Kickstarter Stats: Video Game Edition

Earlier this week I posted some stats on Kickstarter breaking down common attributes of successful projects.  This is a follow up to the original post detailing only projects in the Video Games subcategory.  If you haven’t, please read through the original post first as I’m going to just update the numbers hear and skip much of the explanation.

Kickstarter’s Hidden Data

As I pointed out in the original post, Kickstarter hides failed projects making it hard to get a complete picture.  The result is my dataset that includes 58K of the 64K total projects is skewed toward successful projects.  In  the overall stats, my dataset shows 48% of projects are successful while the true number is 44%.

In the Games category, my dataset shows 38% of projects are successful while Kickstarter reports 34%.  For the Video Games subcategory, my dataset shows 27%.  Kickstarter does not report stats on subcategories, but we can assume the true number is around 23-24% based on the overall trend. 

TL;DR – It’s hard out here for a game developer.

Okay, here are the charts updated for the Video Games subcategory.  Once again, for the detailed explanations of these charts see the original post.

videolengthgoallevelsdescfaqidealideal_pledge

There are not many Video Game projects to work with – a total of 1,103 in my dataset.  Because of this, the data is a little more scattered and harder to feel confident in drawing a conclusion.  Still, I think there is some value to gain, and here is my take:

  • Video – While projects with video are only 29% successful verse the baseline of 27%, only 14% of projects without video are successful.  Have a video.
  • Length – The data here is all over the place; I’m going to say there isn’t a clear pattern to how long a project takes pledges and success rate.  This is different from the overall analysis, where 8 to 34 day projects were very successful.
  • Goal – Again, not a great chart but I’m going to say it’s best to ask for less than $9,000.  The overall goal sweet spot was $5,000 or less, so it looks like backers tend to support higher target projects in Video Games.  Small win for us!
  • Reward Levels – People love options on Kickstarter.  In the overall set I said at least 7 tiers, but it looks like more than 10 is ideal for video games.
  • Description Length – 2,000 HTML characters was the overall sweet spot, but 4,000 is the magic number for Video Games.  Once again, longer isn’t better once past the minimum.
  • F.A.Q. – Video Games differed greatly from the overall stats in which most projects don’t have an FAQ section.   70% of Video Game project don’t have an FAQ, but those that did saw a sharp benefit.  I’d say this is because many backer questions on a Video Game fit the FAQ format such as “What Platforms Will It Run On?” and “Will IT Have DRM?”.
  • Ideal – My “ideal” Video Game criteria is: has video, goal less than $9,000, more than 10 reward levels, 4,000 or more HTML characters in description, have at least 500 HTML and characters in the FAQ.   Only 39 projects matched this criteria, but of those 69% were successful.
  • Ideal Total Pledged – The last chart shows of these ideal, what the final funded level was.  Video Games hang out in the 200% level, while the overall ideal project in my original post centered on 150%.  Another small win for us!

I did one bonus chart for Video Games – Reward Levels by Popularity (% of backers who chose that level) and Reward Levels by Funding (% of total amount pledged).  The data is obvious – many people choose the lower levels but a good chuck of money will come from higher tiers:

reward_pop

All the disclaimers of my prior post still stand, and if you would like a copy of the dataset to analyze further contact me.  The data format is an MS SQL database (works with the free Express edition) and no I’m not going to convert it for you.

Each week on the GameMarx podcast I discuss new Video Game Kickstarter projects, and I have a few more recommendations based on my personal observation.  I don’t have data to back them up, but after months of watching project I feel pretty good in these:

  • Open With Gameplay – If you can’t put together a 30-90 second clip of what the game will look like you aren’t inspiring confidence in your ability to complete the game.  I would also discourage using “programmer art” – find an artist to get enough assets for the demo.  They don’t need to be final, but most people are probably not able to understand “programmer art” and will assume this final game will look similar even if you put up a big disclaimer.
  • Tell Me About You – Don’t go into a long family history, but follow the gameplay with a quick bit about you and your indie studio.  Why are you passionate about this game?  What else have you done?  Your story is what goes viral, not the game (more people talk about Notch’s story than Minecraft mechanics).
  • Don’t Talk Money Use – Almost all money behind an indie game goes to someone’s food and rent.  This is the truth, but it is not a selling point.  People know games cost money so you don’t need to break it down.  However, if the money is going specifically to contract outside talent (art, music, etc.) that will enhance the game, it’s okay to mention this.  The message is “with your help, this game gets better”.
  • Clear Description Up Front – In the first two sentences state what kind of game it is and what platforms it will run on.  Speaking of platforms:
  • Include Windows PC – Mobile only games do not do well on Kickstarter, and it’s not clear how you will deliver mobile versions to backers.
  • $10 – Game / $25 – Collectors Edition – Give a copy of the game away at the $10 level and upsell backers to $25 with a (digital) bonus like a soundtrack, make of video, etc.  I also recommend to price all physical reward level items at the $75 level or more.  Physical items cost quite a bit and distract from your time on the game, but they are popular so price them appropriately.
  • Avoid Free / Free-to-play – It’s hard to give backers a copy of a free game and make them feel like they got something special.  Promising “10,000 Space Bucks” in a free-to-play game is worthless and the backer has no way to know what the value is of a Space Buck is in your system.
  • You Are Not Tim Shaffer And You Are Not Funny – This is the one thing I see time and time again kill a project.  You might be funny in your circle of friends, but probably not on camera to a wide audience.  When your routine bombs it is not only painful to see but makes the backer wonder if you are legit or not.  Related to this is having a token girl/model explain your game who clearly has nothing to do with the project.  Nothing says scam like “I hired this pretty face to get your money.”
  • No Boobs – I have seen backlashes against projects that feature scantly clad CG “women” in their games and pitch video.  These may work for the AAA studios (or the studios think it works), but the Kickstarter community is not likely to fund a DOA clone.  Worse, it doesn’t take much for a few blog posts to cite your project as what’s wrong with games and have backers pull their pledges (remember, the backers list is public).  I’m not saying you cannot have cute or sexy in your game, but to keep it within reason (i.e. 20 year old male vs. 13 year old male) and don’t push the sexy angle of the game over the actual game itself.

In general, my advice is the same as it was on the original post.  Consider the data above, but before you launch a project do you own research by finding similar projects as what worked for them.  The numbers may look low, but Kickstarter is not curated and there is a lot of junk in the system (not that different from XBLIG).  Finally, a good social media campaign before and during your project probably trumps everything here.  Don’t expect a “launch it and they will come” – that only works in the movies, and for Tim Shaffer.


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