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Do Kickstarters boost a VN's popularity?

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 12:10 pm
by timepatches
Hi all!

I've been mulling this over for a while, and I'd like to see some discussion around it from you smart people~
A lot of visual novels are run with a Kickstarter or other crowdsourcing campaign nowadays and it makes sense in a lot of ways. My main question is if fellow devs think Kickstarter is a good idea, not necessarily just for the early money to pay staff, but also to get some more eyes and ears on your work.
The VN market is small but crowded, it's really hard to get your VN seen and played in my experience, unless you work on many VNs for a long time or hit on a good viral concept and just get really lucky.

Having a Kickstarter might give you a news item to pass on to game media & journalists, and might also get you some more traffic because of the limited-time rush, and people wanting backer rewards.
On the other hand, I haven't run my own KS before, and it also seems likely that if nobody sees it, nobody will back it, and just the site itself might not give you any extra eyes at all.

TL;DR: Is running a KS good for growing your VN's audience (and/or total players), or do you need an audience first to run a successful KS?
Is it possible to build an audience just with a good, well-run Kickstarter?

(PS, I have a poll on twitter if you can't be bothered typing out a reply :wink: )

Re: Do Kickstarters boost a VN's popularity?

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 2:54 pm
by Eyzi

I'm going to throw my two cents here but note that I'm only speaking from my experience and that I had little to no fanbase when I launched my Kickstarter campaign.

If we are talking strictly about a project's reach, then yes, having a Kickstarter campaign would get you more eyes and ears on your work, but only as much as posting on any other social media.

In general, the more places you post about your project, the more people will see it. The biggest difference between getting views from a Kickstarter user and, say, a Facebook user is that the former is already willing to financially support a project. It's just a matter of whether they like your pitch or not. People also generally like merchandises even from a project they know little about so that helps with reach, too.

In my case, 28% of the backers found my project on Kickstarter Discover which is a good amount of people stumbling across my project on the website, but that's still an insignificant boost if we're talking about popularity. I still had to market my campaign a lot to get more people interested in it. I would argue that, had I not used Kickstarter and marketed after I released my VN on Steam, I would get roughly the same amount of reach.

Overall, I would lean more towards No, starting a Kickstarter campaign does not boost a VN's popularity in and of itself. However, if the question is whether to use Kickstarter for your project, my answer would be Sure! Use whatever tool you can to help you develop your project.

Re: Do Kickstarters boost a VN's popularity?

Posted: Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:16 am
by timepatches
That's very good info! Thank you so much Eyzi for your advice!
Good to know how it helped you since I think our starting audiences are probably a similar size.

Re: Do Kickstarters boost a VN's popularity?

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:09 am
by trooper6
A good friend of mine ran a successful Kickstarter for an RPG. He points out that running a successful Kickstarter takes a LOT of work, not only throughout the run, but before and after.

People are also a bit reluctant to KS visual novels since so many good ones are released for free. You have to have something special about your VN or a very good preexisting fanbase (which you probably got by releasing some games already). prepared for a lot of work to increase your popularity so that you can have a successful KS, rather than the other way around.

Re: Do Kickstarters boost a VN's popularity?

Posted: Fri Dec 14, 2018 2:47 pm
by sbester
Maybe I should add my two cents here.

We have 9 days to go on our Kickstarter campaign. It's been a bit of a rough road, and wholly enlightening with regards to the current scene. However, we too were hoping that by launching our campaign, we could boost the views and interest in the project, simply by having something solid and concrete to show off with all the needed info in one place.

While we haven't earned close to the kind of money we were hoping for, the feedback has been great. We got quite a few new followers on social media, I learned some interesting facts about the demographics of our fanbase, and I've had a ton of people reach out who want to be a part of the project in some way, shape or form. I'm actually quite blown away.

I do understand the various reasons why our campaign is failing to meet its goal, but I have no regrets running it, and running it in the way we did. I feel the positives, in the long run, outweigh the negatives. It pushed me personally to get a number of things in order as soon as possible, and allowed me to start planning for how we can market it for its release. The way I see it, you've got nothing to lose by giving it a go.

Re: Do Kickstarters boost a VN's popularity?

Posted: Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:19 pm
by timepatches
Thanks for your opinions, trooper6 and sbester!
It's interesting how split the dev community seems to be on this - I ran a poll on twitter with very similar results.
It seems to me that a lot of factors influence how successful a Kickstarter is, apart from luck (size of your audience is a big one, but when you hold the Kickstarter, what your assets look like, how the page is laid out, what your rewards are...). My conclusion so far is that it's possible to avoid a failed campaign as long as you get most of those elements right, and luck is on your side.

More opinions welcome!

Re: Do Kickstarters boost a VN's popularity?

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 1:43 pm
by sbester
Interesting findings, thanks for sharing!

Re: Do Kickstarters boost a VN's popularity?

Posted: Sun Dec 23, 2018 7:51 pm
by Googaboga
I've done four Kickstarters so far and I've been fortunate enough to have all of them be successful. Though each have been small scale with goals less than 5,000. But I certainly think it's been worthwhile. It's always hard to get people to care about a game/studio they've never heard of and, from my experience, Kickstarters do seem to get more people to check out what you're doing. The same type of post as a normal update doesn't garner as much attention as when the post is associated with an active Kickstarter. It gives people a reason to look into your project then instead of maybe checking it out later when it's further along if they happen to remember, which is crucial. And if you do have only a few fans they're more likely to help spread the word when a crowd-funding campaign is going on. So even if you don't have a major audience already, the Kickstarter can still help in that way. Though, that's just how things have gone with my campaigns.

Re: Do Kickstarters boost a VN's popularity?

Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2019 5:45 am
by Kuiper
I ran the Kickstarter for Idol Manager last year and at least 400 of the 1,767 people who backed our project were people who discovered the project though Kickstarter, such as those who saw it as one of the "recommended projects" that shows up on the front page or what gets shown when people view a particular category on the site. Our project also apparently got featured in a Kickstarter newsletter email, with a couple dozen people backing the project after finding out about it from that email. And that just represents the portion of people who discovered the project through Kickstarter and decided to back it; we got hundreds of backers from Kickstarter, but way more people than that discovered the project (without necessarily deciding to back it). Kickstarter certainly earns their 5% cut.

For another stat, while our project had 1,767 backers, around 10,000 people viewed the video on our project's Kickstarter page (with another 2,000 views coming from off-site views, e.g. people using the embedded video player that appears when linking the project on sites like Reddit). For comparison, we uploaded the same video to Youtube, where it only has around 5,000 views. Over 10% of Kickstarter video viewers watched the entire video, which struck me as pretty high considering that the video is over 10 minutes long. It is worth noting however that Kickstarter doesn't track the referral source for video views, so there's no way of knowing whether the people who watched the video are folks who discovered the project through Kickstarter or were linked to the campaign page from an external source.