A 'Too Polished' Kickstarter Video Is No Substitute For Connecting With Fans

from the true-success dept

Kickstarter has become a powerful tool for artists and creators to take their future in their own hands and succeed or fail by their own merits. While a Kickstarter based business is not a guaranteed success, it is one of the many powerful tools for that purpose we highlight here on Techdirt. Much like any other business model, running a successful Kickstarter campaign takes a lot of work and a lot of speculation about what your potential fans and backers expect. With all this in mind, it is great when people, who attempt a Kickstarter, share their experiences, whether good or bad.

Over at Gamasutra, one such creator, Ryan Payton, shares his experience running the recently successful Kickstarter campaign for Republique. As Ryan explains this Kickstarter was not an easy success.

I was driving across Seattle's 520 bridge on a beautiful, sunny afternoon on the third day of our Kickstarter campaign, dazed and confused, and momentarily considered hitting the red “abort mission” button on our whole Kickstarter. Fifty-five hours into our campaign and we had only gathered 11 percent of our funding goal.

It was this moment that he realized that he needed to figure out why it was not going as smoothly as he expected. While he lists a number of reasons for why the campaign was struggling and what he did to turn it around and eventually succeed, it was his first discussion point that took me by surprise. One of the reasons he felt his campaign was not succeeding was that many people thought the campaign was “too polished.”

A week into our campaign, we were surprised to see dozens of comments online from people saying: “Look at that game, look at how expensive their video looks… They don't need our money.” Meanwhile, our company bank account was getting dangerously low.

As I sought out reasons as to why our campaign wasn't resonating, I realized that people were put off by how polished everything looked. This was disappointing because, yes, in fact, we worked extremely hard to make everything as professional as possible.

This has been one critique of Kickstarter we have seen come up from time to time. If potential backers feel that the person asking for money doesn't really need it, they will complain and withhold their money. This is an unfortunate attitude for people to take because it really doesn't matter who you are and if you “need the money.” What matters is that you are using the campaign to connect with fans and get the money needed to succeed where you need to.

Initially, I was frustrated at the “too polished” complaints, especially when I remembered the late nights and weekends Craig Cerhit put into our video content. I often thought about the rich guys on Kickstarter intentionally making rough-looking webcam videos to appeal to peoples' charitable instincts and subsequently pull in six or seven figures in pledges.

Based on what I have read about running a successful campaign, having a quality campaign video is one of the primary ways to reach your goal. Even Kickstarter tells people that having a good video is helpful in making a project successful. If your video is utter crap, people will lose interest. But is there really such a thing as having a too polished video turn off fans? Honestly, there is no reason why it should be an issue. Having a high quality video shows off the love you have for your project. That is the important thing to convey to the public and especially to build a report with them. Something that Ryan learned as the clock was running down on the campaign as his team prepared both a new video and a Livestream event on the last day.

Instead of focusing the team on Kickstarter success or failure, we decided to host a Livestream party for the final three hours of the campaign and just have fun regardless if we hit our funding goal. Too distracted to work on the game, the team started prepping food and activities for a big online thank you party for the community. At the time, over 7,000 people had pledged a total of $355,000 towards our game. We wanted to thank them, even if we failed and didn't receive the money.

What transpired what something I was dreading the entire month: dozens of articles with headlines like “République May Miss Kickstarter Goal.” While I was anxious about that negative press, it was calling renewed attention to our campaign, which we smartly prepared for: we uploaded an entirely new debut pitch video that reviewed all of the news from the past 30 days (PC & Mac announce, David Hayter & Jennifer Hale), showed new gameplay footage, and addressed all the feedback we got from the community. We slapped a “New Video!” sticker on the top of our page, welcomed all the new and returning visitors, and crossed our fingers that this time they would pledge.

What happened in that last day was an amazing turn around for Ryan and his team. They managed to complete the goal of $500,000 and then some. An excellent ending for what looks to be a great game.

So what exactly turned this campaign around? Ryan and his team did a whole lot of prep work prior to launching but all that prep work did little toward the final goal. What Ryan learned and highlighted in his other points was the importance of engagement with the community in order to connect.

The final three-hour Livestream was the best idea we ever had. We don't know if the 4,500 views sparked increased pledges, and we didn't care — it was all about connecting and celebrating with the thousands of dedicated backers and enjoying the victory together. By the time the clock struck zero, we were at $555,512 and hugging each other.

I don't really know how many different ways we can say it. “If people like you and your work, they'll pay.” CwF+RtB. Being Open, Human and Awesome. And many more iterations on the same theme. The fact remains, this concept is integral to success.

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Companies: kickstarter

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Comments on “A 'Too Polished' Kickstarter Video Is No Substitute For Connecting With Fans”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I agree. When I first saw Republique, I thought the idea had potential to be a really good game. Reading through the campaign I found out it was iOS only, so I pretty much ignored it. When it hit the top pages again, I checked again just to see how it was doing and saw they opened up to OSX and Windows. I only put in the minimal amount $15. To me it seemed like porting the game was more of an after thought, but it might still be good with an Apple or Razor trackpad.

Donnicton says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s because porting the game was an afterthought.

He didn’t want to do anything other than an iOS port for most of the lifespan of the Kickstarter. It wasn’t until it was obvious that he was going to fail if he didn’t promise ports to other platforms that he finally caved, and along with a Farm Aid-level pity campaign by the gaming media, the project just barely finished under the wire.

I didn’t put anything into the project at all. At the time there were much more deserving people who could use the Kickstarter money(Al Lowe, Scott Murphy, Mark Crowe) and didn’t have the ridiculous attitude that this guy carried about who he would grace with his creation.

I think the only “connecting” and “celebrating” he did with anyone was when he finally realized “Oh! So if you give the people what they want and not just what I want, they will pay for it!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

*Same AC as above.
Honestly, I gave Al a few hundred for his Kickstarter. Not only was it sentimental, but I really want Al to be able to create a truly unique game with his corny sense of humor. I think the big difference is the age group though. People my age already have a connection with Al, Roberta, Ken, etc from Sierra. Those guys are going to have a much harder time, considering Halo, MGS, etc are rather recent games.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:


“This is an unfortunate attitude for people to take because it really doesn’t matter who you are and if you ‘need the money.’ “

Ummm yes, it does matter who you are AND if you need the money or not. I hardly suspect that Sony or Microsoft or Warner Bros. would have much success with any sort of Kickstarter campaign. Although, if the return on a donation were perceived to be significantly higher than the donation, then I supposed that just about any person/company could run a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Huh???

I’m fairly sure they wouldn’t but not because they are big but rather because they are arseholes and ppl don’t really love them. I think that a kickstarter campaign will succeed if the donators receive enough of a reward once the project is completed. I think it’s a matter of how you present your need. I do agree the bar is much higher than with some nobody that came with a nice idea but I don’t see such move by a bigger company as impossible. They could support a nice idea by saying they’ll double what the community puts into the project, they can offer to double the amount into charity donations etc etc.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Huh???

I am talking more along the lines of people like Amanda Palmer and Penny Arcade. They both had complaints that they didn’t “need the money”. Yet, they went on to have successful Kickstarters because they connected with fans gave them a reason to buy. That is the point of this. Kickstarter is not a panhandling service. It is a way to get people to buy into a project before release. A way to have fans feel invested in the project in a meaningful way. That does not require a need for money.

Laroquod (profile) says:

“If people like you and your work they’ll pay” but people don’t like those who come across as overly polished or slick — surely you have perceived that from the modern world. It is the direct result of the constant assault on our senses form overly polished, slick, advertising. If you wish to avoid this knee-jerk reaction, it would behoove you to use production values as far differentiated from commercia television as possible.

AND connect with fans. The world is more complicated than one thing being at play and being the answer to everything. Don’t ever listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.

jsf (profile) says:

Communication is Key

I have backed about 20 Kickstarter campaigns over the past two years or so. I have probably looked at over a hundred of them.

There are two reasons I support a project.

First, is of course interest. This not only includes general interest in the project/product topic, but also the details. For example I prefer to have my games on Windows. So if you are targeting only iOS I will probably not take a second look, even if you add Windows support later.

Second, and I think even more important, is communication. In particular telling people exactly what it is you need the money for. For example explaining that while everything is designed there are a lot of up front setup costs to print or fabricate things. While a cool video is nice, if it doesn’t tell me what the money is going to be used for that just shows me you don’t have a good plan.

Also related to communication, you also need to make updates frequently throughout the campaign. It doesn’t have to be every day, but it needs to be at least every few days, a week at the most. When I find something interesting that is 40 days into a 60 day campaign and there has been only one or two updates, I tend to move along, because it means to me that the people behind things are not really committed to the campaign.

There is one other thing that will turn me off a campaign. That is ridiculous support tiers. So for $25 I get an alpha version of the computer game, but not the final version. not interested. To get the t-shirt I need to pledge $150, goodbye.

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