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Lessons from a successful Kickstarter (and what I’d improve on next time)

Kingdom’s Candy: Monsters, a game I co-designed, successfully funded on Kickstarter recently to the tune of 168% of the funding goal.

Now while I wasn’t the one publishing this game (my co-designer was also the publisher), I was quite involved in the campaign and everything leading up to it. Being a one-man show, as well as not being a native English speaker, he asked for my help with a number of things, and I was glad to support him any way I could.

After all, I wanted Kingdom’s Candy: Monsters to be a huge success as well!

I spoke to him after the campaign to get his thoughts on what went well, and what we could have done better, and he was glad to share his thoughts so that I could then share them with you.

This was also helpful for me, as I will be running my own Kickstarter campaign for my solo game, Relics of Rajavihara, later this year.

I’ve combined his thoughts and my own commentary to give you a better understanding of how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign.

What worked well

One thing my publisher did really well was keeping an online presence, especially on Facebook, through the use of regular posts leading up to and during the campaign, as well as running Facebook ads. People knew about the campaign and there was some early interest within the first couple of days, which will definitely help any campaign.

It’s not always easy to track the results of all ads, banners, and other advertisements you purchase. Some are more effective than others, and Facebook ads can be very beneficial if targeted to the right audience and made to look professional.

We also got to really understand the power and importance of reviews. We had one fantastic reviewer who loved the game and even recorded a full playthrough as a follow-up to his initial review.

But… we also had some reviewers who did not respond or turned down the request. We even had one “how to play” video that we didn’t end up using because we felt it was too dry and unexciting.

Where we could have improved

While we had fantastic numbers, including 8,619 project followers (which is a ridiculously high number), our conversion rate was only 2.2% (which is very low). That means that only about 1 out of every 50 people who clicked the remind me button actually backed the game.

Clicks, likes, and followers can be considered “vanity metrics”. They may look nice, but they don’t always produce sales, which is your ultimate goal.

We ran four different giveaways or contests, which resulted in a lot of attention on our page, but not necessarily a huge number of backers. Yet, this is still hard to quantify, as the more eyeballs you have on your page, the higher the popularity rank, and the more people will notice your project. Overall, we felt that our money would be spent better elsewhere.

My publisher recognizes the importance of reviews and feels that three good reviews are right around the sweet spot. Not too few and not too many. This is an area where he would focus more closely on next time.

What I plan on doing differently on my next Kickstarter

As I mentioned, I’m going to be bringing my solo game, Relics of Rajavihara, to Kickstarter later this year. I don’t have an exact date for this yet, as I want to do further playtesting and plan out how I will build my following well in advance.

Building a following is definitely something I’ve seen firsthand can make the difference between a campaign that doesn’t fund and one that meets its goal, or in some cases, a project that barely funds versus one that is wildly successful.

While Facebook groups and Instagram are nice and may give you that fuzzy, warm feeling every time you get a thumbs up, they don’t necessarily convert into sales.

Email is really where it’s at. This is where you’re going to get the best conversion rate. This is also the best way to build an audience, gain their trust, and get people excited about your project.

So, I’m going to be putting a lot of focus on building my audience. This means being active online, but also demoing my game at conventions and other gaming events, and asking people to sign up to my email list to keep up to date on the game. I’ve already registered for a table at Breakout Con in March, and I’m looking into Origins in June and Essen Spiel in October, along with some other opportunities.

I’ll be building up my audience, including using Facebook ads leading up to the campaign (not just after it launches), allowing fans to try out print and play levels, and will be putting together a large number of prototypes that I can ship to players and reviewers in advance.

Besides having a great game, it’s so important to have raving fans who will back your project on day one and help you get it funded quickly, which leads to more people seeing and getting excited about your game.

I will also ensure that I have at least three good reviewers lined up well in advance who have a strong following and who I know will love my game. My #1 pick would be Rahdo. Will he accept my request to review Relics of Rajavihara? We’ll have to wait to find out!

Closing thoughts

If you’re thinking of running a Kickstarter campaign, there are certain things you need to do to be successful.

Build a following.

Get people to try your game and get excited about it.

Hire reviewers and previewers who you know will love your game and help get the word out.

What have you seen done in a Kickstarter campaign that got you really excited? What made you want to back it on day one?

I’d love to hear from you.

Please comment below to let me know.

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