To those of us who follow Kickstarter, it’s no surprise that having a good game does not guarantee funding. Bad games get funded all the time, and more significantly, good games often do not reach their goals. There are many reasons this can happen, but it often boils down to potential players not being able to experience the game before deciding whether to pledge or not. For this reason, looking good has more of an impact on funding than being good.
How do you make your game look good? You make your Kickstarter page look professional and attractive, plaster the page with beautiful art from your game, and make sure reviewers take a look to reassure everyone that yes, this game exists and is playable.
But for many Kickstarter backers, a page starts and ends with its video. It offers a potential backer a fast way to learn about the project and creator with minimal hassle. For this reason, your Kickstarter video is possibly the most important part of your page, and it’s worth working hard to make it as good as possible.
After running three Kickstarters I’ve learned a lot about videos, and today I’m going to offer some advice on what to include in your video and what to avoid. I hope this helps you dodge some of the mistakes I’ve made.
Include a video. A Kickstarter video gives you a unique opportunity to reach potential backers, and my first piece of advice is to always include one in your campaign. Even if you’re unable to follow any other advice on this page, take the time to create a video–many backers will take this as the first indication that you’re serious about your project.
Keep it short. It might be tempting to include your whole life story in the video, but you should really try to keep it concise. Shoot for one minute, and I strongly discourage you to go longer than two minutes. Just give a brief introduction, quickly explain why the game is great and how it stands out, and ask viewers to help you make the project a reality. Don’t go into too many details, and don’t explain the game’s rules. You can include other videos on the Kickstarter page (and you really should include a how to play video and at least a review or two). Your main video should be treated as a preview, focusing on the game’s highlights at a high level.
Keep it simple. Unless you have a good amount of experience with video creation, don’t do anything fancy. For the Corporate America Kickstarter video, I got a little over-ambitious, and the whole campaign suffered for it. If you know how to make videos, you know your limits. If you don’t have a lot of experience, don’t get in over your head by taking on too much.
Show, don’t tell. Don’t explain why your game is good… show it! For the most part, that means showing off the game’s art. (You should at least have a few pieces ready to be shared by the time the Kickstarter launches.) For party and dexterity games, showing people enjoying the game can also be a good way to communicate how fun it is, but this tends to not work for more thinky games. Many of the most successful board game campaigns these days use animation, but don’t worry if that’s outside of your abilities.
Keep it professional. Use the best video and audio hardware you can find. A microphone in particular is important. Remember, viewers will be judging your ability to make a quality game based on your ability to make a quality video. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece, but it shouldn’t have any glaring issues, and the crisper the image and sound the more professional you’ll seem.
Make it personal. This might be my most controversial piece of advice, but I recommend that project creators put themselves in their videos. Don’t focus on yourself, but make an appearance. Introduce yourself and your company. Explain why you’re excited about the game, and explain that YOU need help to make it.
Why? Because Kickstarter is more than a store. Some people will pledge for your game because they want a product, but many people back Kickstarters to help someone achieve their dreams. Especially for your first campaign, you’ll need help from family and friends, so make sure backers know they’re helping a flesh and blood person! Showing your face is also a good way to alleviate any fears that you won’t follow through with your promise.
Take multiple takes. If you don’t have a lot of experience making videos, I can’t stress how important it is to record everything multiple times. Having extra footage you can use to cover up any unnoticed errors makes a huge difference, and you need to get that extra footage with consistent lighting and sound quality. Much of video creation takes place in editing, so make sure you have the resources you need to edit successfully!
Speak to your audience. It’s tempting to think your game is for everyone, but games usually have more success when they specifically target to one group. That doesn’t mean you should exclude any groups, but it does mean that you should strive to make the game exciting for your target group rather than just acceptable to a large number of people. For your video, this means explicitly speaking to your target audience. Use the language they’ll understand, tailor the music and speed for them, and in general make it the sort of thing they would enjoy watching.
Add music. A little mood music goes a long way towards making a video more impactful. There’s a lot of good free music online. Spend a little time looking around for something that fits the aesthetic of your game and play it throughout your video. Just make sure you have the rights to use the music.
Don’t feel shackled to your script. You should write a script and practice your lines before you start recording. But once you start, say what feels natural. And once you start editing, keep an open mind. The video may turn out differently from what you original imagined, but that might not be a bad thing.
Ask for help if you need it. Do you have friends with film making experience? If you don’t have any experience, ask them for help. Your video will end up much better with extra advice from people who will notice a lot of little things you’re oblivious to. Just make sure that if you get help from other people, you have everything ready when you meet up–there’s nothing worse than having to wait around for someone you’re trying to help.
Get feedback. You wouldn’t release a game without blind playtesting to make sure it’s comprehensible without your help, right? The same should hold true for your video. It’s very easy to see the video as you want it to be seen rather than as it will be seen. If nothing else, show the video to a friend or two before releasing to make sure it is coherent and understandable.
Give yourself some time. Don’t wait till the last minute to make your video. Make it a few weeks before you expect to launch your Kickstarter so you have time to fix any unexpected issues. You don’t want to be in a position where you have to decide between delaying your campaign or launching with a shoddy video.
Don’t forget the video when you’re thinking about your budget. Especially if you have to pay for help with your video, don’t forget to include it in your budget, and therefore your Kickstarter goal. If you don’t have the time or expertise yourself, it’s worth it to make a video that will reassure potential backers that you have what it takes to make a quality game.
That’s it from me today. I hope you found this article helpful, and if you have any additional suggestions or questions, I encourage you to leave a comment below.
Before I conclude, please join me in laughing at and learning from my previous Kickstarter videos. What did I do right and wrong? Can you tell when I discovered some of the above advice? Is there anything I could still improve on?
Birds of a Feather
I would like to thank my generous patrons for providing the support and encouragement that made this article possible.