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While Kickstarter's community team serves what Au calls an "editorial role" for active campaigns, sharing noteworthy or well-crafted projects on the site blog and newsletter, developers should take an active role in promoting their campaigns. Social networking is essential, and pitching your story to websites and blogs may turn out some much-needed exposure for your campaign -- but publicity can come from unexpected places. Use whatever favors or angles are at hand.
"Don't stop telling people you know or the internet about your campaign, no matter how annoying you think you are," asserts Scott-Tunkin. His colleague, Young Horses programmer and community manager, Phil Tibitoski, says the studio contacted members of the press that had written about the first Octodad, and to their surprise, ended up with numerous new stories about the sequel's funding efforts.
Wiggins, an actor who appeared in the films Dazed and Confused and Waking Life, claims his "Z-list pseudo-celebrity" generated a little interest, as did his presence in the indie development scene as a fan and blogger. "I recommend reaching out to any press contacts or rich old aunties you may have before you kick it off," he says.
Still, blogs were reticent to spotlight Thunderbeam due to a lack of gameplay footage, and some of the game's biggest supporters were other indie developers and figures that had seen the game and could speak to its quality. "It became clear as I saw the project spread or be passed over, that Kickstarter deals heavily with trust relationships," he adds.
But in the case of Blade Symphony, Norris notes that the game received zero publicity from notable video game publications, with word of mouth taking a larger role. One post on the front page of Reddit.com on the second day of the campaign played a significant part in its outcome. "We went from 10 percent to 50 percent funding from day two to three, then to 78 percent on day four," he says. "Word of mouth and social media are your biggest allies."
Perhaps just as important as spreading word about your project is keeping your existing backers updated during and after the campaign. "There's definitely a correlation between success and having project updates," notes Au, who says funded campaigns typically feature multiple updates. "If you launch a project and never post an update, that's kind of the equivalent of launching a project and just disappearing."
Coombs agrees, calling project updates "essential," and Octodad 2 designer and writer Kevin Zuhn says updates let them build a relationship with backers. "We made sure to post updates at every major milestone, thanking our backers constantly and revealing more information about ourselves as a team," he says. "We felt that sharing more about us as people was important to make a connection with our backers, so we put up images of our office and our trip to the aquarium."
As cited earlier, more than half of all Kickstarter campaigns fail to be funded -- so if your first attempt isn't successful, consider everything that happened and don't hesitate to give it another shot with those lessons in mind. "If your first campaign didn't work out, it's not the end of the world," says Au. "It's really just this thing that happened on the internet that everyone forgot about, and you can do it again. It's not a big deal."
One such second-attempt success story is RoboHero (formerly RoboArena), an upcoming iOS tactical strategy game from Bravado Waffle Studios, a three-man team based in San Francisco. Bravado Waffle CEO Stephen Dick blogged a series of Kickstarter tips on Gamasutra in the midst of his initial campaign in May, but with a funding goal of $5,000, the game only earned $479. He speaks honestly about the quality of the first campaign in hindsight, saying the "video wasn't compelling" and calling out the "not-so-cool physical swag for something nobody really knew about or cared about."
A second campaign followed within weeks with a much lower goal ($1,000) and more intriguing rewards, such as exclusive avatars and the option to beta test or design a multiplayer level for the game. RoboHero earned $1,406 on its second run, and Dick has been posting monthly backer-exclusive updates since its conclusion.
While the lowered goal amount meant Bravado Waffle could only use the funds to pay an artist to paint cutscenes for the game, Dick hasn't soured one bit on the potential of the service. "You have nothing to lose and everything to gain for trying. Kickstarter campaigns for indie devs are fundraising, marketing, and research all rolled into one," he says. "It's a great way for your fans to lend support and for you to give back to them as well."
Puny Human's Norris echoes the sentiment, proclaiming, "Do it! This was probably the greatest obstacle we had to overcome: our own doubt. For a while, we weren't sure we'd be able to get any pledges from a Kickstarter campaign. Obviously, we were massively wrong -- and we only found out when we tried."
A successful Kickstarter campaign can also help affirm the promise and worthiness of your game idea -- perhaps the strongest asset for some, despite the funding and free promotion. "Kickstarter kind of validated us. When you're in your own group, you have a lot of doubts, second-guessing, and worrying that you're wasting your time on a niche game that really won't have more than a couple dozen people interested," admits Coombs.
He points out that Star Command's Kickstarter appeared on the front page of top video game websites and the Twitter feed of Irrational Games' Ken Levine. "You can't really put a dollar amount on what that does, but our team went from feeling good about the game to really making it our religion."
Presented with the comment, Au strips the onus from Kickstarter itself. "If you think about it, it's their backers that validated them," she says. "I think that's an important sentiment."