Kickstarter. It’s all the rage these days. As the Dungeon Bastard quipped during while hosting the ENnie Awards, one of the most common greetings between game industry insiders at this year’s Gen Con was “How’s your Kickstarter going?” Indeed, it would be only a slight exaggeration for me to say that practically everyone I know is either wrapping up, in the midst of, or planning a Kickstarter campaign.
For those of you not in the know, Kickstarter.com is a crowd-funding website. That is, a site where people with creative projects can go to try to raise money to fund their ideas. You post your idea (usually with a short pitch video) and set a time-frame for your fund drive, then try to get the world to take notice. People who think your project is worthwhile then pledge to give you some amount of money. If, at the end of your allotted period, you’ve raised enough pledges to cover your goal, then the pledgers are charged the allotted amount. If you don’t, then the drive is unsuccessful and no one gets charged a thing. It’s all or nothing. No one ends up throwing good money at a project that fails to reach critical mass.
What do the supporters get out of it? That depends. Generally, each fund drive will offer different rewards for different levels of funding—everything from a simple thank you email to a finished version of the final project to rare and valuable bits of project-related memorabilia, if the pledge level is high enough.
In most cases, Kickstarter ends up being an entrepreneurial kind of advanced sales tool. People pay up front for a product they want to get once the work is done. It’s market-driven patronage. People with good ideas (hopefully) get an audience to pre-pay them to create something that they otherwise might have done out of sheer inspiration, and the artist then has a built-in audience instead of having to search for one after the project is done.
In a word, it’s brilliant!
Not only that, it’s kind of addictive. Once you’ve funded a project that otherwise might never have been, once you’ve been a driving force behind getting a project you support off the ground, you want to do it again. And the urge comes back even stronger a few weeks or months down the line when the fruits of your support show up on your doorstep—a gift you bought for yourself, and for the world, by enabling its creation in the first place.
As I said, I have a lot of friends who have Kickstarted (or are currently Kickstarting) projects. Indeed, I’ve been involved in a few fund drives, myself. My first one was two years ago with a failed attempt with Super Genius Games to fund a modern incarnation of the Pathfinder RPG that we were calling “P20 Modern.” We learned a lot from that process, lessons we eventually put to use in our recently concluded (and successful) Kickstarter campaign to revive Dungeonaday.com. But in between, I helped out on a couple of Kickstarter projects with my buddies at Gaming Paper, and I promoted quite a few other projects by my friends and colleagues.
Along the way, I paid attention to what worked and what didn’t work in terms of types of projects, ways of marketing, systems of rewards, and style of communication. I thought I was beginning to understand just how Kickstarter worked … but this past month I was shown the light. A Kickstarter campaign like no other before it came along and showed me what crowd-funding could REALLY do.
And that will be the topic of my NEXT blog post.