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.