Welcome back friend! Here is another episode in the Many Mistakes of… series.
You have to understand that this series of articles exists for the sole purpose of relieving my frustration. I understand projects trying the crowdfunding adventure not getting it right the first time. It is very understandable. What is less so are the projects with significant resources behind them, with ambition and the means to meet them, but not doing the simplest research on the fundamentals of crowdfunding for video games.
Today, it falls on Rap Rabbit to be dissected and its most obvious mistakes put to the light — all for the greater good, so many others can learn from them, and for myself to be able to detached my palm from my face.
Mistake #1 — Stretch Goals
Does it feel like I am repeating myself? It probably is because I am.
Never announce your stretch goal. Never ever. There is no reason to. You are sabotaging the message of your initial goal, you are wasting good messaging ammunition, you are closing the door on your ability to optimize the pacing of your stretch goals.
Rap Rabbit Stretch Goals were particularly badly thought through on top of being announced too early:
- The pacing of the goals was very very wide. It shows an expectation from the campaign managers for the campaign to blow up. A backer could legitimately question the original goal and whether it has been properly weighted as sufficient in itself to complete the budget for the game.
- They got their audience wrong. The number one complaint was how they had set the last Stretch Goal to be the Switch port, at $4.9m, with the Xbox One port set much earlier at $3.1m. It seems that the potential audience of Rap Rabbit would prefer a Switch version rather than the Xbox One (I won’t even go into the costs of the port, they are obviously putting money towards the main game there, as is their prerogative, I just find the way it is presented lacking in transparency). Gosh. If only they had announced it and asked their community about it during the campaign.
- They have little understanding of what behaviours the stretch goals are pushing. Most of them are segmented additional goals that will have very little additional value to the existing backers. They could have mixed them with straight additional content for the game to at least encourage the existing pool of backers to spread the word of the campaign — not that it would matter as they will likely never reach any of them.
Note that after a significant burst of criticisms, the campaign has now removed the Stretch Goals, but for all intends and purposes, it is too late, the demon is out of the bottle, and they have done significant damage to their campaign just with this mistake:
Mistake #2 — No Gameplay Showed
To be fair, this is not so much a straight mistake, than showing total ignorance of best practices of the past 12 months for video games projects that have sought crowdfunding. Showing gameplay, either through video footage or gifs; or sharing a demo, has become essential for all video game projects, including high profile ones. Not doing so is another way to limit the potential of what the campaign could reach in terms of funding (in the best case), or, more often than not, put the campaign in danger of not reaching even its first goal. As I am writing this, it hasn’t reached 10% of the goal in the first 24 hours. From my experience, based on the current momentum and the way the campaign has been structured, I don’t think it will get funded.
The most worrying though, when you consider the lack of gameplay and the very naïve approach of the campaign for Stretch Goals, is that the game is probably at the stage currently showed on the page: there is no game running, just a few concept art, some mock up screens. If they have anything else, they should have showed it.
I need to be clear: I am not saying that going to Kickstarter with just a few concept art is wrong as a notion, I am saying that in 2017, it doesn’t work. Backers are much more demanding and are not willing to part with their money so early in the development cycle.
Last week, I was at the VEF in France, where I presented the current trends for crowdfunding and video games. The most important to understand is that crowdfunding campaign (well, successful ones) now happen much later in the cycle of the development of a game. You need to spend more on your project before you can show it to the world. It is the harsh reality, and many studios just skip the crowdfunding stage to go straight to Early Access.
Mistake #3 — The Rewards
I won’t go into each rewards level, I will just highlight one point: they are not generous.
When you go to your audience, ask them for money very early in your creative endeavour, the least you can do is to be a bit generous with them. The price points of the rewards seems to be at the full price for the game, with no extra perks offered to the backers (well, that’s not true, they do get exclusive perks at certain Stretch Goals). This would be in itself a minor issue, but in the light of the previous 2 mistakes, it looks incredibly naïve at best, greedy at worse.
While I think what we were showed of the project looks really cool, I can’t understand how a project with such lofty ambitions can make so obvious mistakes.
I understand that not everyone has a passion for the process. I understand that crowdfunding has evolved a lot over the years and keeping up with the trends can be tricky. However, if you want to raise $1.1m on Kickstarter, you should be able to find the time to read a few articles on the topic, maybe watch some YouTube video, or at the very very least, find the time to ask support from the Kickstarter Games team. There are 2 full-time employees (Anya and Luke) whose sole job is to help creators with their games projects. They are making themselves available to everyone, and they would have raised a few red flags immediately and most of the above would have been avoided.
While we are nowhere near Apocalypse Now territory, this campaign has been amateurishly put together. I sincerely wish to be proven wrong though, and for them to succeed…