In Theory… Campaign analysis
So begins 2014, the year of Reset. Having come down from the high induced by the Christmas miracle created by all you guys, it’s time to get down to serious business again (as serious as game development can be ). To kick it off, we thought we’d do a sort of post-mortem on the campaign and share the campaign data.
But first a BIG HUGE THANKS goes TO ALL OF YOU GUYS for jumping at the cause at the last minute! Big hand to our competition winners Marin Z, brett.caughie and Sam Rudge. Special honorable mention goes to all our friends who helped spread the word like crazy, especially Almost Human, Thomas Puha, Sonja Ängeslevä, Mikael Haveri, Pekka Aakko and Santeri Räihä for his unreal email effort towards news sites. And thanks to the sites that published news on the campaign: Rock Paper Shotgun, DSO Gaming, Kotaku, Joystiq, OnlySP, GamingBolt, Polygon, Strategyinformer, Adventuregamers, Eurogamer, TFN, Complex, PCGH(ger), Dome(fin), Pelaaja(fin), Pelit(fin), Gamereactor(fin), V2(fin) and Tilt(fin), and of course all those we forgot to mention. And of course, NVIDIA for blasting through their channels! Last but not least Indiegogo and John Vaskis for huge support and advice! Couldn’t have done it with out you all.
So here is what happened.
No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy
The plan was simple. First, release a highly awaited game play teaser to kick off the campaign and gain fresh eyes on the game. Should be a good jump start. Second, keep up the campaign with frequent updates. No sweat. Third, release new material at the end of the campaign to really carry it through. Yes, we can do this.
We set the date to release the teaser and start the campaign, drafted the campaign page and finished up the teaser. The starting day was only a couple of days away, and we were super stoked to finally show something new. The campaign page at Indiegogo was nearly done, and we thought we’d finalize it the day before. One “small” detail had been overlooked in all the hassle though. Our Paypal Business account was not set up adequately enough for the campaign.
Ok, so what do we do? The campaign is supposed to start in a few days, but from our perspective, even more important is that WE GET TO SHOW NEW STUFF. The finalizing of the PayPal account shouldn’t take more than a few days, according to their instructions. Ok, let’s stick to the date. We want to show people new stuff on the day that we promised. The promise is very important. The account will be ok by then…
Well, the day came. And we released the teaser. WHICH WAS AWESOME! But the account still wasn’t ready. We got good coverage on the teaser and good feedback. 200000 views in two weeks! After two weeks the account was finally set up, and we started the campaign.
The start was pretty good. Promising even. But looking at the numbers, the 200000 pairs of eyes that missed the campaign would have probably made a bigger dent in the beginning. We knew that it would probably be hard to get the same kind of splash during the campaign. We knew this when we made the decision to keep the promise and release the teaser anyway without the campaign. But we really understood it once the campaign was under away.
But still the start was pretty good. And the reference data provided by Indiegogo was really useful to start seeing how the campaign might go. We we’re in good spirits, and starting to prepare updates.
After the promising start, the unsynced teaser release was really starting to sink in and we we’re kind of wobbling quickly into an area where we were starting to re-plan the campaign over and over again. We knew that we would need to reach out to you guys, our fans, but also get new eyes on the project. It was a constant battle between not rushing something out that would compromise the integrity of our vision and the need to rush something out fast. We’d seen from the reference data and the data we gathered so far that every bit of reaching out had an effect. We did small updates and reaching out and everything seemed to be going in the right direction, maybe a bit slowly but still looking positive. We moved on with the plan: get more material out.
We had planned to release a “features”-video with more gameplay near the end of the campaign to really start the final boost. We’d seen from different sources and from our own experiences that the end push is usually big and could carry a campaign to its goal. Right after the halfway mark, a battery of daycare illnesses (vomit/diarrhea) struck my kids, transforming me automatically to a nurse. And not relatedly Mikko was also down with seasonal pleasantries. This chewed almost two weeks of campaign time. The effect of real life rubbing against a micro team keeping up the fort. This really wasn’t planned. Why wasn’t this planned?!
We had discussed plan B, C, D etc. before we started the campaign. What would we do if it didn’t go through. From our perspective working directly for our fans would be the best option. By far. At some point during the nursing and sneezing we started to bring up the subject of options again. It was not looking good. But the data we had from the campaign and feedback gathered on our 2 year journey left us baffled. Mixed signals.
We knew our core weaknesses compared to many other campaigns. We were the new guys, with only the stuff we had to show for. We had very little gameplay to show. There was no playable alpha to download yet. But the essence of Reset was there. We had shown it. People had responded. And people were on board the campaign.
I can’t lie and say that we didn’t think about folding the campaign. A little over a week to go, what could we do to push it to the end? The material was unfinished for the proper “features”-video. One question always kept coming up. What do we lose by seeing the campaign through, even if we don’t reach the goal? We couldn’t think of a single good reason.
And suddenly we saw an ammo box next to our feet and said, “let’s give’em all we got, 7 days!” I quickly made the 7 days video and we started shooting in all directions contacting everybody we knew. Kind of “nothing to lose” freshness in it all, in a good way. The only difference to a final fight where you know you’re going down was that we genuinely felt that we could do it. The amount of people we had to reach was doable.
From the day we started the 7 day push we saw a good rise in numbers, and we knew that people were out there, we just needed to reach them. I’m not a fan of contemplating on what might have happened if something had happened differently, this was the situation. And we were moving accordingly. And we’re pretty glad we did
Reset is the first bigger crowd funded game project in Finland, but hopefully not the last. There is still the persisting notion of crowd funding being illegal in Finland. This of course is not the case. This notion is based on a publicly debated case (in Finland) of a crowd funded book called “Senja opettaa sinulle ruotsia” by Senja Larsen back in 2012. It was a tragic misinterpretation of the money gathering law by the law officials themselves. Since then things have progressed. There is even one Finnish crowd funding site (mesenaatti.me) operating nowadays. With an exciting Finnish gaming history book “Sinivalkoinen pelikirja” campaigning right now, I might add.
In Finland crowd funding is legal when it is based on pre-sales: funding that is based on selling actual goods. Money gathering without compensation is illegal for companies.
So did we learn anything? Yes, lots. The campaign time is pretty frustrating. A revelation during the campaign was that we were pitching and marketing at the same time. Usually these actions are conducted to two totally different groups of people. The ones you are pitching to you “spoil it” by laying it all down. That group not getting the satisfaction of the full experience. The ones you are marketing to you try to arouse interest but keep it under wraps so that people would get the maximum experience and joy of the project when it is finished. When running a crowd funding campaign you are doing both at the same time, to the same audience. This proved to be quite the predicament. And now after the campaign still can’t say what the best way would be to go about it, in our case anyway.
One thing is pretty clear from our experience. Effective communication is vital. Through every possible channel. Though especially for us Finns, it’s an effort to keep vocal about something for extended periods of time, when it’s sometimes hard to blurp out even two words. But it just cannot be stressed enough. In this age of noisiness, you must make more noise to stand out from the noise.
Crowd funding is a beautiful thing in many aspects. It cuts out the unnecessary middle men. It democratizes the playing field. But most of all cool projects, big and small get realized by the people and not get shot down by a small group of individuals or companies with varying agendas.