Is Kickstarter a good way to launch your video game? We have answers

Developing and launching a new video game is expensive. From the tools and resources needed during the development process to the marketing and outreach costs once completed, you can expect your budget to stretch well into the tens of thousands. It’s an intimidating amount for many, which is why some developers have turned to Kickstarter to crowdfund the development and distribution of their titles. But is Kickstarter a good way to successfully launch your video game?

To help developers make the best strategic decisions for their budget, we’re going to explore Kickstarter as a viable launching tool for your game and cover:

  • How launching your game on Kickstarter works
  • Pros and Cons of bringing a game to market through crowdfunding platforms
  • Our take on whether you should use Kickstarter to bring your game to market in 2021
How launching a game on Kickstarter works

How launching a game on Kickstarter works

The concept of crowdfunding for video games is still relatively new, having only been popularized by Double Fine and 2 Player Productions in 2012. The two studios launched a Kickstarter campaign for Broken Age and wound up becoming the platform’s most funded project.

However, it’s important to note that Double Fine had name power on its side, having come off the tail of games like Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, and Brutal Legends.

As a potentially smaller indie studio, you’ll want some Kickstarter tips on how to navigate and use crowdfunding as video game marketing. What’s important to understand is that not every Kickstarter will succeed.

In fact, not even half of those created reach their goal. However, there’s a lot you can do to increase your chances of achieving your goal. 

First and foremost, you should understand that creating an effective Kickstarter begins long before filling your page with content

Starting your video game Kickstarter journey

While crowdfunding isn’t a means of marketing your game, a Kickstarter campaign runs like any video game marketing opportunity.

You need to have an efficient team, outline your goals, and know who you’re hoping to target.

Before you launch, you should be focused on building a following that will be invested in the campaign when it launches. This will result in a high return in a short period after launching.

Once you’re comfortable with your audience and feel your plan will result in a successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s time to hit the platform.

When building your Kickstarter page, keep the following in mind:

  • Announce before launching your campaign
  • Blocks of text aren’t your friend
  • Transparency is key to building trust
  • Customer service is essential to success
  • Never overpromise

This is just a sampling of how you tackle a video game launch on Kickstarter. To show that Kickstarter can work, we’ve pulled together some successful launches.

Successful Kickstarter video game launches

Double Fine’s launch of Brutal Legends is just one example of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Others that have made the best of Kickstarter as a video game marketing opportunity include:

  • FTL ($200,542 raised)
  • The Banner Saga ($723,886 raised)
  • Darkest Dungeon ($313,337 raised)
  • Divinity: Original Sin ($1,000,000 raised)
  • Pillars of Eternity ($3,986,929 raised)
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera ($4,188,927 raised)
  • Pipllars of Eternity II: Deadfire ($4,705,542 raised)
  • Shenmue III ($6,333,296 raised)
  • Star Citizen ($185,934,923 raised)

That’s more than $200 million raised through Kickstarter across nine projects. 

The state of Kickstarter in 2021

Launched in 2009, it’s safe to say Kickstarter has changed quite a bit over the years. Before Double Fine changed the playing field, indie developers weren’t big on crowdsourcing for their video game launch.

In 2015 and 2016, gaming was the third most popular category that users pledged toward. With the growing popularity of self-publishing, a tactic that even the three main players (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) have adopted, Kickstarter video games will continue to pop up.

Unfortunately, with abundance also comes a price. Users start to see patterns and become more cautious with their money. As indie developers fail to showcase their game on Kickstarter properly, often showing only pre-alpha footage or never finishing the project despite reaching set goals, backers have become wary of who they support. 

That’s not to say that there isn’t a sizable gaming community on Kickstarter. Just that campaigns need to be more thorough and honest. 

Pros and cons of crowdfunding a video game launch through Kickstarter

No matter what decision you’re trying to make, there will always be pros and cons associated with it. To help you narrow down which option is best for your game’s needs, we’ve compiled a few pros and cons.

Pros and cons of launching a video game on Kickstarter in 2021

Pros of launching your game on Kickstarter in 2021

It’s a direct means for your audience to help fund your project

If you’re looking for help funding a project, having a PayPal or Venmo link can look suspicious and unprofessional. A Kickstarter gives your video game launch a professional look that backers can trust. They’ll know that if there is an issue with the project, they can get their money back.

It’s an all-or-nothing funding scheme

This is a two-fold feature of Kickstarter. The pro of all-or-nothing funding is that if you don’t meet your goal, you’re not still beholden to the rewards or perks you were offering. It also gives your backers peace of mind in knowing that their money is safe, even if the campaign fails.

It offers many reward levels

A Kickstarter campaign lets you be very optimistic with your rewards. On the crowdfunding website, you can set more than 50 reward levels. This is especially helpful if you have a lot to give away, including artbooks, soundtrack codes, demo keys, or exclusive DLC.

Press coverage is possible

Unlike some platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter has the name power and is user-friendly enough to draw press coverage. Successful Kickstarter campaigns are more likely to catch the eye of the major gaming news outlets.  

Cons of launching your game on Kickstarter in 2021

There’s a high failure rate 

Failure is always a possibility, and unfortunately, crowdfunding campaigns have a relatively high rate of not meeting their goals. An estimated 60% of Kickstarter’s campaigns don’t succeed. If you don’t launch your Kickstarter with a community backing you already, it will be a long haul to success.

You have to spend money to make money

A Kickstarter campaign isn’t a replacement for typical video game marketing. You’ll still have to sink funding into advertising your game. In fact, you’ll even have to put money into advertising your Kickstarter – and there’s no guarantee it will succeed.

Backers will also be looking for incentives for funding your campaign, whether it’s in-game footage, merchandise, or even just an updated trailer. Regardless, all of that costs money to make.

You’ll spend a lot of time on Kickstarter

Valuable Kickstarter tips include advice like, “Upkeep your campaign every day.” That’s because being on Kickstarter requires a lot of time. From answering community questions to analyzing data and trying to get your campaign noticed, expect to spend several hours a day servicing your campaign.

The all-or-nothing funding scheme can mean you get nothing

The flip side to all-or-nothing funding is if you don’t reach your goal, you go home with nothing. This can be devastating to a project that may be only hundreds away from a $10,000 goal. Be careful of how high you set your goal to ensure you receive the funding you’ve raked in.

To crowdfund your video game launch, or not to crowdfund your video game launch

To crowdfund or not to crowdfund?

So, is Kickstarter a good outlet for launching your video game? Succeeding on Kickstarter requires a lot of work which, to some developers, may not be possible. If your resources are already stretched thin, it may be worth considering a different outlet. Successful Kickstarter campaigns are the ones that are very closely managed. 

Indie developers that have the time to sink into crowdfunding may find a fruitful response. In many instances, though, the work needed to build and maintain a page can pull resources from other marketing opportunities.

Should you decide to move forward with your campaign, be sure it’s not a decision made out of desperation. You should have a lot of time to put toward developing an effective message, marketable imagery, and information about your project.  

Moving ahead with your choice

With a decision in mind, it’s time to take action. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that a similar campaign will pop up on Kickstarter. Whether you’re deciding to crowdsource your video game launch or go the traditional route, Loopr can help indie game developers bring their game to market with a successful release. 

Contact Loopr today to find out how to get started on your video game marketing journey.

Can’t get enough of this stuff? Check out our video game PR case studies to learn how we’ve helped indie game developers and esports brands just like you.

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