Kicking the Kickstarter addiction

I have a confession to make.

I am a kickstart-aholic. I check it late at night, and during lunch breaks to get my kickstart fix.

Recently it has come to my attention I am spending far too much time browsing the website called kickstarter. The short version of it is that someone will put a project up on there, and will set a goal for it to reach in order to be made or done. You pledge your amount to the project, however it will not be taken out of your bank account unless the goal is met.

If the goal does not get achieved, then the show is over for everyone, as no money will be taken from you leaving the kickstarter with nothing. This lends to a high energy atmosphere for products that are done right.

The atmosphere of this funding model lends well to things which have been planned out but would not get mainstream backing by a traditional bank or other places due to lack of perceived interest or amount of risk tied to the project.

According to my profile, I have been going a bit crazy with buying things lately. Links to above projects also after the break.

Keep reading more to see what I feel are what I’ve noticed in good and bad projects so far on kickstarter.

Kickstarter projects backed by SuperRoach

  1. Airtracks
  2. CTRL+Console
  3. Zircon – “Identity Sequence”
  4. LIFX – Light bulb
  5. iControlPad 2
  6. Fangamer Retrowear
  7. Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa
  8. Video Game Orchestra
  9. Up up down down Left Write
  10. Digispark
  11. The Kick
  12. I’m fine, Thanks
  13. Pants by Bluffworks
  14. Carmageddon: Reincarnation

Looking at the list of things I have backed myself, you can see I’ve gone largely for hardware related to video production, or small items which have low goals to get the actual product.

The catch is, that kickstarter projects will have more than one level to fund a project, and it is totally up to them to specify what extra goals can be given and used. For example, Bluff works pants had its lower options giving you a nice waterbottle. You can still get something nice from the project even if you couldn’t afford the pants. You could option yourself for multiple pairs. The higher levels even involved him making a short film based an an idea you give him.

In other words, he tries to allow for many different demographics to fund the project. People interested in seeing the idea succeed, wanting the product or wanting to through their reputation into the project are all able to help in their own way.

People who fund projects with the higher levels are not uncommon – Notch who is well known for his development of minecraft will often see game projects and dump the highest level available, as seen for Double fine productions and more recently on Planetary Annihilation. Getting these people interested in your project is free publicity, and will make your project more appealing as it will be shown as closer to reaching its goal.

Stretch goals

A kickstarter should also consider the chance that they may need to think about what happens if they become overfunded. Funding does not stop when you have reached your goal, and it is intended in good will that you will invest those resources back into the project. A video game would at least offer more levels given a large enough raise to hire an extra developer. Video game orchestras will seek licensing to include more popular tracks. Some projects will even lower the cost of parts which was the case with the Digispark arudino clone project.

The important thing is that these goals will flow back to everyone who has pledged to the project. Everyone now has an incentive to go tell their friends about the most awesome new project they found by helping the project potentially reach higher goals.

Noted amazing things to happen in projects I have backed

Planetary Annihilation

This game appears to have almost done everything right, from having the perfect background (previous developers of well loved game Total Annihilation), to a down to earth attitude that come through in their updates.

Publicity for this game was almost a given due to it’s background, which leaves the stretch goals to talk about. The goals are all awesome, and the (accidental?) theme of making everything be more awesome just spread as more goals come up. Not all of the stretch goals were laid out at the start – you had to fund the previous stretch goal before the next one would be announced.

The most impressive stretch goal was the “Galactic warfare” goal, which will hopefully give both casual players and people looking for a more meatier game something to stay playing this game for. People can jump in an out of a persistent universe, helping their team out take over entire planets.

The entire team in the final hours of the project streamed from their working offices them partying and being excited about being able to work on the project, along with mini celebrities sitting in and having fun like John Patrick Lowrie, the guy who done many fantastic voices for characters such as the sniper in Team fortress 2 (for nostalgia points, he even done the voice overs in Total Annihilation).

Pants by Bluffworks

A charming video had my attention from the start, however the amount of passion this guy has is infectious. I really wanted to help him get off the ground after watching the video and his updates. You could tell that the project was difficult, but his updates fully shown that he was aware of all the steps needed, and he had more than enough help ready and waiting to go for him to start production.

Stefan was also the very first person that when I pledged money to, wrote a mail thanking me and asking me some general questions. It felt great to connect at such a level!

It seems to help greatly that he is a good speaker as well.

Lifx light globes

Working on your imagination, this project worked on something that most people would love to have in their homes, but likely would consider to be impractical – to have more control over their house lighting than just a switch on the wall. The video worked well to show a sense of building up on the amount of awesome things that you can do.

This project’s idea was so infectious that it received publicity from all around the globe, forcing them to cap a limit on their project for worry of it growing too fast internally. This is definitely the right kind of problem to have.

Coming off the high – the downsides

There is a downside to all the excitement for Kickstarter however. I have noticed a few trends of bad things you can do for a project.

Lock in a solid, google-able name

Don’t call yourself “cool lamp”. For maximum viral effect, you will need people able to visit your page without knowing anything but what their friend has told them. For an example of what not to do, Chris Roberts new project has an easily mistakable name. Am I looking for Space Citizen, Star Citizen or Squadron 42?

From watching the trailer, I would have no idea that Squadron 42 is the name of the single player campaign, and Star Citizen is almost too generic of a name which can easily get muddled up in transport in our mushy brains

Does it make sense as a user?

Look at your funding goals as someone potentially going to fund it. If you have a cool space game (again) to fund, what would someone like from that game? Ingame content that is awesome. Physical content for memorabilia.  On the contrary, some people mightn’t like physical content for a game, so offer them a digital only tier which has any kinds of nice perks you are also offering such as alpha/beta access or special content. Otherwise you are forcing them to choose the lower “just give me the game tier”.

Take a step back and look at  your project

Do you sound like you are on top of the project? Have you shown us that you’ve tried as much as you can before the funding? After all, if you really don’t need Kickstarter to help, why not just get a traditional loan and finish it yourself for maximum profit. Show us in the simplest way possible why we need to help your project.

Give it all you’ve got!

Kickstarter allows you to specify how long the project has before it is closed. It is common to see places set a large timeline – upwards of 45 days or more, in the goal of getting more funding. The problem is that this is a very long time for a funder to be sitting in hibernation, and for your project to be doing nothing as well. Setting a lower amount of days helps to increase the strength of the curve of funding at the beginning and end, and can make the difference from your project falling into obscurity to having a strong finish. To quote Archer, you have got to get in the Dangerzone!

Kickstarter or nothing

As much as I am a fan of website diversity – Kickstarter is an idea, not a singular thing after all, you need to have your pitch on Kickstarter.

There are downsides to Kickstarter as someone making a project. Kickstarter will take a percentage (unconfirmed to be 5%), along with the forced use of Amazon for pledges also taking a percentage off what people are giving you, leaving you with less than the actual total seen on your page.

I’ll name drop my favorite old show, Pure Pwnage. FPS Doug telling us he can run faster with a knife and creating the entire Boom headshot? That was him. The crew are coming back and making a movie, so check it out!

The problem is, they deserve so much more attention, but are stuck to crowd funding website Indiegogo, which on paper sounds perfect to them. It’s local, takes less fees, offers multiple payment options.

As you can see by it’s current funding, by name alone they could be getting more than double that. Publicity however so far has been fairly low.

One obstacle for Kickstarter is that they technically require you to be a company in the United States. If this were to be taken literally, it would be funny to see how much smaller the projects on Kickstarter would be.

The workaround currently, is that proxy companies will place in a project with their details and your pitch. It’s unknown if this could backfire in the future, although really it’s just a step of complexity that projects such as PurePwnage or Lifx will have to deal with, being based in different countries.

Conclusion

I will have to be more careful choosing projects. I’m aware now of ones which are not worth my time. Using the addictive recently launched link in Kickstarter, then I need to be fine with waiting the entire length of the project actually receives funding and begins. Will I be able to stop using the site altogether? Not likely, unless gadget minded people are able to pursue ways to let me purchase their stuff on their own terms, which I am more than ok with.

I think I would make a lot having a Kickstartee’s anonymous program, I wonder if that idea can make it…