Below Lead Designer Discusses Kickstarter Failure

| 14 Dec 2012 14:00

Kickstarter game success may be determined by timing, genre, an established series, and how much is made on the first day, among other factors.

In August, a Kickstarter campaign for a game from the creators of the browser-based Fallen London launched with a $10,000 goal, and ended up making over four times that much. The Kickstarted project, Tales of Fallen London: The Silver Tree, was released to backers in October, and the following month Fallen London's developer, Failbetter Games, began its next Kickstarter. This time, the game wasn't an extension of the Fallen London universe; Below was described as "a narrative dungeon-delving RPG card game." Though the same amount of preparation went into the crowd-funding campaign, it resulted in failure and cancellation of the Kickstarter. The game, however, is still in development as lead designer Chris Gardiner's personal project, and on the Below website, he posted some thoughts about why its Kickstarter failed.

In the post-mortem, Gardiner, who worked on both campaigns, says that he realized fairly early into the Below Kickstarter that it probably wasn't going to be successful. "You'd expect to make about 60% of your funding in the first and last few days of your project. We'd have wanted to be at least 30% of the way there at the end of the first day to feel confident. It was clear that this probably wasn't going to end well." Though there's no clear path to success on Kickstarter, he has some ideas about what went wrong, despite the two weeks of preparation beforehand. He admits that the timing, so soon after Failbetter Games' The Silver Tree Kickstarter, meant that fans of the developer were likely "tapped out." "Launching two Kickstarters in such quick succession was an experiment," Gardiner writes, and that experiment did not yield successful results.

The two other major reasons he cites as possible reasons for failure may have been even bigger: the fact that Below is a new IP, and that the niche genre may have been a poor fit for the Fallen London audience. There's also the fact that it launched in November, perhaps too close to Christmas, that United Kingdom-based Kickstarters are "not yet the slick experience U.S. backers are used to," and potential burnout from the oversaturation of video games on Kickstarter. Gardiner also considered that "maybe Below just sucks," but adds, "I don't believe it does, or I wouldn't be working on it now."

It's been a huge year for video games on Kickstarter, with the overwhelming enthusiasm for Double Fine Adventure and the Ouya console perhaps the most high-profile success stories (though neither has delivered a completed project yet). Gardiner's post on the Below Kickstarter is interesting because it shows the other side of crowd-funding--what happens when it doesn't work, and how much of a crapshoot it can be. "Kickstarter's a weird ecology... Established wisdom surrounding Kickstarters sounds increasingly like astrology. Start on a Monday! End on a Sunday! Price low to make it look achievable! Price high to motivate people to spread the word! Aim to start and finish on the second of each month! Do offer physical rewards! Don't! Type the name of your project backwards at midnight! Sacrifice a goat!" At least in the case of Below, Gardiner was able to take it on as a personal project; you can even play a prototype on the game's website as it continues development. Many other failed crowd-funded games won't be so lucky, even if they did have careful planning and lots of potential.

Source & Image: Below Game

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