Lesson #12 – 4 Reasons Your Campaign Failed

There are so many great resources out there for budding creators who are interested in funding their games on Kickstarter. Despite all of the advice out there from people like James Mathe and Jamey Stegmaier, it seems creators still make some major mistakes when launching a Kickstarter campaign.

Graph from Kicktraq.com

So you have read all of the pertinent blogs, launched at the perfect time on the perfect day, and did everything else you thought would bring good luck to your campaign, but the campaign still struggled despite your best efforts, and you are left wondering what happened.

Here is a list of four major issues that I think are completely detrimental to a Kickstarter’s success and could have been the reason why your campaign failed (or really under-preformed). Make sure you avoid these major pitfalls.

You did not bring an audience on day one of the campaign

percent photo
Do you have your crowd ready when you click that launch button? Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

You have to bring your audience. This is probably the single most important piece of advice anyone will give you about your campaign. Without a following of people ready to back on day one, you probably won’t get enough people randomly backing your campaign or responding to your tweets about it to fund.

The hard truth is that Kickstarter isn’t magic. The way to be successful is to hit the streets and demo at your local stores and at as many cons as you can in order to have people playing, experiencing, and lined up in anticipation of this game’s launch. Once you hit that launch button, it’s too late to do that legwork.

You should spend much of your lead up to your campaign getting the word out. You should try to bring between twenty and thirty percent of your necessary backers (that is, 20-30% of your funding goal) to your campaign on the first day or two. Know who they are (or where they’re likely to come from). Having backers show up in force on day one has a snow ball effect: the more backers you have right away, the more likely random backers will close the gap.

If your first 48 hours go poorly, you have an uphill battle. Your campaign page will likely fall below the fold on Kickstarter’s listing and won’t re-appear until the last two days. If you can’t find thirty percent in that time, you are almost assuredly going to be doomed from the start with no hopes of recovery in this campaign. Going out and investing in online ads, press releases, spamming Facebook board game communities when you’re struggling might help recover some, but even if they do, you’re probably going to under-perform.

Your art and layout do not stand out

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Art brings eyeballs. Investing in professional art and design can carry a campaign. Photo by Average Jane

Yes, you dabbled in some art or graphic design when you were younger. Maybe you’re good at Power Point. But does that mean you should do the art and graphic design for your own game? Nope. You need professional art and graphic design for your game from people who have experience doing board game art and layouts.

How much art?  You don’t need all the art for your game to do well, but the more you have, the better impression you will make on your prospective backers. There is an insane number of games on Kickstarter these days, and you need your campaign to stand out and look good. At a minimum, you should have your box art done along with probably one or two samples of each type of component in your game.

Is art enough?  Even if your art is good, it’s only half the battle. Poor use of your art because of weak or terrible graphic design can make your game dead-on-arrival. Paying for a good illustrator helps, but backers are also turned off if the components don’t gel well with the game–if colors clash, and the game looks ugly or amateurish, it might not matter how much you paid your artists. Hire a graphic designer to make sure the layout of your cards and boards matches your investment in art.

Keep in mind, good art and design will also help reviewers showcase the qualities of your game. If your game doesn’t have art, it won’t photograph nicely. It won’t look polished on the review sites.

And what’s good for your game is good for your campaign page too. Capturing eyeballs is often as “simple” as having your campaign page showcase your art through professional looking layout and preview images.

Your Campaign Page is not selling your game

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Have you focused on the right thing?

It’s easy to forget: your campaign page is a sales pitch. And, as everyone knows, you should always be closing.

You need to take stock of your page to make sure that you’re selling your game, first. Common pitfalls include: spending a lot of your page (especially at the top) describing how you’ve always wanted to be a designer and detailing the history of the game’s development. Those are nice, but that’s not why people usually back games, and you’ve likely minimized one of the most important aspects of the game: what it is, how it plays, and why I (as a backer) want to buy it.

Casual backers skim pages. You need to spend the few moments you’ll have highlighting things that give them a reason to support your game. What makes the game stand out? Why is it special? What prospective backers should back it? Highlight these qualities so your backers know why they have to have your game over all of the others on Kickstarter right now.

You should also try to include a generic overview of game play (not too much) with a link to full rules for more detail early address what kind of game it is, how many players can play, how long is it supposed to go, etc. This is your 30 second sales pitch. The text should be easily read by someone just skimming the text. Use short, concise statements within structured and understandable paragraph blocks.

Finally, get other people to read it.

You have no reviews!

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Do you have some outside validation? Photo by PersonalCreations.com

This might sound self-serving, but reviews serve a purpose that has nothing to do with getting game exposure (it does that too). It’s about outside validation.

It’s not that backers won’t believe you that your mom [spouse, kid, or friend] says that your game is “fantastic” or “an amazingly, awesome, stupendous achievement in gaming”. I am sure you think it’s great too. But those aren’t objective measures of quality. Plastering your page with those quotes doesn’t provide potential backers a way to validate the substance or understand the context. If it were any other product, you’d probably dubious about those sorts of claims too.

Third party reviewers provide you a chance to get that validation. Even a generic game play overview (rather than a review) signals to potential backers that you are confident enough in your game to send it out to complete strangers. You can’t skip this step, especially if you’re a new, unproven game designer.

If you’re interested in having The Indie Game Report review or preview your game, shoot us a note via our contact page.

In conclusion: is all lost if you fail?

Nope. Even if your first campaign didn’t go over, there’s plenty who succeed by relaunching once they fix there campaigns and bring a bigger audience. Take your time, do your research, build your audience and then come back.

Happy New Year

I hope all of you creators achieve great success and you are never left wondering why your campaign failed. Please be sure to do you due diligence in preparation for your campaign before launching. Do not rush it out the door and remember to reach out to other creators for advice and input before launching. Let me know what YOU think are some major pitfalls that creators make and please reach out if you have any ideas for future posts you would like me to discuss!

All my best and a happy 2017 to your all!

3 thoughts on “Lesson #12 – 4 Reasons Your Campaign Failed”

  1. Hey Dan,

    Thanks for another great article. I know that I certainly fell into some of the traps you mentioned despite my best efforts to follow Jamey’s (and others) advice.

    For what my two cents are worth I would add ensuring that you stay focused on the product you are offering and ensure you know going in what the core of the product is going to look like. This might seem obvious, but I changed player count and went from one versus many to fully coop part of the way through my campaign and I got the impression from talking to some of the backers that that didn’t go over too well.

    Second, it seemed to me that while reviews are good most backers are looking for video reviews, or at very least game play videos. I launched with a couple of written reviews and added the video reviews as they came in and I feel strongly that was probably one of my biggest mistakes, along with not having a big enough crowd day one.

    Raymond

  2. Hey Raymond, thanks for reading the article and taking the time to add some of your personal experience into it as well. I agree that staying focused on your product is very important. It is also important to remember that you cannot please everyone all the time. No matter what you do, someone will find something wrong with how you have done it. I agree that many people prefer video reviews but I am someone who actually is more interested in reading a written interview over a video interview. Again, everyone is different so it is nice having a mix of the two!

    Thanks again for checking out the article and I hope it was helpful!

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