Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Kickstarter Experience

As my regular readers will know, I recently concluded a successful Kickstarter campaign for Adventures Dark and Deep: A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore. The book is a version of my ADD game presented as a supplement for other 1E-compatible games. I learned a few things about Kickstarter from the experience, and thought I'd share.

First off, Geek Industrial Complex has a great three-part analysis of crowdsourcing for RPGs, here, here, and here. Excellent stuff, well backed up with hard numbers (it was the result of a study of 150 different projects), and you can download the raw data here.

For my personal experience with the Forgotten Lore KS campaign, I was approached by Tavis Allison, who was managing the Kickstarter campaign for James M.'s Dwimmermount, about possibly doing a cross-promotion between my project, Dwimmermount, and Myth & Magic (a 2E-based game with tweaks and improvements). Tavis had himself been approached by Tom Ryan of New Haven Games, who inquired about synergizing their two KS campaigns. I believe he got the initial idea from Paul Hughes' Random Dungeon Generator Poster kickstarter, which also used this sort of cross-pollination to great effect.

We hashed out the details for most of the afternoon via email, and came up with the notion that Dwimmermount and I would offer a shared stretch goal-- an adventure module that would be linked to Dwimmermount as the locale for a treasure map found therein, and which would be a stand-alone module suitable for use with ADD. I would also give M&M a hearty endorsement (which wasn't contrived at all; I've been excited about their project for a while), and vice versa.

So when I sent out the update announcing the shared stretch goal on April 12, I also told the ADD supporters to go check out Myth & Magic. I also mentioned it all here, to maximize the audience. Both the other two Kickstarter campaigns did likewise, plus James mentioned it on Grognardia on the 11th, and this was the result:

Now, I can't speak for the impact that either Dwimmermount or M&M saw, but it was pretty dramatic coming in my direction. There is a natural bump near the end of the life of a kickstarter campaign, but this exceeded my wildest expectations, and as you can see, once the big jump happened, things leveled out to what looks like a more normal end-of-campaign boost.

I attribute this to a few things.

1. A mention on a blog, even a very widely read one like Grognardia, is like radio advertising. You're going to get a very big imprint, but relatively few sales per listener. Over the life of the project, I did get 12 backers from Grognardia (3.5% of the total money raised), but I got three times as many from those mentions in the Dwimmermount and M&M campaigns (accounting for 17% of the total funds pledged, so they were not only more numerous, but more generous).

2.When the mentions are done on kickstarter as part of a supporter's update, you're hitting an audience that is more inclined to actually open their wallets. When it's sent out to supporters, you're by definition getting a targeted audience of people who have already demonstrated their willingness to support projects.

3. The three projects were very much targeting the same audience. Especially in the case of M&M, which might otherwise have been seen as a competitor to ADD, the modern market is much more of a cooperative venture. Because the OSR is such a niche market, we gain much more by getting the word out to other potentially interested buyers than we do by trying to jealously hoard the customers we have. I can't imagine anyone looked at M&M and said "Boy, that looks a hundred times better than ADD. I'm going to switch my support from the one to the other." (Or vice versa.) It's much more about community building, and given the scale at which we're looking, that has much more of a positive impact than any sort of competitive disadvantage.

3a. I think the mutual benefits between ADD and Dwimmermount were due much more to the fact that people who knew about the one were hearing about the other for the first time, rather than saying "Hey! I'm getting a treasure map location module because I'm supporting ADD; I'd better end up supporting Dwimmermount so I can get the level that has the map in it!" (and, again, vice versa). Again, community building. At the scale we're working on, that has many more advantages than disadvantages.

On a larger scale, we see something like this with the Ogre Designer's Edition kickstarter. One of the stretch goals for Ogre is that they will have a Car Wars kickstarter at some point, so they get fans of both games invested in the other. There has also been talk of "recursive" kickstarter campaigns, were a subset of people can band together to combine their efforts to get a high-priced goal, such as 10 people each putting in $300 so that a $3,000 reward level can be shared among them. That hasn't been formally adopted as a feature by Kickstarter, but apparently they're looking into it.

Conclusions

Especially in a small niche market like OSR roleplaying games, kickstarter is not a zero-sum game, by and large. That is, people who are inclined to support one such project are probably going to be inclined to support another project that meets their interests. Both projects could end up getting support, rather than one taking support from the other.

OSR publishers have little to lose, and much to gain, by forming these sorts of partnerships where other projects are not only endorsed, but are integrated together through stretch goals and the like.

I think there is a potential for burn-out and overkill on such things; every OSR KS campaign endorsing every other OSR KS campaign all the time would quickly lose its effectiveness. But doing so in a targeted manner, where natural synergies exist, seems to be a win-win for all concerned.

UPDATE: The raw data for the crowdfunding survey can now be found here.

4 comments:

Hamlet said...

As one of the supporters of the three campaigns, a semi-serious request.

Since you guys have effectively drained by discretionary spending for a good long while, perhaps you could all three wait a while before starting the next campaign that I'll probably end up supporting as well?

Guy's gotta eat . . .


Seriously, I'm excited to see what comes of this cross pollination. I've always been struck by how strong of a community the OSR really is on some levels.

Joseph Bloch said...

From my perspective, I don't expect to have another major project come down the pike until 2013.

But I am not closing the door on the possibility that the full-blown Adventures Dark and Deep books might come towards the end of this year.

All depends on how A Curious Volume does outside of the Kickstarter.

James Maliszewski said...

I have no plans to do another Kickstarter anytime soon. Dwimmermount was successful enough that I would would feel more than a little ungrateful to go back to that particular well again, unless I had a really big project in mind -- and I don't.

Teazia said...

Thanks for the information! I am a backer of all three and I watched closely as the crossover happened. It was amazing to see the virtuous cycle the emerged from the synergy!

Lol at the B school terms in the last sentence