ByAlan Bradley, writer at Creators.co
Alan Bradley is a freelance games journalist, vagabond, and collector of oddities. Find him @chapelzero on Twitter.
Alan Bradley

Crowdfunding has opened the floodgates for independent development, at a time when it was already gathering momentum. Low-budget, small-team blockbusters proved not only that you don't need AAA resources to create a game, but that creating one that really hooked into the zeitgeist could make you a multimillionaire.

The gold rush phenomenon was inevitable, but crowdfunding made it sustainable, and for every mercenary outfit just out to capitalize on a trend and make a quick buck there was a passionate kid whose dream of making games, once impossible, was suddenly and brilliantly coming true.

But crowdfunding isn’t some golden ticket. As much press as the success stories get, there are a huge number of failed projects that never fund and get washed out of the platform.

Sad as these failures are, they’re not without value if we learn from them by treating them as the signposts they are to point us towards the best odds of success. In something as uncertain as crowdfunding there are never any guarantees, but that doesn’t mean creators can’t arm themselves and approach their campaign in the most savvy and educated way possible.

Timing is crucial

As with so many phases of development and marketing, timing is everything when deciding when to seek funds through a crowdfunding platform. Distilled down to its most basic core, what you’re really selling your potential investors is an image, not only of your game but of your creative team and of why exactly you deserve their hard earned cash.

That comes in the form of one long page of information about your game — essentially a fact sheet with an appealing video pitch, some art assets and some crisp text on what your game has to offer and why you need help to usher it into the world.

You need to aim at that sweet spot where you can produce enough to show off a viable product — something that looks fleshed out enough that it doesn’t scare off customers nervous about their money disappearing into the ether.

But you also want to be careful here, because there’s another end of the spectrum where you’re presenting an image of your game as already so far along and nearly feature-complete that a crowdfunding campaign just looks greedy, like you’re searching for funds that you’d be better off getting by launching and selling a finished game. It’s a delicate balance but one that can be struck easily enough with a little forward thinking and with a generous dose of honesty.

Ideally, you’ve been planning on a crowdfunding campaign from early in the inception of your game. You've been aware of the limits of your own resources and known when you’ll be best served turning to alternative sources of funding, but you've ensured that you’ve got some cushion so you can continue development while the campaign is underway.

A great way to build and maintain momentum for your Kickstarter is by continuously providing updates and providing insights into your progress. The better connected you are to your audience, the more engaged they feel in your process, they more likely they are to open their wallets for you and encourage their friends to do the same. This brings me to my second point.

Build first, fund second

The more legwork you can do ahead of time developing an audience and a following for your game, the more likely you are to find success when it comes time to go seeking funds. Tempting as it might be in the early days to go heads-down on design and coding, it’s important to start getting the word out as early as you possibly can.

Again, this is another situation where the more lead time and planning you have, the better. A lot of independent creators don’t even consider how they’ll sell their game until it’s almost a finished product, and end up woefully unprepared to bring their game to market. They find themselves in no place to begin a crowdfunding campaign which relies so heavily on word of mouth.

It behooves you then to start trying to spread the good word about your game as early in the process as you can manage, and you certainly need to budget out a few months ahead of any crowdfunding launch to ensure you’ve got some good will and a solid base of enthusiastic fans to evangelize for you. A strong community and a thoughtful strategy are almost important as a great game at this phase, and yet those things are so often woefully overlooked.

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