Learning from other Kickstarter projects
I thought it would be good to have a topic to discuss other Kickstarter projects and compare them to The Big Blue Kickstarter. By doing see we can learn what's important for a Kickstarter project to succeed. First of all, forgive me for the long post! With that said:
I think this is a good example of Kickstarter project to compare to The Big Blue: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/995134339/the-realm-game
I'm picking this one because it's not one of those projects that gets instantly funded because there's a big name behind it. It's a new project with an entirely new IP and an essentially unknown development studio, and they're asking for around $300.000. Given those conditions that's a rather though goal to meet. They didn't have a bad start, but it's far from certain that they'll reach their target (Kicktraq shows that they're only trending at 77% of their goal right now, which is a tad worrying for them since at this early stage they'd really need to be at more than 100%). I think it's good to look at what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong.
What they did right in their video:
- Emphasis on the team. In this case they had six different people talking to the viewer. Additionally the video was shot in their own studio and it also showed people actively working on the game.
- Artwork and music. They have beautiful artwork (makes sense since they're primarily a design studio) and music that really sets the mood. To be honest The Big Blue had some questionable artwork. Some of it was really old, some looked like something that even I could make in Photoshop, and some were stock assets that anyone could buy. That really sticks out. This is not done if you want to succeed on Kickstarter. You need to show artwork and content that's created by the team, otherwise there's not much point in showing it.
What they did right on their home page:
- Rewards: lots of rewards and also a good visual presentation of those rewards, with reward matrix already included.
- Structure: they first explain "their vision". Who they are, what they want to do (make a click&point adventure game). Then they explain what "The Realm" is actually about (basic setting and story). They they explain how the game will be played. That's good. The Big Blue went from "The experience", to "visuals", to "animation & sound", to "music" etc... with somewhere along the middle three lines describing the gameplay. Not good.
- About us: this section in their home page explains in detail how the team got to where they are now. The group photo included there is also a great addition, it's something The Big Blue's Kickstarter didn't have.
- Updates: these are absolutely essential. Video updates really help as well, the latest update has one developer showing how they're designing the game in Unity3D: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq0QLDTrR-w
What they did wrong:
- There are some "exclusive" ingame rewards which I'm personally not a fan of. The vast majority of people can't afford to pledge $1.000 on a game, and you don't want to make them feel bad. Also, I think it's somewhat silly how many Kickstarter projects state that "we don't want the publisher's money, we want artistic freedom!" and then you read "for $3.000, we'll have your appearance immortalized in the game!". But of course, the reward needs to be worth it, so I can't entirely fault them for it either.
- Risks and challenges section is a bit lacking in content
- Lack of gameplay: this question is popping up already in the comments, people want to know how the game plays. Whether or not they can show actual examples on gameplay may decide the fate of their Kickstarter project.
- Stretch goals aren't all that clear: if you're going to include them early on, then you need make sure they contain enough details. Personally, I don't think there's even a point in talking about stretch goals until you're sure you're going to reach the goal. The way I see it, if it's clear that the project is not going to reach the stretch goals, all those bullet points do nothing but show what "the game could have been". That's why I'd only add them gradually as time goes on, to avoid showing too many things that the game lacks. I remember people actually cancelling pledges on the Kickstarter Dreamfall because the "Director's Cut" stretch goals revealed that they "cut" content from the game to meet their original goal. Definitely something to keep in mind.
To conclude, it's interesting to see how these guys already have quite a bit of content to show and definitely started this Kickstarter with a good amount of preparation, yet they're struggling to make the goal. It'll be interesting to see if they can give the project a boost. So, anyone have other Kickstarter projects to discuss?
Actually, I really liked the music in the Big Blue video. It instantly reminded me of the Ecco soundtracks and me want to play this game. I do agree with many of your points. I think the next page needs better artwork (one of the things that drew me to Ecco back in the day was the cover art) and needs to show more than 10 seconds of game footage. We need something to get people excited about the game.
Some constructive comments on the Big Blue Kickstarter video:
I liked the use of sound and music in the video, especially when they were talking about songs creating 3D images
-Ed looked uncomfortable in much of the video (shifting side to side in parts), while Spencer looked quite relaxed and spoke more passionately.
-The whole team should have been shown at the start instead of gradually introducing people
-The lighting looked a bit too dark when people were speaking
-Much of the video looked like shots from a nature documentary instead of being directly related to the game.
-The video was not clear what was a mock-up and what was early game footage. (some game trailers say something like "not real game footage" or "footage may not reflect final product")
-Very little game footage was shown, and only part way through the video instead of at the beginning to get people hooked.
-The video showed some of the past games Ed has worked on, but only the logos/cover art. A lot of people seem interested in his newer works so they should show footage of some of the games he's made since the Saturn.
-The video did not say what role Ed/Spencer had in the games that were mentioned (such as Chakan or Kolibri).
-I thought the font used in the video was good and eye catching.
Comments on the Big Blue Kickstarter page
-It shows pictures of the Ouya controller but does not specify if the game is being developed for it
-The writing is vague and too short in many parts
-As some of the early comments said, the mock ups for the game and art all look very rough or like a screensaver
-I think some people were turned off because it looked like the section that had the most work put into it was the creature cards
-The first picture that greets you, the picture of the dolphin where you press to play the video, is not eye catching or attractive - it does not tell me anything about the project.
-Many details that we now know about the game are not on the page. Some people complained the updates were too few and far inbetween.
I admit I was disappointed when I saw exclusive pledge awards for $50+. Since I'm already enthusiastic about this game it didn't put me off that much but I don't know how much effect this could have on a person just browsing to see if its something they might like. Of course this is probably in the minority, most people probably don't care about a white dolphin card or a NPC named after them.
I think the main goals for the next kickstarter should be focusing on the game's most attractive features. We need beautiful concept art, beautiful screenshots and gameplay which the old kickstarter did not have (don't get me wrong it was pretty but most of it was far from finished). We need looks at controlling characters, and things like showing the other alternative player characters will be interesting. The trailer should show gameplay from all angles, so to speak.
I agree with James.
But personally, I think naming an NPC/creature is a silly reward for the amount of money that is usually asked for by KS projects. The fact of the matter is, most people these days do not bother reading manuals or even know what creatures are called, they'll just call it what it looks like. Yes it's nice for creatures to have names to give the game personality and character, but I think it's an overpriced reward and I'd rather have consistency from the team naming the creatures than a bunch of (possibly silly) names all over the place from backers.
The average gamer isn't going to see the octopus in Ecco and say "That's Eight Arms!", they're going to look at it and say "Oh look, there's that giant octopus that killed me a bunch of times." Even in RPGs where you see the same monsters for many hours at a time, 99% of the time I do not even remember their names, it will just be like "those annoying wolf monsters" or something else.
I think a better way to go about it is to have a (free) community vote or a lottery on the names.
I've noticed this project getting a lot of hype.
It is similar to Little Blue in that it is a spiritual successor being made to an old game. They are also working in Unity.
What they are doing wrong:
-Their entire KS page is effectively just a giant online store
-They are effectively making microtransactions to milk people for rewards that are normally part of regular rewards in other KS campaigns (beta access, forum access)
-$90 + shipping is way too much to ask for a boxed version of the game. In my view it should be no more than $50 and all this stuff like books and other "fluff" should come after for people who actually want it.
-I have to scroll down 3/4 of the page to learn anything about their project. There is also no prototype and a rather short "risks and challenges" section. Most people are not going to wade through a wall of text that long.
-They admit that they are recycling resources but are still asking $900K for it. I understand that clay is part of the aesthetic and art direction of the game, but if I am a backer I want my money to go towards making a game, not so that people can play with clay and make the next Wallace & Gromit movie. They say it's going to be an old point and click adventure, which is not a very complicated game format (unlike LB which will have all sorts of physics going on). It is clear that the majority of the money will be going towards the art direction and the rewards rather than the game itself.
-They have no budget breakdown on the page.
What they are doing right:
-They are keeping the game's development focused by having it only for PC, Mac and Linux.
@Ed: This is a Kickstarter you should take notice of, it is very similar to yours. I think it is a great example that you and your team can learn from for the next KS.
Keiji Inafune, the former head of the Megaman series from MM3 onwards, is making an off-license spiritual successor to the classic Megaman series. He's basically giving Megaman the "Big Blue" treatment. Similar to LB, he's making a retro style game catered to his original audience from 20 years ago, but in modern 2.5D graphics.
In the KS video he says he's making the game as an apology to the fans to try to heal the wound from the cancellation of Megaman Legends 3. That wound is still very fresh.
For some background: in 2010 Capcom announced Legends 3 as the sequel to Megaman Legends 2 that people had been waiting a whole ten years for. They got the fans involved in the development and creative process, but then they cancelled the game for the sole reason of spiting Inafune when he quit his job at Capcom, despite his offering to develop it for them third party (similar to how you have offered to develop a new Ecco game for Sega). The whole thing was disgusting and Capcom will never recover from the fan backlash from the cancellation.
While I have a lot to be grateful to Inafune for and have enjoyed many Megaman games, I'm still bitter towards him for his role in the Westernization of Capcom, which played a big part in the situation Megaman is in now. Despite my mixed feelings, his project does make me feel appreciated as a Megaman fan. Similarly, you won't be able to please all your fans but you can make them feel connected, appreciated and involved in the next Kickstarter.
That's actually a perfect example. On one hand, it can be said that well-known people like Keiji Inafune aren't the most deserving of Kickstarter funding, simply because it's the unknown developers that really need the help to launch their projects. You can argue that they're not taking risks. They're just rehashing the exact same formula, and they're basically just asking people to fund a new Megaman game (only without the license). But the truth is that simply works. It would be the same as if Ed asked people to fund another 2D "platform" game featuring a dolphin. It makes things much easier. The reason Ed's Kickstarter failed is primarily because nobody understood what Ed was trying to make. Had he just said, well "we're going to make an Ecco game in all but name", things may have turned out differently.
What's good is that they picked up on a number of pitfalls regarding rewards. Here's a quote from their Kickstarter page:
"Mighty No. 9 is being developed for the PC with gamepad support (of course!), and will be made available through Steam and DRM-free digital distribution methods. Other platforms, including home consoles, Mac, and Linux, are a high priority, but only if we can afford them via stretch goals. Should we reach those goals, anyone funding the project will be allowed to choose which version of the game they would like to receive. The estimated release date is spring 2015."
Remember how I mentioned how important it is to know your audience? That's why they prioritize PC and offer a DRM-free version. Spring 2015 seems like a realistic goal, and they elaborate well on the reasons for asking $900.000,
Overall, you can see they really worked a lot on the Kickstarter page. The page starts with "Classic Japanese side-scrolling action". That says so much about the game already. The artwork, which was really lacking for The Big Blue, here gives us a really good impression of what they're trying to create. There's a lot of focus on the team and companies behind the game, something the Big Blue didn't do. There's downsides, of course, such as the very high stretch goals and perhaps unneeded differentiation between English and Japanese Kickstarter rewards. But at the moment, it looks like they're off to a very good start and reaching the first goal shouldn't be a problem.
I personally won't be backing it because it's a digital only release and I haven't forgiven Inafune for his antics at Capcom in recent years. That aside, my major concern about his project is that it's clearly a blatant Megaman clone and they're not even trying to hide it. I can see Capcom shutting it down with a lawsuit once it gets funded.
I'm sure Ed has already sought legal advice about this, but he will have to convince people that he won't get sued by Sega for making his game too similar to Ecco if it does get funded. From what we already know about BB, it sounds sufficiently different from Ecco that I'm not too worried about it, but it will be an issue for some people to make them think twice about funding the next KS. People don't want to fund a game and have to worry about their money being lost to a lawsuit. I'm not being accusatory here or trying to discourage Ed and the team, I'm just saying it's a real concern for some people.
Off-license spiritual successors aren't an anomaly in the industry, but some of them don't tend to end well. Tear Ring Saga was made by a group of people that worked on the Fire Emblem series who quit their jobs to form their own company. While the game did get released, it resulted in a long series of ugly court battles with Nintendo that dragged on for years.
I'd like to see Capcom try to launch a lawsuit. Imagine the backlash they'd get from the fans. Sega has even less reason to go after BB. They simply have no case anyway, the game is far too different from Ecco. Look at Freedom Planet and Crimson Dragon, if they're not trying to stop those projects I don't see why they would want to try and shut down BB.
This is another similar project, a Kickstarter for a sequel to Shantae, an old Gameboy Colour game.
While the game is popular with GBC fans, the developer, Wayforward, has been controversial in retro game communities in recent months for their handling of the Duck Tales remake (dumbing down the game for modern audiences, among other changes), which could explain why this game has not been funded yet.
@Draikin: The latest news about Capcom's finances came out yesterday: they're dying. They only have $152 million left in their coffers, which is not a lot considering the bloated development costs games have now, and all their other operations (it also makes Sega look very wealthy in comparison). In particular, they lost a ton of money on the DMC reboot thanks to the entirely justified fan backlash. The fans have been successful at punishing the company through boycotts for treating their fans with contempt and killing nearly every last one of their IPs. Now the company is digging their own grave by shifting to a majority focus on digital only (the only business model the fans can't boycott without pirating the game) through online games, social games, and DLC - stuff they are already despised for. It won't bring Megaman back in the meantime, but at least when Capcom finally goes under someone can buy their IPs and actually do something with them. It's shocking how many of the giants have fallen from grace in the last eight years, the industry is going through another "extinction event".
By the way, I acquired a copy of Nights. It's an interesting mix of genres but the actual gameplay itself is tedious. It doesn't choke on 3D like I've seen other Saturn games do, but the limited screen space and pop-up effect adds to the hassle. If you like the "dream" theme you might want to check out Little Nemo: The Dream Master for NES.
This was a similar project to Big Blue, a failed KS for a new Boogerman game by the original creators. Boogerman is a somewhat obscure Genesis game from late in the console's life cycle (1995). The game is in somewhat of a different boat from what we've seen in other retro-oriented KS projects so far, as Boogerman wasn't especially popular like Ecco, nor was it a rare game with a limited release like Shantae.
They were asking for $375,000 to develop it for Windows, Mac, Linux, Vita, Wii U, PS4 and Xbone. A total of 1030 backers pledged $40,252. They got more backers than BB did, but even less money was pledged.
They advertised the project as an HD remake of the original Boogerman game. They showed some concept art but no gameplay footage. At the time PS4/Xbone were vapourware so they were asking for money to partially develop for platforms that did not exist yet.
They are now regrouping, preparing for a second KS campaign, with an estimated date of early 2014. They are cutting down on the number of platforms to focus on computers and a single, yet to be determined console. Like BB, they are also changing the focus of the game for the new campaign, they are now making it a sequel to the original Boogerman instead of a remake. Similar to LB, they are also making it a game on a smaller scale with a lower funding goal.
I haven't read over their campaign in detail, but it seems to have attracted its niche like BB did. I can see how the campaign would have struggled to attract newcomers, as the concept art they showed looks kind of bland and the original game seems to be a run of the mill platformer. They do seem to understand their audience, highlighting their team's involvement in popular older games such as Donkey Kong 64 (N64 era Rare games have a loyal following). They could have put more effort into their other rewards, since nobody is going to pay $45 for stickers. The statue ($250 tier) they showed off looks like one of those capsule toys you get in vending machines that take $1 coins. At the $2500 tier they have a new special edition of the Genesis game in a green cartridge. While I can see why they would want to make something special for the campaign, realistically all they would have to do is buy the regular black cart off Ebay for $10, take the screws off and transfer the PCB to a new cartridge shell, and that does not cost $2500 to do.