So a couple of months ago we launched a Kickstarter for Arrival in Hell. In the end we failed to reach our £13,200 goal, only raising £2,942 (~22%), however we were Greenlit by the Steam community, which makes the whole thing well worthwhile in my opinion.
I learned a lot of things I previously didn’t know about Kickstarter and Greenlight, so I thought I’d share them publicly. Sorry if this is a little messy, I just wanted to dump everything I could think of for the benefit of everyone.
Every article I read on the subject of Kickstarter and the press urged me to email as many press outlets as possible. I looked at a few hundred websites from various lists as well as my own research, and in the end narrowed it down to a mere 43 who I thought might actually cover it. Most people say email them all anyway, and perhaps I should have, but my conscience got the better of me.
- I contacted 43 targeted press sites, only 27 had email addresses, the rest were through contact forms
- Of the 27 I emailed, only 13 opened the email
- Of the 13 who opened the email, only 4 clicked through
- I got a response / coverage from 1
My efforts were pretty fruitless on this front. My best guess as to why this went so poorly is that press sites are just tired of getting emails about every Tom, Dick and Harry’s kick starter campaign.
The main source of press came from folks who saw the game on Kickstarter. A few outlets wrote articles about it and one even reached out to me for an interview. More traffic came from these sources too. Overall I think we got pretty decent coverage, it just didn’t originate from my emails.
A lot of the original game’s popularity comes from the YouTube lets plays, so we really wanted to get an alpha demo out to YouTubers to help build awareness of the remake.
I found a huge list of names as well as many through my own research. However again I couldn’t bring myself to spam hundreds of people, so I went through each channel’s content and only selected ones I thought the game would suit.
- I sent a demo to 55 YouTubers
- Only 33 had contact emails, the rest I contacted via YouTube direct messages
- I’m fairly sure almost no one I contacted via YouTube even saw the message, although 1 did reply (YouTube’s direct message system isn’t great)
- Of the 33 I emailed only 14 opened the email, and of those only 6 clicked through, and only 1 replied
- 2 channels did a play through of the demo
Luckily we had spread the word enough for it to get back to the guys from Retsupurae, a fairly large channel who did a let’s play of the original. They also did a video which got some decent traffic and ended up getting us quite a few pledges, so that was great.
We didn’t have a large social media following to begin with, so our efforts were futile in this department too. We had prepared a dozen or so updates to post throughout the campaign, as well as posting every time there was any news with the campaign. We didn’t see much engagement with social media at all.
We also tried some sponsored ads on Facebook, and although we got a lot of views and likes, they didn’t convert to a single pledge.
- We got the “projects we love” label on day 1, which seemed to lead to some pledges
- Support from Kickstarter wasn’t very helpful. We got strange advice like “go to your local gaming bar to promote the game”. I’m not sure Kickstarter fully appreciates that not every game developer lives in California… 🙂
- We had a surprising number of marketing companies contact us. As far as I can see from some research, most of them are out to sell you some snake oil which will magically make your campaign to succeed. I’d avoid.
- Lots of fraud going on on KS. We had half a dozen people contact us offering to donate on our campaign if we donated to theirs. This would make the campaigns both seem more popular than they were, hopefully encouraging others to pledge. I found this deceitful and I’m surprised Kickstarter haven’t cracked down on it.
- The main source of our pledges were from friends and family. If your goal is low enough, I’d suggest trying to get funding from friends and family instead of Kickstarter altogether!
Games and digital items in general don’t seem to attract backers any more. It seems that in order to be successful you’ve got to have a studio quality game almost finished, and even then the amount you’ll raise isn’t high enough to even begin to cover development costs. I think Kickstarter has lost it’s way a bit in this respect; it’s not so much fundraising as it is pre-sales for established studio games. To me that makes it more of a pre-sales platform rather than an enabler for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to complete their projects. I don’t want to sound to bitter about it, but that is what I’ve observed, at least for video games on KS.
- We got Greenlit, which made the whole thing worth it for me
- We launched Greenlight at the same time as Kickstarter and cross promoted. Oddly some people were upset by this, and down-voted us. Not sure what their problem with dual running campaigns was.
- Some nasty comments were made on Greenlight. “Your game is ugly, stop trying” etc etc
- A lot of kindness and enthusiasm also came out, with the majority of comments being helpful or encouraging. This was a pleasant surprise.
I wanted to track all outgoing emails. MailChimp is usually people’s first suggestion, but I found it to be very unhelpful for this sort of email. It’s great for newletters, but doesn’t make sense for sending personalized emails to individual members of the press / youtubers etc. In the end I went with SendInBlue, as it was cheaper and had the same functionality as MailChimp.
I wanted to send an email to all of the old rustyarcade.com members too:
- Rustyarcade has over 200k members
- Of those 200k, around half ticked a marketing email box
- Of those, I narrowed a list down to people who have played the original game, and have logged in within the past 2 years
- I was left with around 2000 emails
I tried sending a marketing email to them, and a large number bounced immediately. SendInBlue weren’t happy about this, and froze my account. They asked where I got the email list from and I told them exactly as above: that they were members of my website and I had sourced them responsibly with an “opt-in” box. I said I wasn’t too surprised a few bounced since SendInBlue started with the yahoo accounts (the kind of email people make throw-away accounts with). They responded with “Well they’re not sourced responsibly if you’re not surprised they bounced”. I found that comment a bit condescending and insulting. Needless to say I won’t be using SendInBlue again.
So far this has just been a brain dump of things I’ve deemed noteworthy. Below are some more concrete findings, including our Greenlight and Kickstarter stats. I hope they’re helpful to someone.
So overall I’m very glad we did this. We got many useful suggestions and encouragement and secured Steam as a distribution platform. I’m really grateful to everyone who pledged; it means a lot when people are excited enough about the game to commit to parting with their hard earned cash. The game will still go ahead, just at a much slower pace unfortunately.
I probably won’t use Kickstarter again, at least not for a game. It seems really good for physical products though, so perhaps if anything ever comes up in that area I’ll give it another crack!
If there is anything I’ve missed or anyone has questions, please feel free to reach out.