My 2nd Kickstarter failed. Here’s why.

My Kickstarter campaign for The Fellwater Tales RPG ends in about a week. And if you have looked at the campaign page recently, you’ll see we’re nowhere near the target.

This is not for lack of trying. The game was featured on eight tabletop gaming blogs – one of them featured the game several times (Thank you Pat!). My press release went out to about 50 gaming blogs. It was on three times, where it was seen by their 215,000+ followers. And of course, all my team plugged it on our own Facebook / Twitter pages as often as possible. It was shared on Twitter (once) by Cory Doctorow, a very big name in gaming. Still we raised only about $1,300 from 21 backers: that’s only 13% of the target.

Therefore, although there’s about a week to go, I think it’s time to admit that this fundraising campaign is a failure.

There are a few reasons for this that I can think of. One is that the tabletop gaming market might be saturated (again!). Another is that this may have been a bad time of year. The biggest reason is probably that I could not devote all my time to the campaign: I’m still a fulltime college professor so I have to give most of my time to that. And I had my TED talk in the middle of the campaign. I also ran a publicity giveaway stunt for my novels which I had hoped would cross-over into the games somewhat, but it seems to have failed as well. My last Kickstarter campaign hit its target in 13 days because I was able to work on that campaing non-stop the whole time. Then (with a big boost from JS), it ballooned up. But this time, I was unable to work on it nearly 24/7.

It’s also true that I don’t really have any fingers in the gaming community anymore: I’m much better known as a writer of nonfiction in philosophy and in paganism, and a writer of fantasy fiction. People who back gaming projects probably thought I was an unknown newbie.

A last reason, by the way, is that I strongly suspect that one of the advertising agencies I worked with was actually peddling a scam. Shortly after my campaign was launched, I got a private message from someone who claimed to be an ordinary backer of gaming projects. He gave me a list of advertising services which might be helpful for my campaign. I went to the one on his list which looked like the best fit for my project. It offered to post banner ads for my project on around 20 gaming web sites, and charged about $150 for 100,000 impressions. But as I followed up on how many clickthroughs those banner ads attracted, I saw that the number did not match how many people viewed my video on Kickstarter.

If you are contemplating Kickstarter campaigns for game projects in the near future: I will provide you with info about who I think was scamming me, if you want it. Send me an email.

So, what happens now?

Well, I have a plan “B”. This plan involves creating the game anyway, but it will be smaller. It will have have less art, and it will take longer to produce. I will have to pay for everything out of pocket now.

I’ve spoken informally with a friend of mine about possibly collaborating with him on his game. Nothing is confirmed; but I do look forward to working with him.

I’ve another, smaller game that I invented as a class exercise which I would like to produce for the general public, like I did with “Iron Age“. It might make a good party game.

And I will return my attention to writing. The fourth and final installment of the Fellwater novels has to be written. I’m also turning my attention to a new nonfiction project. Related to that, I’d also like to create some kind of interactive “Guide to the Fellwater Tales” web site, which will introduce readers to the world of the novels and some of its prominent landscapes and characters. Maybe I’ll create a book trailer for YouTube, as well. I need to promote my novels better in general anyway. Like a lot of self-published writers, I’d like my work to be as well loved and commercially successful as the works of George RR Martin, or JK Rowling, or Neil Gaiman. If that happens, it is likely to be a long way off. So I should start walking more resolutely in that direction.

One of the personal realizations to emerge from this failure is the discovery that I care more about my books and novels than I do about my games. I like games, and I mean it when I say that games are good for us, but I think I like inventing games more than playing them. And I think I like writing stories more than writing games. I want to create my own computer RPG, and make it as big as Skyrim – but I’d need twenty million dollars for that. For the moment, my time and money is perhaps better spent working on my books and novels.

To those who supported my game: Thank you for believing in my work.

I invite everyone to go to my web site, where you can add your name to my email list. Then you can keep up to date with whatever I will do next, and get a copy of the game when it is ready to play.

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3 Responses to My 2nd Kickstarter failed. Here’s why.

  1. Daniel Girard says:

    Well that sucks! I was looking forward to playing a new and refreshing game with my friends. If I can help in any way with producing this game later in the future, just let me know.

  2. Declan says:

    Brendan, I think you need to realise you lost many potential backers in your first two paragraphs of the background on kickstarter:

    “Back in 1996 I started writing my own tabletop fantasy role-play game. I would open the document every three or four months, write or edit a page or three, and then close it again for another few months.

    The result of having done that for nearly twenty years is that I now have an almost-complete game, 286 pages long. It’s time to finish the game once and for all, and let it loose in the world.”

    The gaming world has moved on a huge way in 20 years. Most people don’t want another game based on ideas from the early 1990s. (We bought loads of those in the 1990s). In the intervening years game developers have tried all sorts of things. Many were missteps, but with each new thing trialled the gaming community as a whole learnt and moved forward.

    The first two paragraphs of your Kickstarter page are unfortunate, because your honest about how your game came to be probably lost you many potential backers.

    I wish you every success in bringing your game to the market one day. I’d suggest producing some form of preview before you do it. It always helps if potential backers have something to look at. Offering a preview document at a really low price pledge is a great way of getting people involved, and once they’re pledged Kickstarter does a great job of keeping them informed.

    Also I’d get yourself known in gaming circles and let the gamers themselves do your promotion. Drop by, and talk about the game. Then set up an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit. Once gamers are enthused they will tell other gamers. You may want to look at some of the hugely successful Kickstarters too, to see how they did it. However remember that if you look at the Fate Core, Hillfolk or Numeneria kickstarters, the people producing those games had a very strong reputation in the industry and were able to leverage that. Having said that, they did everyting right as well so there’ll be lots of lessons to be learned from those three.

    You may also want to have a look here.

    Anyway as I said, good luck taking your game forward

  3. Pingback: In Which I Prepare To Launch A New Game | The North West Passage

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