So now the kickstarter has failed, after a ton of work and hopes and dreams being thrown into it. So now I’m writing this post-mortem to show others where it went right and where it went wrong.
It sucks. We really did risk everything on this, all of our resources and time went into it, but we failed anyway. We followed all the general tips and practices for running a Kickstarter, here’s a list of the main things we did to get funded and generate a crowd:
We did a couple of months worth of pre-Kickstarter stuff, we made a trailer, we did a press release telling LOADS of press about our incoming Kickstarter, posted on Reddit and various forums, tweeted like crazy, made a facebook page and generally tried to wave Poncho around on the internet; without any prior games of note, we tried to build an audience for ourselves.
Unfortunately, the Press ignored our emails and press releases. Ah well, the Kickstarter isn’t even running yet…
We submitted the Kickstarter for review. We had the launch now button, but we thought it would be better to have them review it so that we’d have better chances of getting staff picked which is important for visibility. That didn’t happen at all, we basically got an email 4 days later with a sentence in it which approximately read “Project looks fine, launch away!”, so we hit the button.
At the same time as submitting for review, we launched our Steam Greenlight campaign. We got a surge in popularity there, but that surge was pretty much over by the time the Kickstarter launched. That sucked.
In hindsight, we should have just used the launch now option. For no visibility benefit, we lost a few days of our Kickstarter since we chose to end on a particular date. D:
The Kickstarter launched, we did another press release, more posting on various forums, new trailer, more rampant tweeting, we sponsored the sup holmes show on youtube. After about 2 hours, the kickstarter had generated around £1200 and had something like 74 shares on Facebook. It looked like everything was going to be ok.
Unfortunately, the Press ignored our emails and press releases. I guess maybe they overloaded with stuff right now, maybe they’ll post about it later?
The next couple of days we generated about an extra £200 a day. Compared to £1200 in the first two hours, this wasn’t great. We didn’t expect to hit the “trough” of the campaign so early. We frantically sent our more emails to press and to friends and family to tell others about the campaign. Obviously lots of tweeting and stuff too.
We couldn’t help but notice that we weren’t staff picked yet, but a couple of kinda awful games on kickstarter literally without a single backer had been chosen instead. A little infuriating, but it’s ok, maybe we’ll be staff picked later.
What happens if you’re not staff picked? Well at best you’re displayed on page 5 or so of the games section on the site, at worst you’re at the bottom on page 16 or so. Projects are cycled through the listings as time goes on, so anyone trawling through kickstarter had to do some serious clicking to find Poncho. Our page was officially buried.
We started doing some cross promotion with other campaigns too, which helped a little.
At this point we had been crunching to get the Alpha demo ready for people to play. That should help. When people can play the game it’ll be better…
Once again, no replies from press. And when I say we email loads of press, I’m talking like 100 emails. We go to all the little guys and the big ones. I have to wonder what we’re doing wrong? Hmm…
Just over a week into the campaign, our Alpha demo is ready! Time to get some Youtubers on side.
We added the desktop demo for download on the project page, as well as developing a web version on various portals on the web to get some more visibility.
We also sent the demo out to around 600 youtubers who do let’s plays of games. All big and small with between a few hundred or many millions of subscribers. Of those, only about a dozen actually did videos, with a few more coming in when the kickstarter was about to end anyway.
We also got staff picked! How come this happened at this point and not before? Well I basically emailed their support team and said: “Why isn’t this staff picked?”. As the campaign had continued I saw other games that had no gameplay footage, or even no video to show, getting staff picked and still not getting backers while we had a nice looking thing getting buried.
Their support team said “Sorry, we’ll pass this on to our editorial team” at which point we were staff picked. So there you go.
We also sent the demo out to the press again. Now, over a week in, some smaller or start up press sites blogged about the game and we got a couple of articles. But, none of the bigger ones like Rock Paper Shotgun, Kotaku, etc, had replied yet.
The next few weeks was spent attacking every social media we could. We also did a few video diaries for updates and announced new platforms. By the end of this period, we were about 25% funded.
We did get a small blog post from destructoid, which sent us several new backers. But it was only a two paragraph deal, so it wasn’t too effective. Still, nice to see something out there.
EGX was our spark, it was an incredibly tiring and daunting experience but we were on the show floor right there with gratuitous space battles 2 and Volume and some other hard hitters. It was surreal to say the least.
Here we started to get a big boost to the campaign after meeting press and getting lots more posting about the game. We also handed out fliers and the like, and responses to the game were generally very positive.
We had hoped to go out with a bang with EGX, and hoped that people would scramble to fund it after seeing Poncho was only in it’s final days. While we did should up around 10%, it wasn’t enough.
Once again, pretty much ignored by press. Not one post from any of the larger sites.
It’s over. Poncho has failed to reach it’s funding, with over 415 backers and 36% of the needed cash.
The main point to draw from this is, getting press attention is bloody important. Only 40% of the total backers came through Kickstarter, the rest were from links posted around the net. If we had gotten just a couple of posts on the bigger sites at the beginning, then maybe we would have succeeded.
I really don’t know what we did wrong in that regard, maybe it’s just bad luck. But it killed the game, anyway.
And now here we are, the campaign is over and we’re still doing this. Why? Because some publishers have seen the potential that Poncho has, and so we still get to make this thing. I hope everyone likes the full game as much as they liked the demo when we release it in the Springtime! ^-^
That’s all for now, I hoped this post helps anyone thinking about doing their own kickstarter, check back soon for more development updates as we create Poncho!
– Danny –