[Aterdux Entertainment was the first company from the ex-USSR to successfully raise funds for a computer game project (or maybe for any project) at Kickstarter and we would like to share some thoughts and recommendations that might be useful for others. Click on any graphs for a full-width version.]
Dedicated to our backers at Kickstarter and outside who made our dream of bringing Legends of Eisenwald to completion possible!
This is a long overdue post mortem of our Kickstarter campaign for Legends of Eisenwald. We were the first company from the ex-USSR to successfully raise funds for a computer game project (or maybe for any project) and we would like to share some thoughts and recommendations that might be useful for others.
Now there are a lot of post-mortems from bigger sized projects but few with the goal amounts similar to ours. Anyway, when we started in April of last year there was no such information available and I wish we ran across something like this before our campaign started. In my future posts here I will write how our development and our campaign at Steam Greenlight is going. More details are available at our site.
We chose a minimal amount of $50000 – we saw that a lower amount wouldn't have allowed us to finish our game. We saw a lot of successful campaigns but we also saw many unsuccessful ones.
As much as we wanted to follow an example of The Banner Saga or Wasteland 2, we were fully aware that for a little known team like ours we had to be more realistic and humble. FTL seemed like a better example for us but they had a demo version. We didn’t. We were hoping for the best but we were prepared for any outcome.
Based on statistics we decided to do 30 days campaign. According to then existing Kickstarter statistics we saw that the success rate of projects 30 days or shorter was 44%, while for maximum length projects (back then it was 90 days, currently it’s shortened to 60) success rate is 24%.
The current Kickstarter statistics show that overall, in games success rate is 34%. Looking at all this, for little known projects like ours longer length might still be beneficial. We only got good press coverage towards the end of our campaign – we reached our goal with over 9 days left.
So, making it longer would have been definitely beneficial, but probably still not longer than 40-45 days. Running our campaign took us a lot of time and effort and I doubt that we could have survived doing it two full months.
Start of the campaign and some mistakes
We knew PR was important. We still managed to underestimate how important it was.
Mistake #1 There was no information anywhere in the media that we were going to start our campaign on Kickstarter. Our game wasn’t even announced.
Recommendation #1 Send out press release (press packs) about an upcoming campaign some time ahead. Announce your project.
If we had to do it again, we would announce our game a month or two before, then announce our plans for Kickstarter and then start the campaign itself.
Mistake #2 We started our campaign on Saturday. Weekends are slower than weekdays on Kickstarter because the biggest percentage of Kickstarter backers are from the US and it seems to be a national US tradition to leave somewhere for the weekend )(good tradition, I would say).
When we started our campaign we got to learn it very fast. Also, sending our press releases on the weekends proved to be very inefficient. As later some more experienced people told us, on the weekends editors get a lot of spam so often they don’t look at any of the messages received. For two first days we were pretty much without any press coverage.
Recommendation #2 Start your campaign on a week day.
Personally, we think Monday or Tuesday could be a good day to launch a project.
Mistake #3 We didn’t have enough promotional materials and we had to make a lot of them during our campaign. Also, we had to explain many things how our game worked.
Recommendation #3 Create a lot of promotional materials. Videos seem to be the best for this.
Our first press release went out only on the 4th day of the campaign. It attracted some attention and there were a few articles. This press release was written and translated by us and since it was our first attempt to write something for English speaking audience, it wasn’t very good, unfortunately.
But, it brought several good results: it attracted attention in Germany, pcgameshardware.com wrote an article about our campaign and its Editor in Chief Thilo Bayer became our backer and enthusiastic supporter. Also, the known and respected site rpgcodex.net contacted us and we got our first interview ever! That was very exciting.
We also participated in discussions in this forum which turned to be very productive – in discussions like in this forum or with our backers on Kickstarter it was getting very obvious on what we had to work next. Everyone wanted to see a combat video. That was something we didn’t have and that’s was a mistake described above. It didn’t take us long however to create this video, combat was working in our game already for a long time.
Middle of the campaign
In the beginning days because of the weekends, we had around 50-80 backers per day. On one hand, this is a lot considering absolute lack of coverage. On another hand, this is not enough – with these numbers without any change we wouldn’t have been able to fulfill our goal.
Luckily for us Stoic, the creators of The Banner Saga recommended our game along with others in their campaign update to 20K+ backers they had. The result you can see below in the picture: 345 backers and $7571 on day 7 of the campaign, $3107 and 150 backers on day 8 of the campaign.
We were already working on our combat video, and it was released on the day 8 of our campaign. While it didn’t attract high amount of backers, we received several high amount pledges and after that we reached over $30000 of funding.
Despite some press we got, our press coverage still was rather modest. We ran on pure enthusiasm of ourselves and of our amazing backers. Many of them were spreading information in forums, in other Kickstarter projects and honestly, we don’t know what would have happened without their help.
Some of our backers in Kickstarter and also on rpgcodex helped us write several more press releases. We sent them away ourselves. Guess what? Here we go again, this time to mistake #4.
Mistake #4 Sending press releases on your own is a mistake in our opinion.
Recommendation #4 Either use professional press release distribution service or let your PR agency do that for you.
One of the backers wrote a very good press release, he was a journalist in the past and while it didn’t have an immediate effect on our press coverage, it made us see what a huge difference it was when press release is written by a professional and when it is written by us.
Get a professional help with press releases, especially if English is not your mother tongue!
We decided we need professional help with it. Better later than never. I recalled reading an article on a Russian site about new PR agency for indie game developers. I found the article and contacted that agency - it's called Surprise Attack. I contacted themand we started to work together. And we continue working with them.
Last part of the campaign
Towards the end of the campaign we added a new $35 reward that would include all of our future expansions. We made a mistake of calling it DLC and had to come up with another update to explain what we meant.
Recommendation #5 Whatever you do, communication with backers is a must. Bear in mind, whatever you say is basically a promise. Choose your words carefully.
We hit our Kickstarter goal of $50000 a 10 days before our campaign was over. It happened on May 12 and it was Saturday. We scrambled for an update (we didn’t expect it so soon) and our success press release went out on Mondau. By Wednesday we got some more press coverage. Release of Diablo 3 on that week was a bit unfortunate for us but expected.
And then came great news: on Friday an article came out on Rock Paper Shotgun called We are the Knight: Legends of Eisenwald
That made a big impact. Despite the fact that Kickstarter statistics shows only $3715 from RPS but it accounts only for direct backers. Many people who don’t follow a link from a site are not counted as a backer from a specific site. We believe RPS accounts at least for $15000 of extra pledges we received, and we are very grateful to them!
Publication on RPS was probably both a result of press release and of some active users from forums on somethignawful.com. The results of this publication you can see in the diagrams above.
In our update we posted several stretch goals and we managed to hit two of them. The last days of campaign were stressful, we slept little and worked on our final update in the midst of discussions of what else we can do.
Post campaign thoughts and statistics
After all fees and dropped backers we received $75047 (the amount on Kickstarter shows $83577, after subtracting $754 from dropped backers it’s actually $82823). Also, we received about $1000 from Paypal and Yandex money pledges after the end of the campaign.
As it turned out, we can’t change our project after our campaign was over so, here comes the next recommendation.
Recommendation #6 In the last day of your campaign think about what you want to be on your project page.
If we could we would place there information about how people can make their pledges after the campaign is over.
Here is our statistics from our Kickstarter page:
1. http://kicktraq.com – very useful site to see statistics and results of your actions.
2. Facebook group Russians on Kickstarter
3. Popularity of our video
4. Popularity of rewards
No reward - 44 Backers (2% of backers), $2081 pledged (2% of money raised)
$15 Reward - 1429 Backers (52% of backers), $21062 pledged (26% of money raised)
$25 Reward - 284 Backers (10% of backers), $7150 pledged (9% of money raised)
$35 Reward - 693 Backers (25% of backers), $24341 pledged (29% of money raised)
$50 Reward - 108 Backers (4% of backers), $5620 pledged (7% of money raised)
$75 Reward - 91 Backers (3% of backers), $6922 pledged (8% of money raised)
$100 Reward - 53 Backers (2% of backers), $5391 pledged (6% of money raised)
$175 Reward - 12 Backers (< 1% of backers), $2890 pledged (3% of money raised)
$200 Reward - 10 Backers ( < 1% of backers), $2031 pledged (2% of money raised)
There were also 3 rewards of $500 and 2 of $2000.
Thank you for reading until the end :) I hope you find it useful.