Kickstarter Flops #2: The Golden Rules To A Good Kickstarter!

Welcome back to Kickstarter Flops Volume 2! I am going to be frank with you all, and if you want, you can still be Garth. I had trouble writing up Kickstarter Flops Volume 2. I did find Kickstarters that were horribly made, and Kickstarters that were more worthwhile to back, but I felt like I should do something different for this one. Plus, it did help that most of the Kickstarters were released in July, a month that is notoriously known to be a bad month for Kickstarters. Instead, due to the recent trainwreck of Red Ash, the cancellation of Mooncrest, and the successful release of the Divinity: Original Sin II Kickstarter, I wanted to finally come up with a list of rules that you should follow and execute if you plan on making a Kickstarter. This will be focused on video game Kickstarters, but you can pretty much take these rules and put them into any kind of Kickstarter. Now then, let’s begin with the golden rules everyone should follow!

Rule #1: Have actual gameplay to show off to the player!

Why?: These days, with well-known Kickstarter flops like Godus, Clang, and Yogventures, potential backers don’t really want to see a bunch of people in their mid-20s, early 30s, or older talk about how their game was the one project that they always had wanted to make, or see a bunch of concept art. It’s cool that you have the passion and drive to want to branch out on your own with your studio to make a game, but due to how many new and old developers are going to Kickstarter for their games, asking for money, people want to see gameplay. Sure, there are a few exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, people want gameplay!

You can say some Kickstarters didn’t need gameplay to be funded, like Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained, and Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue III, but Koji had a week’s worth of immense cryptic hype behind the Kickstarter, which was coming out during Konami’s implosion of negative public press. On top of that, everyone was caught off-guard at E3 2015, when Yu Suzuki came up onto Sony’s stage to announce the Kickstarter for Shenmue III.

A good example of a Kickstarter flopping because of no gameplay was Mooncrest, by KnightMayor. After a week of exposure with very little funding going into the project, they decided to pull out, and relaunch the Kickstarter at a later date with gameplay and more details.

Prime Example: A good example of having gameplay in your Kickstarter is Poi by PolyKid, a 3D platformer. Poi looks to be in great shape, and it looks like something in the beta stages of being finished. Sure, some animation in the game looks clunky, and some of the graphics could use a little tweaking, but I have already seen positive reception for the pre-alpha build of the game on sites like Polygon. Showing off your game in this state is much more appealing to back, since it looks like an almost finished product. It is unfortunately probably not going to make it, due to it being caught in the negative reception of Red Ash, but it’s not because it didn’t have gameplay in the trailer.

Rule #2: If you want to get more backers, have a playable demo!

Why?: If you already have gameplay to show, this means that the game is in a pretty playable state. Why not give the public a demo to play? Potential backers might get a good idea of how the game will play with the gameplay, but having a playable demo would be like having the icing on the cake.

Prime Example: There is a new Kickstarter that is out right now called OmniBus, by Buddy Cops. It’s a “wacky”-style game that has you driving a multitude of different buses through different challenges with PS1-style graphics. There is a playable demo for the game, showing off the variety of levels and even a four-player versus mode. The controls felt great, and all the buses actually play differently. It made each challenge unique. It’s a prime example of a demo done right.

Rule #3: Have consoles already in the Kickstarter, or as a stretch goal.

Why?: Whether you like to admit it or not, some gamers don’t actually like playing games on just a PC. I have nothing against PC gaming, but if I can play it on a console, not counting if the game is good or bad, I want to play it on a console. I don’t like having to worry about specs on my PC, and if they are good enough to run the game. Give the potential backers some options in terms of their personal console of choice.

Prime Example: There is an isometric shooter game with 16-bit-style graphics on Kickstarter called Tower 57. I can’t tell if it will make it or not, but the game does have stretch goals to reach consoles if they reach their funding goal. While the fate of this Kickstarter is unknown (I hope it makes it), at least it is giving potential backers the choice to choose either a PC or console version.

Rule #4: Try making a game that is actually unique.

Why?: How many times have you groaned when an indie developer is making something that we have all seen before, a genre that has been overused by the indie community? You know what I mean, right? That groan you hear when someone is making something like a first-person horror game, a roguelike, an RPG paying tribute to the old PC RPGs of the 90s, a LucasArts-inspired adventure game, an 8-bit NES-style platformer, a 16-bit RPG homage to Final Fantasy 6. It’s something you see quite a lot, and is, quite honestly, getting boring. Not that any of those examples mentioned can’t result in a great game, because we have seen it work, but after a while of seeing just those types of games, it makes the indie scene look like it’s running out of ideas. The game industry does need gaming that is familiar, but we also need new ideas, or at least new ways to tackle over-populated genres. I am not saying you can’t make a Kickstarter game of any of the overdone genres, but standing out will help out more. It doesn’t even have to stop at the genre. Try different art styles and graphics, like hand-drawn and 3D graphics.

Prime Example: When I was in Seattle last year, I read about a Kickstarter game called Hex Heroes by Prismatic Games. It wasn’t just a real-time-strategy game, but something called a party-real-time-strategy. It was an RTS that you could play with friends on the Wii U. It made unique use of the Wii U’s GamePad, and it also didn’t hurt that it had cameos from other indie games and a couple of YouTube personalities. I wish I could have used a more recent example, but Kickstarter is kind of dry right now.

Rule #5: Have a very detailed Kickstarter page!

Why?: This is important to have, because instead of being lazy and doing a generic, boring, soulless, robotic, and terrible single paragraph description of your game, you should break everything down piece by piece. Talk about the features, setting, story, characters, graphics, music, budgeting, the team behind the game, stretch goals, rewards, and if you are a veteran of the industry, talk about some of the games you made in the past! Don’t even think about going the lazy route in this rule, because if people read it and think you don’t give a rat’s behind about your project, then why should we? You obviously didn’t put a lot of effort into this page, your video (if you even have one), and your overall project. I don’t have any prime examples for this one, since it seems so self-explanatory, but if you need some, check out Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Yooka-Laylee, Deadwood: The Forgotten Curse, Shiness, Popup Kingdom, and you get the idea. Look at super successful Kickstarters.

Rule #5: Make sure you keep in clear, honest, and constant contact with the backers!

Why?: This is also very important. Because of the recent controversy of the Red Ash Kickstarter, and how not in contact the team was about the overall Kickstarter, they didn’t seem to put a lot of trust into the backers. Not only was the page not clear about what the funding was going toward, but backers found out that the Kickstarter was only going to fund a slice of the game, and not the whole experience. The nail in the coffin occurred a week or so before the Kickstarter ended, when it was announced that a publisher has stepped in to fund the first part of the game. This left backers annoyed and upset that there was apparently a negotiation going on to fund the game before the Kickstarter went up. That they found a publisher was great and all, but how he handled it was disappointing. That was just one of the many troubles the Kickstarter had, but in the end, backers want clear, honest contact with the developers. You should also be honest with particular elements of the Kickstarter, like the funding and how much you actually need.

Prime Example: When Koji Igarashi put up his Kickstarter for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, he mentioned that he already had investors interested in his game, but they wanted to see how much demand there was for it. Sure, it seems crummy that he needed to use Kickstarter, but he was upfront and honest about it. Plus, he had a lot of built-up hype behind his Kickstarter, so no matter what he was doing, he was going to get Bloodstained funded. They also did a lot of social aspects like using Twitter and Facebook to help advertise the game, even if they didn’t need to since the game got funded in what seems like four minutes.

There you have it. These are my golden rules to making a good Kickstarter. They should be simple, but not everyone follows them. You don’t need to follow them, but if you want to see your Kickstarter game get past the funding goal, you should follow at least some of these rules. I will make sure to make a Kickstarter Flops covering the blunders that you should avoid, but at a later date. Thanks for reading!