The dos and don'ts of crowdfunding

Team17’s Debbie Bestwick offers expert tips on how to fund your indie projects
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Sites such as Kickstarter, Crowdcube and Indiegogo all offer budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to raise capital in order to fulfill their dreams. Each has it’s own unique differences but they all boil down to the same basic premise: you hit your funding target, take the money (minus a fee) and all your backers get what they paid upfront for.

That’s the way it should work and for the vast majority it does, but there have recently been some high-profile examples of where things have gone wrong.

Chris Davis from The Escapists dev Mouldy Toof, Sonny Meek and Dean Foster from Sheltered studio Unicube and Russ Clarke from TerraTech’s Payload Studios recently shared their collective Kickstarter experiences.

Understand your funding needs

The first thing to remember is you’re asking for money to fund a project, not a lifestyle. If you already have a job then consider what you’ll need to fund your time to the project exclusively. Attempt to set your budget as low as possible, and try and forecast how long it will take to complete the game now it has your undivided attention. This will give you a baseline figure, but before you commit don’t forget to add extras: software or hardware upgrades, a back-up system and so on.

Take a few minutes to check how other crowdfunded projects fared. Funding does have momentum that builds and backers are far more likely to support a title if it looks likely to hit its target and become reality. Payload’s campaign threw up a couple of interesting facts: 27 per cent of the TerraTech backing came direct via Kickstarter and half of the overall target came in the final six days.

Timing is essential

It’s all very well having a project on a crowdfunding site but you’ll need to back it up with activity elsewhere. If you’re planning on getting onto Steam, maybe tie in with the launch of your Greenlight campaign. If you’re planning a demo then use it to give your campaign an extra boost towards the end.

Use social media to get your message across. Post on forums, email websites, hunt down journalists, phone magazines, attend events, make friends, and remember to include a link to your page with everything.

Update regularly

Be sure to keep everyone, especially backers, informed and updated on how things are going. Sure, a couple may ask you to stop spamming but the vast majority will welcome news of progress. Make sure you update your page to reflect any changes to the original plan. If you can, use video to demonstrate any updates and post them everywhere.

Plan your stretches in advance

Plan in extra content, additional game mechanics and even more platforms as rewards for stretch goals. Just make sure that the extended funds reflect the additional effort and make sure they are commercially viable. Don’t be afraid to add more stretch goals if you begin to break through existing ones.

Don’t raise barriers to entry

Plan your tier rewards carefully. Maybe offer a limited number of early adopters a chance get access to a beta version of the game but never ever limit the number of backers who simply want to buy a digital copy.

Do limit physical rewards

It may seem cool to offer phyiscal rewards, but it can be time-consuming and costly. Naming characters after backers, adding them into the credits and offering exclusive in-game items are all much easier to do. If you must provide a physical reward, try exclusive poster prints – they won’t cost the earth.

Done well, crowdfunding is a great way for indies to fund projects. Time spent developing a strategy and preparing your page will pay dividends in the long run, allowing you to focus on the game and giving you time to spend breaks publicising it.

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