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Zombie Society - Kickstarter POST MORTEM

sometimes we fail

· tutorial,kickstarter,Rants

As you might know, I’ve been making web games for more than ten years now, and I recently decided to make a step further and try to fund a desktop, full-length point-and-click game, titled “Zombie Society – Dead Detective”, with a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

I failed.

But I’ve been so enriched by the experience, that I can’t really feel bad about it. I’ve found a fair number of true fans, and I’ve learnt a lot in the process.

And I want to share this knowledge with all the game-maker wannabes out there, also because writing it down might be good for me, too. So, here we go.

I published a demo (which consisted of a self-contained “case”) on Newgrounds, Kongregate, Gamejolt and ArmorGames, and it received a lot of very good reviews. That’s why I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the first case, and this also brings us to my first big mistake.

what i did wrong

1 - I failed at bringing all the players that loved the demo to visit the Kickstarter page

As I wrote before, I only decided to launch the game on Kickstarter AFTER the success of the demo. When I first published it on Newgrounds and Kongregate, I had no plans whatsoever about that. This means there were no direct links inside the game, not the slightest mention of a crowdfunding campaign.

The demo has been played by more than 100.000 people all over the web, and the high ratings it got pretty much everywhere make me think the majority of the players liked it a lot.

And all of those players lost the chance to support my game… Because I didn’t tell them to. I only sent a few private messages to the users who had reviewed the demo, about one month later, but we’re talking about a few dozens. And most of them were actually nice enough to make a small pledge, at least.

Only the ArmorGames version has a link to the campaign, at the very end of the game, and I only added it after the demo had already been played by more than 50k players. And yet, I could see the benefits from the very first day.

In short, what I learnt is this: releasing a web demo of your game during the campaign can be a very effective opportunity to earn supporters, don’t waste it.

2 – I didn’t even try to create a fanbase until it was too late

I’m very ashamed to admit that I haven’t ever actively tried to create and maintain a fanbase until very recently. As I’ve said at the very beginning, I’ve been making web games for ten years. And I created a Facebook page only last year. My Twitter account is two months old, and so is my website.

I’ve always been making games for fun, but this experience has taught me that I’ve lost a lot of fans along the way, because I’ve never given them a chance to follow me and show me their interest in what I do.

When I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign I knew that had to change, but I was shocked when I found out how effective a (small) presence on social medias can be.

I’ve seen the error of my ways, and I’ll try to maintain this connection with my fans from now on. This means I’ll keep updating the blog, too.

3 – Too much emphasis on the “I’ll make the game anyway!” part

This mistake is related to the actual Kickstarter page. Being an unknown developer with no big games in my curriculum, I wanted to show to potential backers that they could trust me in bringing the project to life.

I promised I would draw the backers inside the game even if the campaign failed (a promise I intend to keep). I promised I would make the game either way.

I failed at explaining WHY I needed Kickstarter. I didn’t explain in detail how I intended to use the money, that I wanted to make better backgrounds, that failing at funding the game would mean I’d have to publish it on the web for free, and at a lower quality than what I intended.

I added something of the sort in the end, but it was already too late.

4 – Digital rewards only?

I’m not sure if this was a mistake, but I heavily focused the rewards on drawing the backers’ persona inside the game, with a different role in the story based on their pledge.

I offered no physical rewards, especially since I was already asking for a very small sum of money (2.000 euros) and I didn’t want to spend a big part of it to craft and ship lousy t-shirts that I’d personally never wear myself..!

I hope to receive some feedback about that with the survey at the end of the campaign.

So, this is a long list of mistakes. Did I even do anything right? Well, I humbly think I did.

I’ve made a small but fair fanbase, considering the little time I dedicated to it. I found out about the power of Twitter, and I’ll use it way more in the future. Most of the backers confirmed they were happy to have a demo ready. I established some connections along the way with a few journalists/reviewers, and I got my game featured on a few noticeable weblogs like Indiegames.com, AlphaBetaGamer and AdventureTraffe.

I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, and all in all I’m very happy with this adventure. Sure, I failed, but I feel I’ve become better and I’ll try again in the future, with more knowledge and experience to back me up.

what now?

I’ll make the game as promised, but I’ll release it on the web for free in an episodic format. I’ll focus on finding new fans and make better games. And once I feel I’m ready…

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