The many mistakes of Yooka-Laylee

On Friday the 1st of May, Playtonic Games launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Yooka-Laylee, their 3D buddy platformer.

Within 40 minutes, £175,000 had already been pledged, making it a successful campaign, with 46 more days to gather even more funds.

While the campaign is very successful, there has been many small mistakes made during the campaign that are irking me. None of those would have made a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but all together, it would have made the campaign that much more efficient and easier to manage. More importantly, this is a good opportunity to put down a number of advice I regularly share on crowd funding campaigns on common mistakes to avoid.

Of course, this is all also a matter of opinion and you might disagree with my stance on some of the choices made by the team as mistakes.


Mistake #1 — Campaign length

The campaign was set for 47 days.

47 days!

That’s unusually long. Most campaigns are set around 30 days. They are lots of reasons for this. The most important one though: it is the optimal duration.

Crowd funding campaigns are a matter of momentum. Data have showed that for a project to get funded, it requires to reach about 20% in its first 48h. They are exceptions of course, but this proved to be true on a very large scale. Campaigns need to build trust to their audience — having a strong support in the first 2 days, when you are the most likely to get attention helps building that trust. If so many people decide to support you so quickly, it is probably because you have done something right.

30 days is the ideal length to build momentum without losing the audience interest (longer campaigns lose people apparently, setting the deadline so far in the future that they don’t feel any urgency to support the project when they first hear about it and get more likely to not support it at all).

Finally, you have to keep in mind that the most money is generated on the first 2 days and the last 2 days of a campaign. The period between the beginning and the end of a campaign are painful. Creators often refer to it as the death valley. You get less media attention, the funds collected are relatively small compared to the peak time. A campaign, especially one of this size, can be a drain and very tiring and every extra day is going to take its toll.

tl;dr: Make your campaign around 30 days long. Adjust the end date to fit your schedule, but don’t make unnecessarily longer.

Mistake #2 — Campaign launch date

As I said, the first two days of a campaign are quite important. Also of note, most projects get backed during the week. Launching a campaign during the weekend is particularly bad and almost no one does that anyway. You also want to maximize your media coverage to get the word out as efficiently as possible,

Good reasons to avoid to launch on a Friday to start with. Tuesday to Thursday is the optimal period to launch a campaign.

Yooka-Laylee also happen to launch on the 1st of May, a bank holiday across continental Europe. The media coverage wasn’t incredibly bad, but I am pretty sure it would have been better with a different date.

Mistake #3 — Stretch goals

A very very common mistake and probably my number one advice when reviewing campaigns:

DO NOT ANNOUNCE ANY STRETCH GOALS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CAMPAIGN!

There is nothing to gain by doing it. If you have exciting stretch goals, they will distract your audience from your core campaign. Suddenly, the target is moved in their mind, and while the game might be appealing to them, what they really really want is stretch goal number X. Getting a campaign funded is already hard work, don’t make it more difficult for yourself.

In Yooka-Laylee’s case, they blasted their set stretch goals in the first day…No harm done? I disagree… That game doesn’t cost £175,000 to make (they say so on the page) and any money they get to make the game will help. By adding stretch goals, they make it harder for them to make the game. It would have been way better to not announce anything, see how the first hours/first day went and decide accordingly. You blow your goals faster than you imagined? Great! Announce that one or two stretch goals have already blown and set the rest new goals that drive your backers to spread the word around (usually extra content for everyone; additional languages or platforms are unlikely to get your existing backer base very excited).

Make it easier for you and make it more efficient.

Mistake #4 — The £5 reward

I am a big proponent of having a very low priced reward level. The way Kickstarter works, anyone can donate and not ask for a reward (the No Reward option when you back a project). On the UK platform, the minimum you can give to a campaign is £1. They should have set their minimum at £1 as it does essentially the same as what £1 with no reward would (I doubt anyone really interested in the project would pledge just for the credits).

As I am writing this, 1.6% of their backers have selected that option, for 0.2% of the total raised. They don’t make a difference, they are essentially psychological support. Had the price been set at £1, the campaign might have made a bit less money (£2,500 for a £1,2m campaign at the moment), but they might have gotten more backers at that level. Having those extra persons’ email addresses is very likely more valuable than the extra you potentially made.

Mistake #5 — No gifs

It used to be that a campaign was all about its video. It appears that nowadays, that extra click a person need to make to load a video is a luxury… Adding animated gifs to your campaign is the new essential to get your audience attention.

Having a nice sequence of the game as a well optimised gif will build the good first impression you need for the readers to become viewers.

Closing words

Of course all those mistakes will make no difference for Yooka-Laylee at that stage. They will rock their campaign. It is already the most funded video game campaign of 2015, and they have 45 days lefts (45 DAYS!!! poor Playtonic staff…). But I can’t ignore the fact that it could have been a bit better optimized — and who knows where it would be now if it had?

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