Hello everyone, I am back! So I am so sorry but it has been almost a year since my last blog post. I am so sorry about that! Between being extremely busy and not being sure exactly what to write about, I definitely dropped the ball on this blog.
If you have been following along, this past May I launched a campaign for our latest game called The Neverland Rescue. The game was designed by well-known superstar designer Scott Almes and it was beautifully illustrated by the extremely talented Jacqui Davis. These factors combined with the interesting gameplay and overall aesthetic, I would have thought it nearly impossible that this game would struggle to hit our modest goal of $10,300. However, I will be honest in that the campaign performed way below where we would have expected. There are a lot of reasons that I believe led to the struggle, but with some mid-campaign changes and an amazing community, we ended up funding on the final day! I wanted to touch on all the ways we worked to pick this campaign up when it felt like it was not going to happen.
Did We Really Just Want to Fund?
The first issue we had to address was “do we really want this campaign to barely fund?” It was clear from the funding trends that if we were going to push to get the campaign funded, we were only going to just barely fund (if at all). We had to decide what was better for us, to just barely fund or to cancel and relaunch with hopes of overfunding.
For our situation, just barely funding now was better for us overall. First, we have a lot of projects in the pipeline that we are very close to moving forward on. If we had to stop progress to relaunch Neverland Rescue, this would basically set back all of our future projects and total screw up our timeline. Second, the emotional toll of having Neverland not perform as expected after pouring endless amounts of time and a decent monetary investment was emotionally distressing and draining. The thought of having to spend more time setting up another campaign that may or may not perform as we expected was something we did not want to deal with. Lastly, we have channels of distribution set up, so we have a plan for moving the game after the campaign. We know what we plan to do to move forward with the game and we are confident that the game will have a successful life post-campaign, so campaign overfunding was not a requirement for us as we made the goal enough for us to perform an initial print. Just barely funding would be enough to get us off the ground and be able to move forward with it as we planned to. For some creators this is not the case and just barely funding can lead to a whole slew of issues down the road but we have been doing this long enough we were sure of how we were going to move our excess units post-campaign.
Address What Is Wrong With the Campaign
Once we determined that we were ok with just barely funding, we had to decide on how we were going to make funding happen. We examined our campaign page, reached out to colleagues and potential backers, and tried to determine where we went wrong and how we were going to address the problems. Although there are a handful of missteps that I feel I made in the campaign/marketing strategy, I felt out two biggest issues were 1) not enough eyes were on the campaign and 2) the gameplay itself was not connecting with potential backers. We tried to address both of these problems with the same solution. For us, the most interesting part of The Neverland Rescue is the deduction that Hook has to do during the game. Peter Pan has 5 secret hideouts (out of a possible 10) and Hook has to guess which 5 Pan has based on clues received in game. We wanted to share how much fun this is, so we created an image that contained some of the clues Hook receives in game and we asked people to perform the deduction and guess what Pan’s 5 secret hideouts are! In order to incentivize people actually looking at it and getting involved, we offered anyone who made guesses an entry into a giveaway for one of this year’s Spiel des Jahres nominee Azul. Azul is very hot right now because of this and we knew the giveaway would get engagement. Once people got immersed in the puzzle, this felt like a surefire way to not only give examples of gameplay but to share the feelings experienced in game with everyone.
We also added this riddle/deduction image to the campaign page in order to better help explain gameplay to potential backers examining the gameplay page.
More Eyes, More Eyes, More Eyes!
Once we made changes to the campaign page that we felt would result in better conversions, we knew we had to spread word of the campaign page better than we had been doing. One way of doing this was the contest for Azul that I described above (which we shared throughout social media – Twitter and Facebook groups). On top of this, we coordinated as many interviews and play-throughs as we could fit in. There were some weeks where Scott or I would be doing 4 interviews in a week. I knew I had to do whatever it took to get the game funded so I basically spent every free night I had doing interviews and live play-throughs to help spread the word. On top of all of this, I increased Facebook ad spending in order to further continue spreading word of the game.
This last part I cannot emphasize enough. So they say it takes a village to raise a child, and did I feel that sentiment during the closing week of the campaign. On top of everything I did to get this campaign funded, our community rallied behind us and truly was the reason we funded.
I have been doing this for a few years now and have developed a lot of friends in this industry. I have been a member of the Indie Game Alliance, a frequenter of the Game Crafter chat, and just cultivated many friendships throughout the years. On top of all of this, I formed many new friendships during this campaign. One amazing group was the team at Geekspiel as well as many content creators and reviewers that we had never worked with before. There are way too many people to touch on them all and I am so sorry if I missed anyone but wow did these amazing people all rally together in the final week of the campaign.
During the last week, we came into it shy of our goal. I have never gotten so many notifications on all sorts of platforms from all of the amazing people tagging me posting about the campaign. There had to be at least 100 shares on Facebook and Twitter about the campaign. I would literally leave my phone for 5 minutes and come back to 50 new notifications. It was truly humbling and I cannot express the emotions that our community had us feeling in that final week. So THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of those who truly believed in us.
So to pull this all together, the main things to take away from this is that if your campaign is struggling to fund, you have a lot of things to consider.
- You must decide if just barely funding is enough for you?
- You need to step back and figure out why your campaign is not performing as well as expected.
- You need to make positive changes and find ways to express these changes.
- You need to connect with backers, people who may have previously passed, and those who never saw the campaign and make clear what changes you made.
- Never stop believing in your campaign and in yourself!
Has anyone else out there been in a similar situation? Do you have any stories of overcoming a rough start to reach your goal? I would love to hear it!