The Ultimate Video Game Crowdfunding Survival Guide


Whether it’s Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or your own independent crowdfunding efforts, there’s some very important rules to keep in mind. This quasi checklist will take you through the planning, execution, and fulfillment of your gaming project. Keep in mind that we’ve covered hundreds of projects in our short time with you. Some have succeeded, some haven’t, and some have even failed at succeeding. It’s my prerogative to give some simple, yet important tips to keep you from sucking big time when you’re asking for other peoples’ money. You also want to avoid that whole inevitable shit storm that happens when you can’t deliver your finished product. That being said, here we go:

Pre-Launch preparation, Kickstarter campaign, and product distribution

Take your time, make sure you have a product that screams value. That means you have impressive concept art, concrete features, in-game footage/screenshots, and a great pitch video. One of the best ways to go about pre-launch is to share your progress with sites that are known for supporting indies and crowdfunding. Past, present, and future project creators are a fabulous resource as well. There’s no better way of getting the word out than through the mouths of your peers. Gamasutra has a wealth of knowledge for game developers and crowdfunders alike, Id suggest poking around there a bit. Kickstarter Forum is a rather new source, but it’s a home for both project creators and backers alike. Meaning the feedback you receive there is going to be hugely beneficial to your cause. Nowadays it’s paramount to backers and potential promoters alike that you have a solid plan for fund allocation and product distribution. As promoters we’ve seen far to many project creators misappropriate funds and/or fail to distribute their finished product effectively. Once you have enough buzz created, nail down your pitch videos, graphics, budget, and distribution plan; You’re ready for launch.

You’ll want to make a great first impression. The principal method used to engage potential backers is the pitch video. The first thing most potential backers do when clicking on an eye catching project is viewing the pitch video, so you better make damn sure it’s impressive. Most Kickstarter pitch videos are 2-4 minutes in length. To attract backers you have to keep their attention. Meaning you need them engaged with wallets open in that amount of time.  Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Clean audio and video (eliminate reverberation and make sure resolution is crisp)
  • Briefly introduce yourself, your skillset, and your motivations/inspirations (if you have a team make sure to highlight everyone’s specific strengths)
  • Polish your gameplay presentation (don’t show pre-alpha footage, if that’s all you’ve got, skip it)
  • Poise, If you’re on-screen during the pitch, choose a clean backdrop and act professional (cracking a joke is one thing, but slouching and acting nonchalant is another thing entirely)
  • Promote positively (don’t disparage other products to get your point across)
  • Honesty (let your backers know you need them, what you need them for, and make them feel integral to your cause)

Follow that checklist while making your pitch video and you’re going to see much higher attach rates after video views. The impact of your project starts with the pitch video and continues with awesome graphics and well written details.

Graphics and infographics alike are going to boost the professionalism of your project page. Great looking text graphics that partition your information and killer screenshots of your game in action are a must. One necessary image that’s often overlooked is some sort of key art or title image. A nicely put together press pack for media to utilize when writing about your campaign will increase your coverage potential. Media outlets don’t want extra leg-work standing between them and a functional feature, so make it easy for them to write about you.

As far as formatting your campaign information goes, you’ll want to make sure you have sections dedicated to concept, gameplay features, story, fund allocation, and a plan for distribution. Even seasoned developers have had issues delivering products to their backers, on time or otherwise. Outlining a distribution plan may not have been a big deal in the past, but with more projects failing to deliver a finished product, it’s a definite confidence builder. Reiterating your competency as a programmer and/or designer by detailing how you’ll execute your gameplay features and visuals based on your previously projected concepts will promote assurance as well. And letting your backers know how their funds will be used is another necessary evil these days, transparency is key to including your audience in your extended plans.

Don’t sever the ties you have to your current and future backers. Update them often with new information, screenshots, and gameplay (if applicable). Keeping the information flowing is important to staying relevant within your community. Updates can contain any combination of new media, developer Q&A, or gameplay footage that you’d like. Updates can even be as simple as outlining your inspiration for the game more deeply. You never know what’s going to catch someones eye. You may mention a gameplay feature or game that inspired your creative process that speaks to a new audience that you’ve yet to tap. Updates are the best way to meaningfully add to your original pitch. If executed correctly, the amount of virality can be staggering.

Crowdfunding is a helluva lot like the non-profit sector. Non-profit efforts typically focus on the amount of participants over the size of the donations. For example, 100 backers that pledge $1,000 is actually less effective than 1,000 backers pledging $100. Sure, the pledge amount is the same either way, but there’s a higher chance that one of those thousand backers will recruit a friend or family member to pledge some amount, as opposed to there being a smaller backer pool. This is one case where quantity over quality will reign supreme. Always make your audience feel included, and get them to invest in your success by positively interacting with them.

If and when you cross the finish line on your initial goal, keep your cool. Many times successful project creators run for the hills with ill conceived stretch goals that ultimately put their development schedule and budget at risk. Carefully calculate what it’s going to cost to add desired features, expand upon your world, or improve your visuals/soundtrack BEFORE considering what type of extended development cycle that’s going to be necessary. After all, you’re taking peoples hard earned cash to make something that resounds with them. If you’re successful, you may have heavily invested, lifetime fans of your work. If you fail, your face and project will be splattered about the internet in a less than satisfactory manner.

Depending on the scale of your project, you may want to reach out for assistance with backer fulfillment and retail distribution. This would be the case if your project is ultimately approved through a process like Steam Greenlight. It’s wise to tap into experienced distribution networks in a productive manner. Maybe Ubisoft initially turned down your product pitch, but your project is now independently funded, and they’d likely be open to collecting a percentage of your profits in exchange for helping with multiplatform digital distribution. This type of plan leaves creative control in your hands, and secures your product delivery without you having to pull all the weight.

Following this guide doesn’t guarantee success, but it will surely help you prepare a more attractive campaign, a smoother funding period, and efficient delivery of your product.

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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