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GDC 2012: How to get funding on Kickstarter

GDC 2012: How to get funding on Kickstarter

March 6, 2012 | By Patrick Miller

March 6, 2012 | By Patrick Miller
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More: Indie, GDC, Business/Marketing

It's no secret that crowdfunding is big news to independent game developers, especially those who have been following Double Fine's adventure game project amass over $2,430,000 on Kickstarter (at the time of this writing).

But how can a would-be indie game developer maximize her chance for a successful Kickstarter pitch? Julie Coniglio (cofounder, Awkward Hug) and Cindy Au (community manager, Kickstarter) offered GDC 2012 attendees a few tips from the experience of an actual Kickstarter-funded developer and Kickstarter's own behind-the-scenes insights.

"Do your research," Coniglio stressed. "Prepare. Read the blogs. It's changing all the time, it's growing so rapidly, if you don't stay up-to-date, you'll be left behind."

In Awkward Hug's case, they knew they'd need at least $6,000 in funding to have a shot at completing the game, which was $1,000 more than the average video game Kickstarter pitch could make. "We decided to be bold and just ask for the $6,000 anyway, though we did try to cut some game features and restructure our project as well."

That $6,000 base cost came from calculating every possible estimate, quote, and hidden cost, including the ones added by the crowdfunding process. Coniglio said that a good rule of thumb or finding your Kickstarter goal is to take your basic development cost and add 5percent for the cost of rewards for your pledges, 5 percent for Kickstarter itself, and 5 percent for Amazon's processing fees.

Once you've set up your goal, you can start determining your reward tiers. "The two most popular reward tiers are at $10 and $25," Au said. "Make sure people can play the game at a very low buy-in. That's what people want the most." With this information in mind, Awkward Hug structured their rewards to encourage larger donations. "We know that most people contribute at the $25 level, so we made sure to make the rewards under that level super low, and make the $25 reward super awesome," Coniglio said.

Besides offering the game itself, both Coniglio and Au stressed the importance of making tangible rewards. "Make swag. People love swag," said Coniglio. Au concurred: "I think in general, it can be really hard to make something like a software project and make it something tangible for an audience." This, in part, seemed to explain why board and card games are almost twice as likely to be funded than video games on Kickstarter (45percent success rate compared to 25percent); it's because you don't get anything you can hold or touch once you get to play the game.

Coniglio showed an example of a high-tier reward, a hand-made sock puppet toy. "Our strategy was to make each reward cost us 5percent of whatever that reward amount was, but it needed to feel awesome."

But if there's anything that will get your project funded, it's love. "When people watch your video, they kinda have to fall in love with you a little bit, because they're not just giving money to your project, they're giving money to you," Coniglio said. The personal connection was particularly relevant for Awkward Hug's pitch: 75percent of their funding came from people in their personal or professional circles.

In order to ensure they made their funding goal, they needed to enlist their funders to spread their message. "We really tried to push them to evangelize for us," Coniglio said. "The second best thing they can do for us is spread the good word. They need to be excited, and it needs to be easy for them--give them a sexy trailer, a good one-liner, something to work with." Au also offered some statistics on where their external funding referrals came from for everything in the Games category: was the highest (for board games, presumably), followed by Facebook, Twitter, Google, Reddit, and Kotaku.

Of course, it doesn't always work out the first time, Coniglio said. "The whole process is flexible, iterative, repeatable. If you fail, just come up with a new strategy and try again."

For more Kickstarter tips, check out our feature on Building a Better Kickstarter.

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