Use this space to cheer the creator along, ask questions, and talk to your fellow backers. Please remember to be respectful and considerate. Thanks!
I want my money back! v. 2.0
Nekro is dead. I want my money back!
drkSEED: Planning on commenting on this at all? http://s1337.photobucket.com/user/woetoo/media/Nekro/how-dead-is-nekro-thread_zpshttybufk.png.html
No? Seems very easy for you to prove your side of the story and yet we've seen nothing so far.
I dunno about any one else but I'm believing more and more that you're full of shit and have not only tried to mar the reputation of your business partner, but also pull the wool over our eyes to shove an unfinished game out on steam and fuck off with the money.
That about sum it up?
At the very least, send out a backer email to let us know what the heck is going on. I don't care (but would be very disappointed) if the game doesn't see the light of day, I'd just light to officially know why. Closing down any means of communication is just frustrating.
Or, continue on in your spare time. I don't mind a delay of even massive proportions if it means Nekro is finished.
Honestly, I don't care about your petty dramas. Be fucking professional and finish the game, or at least get it to a point where it's content complete and release it. Whether you've run out of money is not my problem. You telling me you weren't doing shit in your spare time before all this anyway? Get a job at McDonalds, and finish it in your free time. Have some damn self-respect.
You're based in Orange County, one of the richest places on the planet. Your #firstworldproblems are fairly meaningless.
Cont: "We added up our entire supply chain, from the very first raw materials supplier all the way to the consumers hands, and there’s 15 steps," Fawcett explains, summing up the hard work. "Fifteen different people who have to get paid, from the time we say 'build this’ to the time the consumer buys it."
About a third of that is manufacturing; another third is worldwide shipping logistics; the rest involves getting it from the final warehouse into the consumer’s hands. But it all happens only after the Kickstarter has been a success.
Only recently, finally, has Fawcett been able to breathe a bit, having worked out a supply chain that’s operating smoothly and without constant oversight. Still, he and his partners have plenty to work on. They’re currently busy planning their next Kickstarter campaign.
Cont: to the United Kingdom, without ever seeing it or touching it."
That first pallet, the one handled by the freight forwarder, did eventually show up in Ohio—just as Fawcett was receiving the fourth pallet he’d shipped himself. "It’s the age old adage," he says, "'If you want something done right, do it yourself.' In some cases, that’s true."
3. FULFILLMENT: AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE
With pallets arriving at home in the U.S.—safe now but quickly taking up Fuse Chicken’s limited storage space—the task turned to shipping the products out to backers. Compared to the hazy and perilous realm of international freight, you’d think this would be a piece of cake. Then again, this wasn’t just dropping off a package at the post office. Fawcett had 4,500 boxes to get out the door.
The first challenge was a deceivingly simple one: pulling the backers’ shipping information off Kickstarter. The site has improved its administration tools in recent months, Fawcett says, but at the time, they were "horrific." The only way to get the addresses off the site at that point was as a CSV file, which they then had to import into Excel, only to export again as something that could be read by their shipping software—an application the team was relying on for printing labels and postage by the thousands.
He thought he had things worked out, until he noticed that some component of his byzantine workflow had stripped the data of its UTF-8 encoding, transforming all the tildas and umlauts in the international backers’ addresses to wing-ding gibberish. Unfortunately, he only caught the error on the second day of shipping.
Eventually, Fawcett and his team ended up designing their own database from scratch, allowing them to selectively sort shipments based on where they were going and what products they included. By September, they’d fulfilled all of the Kickstarter requests—nearly 7,000 units in total. The final cost for all the postage: $25,000.
This shipping morass, Fawcett came to understand, was the flip side of the project’s success. "Those are the types of issues you don’t really have if you have 100 backers," he explains. "If you have 100 backers, you could hand write all the mailing labels. We had to figure out a way to automate the process.
"If you’re planning to raise $10,000 and you raise $200,000, it’s a whole lot harder," he continues. "You have to produce a whole lot more right up front. We ship to 70 different countries. We had to figure that out."
4. THE SUPPLY CHAIN (AND THE TAXES THAT COME WITH IT)
After fulfilling all the outstanding orders from the initial campaign, Fawcett and company started looking beyond Kickstarter. They wanted to keep selling the Bobine, which required signing agreements with sales managers for North America and EMEA, comprising Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This time, it wasn’t just an issue of getting the tildas and umlauts sorted. It meant getting a handle on the esoteric world of international tax law.
It took nearly four months from Kickstarter fulfillment until Fawcett signed an EMEA agreement. Nearly all of that time went into looking at the taxes in the various countries involved and figuring out how it affected their price structure. "Working through the logistics of that was an enormous undertaking," Fawcett says.
The most eye-opening thing was coming to terms with the VAT, or value added tax, which calls for a new tax on the value added at every stage in the process. "They pay VAT every step of the way" in the U.K., Fawcett says, likening it to an additional import tax on the items. "Whereas here, if I bought raw materials with China, did something with them, and then exported them to another country, I could do most of that probably without ever paying sales tax. Over there, if you import something, improve it, and sell it, they get VAT on that."
In addition to being tough to grasp in all its detail, the U.K. VAT posed a more immediate problem for Fawcett. As inventory continued to accumulate, he’d started looking at renting additional warehouse space overseas to store it, and the U.K. seemed like a prime location. But he didn’t want to have to pay the British government a 20% cut if his product ended up getting shipped right back out to some other destination in Europe.
Thankfully, he found a solution in something called a bonded warehouse—a facility that technically exists outside of the reach of the tax code. "In a nutshell," Fawcett says, "the product is no different than if it’s sitting on a boat in the ocean." The designer was now speaking in the language of a true importer/exporter.
5. RESELLERS AND RETAILERS: BE CAREFUL WHO YOU TRUST
Of course, no matter what country it’s taxed in, inventory doesn’t mean much unless there’s a demand for it. The world of resellers, retailers, and distributors was yet another Fawcett was forced to dive into in the months following the campaign.
Thanks to the Bobine’s initial success, there was no shortage of interest in the product. "We got hundreds of messages—literally hundreds—from every corner of the planet, saying, 'I’m the biggest distributor in Czechoslovakia,'" Fawcett says. "I think I actually got five of those from Czechoslovakia."
And indeed the challenge wasn’t in finding retailers so much as picking the right ones. There were comers big and small, from Mom and Pop websites to distributors responsible for entire geographic regions. They tried to be shrewd, but Fawcett admits some mistakes were made early on.
In one instance, they sold a batch of Bobines at wholesale price to a vendor in Australia, who promptly set up a website in the U.K. and hawked them there for cheap, undercutting some other deals Fawcett was making in the region. "We realized you needed to have a really solid grasp of who is selling your product," he says, "to make sure it’s legitimate companies, not just somebody who’s going to buy it at wholesale, mark it up by a dollar and just try to get rid of 'em."
We realized you needed to have a really solid grasp of who is selling your product.
They had a few bites from some big-name retailers here in the U.S., too—though that experience proved to be daunting in a different way. The January after the Kickstarter campaign, the team rented a booth at CES, the annual gadget gala in Las Vegas, in hopes of making some in-roads in the industry. Shortly thereafter, they got a cryptic email from the retailer—Fawcett wouldn’t name them on account of the deal having fallen through, though he says they have "thousands" of stores. It just had a photo of their booth and a note to call them.
As soon as Fawcett returned the call, the retailer immediately replied with a barrage of emails, leaden with massive zip files including some 60 documents in total. There were complex, 30-page PDFs on getting set up as a new vendor. "That was kind of the eye-opener, where we said, 'We need to find people who do this for a living,'" Fawcett says.
Recently, Fuse Chicken hired just such help—a channel management company, as they’re called—to handle pitching the product to retailers. "That was probably the smartest thing we’ve ever done," Fawcett says. "It allows us to focus on new products, and developing products, and manufacturing products, and not have to learn the ins and outs of the retail market." Just a month or so after hiring the outside help, Une Bobine is now available on the five largest consumer electronics retailers on the web, including Amazon, New Egg, BestBuy.com, and more.
Since the first blast of the air horn in May of last year—only a year and a half after the idea for the Bobine first came to him him while he was laying in bed—Fawcett and his co-founders at Fuse Chicken have brought just shy of 50,000 of the things into the world. That, in and of itself, is a testament to the power of Kickstarter.
But Fawcett’s story is a reminder that a product’s journey doesn’t end with funding. While Kickstarter has democratized and decentralized the process of raising capital, concerns of manufacturing, shipping, and storage still retain the unglamorous grit of the real world. There’s no flashy website for setting up your supply chain. Perhaps that’s the next part of this grand process prime for disruption.
Figuring out that end game is always the next step after funding, whether the product is a documentary or a quilt or an iPhone charger or a smart wristwatch. And yet, as tedious as it may be to complete a movie to satisfaction, smart watches and iPhone chargers leave significantly more room for trouble.
For Fawcett, the last year has essentially been the process of discovering all those little places where things can go wrong. It was a crash course in everything it takes to put a product in a customer’s hands—and an education in how that can end up being so expensive. "I finally understand why the retail cost of a product is so much more than what the manufacturing cost is," he says.
These guys should read this. It might help them understand where things went wrong: The din started on May 7, 2012, the day Fawcett and his colleagues at Fuse Chicken, a four-person design outfit in Akron, Ohio, launched their first Kickstarter campaign. They were trying to raise funding for Une Bobine, a product of Fawcett’s design that stuffed an iPhone charging cable inside a metal gooseneck, allowing it to double as a flexible docking station and makeshift tripod. It was a simple, clever idea, and the team set out with the modest goal of raising $9,800 to put it into production.
In anticipation of their micro-windfall, the Fuse Chicken office prepared a ceremony of sorts. In the days leading up to the campaign, team members downloaded a slew of sound effects to their computers, with the idea that they’d play them in celebration whenever they received a new pledge. Fawcett’s sound effect was an air horn. Starting that Monday morning when the project launched, every time he’d get an email notification that a pledge was made, Fawcett would let the horn blast forth from his speakers. Then his co-founders would join in the fanfare with sounds of their own—a cacophonous, call-and-response ode to their crowdfunded success.
"That lasted for about two days," Fawcett says.
In the week following the launch, the Bobine racked up a good deal of favorable press coverage. Pledges poured in, and the air horn threatened to upset the collective mental health of the office. It was promptly abandoned. Still, things remained stomach-turningly tense, as unexpected, outsized success can often be.
"There were some days where every five minutes we would have a new backer pop through," Fawcett recalls. "To the point that I just had to close my email sometimes. I turned email notifications off on my iPhone. I closed Outlook. I’d just go sit in a quiet room for five minutes, just to get some sanity."
By the end of the 40-day campaign, in June, some 4,500 backers had pledged $212,265 to make Une Bobine a reality. Along the way, Fuse Chicken had expanded its offerings, introducing a micro USB version of the charger suitable for Android handsets, as well as a shorter length option for each version.
It was an undeniable, unmitigated Kickstarter triumph. But as Fawcett would quickly learn, it was just the beginning of the Bobine’s journey.
Kickstarter successes like Fawcett’s aren’t uncommon. Of the 100,000 projects launched on the site to date, nearly half of them have reached their funding goals, drawing in some $630 million in total pledges. Many are things that probably wouldn’t exist if not for Kickstarter.
Indeed, in the long journey from an idea’s inception to its reality as a product in the hands of a user, funding is an all-important early step. But it’s just one step. Once people have pledged their cash, they expect an actual product, and actually fulfilling an order—getting the product manufactured and in the hands of a customer—is a fantastically complex process.
That could be, in part, why Kickstarter’s been trying to discourage products like the Bobine in recent months. At one point, for every glowing story of Kickstarter successes you’d hear about, you’d see another one about a product failing to come together, or a team sheepishly announcing yet another delay.
That trend came to a head last September, when founder Perry Chen wrote a blog post entitled Kickstarter Is Not A Store, introducing a slew of rules to discourage the types of products that were prone to these sorts of issues. Now, Kickstarter’s in the process of reasserting itself as a community for artists to find funding, as opposed to a place where designers go to raise capital to build products.
Still, even now, scores of gizmos do make it onto the site, and there will be many more teams, like Fuse Chicken, who find themselves faced with the daunting task of figuring out the second part of the Kickstarter equation. In Fawcett’s case, it required opaque negotiations with manufacturers on the other side of the globe, the mastery of dozens of different international tax codes, shrewd management of inventory, and some positively heroic acts of shipping.
And while Kickstarter helped raise the funds, it certainly didn’t lend a hand with any of that other stuff. As Fawcett says, "You have to navigate those waters on your own." Here’s how he did it.
1. MANUFACTURING: LINE IT UP BEFOREHAND
Right from the start, in terms of fulfillment, Fawcett had a big advantage over many of his Kickstarter cohorts. He already had relationships with manufacturers in China.
In the 15 years Fawcett’s been the head of Fuse Chicken, he’s designed dozens of products for other companies. In many cases, as designs were being finalized, he’d work directly with manufacturers, ensuring that the product coming off the assembly line was the one he and his partners had dreamed up. So when he launched his Kickstarter in May, he already had a manufacturer for the Bobine selected.
"We were basically ready to go," he says. "It’d be pretty dangerous if you weren’t … And that’s probably why you see some of these products fail miserably. Because they don’t truly know how much it’s going to cost for production."
With that previous experience, Fawcett was able to set goals that were grounded in the real world of manufacturing. He knew that it would cost $2,000 or so to make an injection mold for the first product—the full-size, iPhone-compatible Bobine—and he was already ordering the steel for that purpose while the campaign was still live, hoping to get a jump start on fulfillment.
As he saw interest balloon in the following weeks, Fawcett calculated how much additional molds for new versions of the Bobine would cost and introduced them correspondingly, as the pledge level grew higher and higher. In the end, the team spent nearly $50,000 on eight different injection molds for all the parts they needed. That may seem like a tremendous expense, and it is. But Fawcett could go through with it confidently, knowing both the amount of funding he had to work with and the prices associated with the molds and manufacturing.
Still, that was about as far as the designer’s familiarity with the manufacturing process went. For everything after, he’d have to learn on the fly. "This was our first time having pallets of product in China," he says. The next challenge was getting them home.
2. BRINGING THE PRODUCT HOME: CUT OUT THE MIDDLEMAN
In many senses, at this point, the product is very real. It’s been manufactured and it’s sitting somewhere on a pallet. A single pallet is 3,000 units. That’s 3,000 products for which you’ve already accepted hard-earned money and are now responsible for delivering to customers.
Still, at this stage, those products can be agonizingly distant. You imagine them being susceptible to clumsy handlers and whatever other unknown dangers might befall a pallet of 3,000 products sitting in some warehouse in Shenzen. The first order of business, then, is getting them home safely.
Here, Fawcett allowed himself a shortcut. He was already running behind on his promised fulfillment date, and he wanted to get the first Bobines out to backers as quickly as possible. So he figured he’d let an experienced, third-party company handle the business of getting the first batch of units back to Akron. "We thought, right up front, let’s find a freight forwarding type of company. Somebody that we can call and just say, 'Pick up the product, deliver it to our office. Tell us how much it’s gonna cost, and handle everything,'" he remembers. "That’s what we thought we were getting."
One week and dozens of frantic phone calls later, the pallet was still sitting in the warehouse in China.
It’s not exactly what he got. Fawcett did find a company that said they’d handle the job, coordinating with the Chinese factory and UPS to make sure the pallet got to Ohio safe and sound. He and his co-founders even elected to go with an expedited shipping option, paying $7,000 to get the first pallet back to the office in one week, as opposed to the typical three.
Yet, one week and dozens of frantic phone calls later, the pallet was still sitting in the warehouse in China. The freight forwarders had failed miserably. "I don’t know if they were a little bit of scam artists, or if they just weren’t competent at what they were doing," he says, but for the next pallet, he resolved to cut out the middleman and go through UPS directly.
That meant a little extra leg work, but in the end it was worth it. "It was about four hours of reading through UPS web pages and documents to figure out how to do it, and one phone call to make the arrangements—and then it was done," Fawcett says. "It’s not that difficult, having done it—but it’s one of those learning experiences. Now, fast forward eight months, we’re shipping between other countries without ever even seeing the product. Our last shipment was five pallets from Hong Kong
I mean how can this happen? Another useful article for the creators:
Since 2010, over one and a half billion dollars has been transferred from Kickstarter backers to project creators, and with Kickstarter’s 5% cut taken on each dollar collected, that means Kickstarter has had somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 to 80 million dollars in revenue in the last five years. That’s a success by any measure, and as with this huge amount of money, questions must be asked about the transparency of Kickstarter.
This is not a post about a Kickstarter project for an impossible project, a project that breaks the laws of physics, or one that is hyped beyond all reasonable expectations. This is a post about Kickstarter itself, and it’s been a long time coming. In the past, Kickstarter has shown at least some transparency by cancelling projects that are obvious rebrandings of white label goods – a direct violation of their rules. Kickstarter has even cancelled projects that violate the laws of physics, like this wireless charging Bluetooth tag. It’s a start, but Kickstarter has a much larger problem on its plate: the Staff Pick problem.
The Staff Pick badge can be a powerful tool that virtually ensures a project will meet its goal. The sorting algorithm used by Kickstarter takes the Staff Pick status of a project into account. If a Kickstarter staffer likes a project, it is guaranteed to have more eyeballs land on it, and one would imagine more funds pledged towards the project.
Staff Picks “Make” the Campaign
Staff-Pick-KickstarterThis Staff Pick badge is so powerful, in fact, it can determine the success or failure of a crowdfunding campaign. [Ethan Mollic] of the Wharton Business School and one of the world’s leading researchers in the business of crowdfunding found a Kickstarter campaign that is selected by a member of the Kickstarter staff has an 89% chance of being successful. Without the Staff Pick status, the success rate drops to 30%. This is not to say the Staff Pick status of a project causes a project to succeed; Kickstarter staff may just be very good at picking winners. It does, however, incentivize project creators to independently label their projects as Staff Picks, even though Kickstarter officially discourages this practice.
The Staff Pick problem recently came to a head with the Holus project, a Pepper’s Ghost illusion that initially claimed to sell an interactive holographic display for about $600. This project did not incorporate any holographic technology, and could be replicated by a sheet of glass and a computer monitor. It’s a century-old parlor trick, and not something that deserves to be written about in every tech blog ever.
In an open letter to Kickstarter CEO [Yancey Strickler], [Joanie Lemercier] — an artist with years of experience in visual arts and projection displays — pointed out misleading claims made by the Holus project: it was not a holographic display, only a parlor trick. It used photorealistic renderings in violation of Kickstarter rules. In addition, it used the Kickstarter Staff Pick badge in its campaign, even though it was not a staff pick. Yes, apparently if you have a Kickstarter campaign, you can just add that staff pick badge to your campaign.
THE STAFF AREN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR THE STAFF PICK BADGES
Yancy Stricker, Kickstarter CEO
Yancey Strickler, Kickstarter CEO
And so we come to the crux of the matter. [Yancey Strickler] has said, “staff pick badges aren’t part of our system.” This claim clearly contradicts the Kickstarter search and sorting algorithms. Since Staff Pick badges themselves are one of the greatest indicators of the success of a Kickstarter campaign, it will be abused by those who have something to gain. Yet somehow, it is not a part of the Kickstarter system.
There is no clearly defined way a project on Kickstarter becomes a Staff Pick. There are plenty of people on crowdfunding blogs with suggestions on how a project can have the best odds of becoming a Staff Pick. There are, however, no answers. The best anyone can tell you about the Staff Pick process is, ‘someone who works at Kickstarter likes a project’. This would be fine if the Staff Pick badge was equivalent of a ‘like’ on Facebook. This is not the case, though: the Staff Pick status of a project is ingrained into the sorting algorithm of Kickstarter, and serves as social proof the project is not complete hogwash.
Because of the nature of the Kickstarter Staff Pick, there are obvious ethical dilemmas faced by each and every person that can apply a Staff Pick badge to a project. That is to say, every person that works at Kickstarter. Theoretically, it’s even a system that could be gamed; Kickstarter staffer [Shannon Ferguson], ‘…basically just tries to back projects from her home state of Missouri.’ Gaming this system isn’t even advanced social engineering – it could be as simple as finding a Kickstarter staffer on the Internet and tossing a project on their Facebook, hoping for the best. It could be as simple as correlating the geographic location of projects with their Staff Pick status. For a system that has such a large effect on the success of a Kickstarter campaign, I would be surprised if this hasn’t happened before.
Kickstarter has a long way to go before it can be considered a transparent crowdfunding platform. The discovery algorithm is awash in prejudice that can be easily gamed to the benefit of crowdfunding creators. The official line from Kickstarter regarding the Staff Pick status of a project is that it is not part of the system, even though it obviously is. A transparent system of selecting a Staff Pick is needed not only to limit the possibility of gaming the system, but also to serve as proof of Kickstarter vetting projects.
There is a problem with Kickstarter, and that problem is of obvious scams, fraud, and deceit. You only need to look at the project that needs a million dollars to write a book titled How To Become A Millionaire for evidence of that. Some of these scams are a little more sophisticated, and for that, a Staff Pick badge is waiting in the wings. As it stands, the Staff Pick status of a Kickstarter project will remain mired in controversy. We have no way of determining how or why it was applied, yet it serves as a social proof for the campaign. It is one of Kickstarter’s greatest shortcomings, and until it is fixed (or removed), it will remain something that should be ignored completely but unfortunately won’t be.
Cont: I’ve spent too many years doing something stupid (for example, making a game for almost four years without asking for funding) until someone smarter than me said, “Hey, you should ask for funding”. It’s “duh” moments like this that remind me to seek out the advice of the successful. But don’t be a jerk about it — ask for advice sincerely and humbly. An industry leader most likely has a lot of advice to offer, a lot of generosity, but very little time. Tread carefully, and be respectful of their schedule.
Secondly, industry leaders may also help you market your game, but not in a traditional sense. What I’ve learned about successful game developers is that they want other developers to be successful. The mentors I have searched out almost isntantly supported me the moment I asked for advice. Support comes in many different forms, but the most valuable can simply be an introduction to another industry expert. Support like this isn’t guaranteed, but mentors will most certainly try to help you when you are sincere. The moment you abuse this relationship, that’s when you’re out. Again, successful game developers and industry leaders have very little time. Grow in true friendship with them, and they might just put you on their shoulders when your Kickstarter launches. I can think of ten different industry professionals that graciously did just that for me. Without them, the Kickstarter would not have been funded. Period.
Finally, just be kind. To everyone. All the time. You never know who truly needs your help, and you never know who will be there to generously help when it’s time to launch. I am so lucky to have fostered a relationship with Kevin Abernathy (Baby Grump) of Game Grumps (3 million subscriber YouTube channel).
I was lucky to have this guy as a friend.
Knowing Kevin was kind of just dumb luck, but it definitely demonstrates the value of never burning a bridge. Kevin was willing to remember our friendship from way back in High school when we served people $25 popcorn at a movie theater. Kevin reached out last year from California to me, a nobody in South Carolina, and expressed interest in showing Pinstripe to 3-million YouTube subscribers for the Kickstarter. It’s a small world, and every relationship counts.
The Perfect Kickstarter
The game development community is an incredible community of people who are dreamers. Everyone wants everyone to succeed. The perfect Kickstarter is the campaign that sees the tremendous value of the solid, supportive indie-game community. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve pretty much ranted and raved about the value of relationships. For the majority of my life, I’ve shut myself out from the gaming community in the name of being an introverted artist. If this is what you want, that’s fine, but don’t expect much success. It was only until about a year ago that I realized that the people who played my games were the people who would generously support my games, and I needed to get to know those people intimately.
Ultimately, if you can pursue real relationships with real game developers, no matter how successful, then I think your campaign might have a good chance of succeeding.
If you would like to discover more about Pinstripe's Kickstarter, feel free to check it out.
Seeing my Kickstarter campaign get funded in less than one day was a dream come true, and I want you to experience that for yourself as well!
This is a shining example of why these things don't work. I'm reminded of this full post by T Brush:
After 2 full-months of Kickstarter prep and research, somehow I have launched my first successful campaign. My unrelenting insecurity was wrong: Pinstripe's Kickstarter didn’t fail — as of today, Pinstripe's funding has almost doubled its goal of $28,000. I can't help but feel the campaign's success it not of my own initiative, but purely because of industry leaders and friends willing to lift Pinstripe onto their shoulders.
Without some serious community support prior to launch, the campaign was set to fail. Looking back on the months of research prior to launching Pinstripe’s campaign, I’ve learned of about five different kinds of Kickstarters that always fail, and one that will always succeed. The common theme among all of these is community. Without a strong community supporting you prior to launch, your campaign is probably screwed.
#1: The Silent Kickstarter
Some Kickstarter pitches are like shouting at the top of your lungs in the middle of nowhere. Regardless of your game’s beauty and quality, without an audience, your pitch is set to fall on deaf ears.
When I started Pinstripe (a 2D atmospheric adventure game about Hell) almost 4 years ago, I was just 21 years old. I was still arrogantly high on my small successes in the Flash games market, but that ship has since sailed. In those days, the way I thought about indie-game-making was shallow, idealistic, and a little silly. I told myself I would never launch a Kickstarter, never run Facebook ads, and never launch a strategic plan to sell my ideas. A great game will sell itself, right? Not really.
Only until recently have I realized there is a 1:1 relationship between sharing your project whenever you get a chance and receiving genuine interest from the community and the industry. Marketing early on before a Kickstarter’s launch (might I suggest a year?) is like putting tiny seeds in the soil. By the time your Kickstarter is ready for launch, you will have a harvest of fans ready to back you and your dream. I decided to really focus on this pre-marketing a couple years ago. For me, sharing and focusing on marketing led to around 1,500 followers on Twitter, almost 2,000 likes on Pinstripe’s Facebook page, and a list of about 700 individuals (friends, family, and industry experts) that I eventually emailed when the Kickstarter launched. A humble but powerful army of followers. With this army, my song could be heard and shared when the time was ready.
#2: The First Kickstarter
My finger was about to click the launch button for Pinstripe’s Kickstarter campaign back in December, but a thought crossed my mind: “what if the first version of this Kickstarter isn't good enough?” In a way, my first draft of the Kickstarter was like a simple sketch.
That night I reached out to William Dubé, creator of Jotun. Jotun was launched by Kickstarter and is now featured in the games section on Kickstarter as a high-quality campaign.
I knew that if I was insecure in anyway about my Kickstarter campaign, Will would be able to tell me if I was right or wrong. The next day, Will graciously emailed me back to tell me that, yes, my Kickstarter had some serious flaws. He gave me some incredible advice about what specifically needed fixing, and I listened and made the necessary changes. The Kickstarter has since gone through almost five iterations. Thanks to several other developers, the Kickstarter video was re-shot and reedited as well.
I have also grown in friendship with Joe Russ of Jenny LeClue, an incredibly beautiful mystery game launched by Kicsktarter as well. I simply messaged Joe on Facebook, and boom, we were chatting on the phone within minutes, talking for a full hour about Kickstarter, the Jenny LeClue campaign, and how to take my first pass of the Pinstripe Kickstarter to the next level.
Reach out to the failed Kickstarter campaigners as well. These individuals have been there, done that, and know exactly what not to do. These developers have just as much to say as the successful developers. I would go so far as to say the failed campaigners may bring more to the table in terms of campaign advice.
#3: The Imperfect-Prototype Kickstarter
Have you ever heard someone say something like, “Maybe I’ll just launch one of them Kickstarters?” I can’t help but imagine a drunk uncle shouting this in a trailer. Whenever I hear someone say something like this, I immediately think, “It’s not that easy, pal.” If your drunk uncle is ever going to launch a successful Kickstarter, he most certainly needs a perfect, beautiful, takes-your-breath-away prototype. The prototype can’t just be OK. It has to basically be perfect, especially if he is going to ask for people’s money. In my case, my prototype was a 15 minute demo for GameGrumps. To be honest, this was the golden ticket for the campaign.
So seriously, your prototype must be perfect. It doesn't have be complete, but it has to perfect. You want your audience to desperately want more.
#4: The Insecure Kickstarter
Honestly, I understand why people put junk up on Kickstarter and other social sites. They are excited about their project and just eager to get feedback. I used to put some terrible crap up on Twitter. From half-done screenshots to sketches I snapped with my iPhone, I was often somewhat stupidly impressed with myself and wanted to tell everyone. Looking back, it’s no wonder nobody seemed to care. I wasn’t showing quality work. But here’s the thing: I was confident, and I’d rather you be confident in your work than afraid to share your ideas, concepts, and dreams with the world.
When you eventually gather the courage to share your stuff, your pitch may fall flat because everyone can tell you aren't confident. This is especially dangerous in Kickstarter videos. If you are quiet, shaky, and afraid to show your true colors, a weak and insecure pitch can be the nail in your campaign’s coffin.
Rather, be confident! Tell us how awesome you are! Tell us how your game will change the world! There’s a good chance that what you have to offer is actually really awesome, we just need someone to convince us of it! Life is short, the clock is ticking, so start telling the world your story now!
Confidence is especially valuable in reaching out to bloggers and YouTubers, which is crucial to your Kickstarter’s success. Without the press, your campaign will most likely fail. In reaching out to the press via Twitter and email, I think it’s safe to say most game developers don’t know how to convince others that their own game rocks. Let me make a suggestion: what if you confidently shared your work (your quality work, not your average work) on a daily basis through your social media channels and email? I guarantee that, if you work is generally good, some sharks (YouTubers, publishers, industry leaders) might raise an eyebrow. I can’t tell you how many emails I have sent to high-profile game developers and bloggers explaining how my game was different, how I was confident it would be awesome, and how I was 100% sure they and their audience would benefit from sharing it on their channels. The results? Mostly nothing. But sometimes something, like a Tweet to hundreds-of-thousands of followers, or a conversation with a world-famous YouTuber. These kinds of interactions are beautiful and surreal, and ultimately the leverage you need when launching your Kickstarter.
#5: The Lonely Kickstarter
A Kickstarter campaign without the support of industry leaders is probably going to fail.
How many times have you reached out to someone a billion times more successful than yourself via email, and requested to speak to them on the phone? If you are thinking “never” then you are missing out. To me, the thought of chatting with a world-famous game developer or an industry legend on the phone was terrifying and kind of ridiculous. But one day I decided I would grit my teeth and do it. I emailed Tom Fulp (creator of Newgrounds / a legend) from my cubicle at my day-job and asked if I could chat with him over the phone to get his advice about the gaming industry. Here's the email I sent:
To my surprise, he called me and we talked for thirty minutes, and he agreed to mentor me in whatever way he could. Ever since then, he’s given me priceless advice and has always had my back. He’s also been willing to share his connections with me, and has been willing to offer a shoulder to lean on.
Feel free to also reach out to people you simply respect. Early one morning while I was still in bed, I emailed one of my favorite bands Snowmine and asked for their advice on Pinstripe’s Kickstarter campaign prior to launch (I just emailed the address that was sending me newsletters). Snowmine has particular credibility in the crowd funding space, mainly because they launched a successful campaign from scratch on their own website.
Frankly, this is a joke.
I posted on the Steam forums hoping for a reply, since I get none here on Kickstarter (I was a Kickstarter backer, and for some reason when I re-downloaded the game on Steam recently, I noticed I'm now missing the deluxe extras, namely the artbook and soundtrack, so I was hoping at least to get them back), and not only were my posts ignored, but also I just noticed my topic was deleted.
I dropped $114 on the game, including shipping for physical rewards I apparently will never get, I can't find my name on the credits, I don't even have the rewards that anyone who bought the deluxe edition on Steam got (and at first I received as well, but for some reason were later removed from my copy), and I can't even get an answer, let alone any assistance in getting those missing extras back.
There are poor ways to handle things, and then there's this. This team is apparently made up of children who are pointing their fingers at one another, and are resorting to sweeping things under a rug, while not even having the decency to provide their backers with some info, and with the rewards that are already done.
I can understand not finishing the game. What I can't understand is removing rewards from your backers, not posting any info, ignoring and deleting posts asking for info, and other poor, and frankly shady tactics. Not that it surprises me, after all this is the team that, soon after you finally gave playable access to the game to your backers, you included it on a Bundle (and ironically, I don't know if it's still the case, but those who bought the $4 bundle got the extras, and I don't have them).
I don't care if it's guy A or guy B that is at fault. The whole company is at fault. And after this, I will be activity avoiding anything that carries any of their names.
And drkSEED, do explain to me: how can you own 50% of the company, and claim to be so powerless, and clueless about what is happening? Did you create your company in such way that, despite you owning an equal share, you don't have any decision and voting rights?
And you're telling me that if you contacted Steam, with proof that you own a 50% stake in this company, they wouldn't give you access to the current account?
Frankly, this too sounds extremely weird, to say the least.
Clearly, both parties want the other out, and unfortunately they are doing so at the expense of their customers, and their backers.
Again, a very poor move. Yet another very poor move.
It's campaigns like these that make people think twice about supporting crowdfunding efforts.
The bug report and trading forums still exist though...
Bug reports : http://steamcommunity.com/app/246400/discussions/1/
Trading : http://steamcommunity.com/app/246400/tradingforum/
as does the reviews section...
It appears that Klegran his repeating his previous approach to replying on the forums. First he posts a few replies, then deletes the thread. However now he's removed the forums completely.
I can see his point, the forums are serving now useful purpose now. Not when so many posts and threads were being deleted.
Meanwhile, Klegran did reply and suspecting that the replies wouldn't exist for very long, I took the time to screen capture the thread at various intervals. I may have missed some follow up messages (I went to sleep and when I woke up, the forums had been disabled).
Anyway, since the messages were posted in a public forum and the information may be helpful to anyone interested in the status of the game, here's the posts as they existed for a while....
Any more news?
The game is gone from Steam. It's still in my library and I can still play it, but there is no store page anymore, so you can't buy it anymore.
Website darkforgegames.com is gone also.
These are not very good signs.
I re-installed the game after hearing the news that the game was removed from Steam, and checking the credits, I can't seem to find my name.
Does anyone know in what order are the names displayed? It's not backer number, it's not alphabetical order.
Any more news on the current situation?
drkSEED, get in touch with the gaming press about this.
Thanks for the update.
Both you and Klegran are clearly at odds and both are clearly passionate about the game and want to deliver it (or at least say you both do). How that gets the game into the hands of people like myself, I've no clue.
As I've just posted on the steam forums, I don't know any of the people involved. I sure as hell don't know what's really gone on. I don't know who right, who's wrong. And I probably never will.
I hope to play the game (I didn't ask for my steam key).
I hope you, Scott and everyone else involved can find a way through this...
... and if not, then at least not take things too personally and find a away to step back and view things with a bit of perspective.
Again, thanks for the update. I hope you can find time for more and that they end up being a lot more positive.
Here is the ban:
As I expected this has now been deleted from Steam Forum and I have been banned!
I am 50% owner of darkForge games LLC and I am responsible for creating all the visual art you have come to know as Nekro. Below is an update of what the state of the game and company is in. I am posting this so that you – the loyal fans and community can rally behind me to get this game completed and receive all your physical rewards. There is no doubt this post, and all else I make will be deleted so please propagate and keep this for future reference:
Nekro was originally supposed to be a 1-1.5 year development cycle after the Kickstarter campaign. While blame can be placed on a great many things we never actually had funding other than the Kickstarter and our personal finances of which I spent every penny I had. So we decided to rush to Early Access to help fund the completion of the game.
Once we got funding rolling in I heard the same story year after year, Scott would say “I can't do it, I need another year”. This happened for 2 years. Bear in mind Scott was taking 100% of all revenue even though we have a contract that explicitly states he can only take 50%. His reasoning was - “this is the only way we are going to finish the game”. So I obliged him, to the projects detriment. The last 5 months of 2015 however it became glaringly obvious what was happening. Scott was taking 100% of the revenue still but he stopped working on the game, he became too comfortable making money with no ambition to continue. I told him. “you cannot take funds from the game unless you are working on it!” This sent Scott into an uproar and he blocked me out of every account there is; the website, the Kickstarter, the steam account, and finally he took the last funds and shut-down the LLC bank account. To add insult to injury I was forced to pay over $1,000 of my own money for the 2015 California tax License as well as paying 50% of the taxes from the 2015 revenue of which Scott that he took 100% for his own personal benefit. Since Scott has blocked me from contacting him in any way.
The Future of Nekro:
There is no future unless I get ownership of darkFroge LLC and Nekro. I have most of the physical rewards and am dying to ship them. The game is almost complete as it is - so I would be able to finish the rest of the game in a short period of time after the transfer. What I ask of you is be very loud and demand that Scott hands over the assets and accounts to the game, and I promise I will not only complete the game but also give funds for those who worked on the game and were never paid.
That is Scott, who is the programmer on the project. Here is the real update:
The developer posted this on the Steam forums
"I have updates, but I'm waiting for more information before I post it. I want to tell all, but at the moment I can't." -- Link : http://steamcommunity.com/app/246400/discussions/0/
There's lots of speculation about what's going on. I can only hope the developer is okay and the game is going to get finished (and not in a Spacebase DF9 way).
Personally I'd not requested a Steam key, because I'd wanted to play the final game and have the DRM free version. However having read the forum comments a few times since the end of last year, I decided to request the Steam key today and hope that I can somehow play the game in some form at this point.
Guys? Any update??
According to the recent Steam discussions, the only coder has pushed the game to an undefined release date in 2016 due to personal issues. Now is game is not purshasable anymore on Steam Early Access... but the dev goes well coding his other game. Mh. Hope something will clarify the situation soon.
Guys care to share an update here to let all backers know the project status?
I want my plushy...I am at the $250 level, forgot what the $50 add on was for?
Any further news on the physical rewards?
I would like to know when I can expect to get the physical items.
Ummm, guys? The physical items?...
Repost: Waited 9 months, Human spawn take that long.
Bobby Allen on December 15, 2014
Auditing Projects, I have the steam version. I really want my plushy and the physical box.
@Kyle with a lot of delay :D
There is now an option on Kickstarter for all project creators to say 'we'll begin shipping soon' and you have two days to change your address.
I've recently changed address, and I know that Nekro is closing in on being 100%. I'm a little worried because I can't figure out how to ensure the physical items will be delivered to the correct address. Been a while since I checked in on this and I have to say that even though I would have liked it to not be early-access, darkForge really has made the right decision in order to complete their game.
We all do - we can't send out physical items until the game is done.
Auditing Projects, I have the steam version. I really want my plushy and the physical box.
hi just wondering how to get the desktop background for the 25 tier I looked in the game files but couldn't see it help is appreciated thx
Which last update are you talking about ? In the one of the 2nd of May, I can only read that everything is on the steam forum. On the forum, there is no clear section about physical rewards, and by searching the terms I can only get redirected to topics where darkForge answers too briefly to have a real ideas of a future release plan. So I still don't have the answers I was looking for unfortunately.
Please read the updates before posting. You have all been sent information about your keys and physical rewards in the last update.
Sent a second e-mail now about a missing steam key. Can someone please get back to me asap. Thank you!
Sorry I post this message again : What about the physical rewards ? Has a shipping date been settled ? Thanks !
While it's a bit late in the day, it would have been decent of you if you could have issued an update for the backers about the difficulties you have encountered and the path you needed to take to get things completed. Knowing that a bundle would be coming out (even 1 day before) could have motivated me to poke a few friends into ponying up the money for the game, especially as you've said you don't have enough resources to promote much yourselves.
Thanks for the explanation.
If you came out and posted this when the bundle was made available, I'm sure there would be no complaints.
Good luck for the remaining of the game development.
@João - I am the creator of Nekro, and founder of darkForge. I know over a text-based medium it's hard to infer tone and intent, but I will tell you I wasn't at all intending to sound condescending or 'moronic' - and I apologize if that's how it came across. I genuinely know how much it sucks when a project you have backed does things you don't like, and I was relating my own experiences to yours. You can look at my backer history for my Kickstarter profile, you'll find many scam Kickstarters, and poorly handled games. It breaks my heart to see the things I had so much hope for fail, and I was saying how much it must have been a weight off your shoulders to have arrived at the conclusion you aren't happy. Holding out hope for something that lets you down is draining, at least for me, so when I give up on something I love it's a relief.
As for your point, I'm glad you enjoy the game. I'll reiterate that I'm sorry you're not happy with our decision. The point of the matter is we deemed it more important to finish the game, than to not finish it. If we don't make money, we go under - which means no game. We need to make money to keep developing it. So when I enter into a crossroads where one choice is 'stand by your morals, but potentially play with people's lives by not being able to pay them' or 'be able to pay my team, my family, and fulfill a promise I made to 4,300+ people two years ago' I choose the lesser of two evils. It's clear you're not happy with that choice. I'm not happy with it either. The sad thing is I'm going to have to make more choices like this if I want to keep making Nekro. But to me, annoying people is better than letting them down outright by not finishing the game. You have to remember; Steam launched more games in the first month of 2014 than it did all of 2013! That's a lot, I mean a LOT of games for Nekro to compete with. That means we have to fight hard for the same consumer dollar that would have otherwise been spread out over a much smaller game subset. So please look at it from my perspective and realize I do this not because I'm looking to screw over the people who helped us, but rather because I need to finish this game, fulfill our promise, and pay my team. Game development comes with hard choices, and this one was not made lightly. Ultimately, what I did will serve the greater goal much much more than not doing it would have, and that's why I defend it.
I hope you can understand where I'm coming from. Thanks.
Disappointed to see such a deep discount before general release. You're essentially giving people who didn't take a leap of faith and back you early an 85% discount on the 25 dollar tier.
It's your business, and you can make whatever decisions you want. But the consequence of this decision is that if you ever crowd fund another game I won't be on board. Why would I, when I can wait a year, get a more complete game, and get it for 4 bucks?
I don't know who I'm talking to exactly, but I must say it's clear you shouldn't be handling communications with your customers.
Being ironic and condescending («it must be a weight of your shoulders», really?) certainly leaves a lot to be desired. It's clear you are unapologetic about this move, but there's no need for the moronic tone.
And as a further reply to your comments, I didn't decide Nekro isn't for me, I enjoy the game. I simply think what you did was extremely in poor taste to Kickstarter backers and early-access buyers, since the game isn't even finished. I'm sure everyone expects any game they back to, sooner or latter, be available at 90% off or being included in a bundle. What is certainly new with your move is that you've done so before the game is even finished.
I don't regret backing Nekro, as a game, since I still think it's a title with a lot of potential, and already quite fun.
But I certainly regret a bit supporting a company that pulls moves such as this, and answers to criticism in such disrespectful manner. Hopefully your an exception, and the rest of the team isn't like you.
Hey João, thanks for the feedback! We always value hearing how unhappy you are with our products and services as it helps us grow as a company. I'm happy you were able to decide that Nekro isn't for you, as I know how hard of a choice this can be after having backed a game on Kickstarter - it must be a weight of your shoulders. Take care and please feel free to let us know what other things we can change in the future to make our game, and our company as awesome as possible. :)
Sure, I'll leave the business decisions to you, it's your call, the same way I'll leave my money on my wallet on future products or campaigns by your company, it's my call.
The way you answer to natural criticism over this, with the comment bellow, and with this gem from the Steam forums directed at another fellow backer («I'm sorry if you feel bad for having paid full price only to find the game being offered for less. But I can't tell you how many times I've paid full for a game on Steam only to have it on sale for 75% off the next day. It's how businesses make money, and extremely aggressive sales are necessary in a super-saturated marketplace.»), tells me everything I need to know.
You made your game available in a $4 bundle before it's even finished, and to make matters worse, according to reports on the Steam forums, the copies included on the bundle include the Collector's Edition content, something Kickstarter backers below a certain tier or early-access buyers didn't get, even though they paid far more.
This wouldn't be an issue if we were talking about a finished product, and if this was done a few months after release. But to do this before the game is finished and fully released, and soon after you released the beta to backers, is an extremely poor move.
Hey guys, make sure to just enjoy the game and leave the business decisions to us; we think long and hard about everything we do, and we sometimes have to make tough calls. But ultimately, we're a business - we have to make money, and making money is the only way we can keep development going on the game and deliver a solid final product.
Thanks for understanding and I hope you're enjoying the game. :)