Honesty on Kickstarter is a mistake we willingly made

    Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Dennis Kostroman sharing his experiences of a indie gaming studio running a Kickstarter campaign.

    Busting a few myths for KS starters

    Let’s be honest, no matter how old you are, deep down you still want to believe in miracles. So did we, when we decided to go for Kickstarter with a game that we always dreamed to make. We spent a few years in preparation while analyzing successful as well as failed campaigns on Kickstarter to understand how things work. We also have spoken with a number of experts in the crowdfunding field just to be sure and the result shocked us. They all underlined the same thing over and over – Kickstarter is no longer what it seems and maybe it never actually was. Here are the main things most crowdfunding veterans agree on:

    1. Forget about fully funding your game (in our case) with crowdfunding alone.

    You have to be a household name, a Big Name studio or a celebrity.

    2. Forget about being honest with your final price goal.

    Ask less and you will get more! If you go for the honest and true budget, you are just going to scare people away.

    3. Prepare to invest a lot in Promotion (FB ads, forum banners, reviews and press coverage)

    Unless you are making a potato salad 🙂 of course

    4. Don’t start a KS campaign if you do not have at least alpha or even beta of your game.

    But don’t tell anyone about it promise it soon and only to high-bidders.

    That really has shaken the ground under our feet at first, but then again, even if your parents tell you that fire hurts – what do you do? Right! First you try. Assuming that the quality of our kickstarter page, artwork, concepts as well as our own passion seen in the video will help us explain the high budget we decided to do it anyway.

    Speaking of budgets, here is an honest graphic pie chart of what we need to make our game named Game Master in its core version:

    Our honest goal is £130,000.

    As a matter of a fact the budget is not high at all especially, if you create the game of the proposed magnitude and scale.

    There is absolutely no realistic way this game can be done cheaper than with at least 100k budget. Otherwise it will be a mere shadow of the vision and detailed plan we have. It won’t be a worthy game for our supporters and admirers at all.

    It is really nice to see that there are a lot of beautiful and successfully funded projects on Kickstarter recently. The bar is high for all the ones that are going to follow, but will it be possible to make a complete game from scratch and just for a mere 50K budget? Based on our calculations and experience – We are not convinced!

    How do you spot an honest indie starter from a camouflaged pro?

    The obvious indicator of a pro studio ‘going indie’ that you can base your educated guess on is most certainly the final goal of a particular campaign. Even from a complete outsider’s perspective and not being someone intimately familiar with crowdfunding platforms, you have to admit that when a team of 10 people asks for even a medium complexity game a mere 50K of funding, that does sound suspicious. Considering you have to pay fees for the campaign, taxes to the government and on top of that manufacture pledge rewards, what is there left to make the game itself with?

    There is nothing bad with making Kickstarter a marketing platform for a given title as long as you deliver the final product of decent quality. The main problem here is that thanks to the recent surge in professional studios posing as indie developers and asking for pennies, life became really hard for the real dreamers.

    Fundamentally, an indie going to Kickstarter is looking for funding. For capital and budget to make the whole game from scratch. A professional studio is going to Kickstarter only as a marketing exercise.

    In no way are we trying to discriminate other great campaigns that started lower than 50k goal. We even backed them, but the idea of “ask less to receive more” – feels somehow sad and even wrong. What happens if you only get 50k? Are we going to lie to the people and make a low quality half-game on the budget? Are we going to desperately search for investors, which are in most cases going to impact the game development with purely commercial aims in sight? We can’t afford that.

    Despite all those dream-breaking facts we still decided to try our luck on Kickstarter while being honest. The start was hard, as only friends and family supported us. Then the tide changed as slow but steadily people started to back. The campaign hasn’t even passed the middle point and we are receiving tons of fan mail (the majority of which found us on Kickstarter accidently) and they love the concept with all their hearts! That assures us that we are on the right path and the only thing that is left is to get more people to know about us.

    It is very hard to get in touch with the leading press and media channels for people like us – ordinary folk, without any celebrity or famous game studio status. The only thing we can do is to storm all the forums we can get our hands on. We do that 24/7 now. The really comforting fact is that the majority of feedback we get is short and colorful, with “amazing” being the most widely used word.

    There is still quite a long journey ahead but now we know one thing for sure. Being on Kickstarter, no matter how good your campaign is, is just the tip of the iceberg. You have to prepared the community and press long way in advance. The real hard work only begins when you press the green Kickstarter launch button! Say goodbye to your friends and family, food and sleep are a luxury your trade for your successes 🙂

    It is always hard to start something from scratch. We are ready for any outcome and yes; there may be some changes we would make if we had to start Kickstarter today. But being honest is what we will never change. In the beginning it was only us, a group of geeks from basement with some experience making art and simple games. We love this game and we we will eventually make it anyway. Kickstarter is probably the faster way, but there are always other paths to glory. Keep you fingers crossed and help us spread the word! Game Master is a title you would hate yourself all your life if missed.

    P.S. If only telepathy could work on Felicia Day or Will Wheaton. That would help much better than e-mails and tweets.  🙂