We spent the final week of our KickStarter campaign looking back at the mistakes we made that lead us to fail in meeting our goal.
There were problems with both our pitch video and our page. The language on our page and in our script was ambiguous in some places, overly wordy in others. We also promised to deliver a game whether or not we met our goal, which took urgency out of the campaign. Our video was shot on a phone camera in poor lighting with bad audio. We were also camera shy, and our excitement for the project was buried in our stiff delivery. Even though we maintained strong conversion rates through most of the campaign, the proportion of people who watched our entire video was low from the very beginning. With a more professional pitch video and a more streamlined game page, we believe we could have captured an even better portion of those who landed on our campaign.
We decided to handle PR by ourselves, and this is an area where inexperience really hamstrung us. Before this we had only used social media for personal accounts, and in the months leading up to the campaign we struggled to build any real following outside of friends and family. By the first week, we had fully exhausted our social media presence and began to see that some friend's and followers were tired of seeing us post about the campaign every day. We also overestimated our ability to get coverage in the press, even at smaller independent blogs. We didn't begin our press outreach until a few days before the campaign launched and in the end, the coverage we were able to secure was too little, too late. With a more aggressive PR campaign, and a stronger effort leading up to the campaign, we could have secured much more attention than we ultimately received.
No Playable Demo
During our PR outreach, a number of YouTubers, Twitch streamers and bloggers asked if we had a playable demo. When we said no, they lost interest. While demos don't seem to be that important to prospective backers, they appear to be make or break for getting real coverage from press or social media influencers.
Lack of Polish
The game itself still appears rough, with repetitive looking tilesets, a lack of diversity among the finished enemies and no environmental props or decorations. Removing the dodge-roll and the manual blocking from our design wishlist also reduced the texture of the core game loop and caused the game to not show as well as it could have. We can excuse this all as part of the reason we wanted to run a KickStarter in the first place, but if we had focused on making the game as a KickStarter project from the beginning we could have shifted our priorities to ensure a more sell-able product.
Failure Breeds Failure
In the first two weeks of our campaign, our conversion rates for backers were high even as our traffic was very low. According to Google Analytics, we maintained a conversion rate above 10% for all unique visitors even excluding all our friends and family. From what we've read, that's well above the 3%-7% of most video game KickStarters. But by the third week, new visitors saw the writing on the wall and were more resistant to back us. We quickly dropped to about 5% and stayed there through the fourth and final week. In aggregate, our final conversion rate was about 7%. That's still good, but with only ~2,100 unique visitors it was not good enough. In order to be successful, we should have had a stock of backers at the ready to front load the campaign with support, so that success could breed success.
Even with all of the problems listed here, our backers were able to look past our poor attempts to sell the game. They were able to see what we saw in its potential. In addition to the kind comments on our updates, they also sent us many enthusiastic private messages. The fear of this exact failure is what kept us in the safety of our corporate jobs for nearly a decade. But with their support, this failure is not what we thought it would be. It has not crushed our spirits, it has emboldened us. We know where we went wrong and we have been working on a plan to correct course.
Our next update will detail our plans to learn from all of these lessons and relaunch the campaign.
"Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." - Terry Pratchett