Your Kickstarter Probably Sucks. Here's How to Make it Better.

Illustration for article titled Your Kickstarter Probably Sucks. Heres How to Make it Better.

You would not believe how many Kickstarter ideas we've been shown in the last few weeks. Ever since Double Fine (and then Wasteland 2) showed there was serious money to be made on the service, every man, his dog and his dog's workmates from the IT department have been sending us their idea for the next big thing.


Many of them aren't. They're complete rubbish.

It doesn't matter how good your idea is, or at least how good you think it is, a Kickstarter project isn't some forum post or drunken roundtable discussion with friends. It's a serious attempt at asking complete strangers for often sizeable sums of cash.


Which is the first place most campaigns go wrong. I don't think they're taking that core conceit seriously enough. You're not asking for Facebook Likes, or retweets, or people on Reddit to leave an anonymous message saying "yeah, that's great". You are asking people for money.

Yet given the level of polish and thought that goes into so many presentations, you wouldn't think that was the case! A badly-encoded video that shows nothing but some concept art and over-uses words like "unique" is probably not even worth watching, let alone watching and thinking "hey, I should give these guys some of my hard-earned money!".

So if you currently have a Kickstarter project, or are thinking about starting one, please, take a step back. Think about what it is you're asking people for. And try and bear at least one of these things in mind.


If you want money from a bank to start a business, you can't just walk into it and expect them to hand it over. You have to present them with a business plan, which usually involves two things: research and presentation. You need to do your homework, find out if what you want to sell/make has a market out there. And if it does, you need to show the bank you're capable enough to be able to deliver that.


Ditto for Kickstarter. Don't just record some words about how awesome you think your idea is, show some boring/amateur concept art and expect the cash to come pouring in. It won't, because you've done nothing to differentiate your idea from a bunch of drunk people drawing mission branches on the back of a pub coaster.

What you need at the very least is some professional concept art. A best-case scenario would involve some alpha footage of a level/character in action. An even better scenario would be to combine the two into some form of trailer. If you don't have those, or even have access to them, maybe you shouldn't be making a video game. Because getting access to them takes only one thing: money.



You've gotta spend money to make money. If none of your friends are artists, go to an art site/forum and hire someone. If you're lucky, you can get someone to draw you a few very good pieces of art for a few hundred bucks.


If you don't have the software or other means to make a nice trailer, you're going to need it. Either buy it yourself (which could cost hundreds, or even thousands) or again, see if you can hire someone (which could cost hundreds). Same goes for music.


The second you initiate a Kickstarter project, you're no longer simply a video game developer (or wannabe developer). You're also an in-house PR team. Big publishers spend so much on PR because it's so damn important, both in terms of properly conveying what your game is about, and in helping it get noticed by busy games writers/journalists who see hundreds of new games a day.


That being the case, think very hard not just about what makes your game special, but what's going to help it stand out amongst the crowd. Don't use words like "throwback" or "unique" or "visceral", or anything else that's been used so many times it no longer means anything.

My best advice would be to say as little as possible. Don't sit in front of a webcam if you're not a good fit for the camera. And if your voice isn't a good one for radio, don't say anything. Just write some stuff down on the site. Nothing kills a Kickstarter boner faster than seeing some 21 year-old with a headset lisping about how awesome their new game is. It's the height of unprofessionalism, which may sound harsh, but remember the key rule: you're asking for money. So hey, you've got to be professional.


Say what it is, where it's set, what you do then let the trailer/art speak for itself. If the foundations of your game aren't interesting enough to get noticed and make some money, well, sorry, your idea might just not be very interesting.


Christian Allen's Takedown project has shown that, if at first you don't succeed, coming back with a stronger message and something to actually show people can work wonders. Takedown has made the money it needed after an abortive first attempt, and the team now have the cash to follow their dreams and make the game they want to make.


It's a formula 95% of the other projects on the service could do with copying. That's not to say 95% of the failing/failed projects will then succeed; in many cases, people simply won't care about a game regardless of its pitch. Sorry.


But there's nothing wrong with trying a little harder! And if all that's too much to remember, at least remember this: you're asking strangers for money, so take it a little more seriously!

(Top image credit | LOUIE DEL CARMEN )

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I hope Vic Ireland will try again with Kickstarter after his current attempt fails (it hasn't yet, but it's likely to). I'd love to see it work for him and see a deluxe package out there (with a great unique localization), but think he wasn't prepared enough with Class of Heroes 2 in terms of how to sell it.