Why Failing a Kickstarter Campaign is a Good Thing

Quirk's first Kickstarter launch date

The world of independent board game developers has been growing rapidly over the last few years so why does failing on Kickstarter matter?

With help from such successes as Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens making a massive impact on the industry with the mass market. Suddenly a light has been shone on the indie board game market and more people are stepping away from the digital to enjoy an analogue game experience with family and friends; whether you like those games or not.

But with a movement such as this, far more of us as independent developers have taken center stage and created our own games to share with the world, it’s more possible than ever to take your dream and make it a reality. In fact, one retailer who refused to stock Quirk! stated to me, there’s 2000 new game releases every year, why should I stock your game?

You’re not only contending against your local market, but a world full of games creators when you step onto a platform like Kickstarter. Not only that, you have to be aware of the industry you are in and when to post your campaign to reach the most amount of people. Some people say post on Mondays, other say post on Wednesdays, I think what matters overall is the season in which your posting a campaign. Even from successful Kickstarters, I’m starting to learn when the right time to post will be for my game.

Quirk! failed its first Kickstarter...

I made a huge mistake when I first launched Quirk! and you can check out my first campaign on Kickstarter too. I was busy starting Emmerse Studios, taking on several projects at once, thinking I could manage to deliver everything within 1 year. Within a month of developing my ideas I realised I had to stick to the lowest cost investment and drive it to success before I took on any other project.

I was incredibly naïve, knowing nothing about the games industry other than I had run a Kickstarter campaign back in 2013 and succeeded to fund £500 – I funded £730 and thought that was a success, since there are lot of people on Kickstarter with low goals that hardly get funded. I fulfilled the project but I had no business sense at the time. I didn’t continue to bring it out to market because ultimately, for me, it needed more defining as a project. I had always hoped I would redesign the project and years later, throughout 2016 I was being consistently asked why I wasn’t bringing “Cards with Character” back on the market for Christmas.

So that was it, I took the entire card game, sat down with my sister and reshaped it. I was specifically asked if I could turn it into a two player game. I know anything is possible, especially if we were willing to innovate on the concept. My sister shuffled her way through the cards and told me it’s not going to work and the only thing I could do was make it into Go Fish. I didn’t want it to just be Go Fish game and we added the idea of stealing Quirk’s into game play and adding defence cards a little later from very brutal playtesting.

At the end of January 2017, with a fresh new game ready to hit the market. I went full throttle and launched a Kickstarter campaign for £6500. I raised £690 in 30 days and ended up cancelling the project on the last day. Knowing full well it would fail after the first 24 hours. I also knew I didn’t have enough friend’s to fund £6500 if I needed to, I still don’t!

New Designer Thinking...

The mistake comes when a new designer thinks “if I just launch my project people will back it.” I know because I was that person. Lots of amazing projects fail for a multitude of reasons and most of the time it comes down to you as a creator and how resourceful you can be and I’m talking long term success here.

Stop looking at Kickstarter as the be all and end all of your game development. In business, crowdfunding is seen as an element and part of the journey you’re creating as a studio. It should be coupled together with other forms of investment, loans, investors, overdrafts (debt equity) in order for you to grow your business properly.

The bigger problem you’re faced with when you look at Kickstarter as the soul driver of your company’s success, is we look to our manufacturers/suppliers and we calculate what we need to order stock and deliver it across the world. But how many of us as independent games companies are creating a budget for the general running of the business, marketing exploits, travel & tradeshows and we’re not even going to discuss paying yourself an income at this point because you are in a high investment scalable business and you must treat it that way. It takes a lot more than funding your stock to make your company and game a core success, you will need to invest in yourself more than you think you need to get off the ground initially.

Unless, you have built a core audience that is able to turn your Kickstarter campaign into a success in the first 24 hours/week and get you overfunded. You are taking a huge risk by launching a campaign and you really can’t be afraid to fail, being successful creates higher chances for you to fail later on, if you haven’t set up your business for the longevity correctly.

Fail, fail, fail!

That’s why failing a Kickstarter campaign is a good thing. It sets you up super well for future endeavours with your brand. I learnt that it takes building an audience and bringing them with me to get funded. I also understood that where I was at that moment could only fund just under £1000 and if I didn’t take the time to build an audience then I would still be successful at a lower cost, which is what I did to bring the game out faster. That meant taking a smaller and controlled risk, it also meant that if I wanted Quirk! to succeed I had to find ways of funding a small quantity myself. That built resilience in my attitude and not relying so heavily on a Kickstarter being the only predictor of my success.

It allows you to sit back and re-evaluate, yes you’re going to feel bad that you failed and you may feel like a lot of people are judging you, but that’s never a reason to let the failure keep you down. Kickstarter is a versatile platform and will allow you to post a project over and over again until you get it right. The one thing you have to be aware of is your customers and how they feel on every reboot and it can cause you to lose people. So re-evaluation is mega important to your success in the long term and you’ll start to understand there are more ways to gain success than following every game designer on to Kickstarter.

I’m not saying don’t use it, many creators are turning to double funding cross-platform on Kickstarter and Indiegogo because the audiences are different and you open more awareness but you also up  your responsibility and widen your workload. (Like I will keep repeating, there are many elements that will contribute to long term success).

Product development and games design as a solo-creator is very tough, building a successful brand is not an easy journey but it’s possible and failure is a big part of being a bigger success later.

I just hope it doesn’t stop you from creating.

Emma May
Creator of Quirk!
CEO/Creative Director
Emmerse Studios

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