Kickstarter for Indie Games: A Comprehensive How-to Guide with Examples, Tips and Templates

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The Indie Game Industry is full of amazing, talented, and creative people. However, even with these fantastic minds behind the games that they love to make, sometimes developers are unable to get their titles finished or published because publishers or investors won’t put up the money needed to make the game come alive. Crowdfunding Indie Games has become more popular since it allows for indie devs to raise money through donations from strangers who believe in your ability to create a good game. It gives new indie devs – with fresh ideas –  a chance at making their dreams come true without having some boardroom executive decide whether or not they will be able to work on their project.

The purpose of this guide is to help show you how to use Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites effectively in order to raise money for your indie game. It will also give you examples of some previous successful campaigns and their pages. There are pros and cons to using crowdfunding that we will go over as well. While this information may help our fellow developers, our main goal is so you can properly use Kickstarter and do it perfectly right, by yourself, the first time.

Table of Contents

The pros and cons of crowdfunding an indie game

Is Kickstarter the right option for you and your team? You can make it big without publishing help, but taking help from publishers can lead to more success in some cases. You must consider all sides of the coin before diving in head first. Also, you need to understand how Kickstarter works before deciding if it is the right way or not.

The pros of crowdfunding your indie game:

  • You get to keep the IP rights
  • You get funding for the game you want to make rather than what a publisher wants you to make.
  • In case your campaign is successful, you will have an easier time finding publishers if you want one.
  • You can make games that are more niche or personal instead of what is trending at the moment.

The cons of crowdfunding your indie game:

  • You’ll need to be skilled at marketing and publicity – or at least have a firm grasp on the basics! This includes maintaining your branding, managing a community of players/fans/backers, making connections in the business industry, and performing other PR activities.
  • You are not guaranteed of getting funded. You can read why is funding all-or-nothing on Kickstarter.
  • You can be slowed in the process of making your game because of the marketing efforts you will have to invest.

To make a wise choice, you must consider your needs on a case by case basis. Indie devs are capable of making it big without publishing help, but taking help from publishers can lead to more success. You will have to determine what is best for yourself, your team and your project while considering both the pros and cons of crowdfunding before diving in head first.

Now that we have some idea about the pros/cons of Kickstarter, let’s take a closer look at how it works!

Past successful campaigns (and unsuccessful ones)

Before anything, in order to make this guide as helpful as possible, we have constructed a list of all relevant Kickstarter pages to check out and learn from their success. All these pages were done by other indie devs, so it is worth checking them out!

We have been hesitant to list any Kickstarter campaign failures in this article, for teaching and demonstration purposes, since we don’t want us to get in trouble. Therefore, we will leave it to you to do your own research about some past failures. Analyze the patterns and errors, what should have been improved and what can we learn from it. After all, this is golden information available for free! But take in note that some information about an unsuccessful campaign might be invisible or harder to get, i.e. a Kickstarter page can be perfectly structured, but if no marketing effort has been made during the campaign, this is probably what led to its failure.

What you will need before creating your campaign

The biggest asset is your game. It must be exciting to convince people to back it and to create some hype around it. Therefore, before creating the Kickstarter campaign, you should aim to have at least a prototype or an alpha version to use as an asset, and ideally a demo.

In addition, a successful Kickstarter campaign requires a great trailer, good rewards and proper timing. A good trailer should be short (one minute or less), engaging and explain what makes your game different from others currently in the market.

Timing can be important, too – Indie Games that have a story or a narrative tend to do well during certain parts of the year (for example, Indie Games set in the winter holidays do better around December).

The campaign structure

Now, let’s take a look at the typical Kickstarter structure for an indie game.

  1. Video. The first thing you’re going to need for your Kickstarter campaign is a video. Though it might be a little bit outdated, Kickstarter shared the fact in 2012 that projects with videos succeed at a much higher rate than those without (50% vs. 30%).” It can be one of your best investments to outsource it to an expert (if you can afford it).
  2. Assets (visual and audio). You’ll also need pictures, screenshots, GIFs, banners and other visual assets for all the other points below. If the game’s soundtrack is important to its success, you may include audio samples on the project page.
  3. Pitch. Write up your main pitch and make it as compelling as possible. You should also think about what other content you can share to generate interest, such as screenshots of early versions of the game or concept arts.
  4. Gameplay. Explain why people would want to play it. Usually, it includes game mechanics, characters,  story,  and anything else that’s essential to the game. 
  5. Tags. Concerning the genre of your game, add the right tags to your Kickstarter page.
  6. Platforms. Indicate somewhere on which platforms it will be available.
  7. You (and your team). You should also explain why you’re qualified and able to make it. If you have a team,  introduce your team members. If possible, show some examples of your previous work or talk about how you’ve made games in the past. Make. it. Personal. You backers want to know who is behind the project and trust you (and your team).
  8. Rewards. Once you have all of that done, it’s time to list some rewards for backers at several different price points. It’s always good to have some cheap rewards available so the average person can contribute without having to spend too much money on your project. You can also use custom perks if you need perks you cannot find on Kickstarter already. Good rewards involve tangible or virtual goods that backers can receive when they support the campaign.
  9. Budget. It’s good to have a budget breakdown.  People who read this need to know which parts their money is going to, so they can feel as though they have a good understanding of the process.
  10. Stretch goals. Stretch goals are additional features or content that will be added if certain milestones are met beyond your initial campaign’s goals.
  11. Rewards. Explain your rewards system in detail.
  12. Risks and challenges. You will have to inform your potential backers about the risk and challenges. This could be seen as the scary part of the process, but it should not. Nowadays, people are well aware of risks about backing a KS project and not mentioning them would raise distrust. Take this as an opportunity to be honest with your community. You can talk about the delivery date that might be affected in case you reach stretch goals – if you think this is the case.
  13. Story-telling. Your whole Kickstarter campaign should be story-telling and this is why it is important to use visual assets, not only text.

A side note: be professional. This includes things like using high quality images, formatting everything correctly and double checking your grammar.

All these points above should be evaluated one by one in order to create your own Kickstarter campaign plan. Some of them might not be necessary/possible in your context. 

Delivery Dates

It’s conceivable that certification and stretch goals will cause delays. Keep in mind the time it takes to get certified by Apple or the iOS app store, as well as how long it takes to deal with ESRB if necessary.

Determine the right budget goal

You must first construct your operational plan and anticipate a budget before launching the campaign. Then, you should be able to set the funding goal. Kickstarter fees are approximately 10% of the total funds raised. Therefore, for example, if you estimate that you will need $30,000 to complete the game, your budget goal should be around $33,500.

This Kickstarter’s articles about What should I consider when setting my funding goal? explains in detail the fees, the payment processing, their calculator tool, taxes and more.

Don’t forget that you must include all the costs associated with the merchandise and physical rewards of your campaign if you decide to offer some. This includes “the materials, resources and expenses (such as shipping costs) you’ll need”. (Source)

Choose your Indie Game’s Kickstarter rewards – and don’t forget taxes! 

For Indie Game Kickstarter campaigns, Indie game producers should be creative with the rewards (and pledge amounts) they offer for different budgets. You can see what other indie games are offering for certain pledge levels and then adjust accordingly based on their own goals’ price points. Rewards can range from t-shirts or art prints to early access to beta versions of the game or custom designed, personalized items! Some examples include but are not limited to:

  • Special role in your Discord server
  • Digital copy
  • Early access beta
  • Signed art print
  • Poster
  • T-shirt
  • Calendar
  • Trophy
  • 3D printed stuff
  • Mention in the credit
  • Customized character (boss, NPC, etc.)
  • Custom Art Print or Painting
  • Appear in the game
  • Offer Indie Game Mentorship

To set the adequate price, a good rule of thumb is that every dollar you spend creating a reward/perks should reflect three dollars in revenue. And don’t forget about taxes!

For an easier campaign, you may want to focus more on digital rewards than physical ones that require fulfillment and additional operations like manufacturing and shipping. However, if you feel confident, you may want to take a look at the Kickstarter’s resource section where they “compiled a list of services that can aid in the process of completing your project”.

Marketing Strategy Behind an Indie Game Kickstarter Campaign

In order to be successful, the marketing aspect of the Kickstarter campaign should not be overlooked. In fact, a crowdfunding campaign requires marketing to be successful, but it also feeds into the marketing strategy, as the hype created around the Kickstarter might lead backers, fans and evangelists to share your campaign and some media companies to cover your campaign, thus fueling the marketing funnel.

Here are some ideas of marketing strategies that you can use to create awareness and engagement around your crowdfunding:

  • Use of social media like Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to the Kickstarter page. 
  • Incorporating relevant hashtags into posts can aid in spreading awareness of the product through trends maps.
  • Run paid ads on Youtube and Facebook (with your trailer).
  • Create a Discord Server.
  • Create a subreddit for the game you’re creating.
  • Exploit the network of your existing community (fans/followers).
  • Posting videos on Youtube can also help in spreading awareness of the product.
  • Reach out to members of the Indie Game review sites such as IndieGames WeLove, IndieStatik, etc… who have interest in reviewing your project. Having good reviews posted online about your game will be invaluable to the Kickstarter campaign.
  • Reach out to indie gaming (news) sites that accept submissions. 
  • Blog and devlog about your game.
  • Create a mail list.
  • Partner with popular YouTube personalities or Twitch streamers that play indie games to advertise the Kickstarter campaign in order to increase viewership/attention during the duration of the crowdfunding period.
  • Submit a press release to news outlets. 
  • Attend indie gaming events where you can network with Indie Game journalists and give them free promotional copies of your game (if finished) to play and write articles about your campaign. 

For more information and marketing ideas read Indie Game Marketing Tips to Help Your Indie Game Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace.

Tips on how to seek out press coverage for your Kickstarter campaign

This step requires you to do some research on what kind of games are popular, what has been written about them in the past and how similar your project is. Once you know this information, find articles that list things like top 10’s or roundups with a few interesting titles shared by lots of contributors. When writing to these sites with an inquiry, mention any shared similarities with their site (“I’m creating a voxel based sandbox FPS which also has a dynamic questing system like your top 10 Indie Games of [Year YYYY]!”). Choose a few sites to send emails and tweets to and write personalized, professional requests for coverage. Keep these requests short and punchy with vital information such as release date, price, special features etc.. If they don’t reply after a week that’s totally fine–just keep trying until you get a positive response. Some writers may not want to commit just yet because they’re still looking into the game themselves or waiting on information from you so if they say no it’s not an instant rejection. You can’t win them all, but if you keep trying different angles eventually somebody will bite!

Tips 1: It’s hard for journalists to justify writing news stories when it feels like they’re just repeating information from the Kickstarter page but if there is a new mechanic, trailer or gameplay video to share you’re in with a chance.

Tips 2: If you have a playable prototype or alpha you can send GIFs, screenshots and video clips to media outlets as this is a great way to grab the attention of gamers.

Tips 3: Don’t be afraid to reach out multiple times with updates! If your campaign is drawing towards its end and still hasn’t been written about put a reminder in your calendar for a month later to contact them again. Indie games aren’t as big budget as their triple A cousins so an engaged PR person needs more nudges before they’ll eventually bite!

Dealing with a slowing-down campaign

It’s no secret that KS campaigns frequently hit a snag in the middle. No worries. If you believe your campaign is falling behind, there are several things you can try to get it back on track:

(If you haven’t started yet, you can anticipate solutions to this problem)

Emotional Link. Create an emotional link between your project and the success of your fundraising might encourage people to upgrade their pledges. It can be done through regular updates, a Devlogs, discussions on your Discord server,  etc. Keep them engaged!

Media. Media attention becomes even more valuable, since you need extra visibility to reach your campaign’s goal. If you believe that media exposure or within your game’s social network would help you reach more coverage, put in a little bit more effort. It could be through your own social media, paid media, and news website (like explained earlier).

Reddit. Reddit is know as a double-edge sword. Be careful how you post on Reddit because you could end up shooting yourself in the foot before your campaign is over. However, it can be a very good resource for getting extra attention and reaching more people if done right. Two things to consider: creating a subreddit, and creating posts that add value to the community.

Take care of your new community!

It’s critical to keep in touch with the community after a campaign is finished, otherwise people may get concerned. It can be difficult to manage a community, therefore it’s important to plan ahead of time.  Here are some tips that can help you plan ahead:

  • Thank and email those who supported you during your Kickstarter campaign. You’ll want to send them a message as soon as possible to keep them in the loop and ensure they don’t lose interest in what’s going on. This email should be sent as soon as you can after the campaign is finished.
  • Keep responding to everyone who sends you a message via Kickstarter. If people take time out of their day to reach out, it’s important to respect that by replying as soon as possible.
  • Write a detailed update that talks about what happens now that the campaign is finished, and address concerns. If you’re pressed for time, keep it brief.
  • Monitor the comments section on Kickstarter especially. This is where people can ask you questions, and also give feedback about your project.
  • Speak at community events rather than simply attending them. You can record yourself speaking, or stream live with a webcam or capture device. Having an archive of videos will help keep awareness for your game high throughout the year.
  • If you have a devlog, update it regularly with new posts after the campaign is finished. This will help keep your community engaged throughout the development process.
  • In fact… Continue doing everything you did during the Kickstarter campaign! If you’re like most devs, this means having a web presence that is regularly updated with posts and social media updates including in Discord.

In conclusion

In conclusion, launching a Kickstarter campaign for an Indie Game is a challenging endeavor for game developers. However, with the right preparation and knowledge, Indie Game Kickstarters can be just as successful as any other Kickstarter campaign. There are many factors to consider before making your Indie Game Kickstarter page live—and that’s where this guide comes in! If you follow the steps outlined in this guide closely, you’ll have all of the tools necessary to produce a stellar Indie-Game Kickstarter page on launch day.

If you want to take your Indie Game Kickstarter campaign further, can also provide personalized help. We run an indie-game consulting service. No matter what type of game you’re trying to Kickstart, we are ready and willing to offer our expertise for a small fee. Our strategy is based on extensive research and analysis into the Indie-Game Kickstarter landscape. If you want customized advice or feedback for your Indie Game Kickstarter page, or if you simply need more information about getting started with crowdfunding, feel free to drop us a message in the form below.

Contact Me

Feel free to reach out to me via Discord at Galabyca#5789 (this is case sensitive). You can share me your project and we’ll discuss how I can help you. Additionally, if you have any comments or questions about the last article, don’t hesitate to send them my way through Discord as well.