In light of Weaving Tides’ nomination for crowdfunding campaign of the year at the GamesIndustry.biz awards, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the Kickstarter strategy we designed last year in collaboration with Art Director Verena Demel.
Emotional by Design
It can be tempting when looking at marketing campaigns, particularly for crowdfunding, to get caught up in the numbers. Whilst statistics are incredibly important, we also shouldn’t let this overshadow the emotional side of the process for everyone involved. For developers, a great deal can ride on a campaign reaching its goal. Whilst it isn’t the case for all projects, many campaigns absolutely need that funding in order to be viable. When people back a Kickstarter it’s because they’re buying into the vision of the developers. Without that belief from backers, there’s no way for a game to successfully crowdfund.
Every crowdfunding campaign is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, with the most tense periods being the run up to launch and the time between launch and hitting the funding target. Kickstarter’s all or nothing funding, in particular, can lead to nail biting moments for developers whose projects are slow to hit that goal. The euphoria of success is particularly potent for a Kickstarter campaign dependent on funding for the project to be possible. .
We first started working with Follow the Feathers, who are based in Vienna, in February 2020, with the Kickstarter originally slated for late March. That’s a tight turnaround, and of course, as we all now know, March turned out to be a period of massive turmoil globally. Kickstarter campaigns for indie video games have a high chance of failing even in more stable times. We were concerned the added financial uncertainty created by the pandemic, and in particular, the onset of lockdowns might impact people’s willingness to back crowdfunding projects.
Caring for the Community
When it became clear that the pandemic was far more serious than we could have anticipated when we began the work, we had some heart-wrenching discussions with Follow the Feathers about how best to approach the Kickstarter campaign in light of the global situation. With heavy hearts, we decided to postpone by one month, to let the community adjust to lockdowns and their potential financial repercussions.
Around this difficult decision, we decided to take the approach of being as open and transparent as possible with the community who had grown around the game. Ren and I drafted a statement together for the reasons behind the delay, and she released it to the community on Twitter, Discord, and the newsletter. Most importantly though, the strategy was always driven by empathy for the community, who would also likely be experiencing disruption and precariousness. The announcement made clear that the team were available to answer any questions that community members had. Moreover, the developers made sure to include silver linings to the delay, including new giveaway competitions and plenty of community streams to reassure people that progress was still being made.
Notably, the option was also given in the Discord server for users to select a role that determined whether or not they saw covid-related updates. This sensitivity to the fact that for many, wholesome games like Weaving Tides act as a refuge during times of instability, was a great example of the care that Follow the Feathers showed for their community. It really demonstrates a sense of care towards the players and an awareness of what they might be going through. The power and potential of creating a safe environment for players is reflected in the booming popularity of Wholesome Games over the past couple of years, and Weaving Tides is no exception.
All in this together
Another key principle in all of the Weaving Tides communications was making everyone feel included. The message was consistent across channels and it was clear when the Kickstarter would be happening. There were regular updates and a countdown to the Kickstarter launch, making the entire community feel included in the excitement around the big day. The payoff from this countdown can be seen in the extremely high level of engagement on the Kickstarter announcement tweet, retweeted 270 times.
This inclusion also meant everyone could share in the victory of reaching 100% funded and hitting each stretch goal. Thanks to the extra time before the campaign, and the empathy shown by the developers to the community, the Kickstarter milestones truly felt like victories that were shared by all the backers. With every stretch goal that was smashed through, that feeling of winning gave the campaign more momentum.
It was thanks to this shared feeling that Weaving Tides was able to achieve all of its fundraising targets before the end of the Kickstarter campaign. They raised more than double their original goal, with the total coming to almost €55,000.