A kickstarter post-mortem
Given that this is the type of post no creator ever wants to write, I'm not really sure where to start. On 30th May 2017 I launched the kickstarter campaign for Flip the Script. Two weeks later on the 14th June, I hit the dreaded cancel button after it was clear that I wasn't going to be able to turn the momentum around and meet the funding goal. It was an obviously disappointing time on this journey I have undertaken. I decided that once I had addressed the cancellation itself, and made clear that Flip the Script would be back that I would take a short hiatus from any game related activity. I wanted a chance to recharge the battery, to be able to take some distance and come back hopefully with a better perspective that helps plan improvements on a new campaign so that is where I have been. Now I'm back.
Going through such a disappointment is a difficult thing to go through. It can make you question literally everything you've done, and every decision you've made; and maybe it should. After all, you are where you are because something didn't go right. If you don't question yourself, how can you correct your mistakes. But too much questioning is probably a bad thing. Question too much and you can really start to play on your own mind and affect your confidence. Before I even hit the cancel button I knew what my biggest failing likely was, but as many do after a failed or aborted campaign I sought further opinions, validation; and this is where the biggest test of mental strength comes. Anyone who looks to become a creator has to deal with criticism. It is expected that some people will not see eye to eye with what you've created but here I was actually seeking out critique.
The hardest part of criticism is not getting defensive. It's natural when receiving critique that it can feel like your back is against the wall. You're not going to like a lot of what you hear, and you're probably not going to agree with at least some of it. But getting defensive isn't going to achieve anything. I could reply to every comment I don't agree with. I can tell myself that I'm trying to generate a discussion rather than a wall of critique but instead, it is better to ask yourself simply "Why are they saying it?"
Some people simply won't like what you've created. That's normal and it's ok. But they are also the wrong people to get objective criticism from and to ask where you went wrong. In their mind, there won't be any particular failing but there will certainly be plenty of things they can find "wrong". Paying too much attention to these can lead you down the wrong path. Instead you need to find people who at least appreciate what you're going for. Identify these people and listen hard to what they have to say.
What is important is just because you've had a setback it doesn't mean you should ignore your gut. If you already have an inkling where you went wrong, you're probably right. For Flip the Script, I definitely had a good idea on some of my failings by the time I hit cancel. For the most part, it was related to that age-old problem of not bringing enough of a crowd to the campaign prior to launch. I'd heard the advice before and while I knew I didn't have the largest of crowds I still believed I had enough.
The first major learning is that you shouldn't assume that friends who take an interest are going to back you. I had plenty of friends and colleagues who seemed very interested in the upcoming campaign, were really enthused for the game and then the campaign launched and.... nothing. Not a peep. Perhaps some just want to encourage, or maybe they needed more of a push or reminder. One thing I didn't want to do was become the annoying guy that just hassles people to pledge. But in doing so, perhaps I took it too far the other way. There's certainly a balancing act that has to be played and I probably didn't do enough to remind those who had every intention of backing the campaign to do so. We all live busy lives after all.
My second mistake centres around one of the big cornerstone of my campaign strategy. I decided to take the plunge and exhibit at the UK Games Expo, and to time my campaign to make it during week 1 of the campaign. The first problem is I then gave myself a ticking clock that I could not back out of. As in all manner of life, the date comes round sooner than you think and you're not quite feeling ready. The other mistake in making this strategy was that I planned to drive people to backing the campaign there and then, at the stall. I had laptop ready on the campaign page for people to log-in to if they wished and back the campaign however this plan was fundamentally flawed. Firstly, once the expo started it was apparent very soon that this just wasn't an environment suited to getting people logging onto a website and pledging to a campaign.
Whilst a few people did, they were anomalies. What made it doubly frustrating was that there were plenty of people who would have bought a physical copy of the game there and then, had one been available; certainly enough to more than cover the costs of exhibiting. Because of this I've even considered dropping the kickstarter aspect of it all, funding the first print run another way and simply taking the product to conventions and expos and doing just that - selling. This does however give me confidence that the game is solid, and there is an appetite for it out there. I just need to reach it. Finally, my expo strategy was probably wrong because of how people manage their wallets at these events. Expos can be big splurge events for people. They go knowing that they will spend a lot of money which immediately makes them more conscious of it. With that in mind, physical products that can be played immediately make a much more attractive prospect than one that you had to trust will fund, and then wait another few months to be fulfilled.
So here I am, lessons learned but still eager to make Flip the Script a roaring success and ready to bring this game to all the like-minded film fans out there. If you know any, send them our way!
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