Some Assembly Required - Full Steam Ahead, Kickstarter and Beyond

Sun, 30/12/2012 - 12:42 -- Blazing Griffin

As the days ticked by it became clear we wouldn’t make our Kickstarter target. Are we disappointed? Most certainly, yes, but we’ve also learned a lot from the experience.

So, in the spirit of open development Blazing Griffin will always show, let’s talk about why we think the targets weren’t met? How we plan to proceed and what the future holds for Full Steam Ahead.

Why the target wasn't met

We’d pitched our original video and text at a unique angle, thinking this would tempt people in, but quickly realised that many people who hadn't played the original game were unsure what we were selling and it was important to react to that. The second video and script had a far better reception, but by that point we had missed the initial catchment period so vital to a Kickstarter’s success.

The game itself has to feature at the lower levels of the rewards structure, but it certainly came as a surprise to us that people wanted digital rewards rather than physical trinkets. Attempting to add more digital-only pledge levels after launch, while keeping things fair for those who had already pledged, led to some confusion and duplicated levels.

We also had some issues with conversion rate. When we were building the funding levels we believed that anyone outside the UK would see the Kickstarter in dollars, as it was the expected medium of currency with Kickstarter up until now. Indeed we had already based pledge levels on those seen in similar successful Kickstarter campaigns.

Unfortunately everyone sees UK Kickstarter projects in pounds and that not only made some people think that only UK residents could back the project but made us have to reconsider costs as we had to adapt to the US market, because of its relative size. There’s a subliminal type of mark-up for non-UK backers: If you fund a Kickstarter in dollars, say $25, you may see this as pounds, and be delighted when you only have £20 deducted from your account. In the US it works the other way round, so £20 would be $32 (at time of writing) giving the impression you’re giving more for less. We’d have loved Kickstarter UK to be seen in dollars across the rest of the world so, if you’re listening Kickstarter, could you consider this?

Second Kickstarter VideoSome suggested we failed to update the Kickstarter regularly, wanted game-play footage or more, and wondered why we were funding the part project rather than the whole - these are all elements we take on board as well.

As Full Steam Ahead was about funding the project from ground-level up many of these elements are directly related. As a small indie studio we need to concentrate on our funded projects and judge how many resources we can justify assigning to a project like Full Steam Ahead. We loved the positive feedback about the concept pieces and certainly have the talent within the studio to produce in-game footage but to spend valuable time on that, with no funds available, would not fit into any company's business model. The funds we asked for were enough to build a fully functional, and up to date, version of the original game's multiplayer with new maps, characters and weapons.

Following this we could proceed with a modular design model as it allows for freer open development and public, community interaction in what they want to see next. We certainly had ideas how to extend the game including single player and new multiplayer modes, as well as a broader spectrum of platforms to play on and, if we were to place stretch goals down then these are the kind of things we’d be talking about.

We understand the need for a social media presence and have a budget set aside for it. Given the size of the company we feel the press coverage has not only been good but really great. There were numerous articles in the gaming as well as mainstream press and felt we used our limited assets well.

Finally; running a Kickstarter that will withdraw funds from peoples accounts in early January – the longest month – could possibly have affected backing.

If these problems simply related to us we’d hold our hands up but, looking at other UK Kickstarter’s, we’ve seen similar problems and comments and realise that we’re not alone in trying to resolve these problems.

It would be great to have ticked more of those boxes from the start but we hope people understand that we have always, throughout this Kickstarter, done our utmost to react to the communities thoughts. We’ll know next time.

The Future for Full Steam Ahead

Steam Greenlight ConceptsIn the midst of the Kickstarter we decided to put the Full Steam Ahead on Steam Greenlight Concepts; and the gamer reaction not only delighted us but gave creedance to our belief in this project. People like the idea, love the concept art, have a forum where they can talk to us about our plans and pushed us into the top three Steam Greenlight Concepts of all time in under a week.

If it’s proven anything to us it’s that enough people are interested in a sequel, so we would be foolish to give up now. Its time to regroup, learn from the feedback across a variety of sources and make sure that the next funding strategy has the substance people require to back this kind of project but also harness the public excitement and imagination we know exists from the Steam Greenlight Concept.

At the current time we are completing development on a couple of other projects and this will make Blazing Griffin a more established games development studio, with products people can see beneath our belt. As previously stated, the funding is what currently limits us pushing ahead with development on Full Steam Ahead as we certainly have the talent within our existing team to be able to develop the game.

There are certainly other funding models and strategies we can follow but we would not be the first project to return to Kickstarter and be successful on a second attempt. We have put a lot of time, thought and energy into the project and will look for other ways to develop it whether its through another Kickstarter campaign at a later date or through a funding model like Natural Selection 2/ Interstellar Marines.

Understanding the nature of the beast is the best way of utilising it to your advantage and through this process our comprehension has matured, we’ve learned lessons and had a great chance to communicate with our public. Once we’ve sat down, discussed the possibilities and worked out a new set of strategies then Full Steam Ahead will return.

Watch this space!

As always we’re happy to hear your thoughts, whether here, on the Steam Greenlight Concept or on our forums. Stop by and let us hear what you have to say.

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