Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kickstarter Postmortem: The Adventures of Rubberkid

The image that graced the top of the KS.
The "Get Extra Bonuses the SAME DAY!"
was added later on in the project, but I
didn't save the image separately. Oops!
For those not familiar, The Adventures of Rubberkid ran on Kickstarter from November 30th-December 30th, 2013 and had a goal of $750, primarily to raise funds for promotion and getting discs to libraries and schools, but also to pay for music and sound effects.

It's a video game, of course; more specifically, it's a video game for elementary-school kids that aims to fight bullying. The entire time the campaign ran, there was a playable version of the game available that had five of the nine total levels, although music/SFX/pausing were not in the game, and additional graphical touches still needed to be added.

I actually started off writing this like a standard postmortem (what went right/what went wrong), but really it makes much more sense to explain a Kickstarter in the two main pieces that make up a campaign.

Planning and Formation

With The Adventures of Rubberkid, I decided to use Kickstarter. I tried an IndieGogo campaign in the past that failed pretty hard, but I blame that on a bunch of different things and it would take just as long to go into all of that. The point is, I probably would have used IndieGogo instead if I hadn't tried it before since they accept Paypal as well, and you can set it to take whatever money is collected whether the campaign succeeds or not. I went with Kickstarter because I hadn't tried it yet, because it's the most popular (especially with the people I know!) and because a part of me was sure that a game about bullying would end up in the Staff Pick section at one point or another.

With my platform chosen, I did research about it. As of the time of writing, you can estimate roughly 10% of your total pledge amount will be sucked up by Kickstarter and Amazon Payments (which handles the credit card processing, and most importantly, paying YOU!), and another 20% will go toward fulfilling backer rewards.

As much of my spreadsheet as I could screenshot. The higher
amounts really aren't vital to show anyway.

I spent two solid days coming up with the spreadsheet to the left with the goal of ensuring the all-important 80% earning per reward tier. As you can see, it dips down quite a bit in the $40-$90 level, and my rewards were rather tame by most standards! Above all else, I'd say to keep this in mind.

Let's say that you need $7,500 for your project. If you don't pad your goals and set your goal at $7,500, even if you end up majorly succeeding and hitting $10,000, it's very possible you'll STILL end up below your original goal when all is said and done due to fees and reward fulfillment!

ONE OF THE BIGGEST THINGS I FACED WITH THIS CAMPAIGN WAS THAT THE GAME ITSELF COULDN'T BE A REWARD! The Adventures of Rubberkid is a free game. Seriously, let that sink in for a minute... Go check out 10 random video game projects. Heck, go check out ANY 10 random projects! Odds are, at least 9 of them include a reward level that gives you whatever they're making.
With a free game, that's not possible!


Like I said before, when I started my campaign, I felt that it would become a staff pick for sure at one point or another. I also figured that it would get lots and lots of pledges since it's a free, noble game, despite how simple it is, just because of the topic it covers and how unique it is in that manner. I thought that, if I started it up and gave it a good push start (a week of promotion, maybe two, tops!) then I'd have time to work on the game, update it for everyone with new levels, and that'd bring even more attention to it! Plus, then the game would be mostly done by the time the campaign ended!

Ha ha ha... I'm funny sometimes!

Funding Referrers! One of many awesome pieces of data Kickstarter gives you to use the entire campaign
It never got above the tip of page three of the most popular in the video games category (which means that, even if someone clicked "games", then "video games", it was #30 at its peak, putting it in the 10th column from the top). Oh, and if that isn't enough to convince you that Kickstarter itself really didn't help it out, why not just look at that image above? The green-shaded lines are through Kickstarter... Of the $821 raised, not even 10% came from Kickstarter sources. Also, according to most everything I had read, the "48 hour email" is typically a pretty huge factor, but you'll see how untrue that was in this case. I'm thinking that's because I did post about it so frequently, but I can't be sure.

The ENTIRE 31 days of the campaign were spent promoting. Not just on Facebook but everywhere... I used various sources to find "mom blogs", as families are my target audience; I hit up all of the gaming news media I could find (thanks PixelProspector!); I spent a day pitching to libraries when Technorati (blog database) was down; I wrote to local media; hit up facebook groups, some celebrities (why not, right?), and when it got really close to time I wrote to individuals on Facebook (friends and family). Those last minute messages did NOT focus on asking for pledges, especially since it had already crossed the line into "successful"... These messages were to simply let people know what I was up to and ask them to pass the message on, since the game will need help getting to as many families as possible.

Also, and I cannot express this enough: DO. NOT. SPAM! When I posted in groups, I made sure to focus only on groups that made sense (game developer forums, but ONLY ones that had a "tell us what you're up to" area; groups focused on bullying, and I always expressed my thanks for letting me post, and letting them know I'm sorry if they considered it spammy and to delete it if so with my sincerest apologies).

The top portion of my OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet. You didn't think I'd screenshot actual websites and info, did you?

It is VITAL that you keep a database, in whatever way works best for you, so that you can update throughout as well. I updated twice throughout, and having a database made it easy to do so; plus, each time I updated, a couple more people wrote articles! I began each email with something like "I'm updating you on The Adventures of Rubberkid, a project I wrote to you about a few weeks ago that deals with fighting bullying" etc. I would also add the most relevant info at the bottom, whether I'd sent it before or not. Spam filters, people being busy with the holidays or simply not being interested at the time can lead to people not reading emails, and I'm certainly not going to force them to search for old emails!

While I won't show you any examples of my database beyond the header of it there, it should give you a good idea. I type the website in, without the www (so, for example, ""), the contact method can be either their email address or their contact form URL, and then the contact name is pretty straightforward. In the blue, I keep each game as I pitch in a separate column, and when I write to someone, I put that in the column. So if I emailed someone about Rubberkid today, I'd put "Emailed 1/9/13 5:35pm". If, say, that person contacted back, I'd put "Contacted back 1/9/13 [said whatever]", and then if they wrote an article I'd put the URL to the article and highlight the square green. If they write and say they're not interested, I put that and change it red. This way, with future updates, I can sort that column and easily update.

Additional Info/Advice

  • If you're running a low-goal campaign like I did, keep in mind that any campaign with a goal under $750 that runs 30 days or less ends up in an additional area - "Small Projects". I would have been a part of that and could have told you what happened with it, but I didn't realize it had to be 30 days or less... Mine was 31... *sigh*
  • Most every crowdsourcing advice page states that you should promote ahead of time. It's difficult to do that, though, since you don't have a URL until it begins. My suggestion would be to do a lot of almost-promoting before starting. Get your press release written, plan out some days with some special promotional stuff to get extra eyeballs, prepare your email and contact form text, create your database, get it running well, save LOTS of email drafts so you can just hit "send" when it begins... And let friends and family know ahead of time, so that when the day hits, you'll hopefully have some good pledges on day 1. Nothing hurts more than having $0 after a day, or two, or five...
  • Don't be afraid to change things as you go! Update, update, update!
  • Since my goal was lower, my total number of pledges was lower. I took advantage of every pledge to thank the person on Facebook, which then made for an excuse to promote the campaign again. I'd share the link, and then in the text I'd say something like, "Thanks so much for pledging to Rubberkid, [whoever]! Now we're up to [however much/% number]". With a lower goal, too, it was more often I could easily say "Only $20 away from 40%" or "Only $5 away from $200!" People LOVE to be the one to get you to hit that round number!
I realize this is a LOT of information, and that I'm really not the best at expressing data, especially with being sick this last week or so and the data being a bit cold in my mind again... But if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to write to me, comment below or reach me any other way!


  1. Also, when dealing with bloggers (especially mom bloggers), having something you can give them to write about at least a couple weeks in advance can give them enough time to get your email in the flood that comes in every day and get back to you BEFORE the campaign starts. Great work on this one Charlie! (-Aelis)

    1. Very good point! I was actually really surprised - I'd assumed that the bloggers would have the most free time to talk about it, but I had no idea just how busy bloggers (especially bloggers who do any sort of reviewing) are!!!