Lessons about Community and Kickstarter Learned at Gen Con

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Not all of us got to travel to Gen Con with the Kickstarter Games team, but reading superbacker Rod Meek’s notes from our panel, you could practically hear our Head of Games, Luke Crane, on stage. Rod’s takeaways emphasized the importance of community (and the importance of having the resources to manage your community), sticking to your plan, and having confidence in yourself and your idea. Here’s what he shared with our team.

From left to right: Mitch Gitelman, Elan Lee, B Cavello, Max Temkin, and Luke Crane
From left to right: Mitch Gitelman, Elan Lee, B Cavello, Max Temkin, and Luke Crane
 

Whilst at Gen Con 2016, I attended the Kickstarter War Stories panel and I felt compelled to take some notes about the session. Here they are:

1. Perhaps the major takeaway, which took me by surprise, was that all of the panelists agreed that a successful campaign was more about CROWDfunding than crowdFUNDING. Yeah, getting the precious, precious money was cool and all, but they were more interested in attracting, developing, and maintaining a community of followers.

2. Community management is very important and you should have someone dedicated to all the social media channels and to handling the comments section and replying to key items. 

3. Be sure to stay on top of your email account. If your Kickstarter account is configured to receive an email for every new backer that you get and your campaign has thousands of backers, your account might get throttled by your email service provider (meaning that they could stop sending emails to your account).

Editor’s note: You can adjust your notification settings on Kickstarter to receive a daily digest of your project’s pledge activity, rather than a notification for each pledge.

4. Most backers are pretty cool and encouraging, but there will be a few that will be a handful to manage.

5. Know all of your possible add-ons and stretch goals in advance and do not make things up on the fly. Stay with your core competencies. If you're creating a book and maps and stuff, don't get carried away with stretch goal rewards like t-shirts, stickers, magnets, key chains, and so forth. You don't know how to manufacture those and you'll probably find them to be a source of distraction.

6. Know what you can and cannot do, and don't give in to demands that "You should include X". This is particularly important if you're dealing with the resurrection of a legacy property, or issuing a new edition of an existing property. People are already invested in certain aspects and will have VERY strong ideas of what is "right". Have a plan in advance about what is in scope and out of scope and don't deviate just because a vocal minority is pressuring you to add or change things. Give yourself permission to respond with one of the most powerful tools at your disposal: "I'm sorry to lose you as a backer."

7. Set your goal at a level that ensures you have enough money to make the game. Don't undersell your goal and hope to overfund through stretch goals.

8. As a creator, respect yourself and remember that you are doing this out of love and passion and to fulfill your artistic vision. Don't compromise just to raise more money and let others dictate the shape of your project.

9. Don't be afraid to fail. Kickstarter allows failures with few consequences. Learn from the failure and plan to try again if you can identify things that can be fixed.

10. If you have quite a large project, find a core group of really committed backers and enlist them as your evangelists and advocates and co-community managers. Make them privy to inside info and future plans to get them engaged on your side, and cultivate them as resources who get something out of the relationship and who will wave the banner for you.

Bonus Round

Current favorite live project (with great updates, to boot): The Magical Land of Yeld 

Favorite reward to-date: The DVD packaging and associated bonus materials that came with the movie Lord of Tears, a great little indie horror film out of the U.K.

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