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How Kickstarter campaigns find success

Having a successful Kickstarter campaign is easier said than done. Some find that hook and go viral -- others flop. But creative and prepared entrepreneurs can find success even in failure.

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Even with funding, however, the team faced some obstacles. They encountered several programming limitations and, a few months after their launch, shut down the website to recreate Grafighters for smart phones. The team has spent the last six months developing a series of mobile Grafighters games to release this summer.

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Despite the ups and downs, Cleckner says, he has never regretted a single part of the experience, not even the ill-fated Kickstarter campaign.

“It was so interesting to see the ups and downs of having an idea and getting super psyched about Kickstarter and all these possibilities,” he says. “I think it's always been something we've wanted to do, and that's been very helpful for us."

Kickstarter done right

If you want a model for a success, take a look at Planetary Annihilation. This large-scale real-time strategy game by Uber Entertainment, based in Kirkland, Wa., had a funding goal of $900,000 and closed its campaign with $2 million.

“I knew that we had something that was going to be pretty cool, but I had no idea that many people would notice this. I was really just blown away,” says Jon Mavor, self-proclaimed "tech commander" for the company.

Planetary Annihilation brings players to an intergalactic arena, where you build massive armies to destroy your enemies (and, yes, annihilate entire planets). While the industry has released great strategy games, many of them work on a much smaller scale, he says. Mr. Mavor wanted a large-scale game for a change, with massive battles and action.

What’s in a successful Kickstarter campaign? Mavor names three key ingredients: Credibility, a great pitch, and a hook.

“Kickstarter’s a weird beast,” he says. “You just can’t have some wild idea and go on the site and get it validated. The community’s a little resistant to original, crazy ideas, especially in games, if you want to make a substantial amount of money.”

One challenge with a Kickstarter is setting a budget. Mavor says one of the biggest misconceptions is that the funding goal is the actual cost of the project. While this is Uber's first Kickstarter campaign, the five-year-old company has made popular games such as the third-person shooter Monday Night Combat. With this background, Uber knew that a game like Planetary Annihilation would cost well more than a million dollars to make. But the company asked for only $900,000. Asking for the full amount, he says, can deter people from investing. An accurate estimate may seem insurmountable.

“The last game that I worked on cost $10 million to make," Mavor says. "Our 2 or 3 million dollar budget is not actually juicy and ripe, as I would say. It’s more like, let get this done."

Mavor hoped the $900,000 asking price would attract at least $1.5 million. The campaign exceeded his expectations, but the hard part is keeping the game’s budget low while satisfying the backers.

Lessons learned

If there’s anything to keep in mind before launching a Kickstarter campaign, it’s that the projects take an unbelievable amount of work from start to finish, Peterman says. Despite the success of the IMB gloves, he says, he might not have pursued the project had he known how much work and money it would take, though he does not regret the experience.


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