So You Want To Crowdfund? Part 1

The Warp Coin Catastrophe was the first game made with GB Studio to be successfully funded via a Kickstarter. In 2019, after a 21 day campaign, the project was funded at 151% of it’s original goal which amounted to a little over $9,000 CAD. What began as a small idea launched me into a much larger community of homebrew developers and crowdfunding project creators who shared their experience and wisdom with me. I thought it would be worthwhile to now share my experiences and perspective on the whole endeavor through the lens of a GB Studio developer. Perhaps you were considering trying to obtain funding for your own game, or maybe you just wondered what the whole process is like, these series of articles will bring through the whole journey from planning to shipping and hopefully answer your questions. So with that in mind, let’s start at the beginning, which is the first question you should be asking:

To Crowdfund Or Not Crowdfund

Crowdfunding has become a legitimate and empowering way for creators to bring their dreams to life and secure funding for their projects. There are entire businesses and communities that use crowdfunding exclusively as their source of revenue for operations, and businesses that use crowdfunding to supplement their revenue and help organize product launches. While this can be very attractive for those who may be starting out and wanting to take advantage of a platform’s reach, there are several things to consider before diving head first into a campaign. The first is which platform is right for your project? There are several out there, so let’s examine a few of them.

Kickstarter

The “grand-daddy” of crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter is largely to thank for the concept’s normalization in the art and manufacturing sphere. Kickstarter offers some significant advantages:

  • Funds are only withdrawn if a project is fully funded
  • Easy tracking of backers through surveys
  • An established and reputable history of projects

There are of course drawbacks, Kickstarter itself will take a portion of funds raised (this ranges from 5-10% depending on where you are located), and the funds withdrawn are pooled to include shipping if you are funding a physical release. So, if you were selling a game for $40 and shipping cost $15, the percentage collected would be from the full $65 for each game. This is also factored for the funding goal, so if you were hoping to sell 100 units of the aforementioned game, your end goal wouldn’t be $4000, since that wouldn’t factor in the shipping or the percentage of Kickstarter’s take. More on that topic in coming articles.

Finally, the funding not being released unless the goal is met is a double edged sword. While it makes sure you hit your minimum product goals for profitability, a fair amount of effort might be needed afterwards for collecting backer information since it’s not gathered unless a campaign is fully funded (this happened with my game, where I had to hunt down 1 in 5 backers for addresses). There is also the problem with backers requesting refunds before a campaign has closed or sometimes their credit card information being declined.

Indiegogo

Indiegogo is a competitor to Kickstarter and offers a couple of different approaches to the funding schemes. Firstly, backers cannot refund their pledges, so some of those inherent challenges in Kickstarter are not apparent. Indiegogo also offers the option to collect funds regardless of whether you reach your funding goal or not, which can be useful for games focused solely on Digital Distribution. From the experiences I’ve gathered from other crowdfunding users, this platform seems better suited for productions or projects that can be completed regardless of their funding (think films or books) in that the creators would have made the product anyways, this just provides them some better means. This may be better suited for something like hiring artists or musicians for your game.

Ko-fi

While I haven’t seen any Game Boy projects funded via Ko-fi, I have seen and backed several other projects that have opted for this platform. Ko-fi is really simple, it’s essentially a place to collect donations via PayPal, under the idea that you’re buying someone a “coffee” in supporting them. While you could simply setup a “paypal.me” link and ask people to contribute, it’s nice to be able to direct people to a place that includes information about the project, a way to update contributors (there is a blog/update feature) and you can set goals that people can track how much has been funded. The advantage to Ko-fi is it’s 100% free – they don’t take any cut of donations (although PayPal does itself), they simply expect users of the site to donate to them if they chose. The major disadvantage is there is no built in tracking. People can also donate anonymously meaning you have to do all the legwork yourself in terms of surveying people and collecting other data.

Pre-Order

While this isn’t technically a crowdfunding platform, it is a model that has worked for several creators and creates a workflow that you have the most control of. There are many options for creating websites and marketplaces that accept and process payments, and by setting up a pre-order period you can have an accurate idea of how much product you will need to have manufactured, plus you still get the funds up front. The best of these services (Shopify comes to mind) do charge both a monthly fee and a transaction fee, plus hosting a site has its own costs and challenges, so this is probably best suited for developers who already have that infrastructure in place.

Is It Worth It?

In the end, securing funding is only a small portion of all the work that will go into a successful production run so think hard about all the aspects of making a physical game that will need to be implemented before taking on the project. There is the designing of materials, the production of carts and boxes/manuals, creating shipping labels and packing the product, on top of all the marketing and campaigning. All this work may not also yield high profits, so your time may not be well rewarded financially. We’ll dive deeper into all these areas in this series, with the next article focusing on Production Costs and Planning (expect it in early March).

Cover Art by Cinnristreusel