Mistake #2: The art isn't good enough

After a failure in marketing, subpar art is the second biggest mistake you can make as a project creator on Kickstarter. Art is the first thing anyone notices about your project, which is why this is mistake #2.

Like marketing, art can make or break a project. If you would describe your game's art as "good enough", it's likely you are wrong. As I mentioned in mistake #1, the visual appeal of a game is very important to the experience. Great art can make someone want to back your project before they even look at your gameplay; bad art can make them pass over your project without a second thought.

To paraphrase Daniel Zayas, a certified Kickstarter Expert, "if you want your game to succeed, throw as much money at the artwork as you can." Our artist is a co-owner of SGG so we don't really "throw money" at our artwork, but there were things we could have done to improve the art. Her skills as an artist were not the problem.

The problem with Dark Web

  • The art was wrong. As it turns out, not many people out there are interested in ASCII art. We thought it was great, but not many other people did. We didn't really consult anyone outside of SGG about the artwork before we launched, and it shows. As you can see in this BGG post I made during the campaign, the game's ASCII art was not well received.
  • We didn't present the art very well. Funny thing, it turns out our ASCII art looks better printed on cards than it does on a computer screen. On our prototypes it looked great (or at least we thought it did) but on our project page it looked "home made", as someone on BGG put it. It's vitally important that your project image and your project page are presented in the most enticing way possible.

In contrast, after we cancelled the campaign I posted artwork for a future game we had been toying with, whose working name was Evil House. As you can see, it was very well received and we have since decided to retheme Dark Web into a haunted house game.

Why Martial Art succeeded

  • Simply put, the art is amazing. The focus on historic art is even in the name. We spent a LOT of time and effort choosing the best historic art we could find and making the game look as beautiful as possible.
  • The project page was set up to look as good as we could make it. Our project image drew the eye as it was a beautiful and well known historic painting, and the art we put on the project page had backers salivating.

With Martial Art we didn't do well getting the word out initially (yes that would be a failure at marketing, or mistake #1) but the art was good enough that it drew in people who were browsing Kickstarter. After the campaign, one of our backer survey questions was "how did you hear about Martial Art?" Nearly 80% of backers said they found it browsing Kickstarter.

NEVER skimp on art

If your art isn't good your project will almost certainly fail. Even if you meet your funding goal, chances are your game would have been much more successful if you had spent the time and money to ensure you have the best artwork possible. Art and marketing are by far the most important aspects of a Kickstarter project. Fail at these two key aspects and your project is as good as dead.

-Jon

  

Mistake #1: Not getting the word out

"Getting the word out" in Kickstarter terms basically means general marketing. "Not getting the word out" is a general failure at marketing. With Dark Web we barely got the word out at all, and our campaign failed horribly.

The reason this mistake is listed as #1 is no coincidence. Marketing is hands down the biggest factor in the success or failure of almost every Kickstarter project. As game creators we are excited to share our creations with the world, so it makes perfect sense that we focus our time and energy on gameplay and tend to neglect the marketing aspect of a Kickstarter campaign. Ironically enough, gameplay itself is pretty far down the hierarchy of importance when it comes to Kickstarter--or at least for a single Kickstarter project (more on quality of gameplay below).

How people come to back a Kickstarter Project

  1. They find out about the game, somehow. They could simply be browsing Kickstarter, or they could hear about it through some other means (blog, game demo, newsletter, review, etc). This is where you really need to "get the word out", so people know your games exists and the project is live.
  2. Once they find out about the game, the first thing they notice is the art. If the art does not appeal to them it doesn't matter how good the gameplay is, they won't be interested in your game. While this may seem superficial, I firmly believe that good art and production quality is essential to a positive gaming experience. So I say we embrace it.
  3. They look through your page. This generally means figuring what the theme and gameplay are like, as well as the price point.
  4. If they are sufficiently hooked by the theme and gameplay and the price doesn't turn them off, they will either back the game or click the "remind me" button. Sometimes they will look for third party reviews, but this isn't always a requirement.

You may notice that gameplay is the third item in this list. This means that backers have to get past #1 and #2 before they even consider gameplay, which means #1 and #2 are the most essential gatekeepers you need to get people past before they will even consider backing your project. So you can see how important marketing is with Kickstarter--the more eyeballs on your project, the more potential backers you'll get through gates 1 and 2.

Does gameplay even matter?

The short answer is yes, but oddly enough it doesn't have all that much to do with the success of your current project unless you run a lot of demos. It's important to deliver a polished game with great mechanics, on an ethical level if nothing else, but great gameplay will only encourage your backers to back more of your games in the future, it doesn't help you now. What matters now is marketing and presentation. Just be sure you deliver a solid game afterward.

In my next post I will describe how we also failed at #2.

-Jon