Lessons from a mediocre Kickstarter

Greetings Sweeper Fans!

Well, our Kickstarter is about to end and it looks like we’re not going to be able to hit our goal of $5,000.

We want to thank everyone who participated in the campaign, either by contributing to it, sharing it with their friends, or writing about us in the media. We’re sorry we weren’t able to get the proper funding, but the game launch is going ahead regardless.

Though we have had some server issues, you still expect the game to hit Android stores sometime next week, so stay tuned and make sure to download it when it launches!

In the meantime, we thought we’d share the lessons we learned from our Kickstarter to help others plan and improve their own.

 

  1. Make sure you have a high quality trailer that explains the game clearly

This one might seem obvious, but an urge to be creative and funny can sometimes cloud judgment. The trailer you use should showcase the game play, art, and features clearly and succinctly. The video is arguably the most important part of the campaign. It’s the easiest content to consume and it’s “above the fold” on your Kickstarter page. A good video can encourage people to scroll down and see what your campaign really has to offer, while a bad one will likely have people leaving before it ends.

  1. Tap your personal network as early as possible

Studies have shown that reaching 30% funding gives you a much better chance at reaching your full funding goals. Ideally, this 30% will come from your own personal network – your friends, family, and acquaintances – that believe in you and your project. The sooner you reach that 30%, the more likely you are to get funded, so start reaching out before your official Kickstarter launches. Unfortunately, Spirit Sweeper’s timeline didn’t allow for us to do this, and it was likely a significant contributing factor to our unsuccessful campaign.

  1. Build an Audience Early

Though the Spirit Sweeper campaign timeline didn’t allow for this, if we were to do another campaign, we would start by building awareness of the game months ahead of time.

It’s a great idea to run a dev blog, share artwork and screenshots, and have a landing page where people can go and sign up to a mailing list. A landing page with a Mailchimp sign up form is a great way to build an audience and keep them posted with updates on the game’s progress. It’s a good idea to do this as early as possible so that you have time to build momentum.

  1. Be involved in social media

Similar to the above, be active in social media, and be active early. Ideally, at least a year before you are going to launch, you need to be reaching out and talking to people involved in other projects. This will help you build up a solid Twitter and Facebook following well before you actually launch your Kickstarter project. By the time you are ready, you’ll have had time to develop a network of people that know about you and who may help support you, either directly or by spreading the word.

  1. Know your user story like the back of your hand

You need to know what is fun and unique about your game and how to say it in as few words as possible. This is both for media types, who don’t have a lot of time to read through press releases and wordy emails, and for potential backers. If you can’t say what your game is about and why it’s fun in one sentence, you need to work on your pitch.

The Wispsoft team would like to thank everyone once again who supported us Kickstarter. We really appreciate your encouragement. For all our game dev friends out there, we hope you’ll be able to learn from our process and apply it to your own projects in the future.

We’ll be back again soon with more news on the development of Spirit Sweeper, so stay tuned and don’t forget to like us on Facebook!

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14.11.02 16:00

Spirit Sweeper is a PvP game, and so we’ve been working hard over the weekend to make sure the server stuff is working correctly. Unfortunately, we’ve had some bad news from our stress tests. We’ve been getting DeadLock (failure) results from 3 separate sources, and it’s going to require fixes on the server level. Because of this, I don’t think we’ll be able to launch on the 4th as we had originally hoped. T.T

Why were we aiming for the 4th? Well, by the end of November we expect to be financially unable to keep on developing, so we wanted to launch the game early in the month so we could follow up on any bugs or development issues. Pushing the week back one week isn’t too bad, but it’s not ideal…

The server issues have left me pretty frustrated. Now might be a good time to re-visit my reasoning for developing Spirit Sweeper. First, the Korean mobile game market has exploded over the past few years thanks to Kakao Talk. It’s to the point that the defining criteria for a smartphone is whether or not it can run Kakao. And in the beginning, the Kakao Talk era lead to huge downloads and huge success stories for games. But this is no longer the case, and there’s 2 reasons why:

  1. Kakao Talk allows gamers to invite non-gamers to their game. In the beginning, this function had no limits, and people were spamming their acquaintances left and right. And so Kakao Talk added limits to the invite system, in some cases limiting invites to 20 a day, or limiting the number of incentivized invites to 30. (Incentivized invites are when the user is given in-game currency prizes for a successful invite.) This caused the price of incentivized invite to escalate, marginalizing indie developers with low marketing budgets.
  2. In the beginning, Kakao was very selective about the games it carried on its platform. This is no longer the case. Perhaps it was because too many games had applied and they grew tired of filtering through the games, but somewhere along the line they severely loosened there standards. And so these days, you can see a lot of copycat games and other low quality games on Kakao. This has lowered expectations from Kakao users, thereby increasing the need for marketing. In fact, it’s nigh impossible for games to get downloads these days without marketing. This is in stark contrast to before, when the Kakao platform was so strong that it made marketing unnecessary.

Mobile gamers in Korea these days are pretty much set in their ways and don’t really have interest in new games anymore. To pique their interest requires a huge marketing budget, and the price for such marketing is ever-increasing. Without a publisher, or without outside investment, it’s nearly impossible to get Korean users to play a game. I came to this realization around December last year, and upon realization I was severely tempted to close up shop. But, because I had yet to approach the global market, I thought I’d give it one last shot.

Of course, the global market also requires a lot of marketing, but with so many users I am hoping that it’ll be easier to gather a significant number of hardcore users and achieve virality. If only I could find a game that would resonate with global users… as I pondered about this, I suddenly thought back to my Windows 95 days and all the time I had spent playing Minesweeper. I remember how in 2003/2004, there was a game called MineSweeper Flags that allowed for pvp Minesweeper play on MSN messenger. I searched for a game like this on mobile and to my surprise, couldn’t find any. Why not? It was a really fun game, and sure to work well with a global fan base. Maybe I should make one…

Of course, I didn’t want to make a copycat game. In my next blog post, I’ll detail how I made Spirit Sweeper and how it differs from Mine Sweeper. Blogging is fun, but it takes away from my dev time. So, back to work I go..

KR version:

서버 스트레스 테스트 결과 DeadLock이 발생하는 부분이 3곳 정도 나왔다. 서버 엔진 레벨에서 수정해야 할 부분이 있어서, 이번주 출시가 어려워 보인다. 이 문제를 해결해야 출시일을 정할 수 있을 것 같다.ㅠㅠ

잠 시 머리를 식힐 겸 ‘스피릿 스위퍼’를 만들게 된 계기를 정리해 본다. 우선 한국 모바일 게임 시장은 ‘카카오톡 게임하기’를 통해 급성장을 이루었다. 아! 카카오톡은 한국의 국민 메신저로, ‘카카오톡’을 사용 할 수 없는 폰은 ‘스마트폰’으로 인정받지 못 할 정도이다. 초기에는 ‘카카오톡 게임하기’에 입점한 것만으로도 화제가 되었고, 많은 다운로드를 확보할수 있었지만 이런 시기는 얼마 가지 않았다. 나는 그 이유는 2가지 정도로 보고 있다.

1. ‘카카오톡 게임하기’에는 게임을 하지 않는 친구를 초대하는 기능이 있다. 초기에는 초대에 제한이 없었지만, 초대 메시지가 문제가 될 정도로 많이 날아다닌 탓에 하루 20명 제한, 친구 초대로 인한 보상은 30명까지만 등의 제한 정책이 생겼다. 카카오톡을 통해 사용자를 모으는데 제한이 생기면서, 사용자 모객 비용이 많이 비싸지게 되었다. 중소개발사는 마케팅비용을 지출 할 수 없기 때문에 더 큰 피해를 입게 되었다.

2. ‘카카오톡 게임하기’는 초기에는 게임을 어느정도 선별해서 입점시켰다. 그러나 어느 순간-아마 게임 입점심사가 많이 몰리면서?- 선별을 게임 퍼블리셔에 이양하는 듯한 모습을 보이더니, 아예 입점 심사가 형식적인 절차로 변하게 되었다. 따라서 ‘카카오톡 게임하기’에는 입점한 게임들 중 카피캣과 퀄리티가 낮은 게임들이 많이 등장했다. 새로운 게임이 나오면 관심을 갖던 사용자들도, 이제는 더 이상 관심을 갖지 않고, 마케팅 없이는 이전과 같은 큰 다운로드, 아니 다운로드 자체를 기대할 수 없게 되었다. 이 부분에 대해서는 한국 개발사들의 반성이 필요하다는 생각이 든다.

한국 사용자들은 이미 하고있는 게임에 고착화가 이루어져, 신작에 대한 관심도가 낮다. 관심을 끌려면 마케팅 비용이 너무 많이 필요하다. 중소개발사는 퍼블리셔나 투자를 받지 않고서는  국내 시장에서 좋은 성적을 기대하기 어렵다는 결론을 내리고 회의에 빠졌었다. 정말 작년 12월, 올해 1월에는 회사를 정리할까하는 생각을 했었다. 하지만 아직 글로벌 시장에는 제대로 진출해보지도 않았고, 글로벌 시장에서의 가능성에 희망을 갖게 되었다.

글로벌 시장에서도 마케팅 비용은 필요하지만, 마니아 층을 쉽게 만들 수 있다면 좀 더 쉽게 바이럴이 가능할 것으로 생각했다. 어떤 게임을 만들면 재미있을까 하고 고민하다가, PC를 처음 사고 윈도우 95를 접했을 때 하던 게임들이 생각났다. ‘카드놀이’, ‘프리셀’, ‘지뢰찾기’…. 이 중에 ‘지뢰찾기’가 가장 즐겨 했었고, 2003년(2004년?)에 MSN 메신저 애드온으로 나왔던, 전투 지뢰찾기(MineSweeper Flags)를 재미있게 했던 기억이 떠올랐다. 마켓에 찾아보니 이 재미있는 게임은 없고, 기본 지뢰찾기만 있었다. 왜 없을까…. 마니아 층도 확실 하고, 글로벌 사용자들도 좋아 할 만한 게임인데…. 이렇게 ‘스피릿 스위퍼’를 만들게 되었다.

그리고 출시를 눈앞에 두고 있어서 Mine Sweeper와 Spirit Sweeper의 차이는 다음 블로깅에서 적어야 겠다. 글 쓰는게 재미있긴 하지만, 은근히 시간을 많이 뺏기는 것 같다.ㅠㅠ

Nov 1 2014, 0930

Well, I missed my 11pm blog last night. It’s harder than I thought it would be, the act of blogging. Our company has only 3 people, so I’m heavily involved in every part of the development process. I keep telling myself, I’ll write a blog post as soon as I finish this task, or as soon as I get home… but once I got home, my wife (we’ve been married for 1 month now!) is waiting for me. We talk for a bit and I knock out completely.

In Korea, we have a saying about the early stages of marriage. The couple is greatly in love and so it’s a time when “a lot of sweets come pouring out”.  However, and I feel sorry for my wife to say this, but in our case it’s “a lot of sleep comes pouring out”. I’m so thankful to her for her understanding, and for always cheering me on even as our company struggles. I really want to make a good game for her, to right this company and to pay her back for all her support (if that’s even possible).

ss1

This my game. It’s called “Spirit Sweeper”, and to explain it really simply, it’s a pvp version of minesweeper for mobile. It’s quite fun!

ss2

Above is the UI for the character menu in our game. We’re trying to launch by November 4th, but hadn’t realized until yesterday that the game lacked a character description section. So we worked on it yesterday, and finished it. This is just one of 20 things left on my checklist.

At Wispsoft (the name of our company), we use Trello for our task management.

aa2

Trello is a web app that aligns with SCRUM methodology of development. We find it helpful and much more useful than using Post-its, which is how we used to manage our daily meetings. The only thing is, I kinda miss the sense of satisfaction I’d get after ripping down a Post-it upon completing a task. Trello is nice and convenient, but it’s almost too easy to turn a task from “Doing” to “Done”. The tactile satisfaction doesn’t really translate well online.. ㅠㅠ

My High School senior is going to get married soon so I’ll have to wrap up here. Once the wedding is over I’ll go straight to the office. It might be the weekend, but there’s only 4 more days till launch… I’ll have to make things up to my wife after the game launches.

KR Version~~~

시간에 맞춰서 블로깅 하는게 쉽지 않다. 작업할 때는 작업만 조금 끝내고 써야지, 작업이 끝나고는 집에가서 써야지…. 집에 가서는 1달 전에 결혼한 와이프가 나를 기다리고 있다. 같이 이야기를 조금 하다가 보니 필름이 끊기면서 그대로 곯아 떨어졌다. 한국에서는 결혼 초기, 신혼 부부간의 애정을 많이 주고 받는 시기를 ‘깨가 쏟아진다’는 표현을 쓴다.  와이프에게 미안하게도 집에 오면 ‘잠이 쏟아진다’. 결혼 전후로 회사가 어려워져도 늘 응원해주는 와이프가 고맙고, 좋은 게임 만들어서 와이프도 함께 고생에 대한 보람을 느꼈으면 좋겠다.

ss1 ss2

‘스리핏 스위퍼’의 타이틀과 어제 작은 작업중 하나였던 크리쳐 배경 이야기 UI 부분이다. 만들고 보니 크리쳐 배경 설명이 나오는 UI가 없어서 뒤늦게 만들게 되었다. 이것 말고도 20개 가량의 체크리스트를 지웠다.

aa2

우리는 업무와 관련된 작업 목록 관리를 트렐로(https://trello.com)로 하고 있다. 스크럼(Scrum)에서 사용하는 BackLog 관리 웹 서비스이다. Daily Meeting에서 이전에는 Post it으로 하던 것들을 웹에서 Online으로 관리할 수 있게 되어 편하다. 아쉬운 점이라면, Doing에 있던 BackLog를 Done으로 옮기는게 너무 쉽다는 것이다. Doing에 있던 Post it을 뜯어서, Done에 올려 놓은 뒤, Post it이 잘 붙으라고 부드럽게 문질렀을 때, 비로소 한 작업이 끝났구나 하는…. 그런 느낌이 온라인에는 없다. 그냥 휙휙 옮기게 된다ㅠㅠ

곧 고등학교 선배의 결혼식이 있어서 글을 길게 쓸 수가 없다. 결혼식 다녀와서 사무실로 가봐야겠다. 주말이지만, 출시가 얼마 남지 않았으니….. 출시하고 와이프에게 더 잘해줘야겠다ㅠㅠ

Oct 31, 2014 8PM (Korean Standard Time)

So I’ve decided to blog every 4 hours. However, my first blog was delayed because our office internet went down for the past 3 hours. Sorry everyone for the slow start.

It’s time to eat dinner. Before I do, I review my to-do list. There are some huge bugs that need to be taken care of, sure, but mostly they are small matters that aren’t that hard to take care of. I make the decision to take care of the small stuff first, with the goal of checking them off, each time coming close to launch.

Even though I’ll mostly do the easy stuff today, I don’t expect to go home anytime soon. Well, the journey starts here. I’ll try to write again at 11pm. See you soon!

4시간 마다 한 번씩 글을 쓰려는 마음먹고 있었는데, 사무실에 인터넷 문제로 약 3시간동안 웹에 접근 할 수가 없다.(글은 7시에 썻지만, 언제 인터넷이 될지 모르겠다.)

저녁 먹기 전에 남은 작업들을 살펴보니, 큰 버그도 있지만, 대부분 작은 버그와 자잘한 마무리 작업들이다. 작업할 체크리스트를 많이 지우기 위해, 작은 작업들부터 끝내야 겠다. 체크리스트를 하나씩 지울 때 마다 출시까지 한 발짝씩 더 다가서는 느낌이 든다.

작은 작업이라고 해도, 티끌모아 태산이라는 말 처럼 티끌이 모여서 오늘도 집에 늦게 들어갈 것 같다. 4시간 마다 한 번 글을 쓰고 있으니, 다음 글은 11시쯤 남겨야겠다. 이때까지 작업이 얼마나 진행되어 있을지 궁금하다.

Hello World.

My name is Yong-Eun Jung. I am the CEO of Wispsoft and I am 27 years old.

This blog is about the launching process for a game I am developing called Spirit Sweeper. It is our goal to launch this game by November 10th. However, we are in quite a disadvantageous situation in that our company is also preparing for bankruptcy.

I intend to use this blog to share the trials and tribulations of the launch process for what could very well be the last game we ever make. I hope it can be of instructional value, or at least entertaining, for those who are interested in the game industry and want a behind-the-scenes look.

Thank you.

Note: I will be writing in Korean and my partner will be translating it into English. Please do not be alarmed if you see Korean text here; it will be translated shortly.