Thanks to the backers that gave me the permission to do so:

The first one is a great answer, that made me really smile:

Thanks for taking the time to write. I know it can’t be pleasant seeing someone cancel their pledges, and I think it’s great that you take it as an opportunity to improve.

I’m not sure there’s anything you can change about Project Giana at this stage (or even would /want/ to change, were it possible) that would make me re-activate my pledge. Please don’t take that as a knock against the game; it’s basically to do with me. I’ve been playing games since I was 7 or 8, so that’s more than 15 years now. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that while I want to play pretty much everything, I’m pretty bad at most games, and I’m particularly bad at Mario‐esque platformers because of the coordination and dexterity involved. I pledged to Project Giana initially because I really like the concept, and I love the idea of a game with not one but two (well, one‐who‐is‐two?) strong female protagonists who aren’t treated as sex objects, and play around with stereotypes to boot. It’s just that the more I thought about it, the more I realized I probably wouldn’t play it much, if at all, because of my complete and utter lack of skill.

…but you know what? I think I just talked myself into backing it again. This game deserves to be funded.

The second one is very personal

I have been feeling really bad about pulling my backing... Giana is something I would very much like to see made, and when it finally does come out (and it will) rest assured I will be purchasing a copy - however, right now, I am going through a separation with my wife, and I'll be very lucky to even keep my house... to say I'm in a financially precarious (and emotionally stressful) situation would be an understatement. I've pulled out of everything I was backing except for one game which I'm only into for $15. I will keep watching Giana - and if the game is looking short of goal on the last day I will do what I can to come back in and hopefully help get it made - but unfortunately, fantasy realms, even those as exquisitely created as Giana's, must take a backseat for me right now.

Keep up the good work and don't give up!

This story went on.  A bit later I got this message:

I can't back out completely... I've repledged, albeit just for $15 this time, which I'm sure I can afford. If nothing else, this game will always serve as a reminder that like Giana, all women have two sides to them. :)

Those conversations have been an eye-opener for me. They brought an understanding that every dollar we got was a dollar earned by someone with hard work and given to us in an incredible act of trust.

There are more war-stories. About the backer who drove 300 miles at night to join our final-countdown-party and to get his digital copy. All the other guys showing up at the studio just to see who the people are, they are supporting. There is so much happening during a Kickstarter-campaign. But I will stop here for now, you probably got the message. Keep Rocking.


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Frank Washburn
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This is a really heartening read. Because you clearly did an enormous amount RIGHT, do you have any metrics to show/tactics to share about launching and managing your campaign? I imagine far from every Kickstarter pulls this off as well as you guys have, and it'd be great to learn from as many examples as possible. I'm personally taking notes from the Kickstarters of Strike Suit Zero, Radio the Universe, FTL, Star Command's 2nd Kickstarter, and Legend of Dungeon. I'll absolutely add yours to my study list! Best of luck guys.

Adrian Goersch
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With trying to get any info you can find, you are already doing the most important thing right. The second thing is taking care of your backers. That means manpower. Or girlpower in Gianas case. Your campaign should be a great experience. Let everyone taking part of the teams passion behind your project. Actually everyone giving you one dollar is now part of your team. Show this.

Most important: You need a bagful of luck

Brock Snyder II
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I hadn't thought about it like that before. Good post.

Amir Barak
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Another reason to drop the whole "big business" mentality and go back to making games for the sake of games. I've not pledged to your kickstarter campaign but I did buy the game when it came out and have been enjoying it (my 6 year old also likes it though it's still a bit hard for her. She loves the sisters and I can see she finds it easier to identify with the characters).

In other words, my hats off to you and your studio for a well made game and a great example of how to treat your players and fans.

Jed Hubic
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Awesome article and very refreshing to read a non stat driven article about the players/backers.
I'm just curious as to if there were any other common reasons you found emerging or if personal finance was almost a total majority?

Thanks for the read!

Adrian Goersch
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The majority was about finance. Some just found out, after we had more and more infos about the final game, that it was too far away from the Original Giana. One wrote: It was actually my friend pledging with my account :)

Maria Jayne
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The people who give the most aren't necessarily the people who can afford it, the difference between business backers and personal backers are that business doesn't care about the same things that personal backers do. Which is why places like Kickstarter exist really.

When a personal backer opts to fund your project, they are telling you they want what you are making to succeed because of what it is. When a busines backer opts to fund your project, they want what you are selling to succeed, what you are making is only relevant to its marketing potential.