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Subject: Doldrums and Dragons rss

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Stuart Garside
United Kingdom
Scarborough
North Yorkshire
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I think I’d rather face the Tarrasque than launch a Kickstarter. The industry has become so brutal it should practically be an underground competitive sport! There’s so much competition - so many pretty things to tempt the eye – you have to have a hook or some incredible marketing strategy – something to set your game apart from others if you want to succeed. If you aren’t ticking all the boxes – you’re toast (the burnt kind, not the crisp scrummy buttery variety).

There seems to be neither rhyme nor reason as to what will spark the interest of backers on Kickstarter. Is there a flavour of the month? Is fantasy in? Are zombies out?

It’s a minefield, and all the reviews, good worth of mouth, and lovely emails telling you their kids think your game is the best thing since sliced bread – none of it matters – because no one sees those things – all they see is your Kickstarter page. All you have is your campaign page, bated breath, and two crossed fingers.

There are just forty eight hours of my campaign left and the cancelled pledges are rolling in. Each one feels like a poisoned arrow to the heart (Blackthorne Venom: it really itches (before it kills you in a pool of your own liquefying internal organs – nasty)).

While my campaign, Ember: From the Ashes might be doing OK (it funded within 24 hours), I personally feel like a bit of a disaster. My UK peers have all seen campaigns soaring to near mythical heights and I fee like I'm wallowing in obscurity.

Which is interesting as I've had a 30 year writing career, written books for White Wolf and had a non-stop journalistic career that has seen me write for everyone from soft core porn magazines all the way to geek super niche.

And yet I don't seem to know quite how to engage backers on my campaigns...

And the kicker: no matter how much you tell yourself that it doesn’t matter… that those cancelled pledges mean nothing – the truth is that it does – it matters a lot!

It’s so easy to be dragged into a Portable Hole of doubt when things are going badly and you wake up to a new wave of cancelled pledges. You get to the point where you start to second guess everything. My campaign doesn’t seem to have sparked the interest of backers… is it because I don’t have the knowledge in PR to really make a difference? Is the campaign page terrible? Is the intro video terrible?

Worse, is the GAME terrible?

It all started so well with £3000 pledges in the first 24 hours, but most of those were from my own personal supporters who’ve played my other games.

This time – I told myself – this campaign was going to be a hit – YES!!!!! But once the big boy campaigns appeared in the afternoon, the pledges just dried up.

Then Ember fell off the first page of Kicktraq and that was the end of things. It’ll take a Raise Dead spell to put things right now – only it’d turn out to be a Scroll of Reincarnation – I’d fumble that – and Ember would come back as an Exploding Kittens knock-off…

I’m coming to the conclusion that having almost 30 years’ actual experience in professional publishing just isn’t enough to be successful on Kickstarter. I can put a game or a book together in mere days (and probably just about in my sleep) but getting my game out there to the masses - now that feels like a task worthy of Hercules. I’ve posted everywhere I can think of, sent messages to everyone would I thought could help, and yet the cancelled pledges are rolling in thick and fast.
The support I have received has been plentiful, if somewhat cryptic. Talk to people, they say. But to whom do you talk? It’s no secret that I can talk all four legs off a Blue Dragon (Old, not Ancient – I mean, that would be ridiculous). But the key is to talk…

So I went back through my contacts list to try and find some magazine editors who would cover the story: “Sorry Stewie,” came the plentiful replies. “We don’t cover Kickstarters (unless there’s a crazy reason for it – like it’s sky-rocketed beyond all reason in terms of funding goals) – if we covered one story – we’d leave ourselves open to covering every UK company start up that came along.”

Makes sense, but it still sucks…

So, the question still is: how do you get your game out there? For a new company, I think it’s all a bit of luck. Some of it depends on which one of the online magazines will cover your story, and from this point forward I will be sure to include the big with reviewers like Dice Tower and Undead Viking in my review showcase.

But this evening, I want to cast Cure Light Wounds on my campaign…
But that just won’t be enough… Forget curing – I need a WISH spell to revitalise this bad boy!

I’m still optimistic that with 12 days left, I can turn this around. I can do something – anything – that will get my campaign noticed and set it above the others. It all starts – and finishes with me… I know my campaign has funded and I’m elated about that. I just wish…



… OK, so the child inside of me just wanted a bit of validation with a more successful campaign.

Hey. I’m a totally neurotic writer who agonises over every word (isn’t that a criterion for being a writer these days? It used to be – I miss the old days).

The only problem is: when I first started creating games, I realised that gamers are a different breed to the people who read my weekly pop culture newspaper column: they scare easily and they’re easily offended by anything that’s crude, sexual, or controversial.

Crap! That’s all the tools in my arsenal out the window, then. I literally have to restrain myself with every sentence. I have to delete all the things I would normally write and retrain myself to avoid – well – ninety per cent of the things that made my weekly newspaper columns so popular!

So, this article is an internal battle cry to myself to never give in. Never surrend – oh hang on that’s Galaxy Quest.

The point still stands: it’s not over until the lady in the plus-sized dress starts singing… Anything can happen in the next 12 days. I’m going to post an update in a week and see what – if anything – has changed. I am NOT going to be disheartened by the plethora of cancelled pledges – they don’t know how cool my game is and if they did, they’d certainly not be cancelling.

But you can’t take the cancelled pledges too seriously. I spoke to a few “cancellers”* this time around and most said they’d cancelled because finances were bad and they wanted to wait until the end of the month before making a proper decision. A few said they’d cancelled to back another game (DAGGERS to them – DAGGERS!!!) but most were really open about why they’d cancelled.

I’m going to stay strong and I’m going to talk to people. Lots and lots of people. So HEY. Hi you, out there, you gamers in the real world. Get in touch. Send me a message: ask me anything. Tell me how my campaign page looks, give me some feedback. Check out my campaign. Right now, I’m like an attention-seeking teenager – only without the endless stream of duck-faced selfies.

Ultimately, you’re all honest sorts. You’d tell me if there was drool on my face, right? So you’d definitely tell me if my campaign page was terrible, right?

After all, we’re all gamers and everything in life – even Kickstarter – is just one big and unfathomably complex game of chance.

A game that came without the rules…

Hugs for everyone!

Stewie

*That’s not my word for them in private
 
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