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Chern Ann

What I learned from the Zombicide Kickstarter

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Coming off our Zombicide Kickstarter campaign, I've been asked how it was quite a bit, so in order to save time (and for the sake of my memory), here are my thoughts. We raised $781,597 of a $20,000 funding goal, and were funded 3900%. For a brief time we were the #1 funded Boardgame ever, and #9 most funded project on Kickstarter (before being knocked off and out by another boardgame, Ogre and soon by the Pebble Smartwatch).

Before you begin
Kickstarter is not a replacement for your own marketing and network. It amplifies it considerably, but if you have no voice to begin with, it's not likely to do anything for you. If you don't have an existing network to reach out to, it's important to build it first before launching your project on Kickstarter. An excellent example of this is Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter album: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/...-book-and-tour, wildly successful, she's raised over $600k as of time of writing out of a $100k goal, with 17 days to go; she's described her Kickstarter as merely the culmination of networking for over 3 years with fans and anyone who would talk to her, and not the beginning of her fundraising campaign. Kickstarter's guide talks a lot about building trust, and that's incredibly important.

Make sure you have a good product, and you're working with a great team. The team at Guillotine Games threw their support behind the campaign 100%, and internally we had great guys on notice to churn out graphic headers and do voice over work (Kris and Bryan). We were extremely ready because of this, even when our initial funding was exceeded and our stretch goals broken again and again. While the campaign is running, you have very little time to make decisions, so the more team members you can rely on for anything from graphics, to sourcing, to marketing deals, the better.

Your Video
No one cares about your dream, you need to get their attention quickly. Be honest, do you care about my dreams? (You're sweet if you do, call me if you're cute). Unless you're a celebrity or otherwise integral to the project (e.g. the comedian on a comedy album), telling the camera that your life dream is this project probably won't be very moving or effective, and likely to lose you a pledge. Kickstarter has moved on from its early days and you're competing against other projects for attention. In many ways it is like a classic elevator pitch to a venture capitalist for funding, you need to express your idea in a very catchy and concise way within 30 seconds or less. Once you have their attention, you can go on and do your whole pitch, describe your fictional universe, your electronics project, whatever. Remember, the hard part was getting people to click to your Kickstarter page to begin with, if you can't make them sit through your video you've wasted a lot of marketing effort.

Voice is very important. I've noticed that videos need to have some kind of recorded voice, either in the form of talking into the camera, or as a voiceover in order to succeed. Slideshows, even with fancy animations, won't cut it. It makes sense, I don't recall ever seeing a commercial that was all sound effects, color graphics, text and no voice. Not even the really cheap late night premium rate phone ads.

Highlight your project in a flattering way
. Not much more to say there, I think it's good to assume that your audience has no understanding of what the project is, so here's your chance to put your best foot forward. If it's a product, then a highlight reel of its best and most important features etc. Don't get longwinded, the Kickstarter page is fairly similar to an Internet sales letter in that it can be as long as you want. The important part is that you grab your potential Backer's attention, and then explain the rest either in text, or in follow up videos in the "Story" part of your campaign.

Everything else can be a little shaky or silly, so don't sweat having a grand production. We spent very little money on our Kickstarter video, and nothing on the follow up gameplay video (I hacked it together in iMovie, and Bryan Steele did the voice over on a cheap mp3 recorder).

During the campaign
If possible, get in the real world. For us, demonstrating the game at conventions was extremely helpful in terms of building trust that the product was real and fun. While our own network got us to our funding goal relatively quickly, it was this event that increased visibility to an audience who didn't know us, and were also willing to vouch for in forums and in our own Kickstarter comments thread.

Be responsive and prompt. Answer your personal messages within the hour if possible. The folk with questions are almost certainly 70% of the way to making a decision to back your project, and just need their one or two concerns addressed. I got very little sleep in the 30 days of the campaign, and answered almost every single PM, except for those answered by Percy (who kinda gave up and left me to it) and the really strange ones (story for another day).

Listen to your Backers..... I'm not the pioneer of optional items added to Kickstarter campaigns, but for Zombicide it added significantly to increase an average pledge to $140 for a $90 game. Giving Backers what they wanted, in this case, components usable in the game, rather than swag, helped us out significantly; more so, I think, than selling more swag like mousepads, caps, etc....

Until you don't. One of my most controversial decisions was to seek the Penny Arcade license 5 days before our KS was scheduled to close. The French team at GG thought I was nuts, but trusted me enough to support the decision. Almost none of our Backers asked for the Cardboard Tube Samurai as a stretch goal, and some were very vocally displeased indeed when he was announced. However, at this late stage in the campaign, any further growth would have to come from folks who hadn't already heard of us (there would be no amount of stretch goal or freebie I could throw at someone who simply didn't think the project was interesting). Penny Arcade is one of the most visited sites in USA geekdom, and the CTS helped us reach a whole new audience. I think this additional exposure greatly assisted in doubling our total fundraising between the 3rd of May at the time of the announcement ($370k), to when we closed on the 6th of May ($781k).

Had I polled existing Backers on what they wanted, Zombicide wouldn't have gotten the Penny Arcade sourced backers. Everyone got a nice reward in the end though, in the form of a square-jawed Troy promo figure.

Be aware, and seize opportunities. I had no idea Penny Arcade would talk about Zombicide, and once I found out I immediately asked for the CTS license. The team at GG was working on the art even before we knew if the deal was closed. Our window of opportunity was very small, and we took it.

Be careful. If you aren't already prepared in terms of the ability to quickly source and get quotes for additional rewards etc, make sure you don't go out of pocket in the rush to keep up with your Backers in terms of stretch goals or optional items.

After the campaign
I'll be upfront, I found Kickstarter's survey system only marginally useful for a project that grew to this size because the surveys aren't currently editable after they've been sent (they can only be sent once), and Backers can't change their answers after 10 minutes. I've suggested that Backers be able to change their answers until a set time by the Project Owner (which everyone knows in advance), because we're all human and mistakes will be made. We're actually coding something right now to handle the survey results, collect errored payments, additional optional items and shipping. Hopefully this will change at Kickstarter in future.

Of course, now we have the problem of shipping out over 5500 games, which is a nice problem to have. Since our roots are as a mail order company handling thousands of orders a month, this isn't a huge problem for us. For someone who's never handled mass retail shipping before, it'd be a considerable challenge and is worth planning properly before the campaign starts.

Also, hopefully the games will arrive early, it's always nice to overdeliver on expectations, especially on the expectations on the nice people that let us hold their money for a couple of months! We intend to do other stuff on Kickstarter, so a great reputation of reliability is something we intend to cultivate.

So, that's pretty much it from me, if you have any questions feel free to comment.

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Updated 05-15-2012 at 06:48 PM by Chern Ann

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Comments

  1. cyberakuma's Avatar
    Very informative and helpful i've been trying to explain to a few mates in bands how the site works as there is a clone site here in the u.k. Just for music acts this could go a long way towards helping people out using sites like this when they are completely unfamiliar with itbor have just seen things from the pledgers side

    one thing though there was a car advert here in the u.k. That had no voice over it was a gimmicky one admittedly that just showed the car with music and told the viewer to use their subtitles (i think you call them.closed captions) to find out all the details but that is more the exception that proves the rule on advertising
  2. cyberakuma's Avatar
    Though i may stop recommending the site altogether having see what they are doing to the guys at soda pop miniatures over tentacle bento
  3. Chern Ann's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by cyberakuma
    Though i may stop recommending the site altogether having see what they are doing to the guys at soda pop miniatures over tentacle bento
    Don't follow, last I checked their Kickstarter was still doing ok, unless you're saying Tentacle Bento shouldn't be on Kickstarter.

    Edit: Just realized Tentacle Bento is mysteriously not coming up in searches on Kickstarter, although you can reach it directly via Google still. Looks like Kotaku's negative publicity is causing problems.
    Updated 05-15-2012 at 04:31 PM by Chern Ann
  4. cyberakuma's Avatar
    That's what i.meant chern kickstarter are giving sodapop a spot of bother by the look of it no word from them on the matter as to whether it is in regards to the stuff on kotaku or just technical. It's unprofessional to say the least that they haven't told john what is going on not that the negative publicity is hurting the pledges but isolating them so kickstarter regulars can't find them is bound to be having some effect
  5. cyberakuma's Avatar
    And now that their project has been suspended that is me done with kickstarter as from the look of it it's the reaction many.others are having to
  6. Dblood's Avatar
    Voice in the video is not that important. Marketing on news sites, websites and blogs and quality of artwork is orders of magnitude more important.
  7. Chern Ann's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Dblood
    Voice in the video is not that important. Marketing on news sites, websites and blogs and quality of artwork is orders of magnitude more important.
    Have to disagree with you there Eric, at least about the not that important part, especially since adding voice is incredibly cheap if you're already doing a video.
  8. Dblood's Avatar
    The video just has to be interesting and catch the eye. From my experience it is just a hook and nobody really cares about someone professing their "love" about their project, even though that is what Kickstarter wants us to think. Maybe that was their grand idea, to have people make things personal and be pitching ideas on camera like in that show Shark Tank. Wouldn't it be better to focus on what someone is good at, if that was art or music or video production. Voice may be cheap but it then looks unprofessional and sounds cheap unless one has the talent, so why not avoid that and just make something that looks good and has nice music and as interesting. Then focus energy into marketing on websites, something one has to do anyways. I just think one can do just about anything for the video as long as they have the marketing muscle, artwork and a good description of the product and plan.
    Updated 05-16-2012 at 10:32 AM by Dblood
  9. Chern Ann's Avatar
    I noticed our video, and those of other gaming projects, were often embedded into blogs and news sites that promote the story. In my opinion, the video is an extremely important marketing tool and is often the first thing that most people will see about the project, even before they land on the Kickstarter page; the facts simply don't support that years of consumer behavior, i.e., the expectation of connecting to and hearing a human voice, has simply gone away because it's the Internet. The only thing springs to mind in advertising that is the exception to this rule would be movie trailers for purely action films with deep ominous music.

    What you're saying is that video isn't particularly important or compelling, and that print, web or traditional pressing the flesh alone is "good enough". I'm not brave enough to do that though, especially with the low cost of everything -> You've paid for the great art, built the wonderful marketing network, have a solid plan and now, the least expensive bit, but the part everyone sees first -> meh video.
    Updated 05-21-2012 at 01:11 AM by Chern Ann
  10. Dblood's Avatar
    I'm not saying video is not important, just that speaking in video is not important. I'm saying that as far as Kickstarter goes, the videos where someone stands in front of a camera and talks about his project are gone as the popularity of crowdsourcing increases. I think coolmini's success was all about mindshare and the enormous popularity of the site, and the fact that the people making the product were ex-rackham employees, and the the art was good, etc. The video could have been anything and it would not have mattered, as long as there was a video to get distributed around. My point is that the design of the video just has to catch one's attention and that can be done in many ways.
  11. shamar's Avatar
    I would disagree. People that back kick start projects like to be part of something neat, and successful. They want to say, or think, I was part of this. The explaining of the project and why they think it will successful give the backer the extra information they need to make that decision. People remember only 20% of what they see, but when you have seeing, and hearing it is 60%. This makes the project stick out more to the potential backer, as well as increases the chances of it keep come back up in their minds as they are try to make a decision. Few people drop $20.00 or more just on after seeing something once.
  12. Dblood's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by shamar
    I would disagree. People that back kick start projects like to be part of something neat, and successful. They want to say, or think, I was part of this. The explaining of the project and why they think it will successful give the backer the extra information they need to make that decision. People remember only 20% of what they see, but when you have seeing, and hearing it is 60%. This makes the project stick out more to the potential backer, as well as increases the chances of it keep come back up in their minds as they are try to make a decision. Few people drop $20.00 or more just on after seeing something once.
    All I can say is that my experience is that the video just has to catch someone's interest, and nice music and good production works well also. It worked for me and I see it working for at least one other small group now. I'm sure none of this would not have mattered without being able to post on multiple blogs and websites for marketing purposes, though.
  13. roninjr's Avatar
    Chern,

    Thanks for another very informative and incitful blog. You opened my eyes to many more opportunities.

    Stay Frosy up there at the pointy end of the spear!

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