Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Some thoughts on crowdfunding

(edit: Jim Raggi have chimed in on the specific case of Monte Cook, on The Mule Abides blog, and apparently Monte did promote his project, even more than others, but not where I saw it. I still think video is key, as per below)

I guess everyone right now is looking at LotFP, and the big crowdfunding campaign of Jim Raggi. So am I, and I'm thinking a bit about what this tells us. Everyone has an opinion, I know. These are mine.

So. There were 19 adventures up for funding. Four of those funded. That is a success rate of 21%, which is not great. But, I think the interesting part is how far the 79% got. 3 got in the 54-27% funded and the rest (often far) less than 30% funded. Those numbers talk louder than if most had gotten around 50% but not funded.

This might tell us a few things. Let's assume one: gamers have a limited amount of money, and Jim's hypothesis that "Each author's fans would follow them to their adventure here." is wrong. In that case it would explain the campaign was so "top heavy". Is that true? Well, if they pledgers where mostly from existing LotFP fans, that would be true. I've heard many gamers talk about how they have to pick and choose these days so I think that part is true. It would be bad for LotFP if the outreach has failed and the author has not managed to pull in their fans. There are two sides to that coin.

I think Jim's assumption is quite sound. Probably each author should be able to pull in their fans, getting a solid ground for funding. If they all have a big enough crowd to begin with. For some of the creators, I have no idea if that is true. Maybe. I know the Monte Cook example have been used before, and I'm going to use it again. I think the assumption rests upon the crucial idea that the authors could rally their fans to their cause. I suggest that for that to happen either the publisher or the author would have to do some marketing.

If we look at the projects that did well, It's clear that marketing played a factor. Vincent Baker did Q&A videos, Jeff Rients did videos of "design notes" and Brockie added extra stuff which related to him and his previous activities and creations and finally Green announced it would get published no matter what. Those who have analyzed the numbers claim to see clear spikes in contributions when those "added value" actions took place.

I'm going to hold up Monte Cook as the anti-example here. He did no marketing that I noticed, at all, until the Ptolus pdf. Also, it was not an addition that felt tied in to the project. Also, I think most of the expected hard core fans have Ptolus already. I wonder about the other projects that achieved under 20% if those authors did any promotion? Face it, if money is tight, you need to work to get some of it. Talk about it on your blog, get interviewed, pitch in extras. Also, do a video.

When I have contributed to Kickstarter projects I have noticed that they seem to include a video pitching the project. Every guide to how to succeed in crowdfunding seem to suggest you need a video. I claim Jeff and Vincent have proven that advice to be correct.

I'd like to hail the hero of LotFP promotion, Jennifer Steen (of the Jennisodes fame). Her interviews with the project creators was great. I think more of that special sauce would have helped the 79%. Why would I chip in money when you don't want to tell me about your project? Jenn did I great job there. 

The last thought I have on the matter relates to the upper tier of the whole shebang.  


When I think about an offer where I have to shell out $100+ in order to maybe get something, I withhold my funds. Come one. If I see no money on any project I would feel like an idiot taking the chance to put down $100. If I had 19 projects almost all funded, it would make more sense. Needless to say, if someone has to plunk down a few hundred for the campaign to get past that bump, it wont happen. Nobody puts down money for something which seem to have a slim chance of happening. 

This part of the campaign is where I think James Raggi didn't think it through enough from a consumer perspective. High tiers should be for those stretch goals a couple of hundred percent above fully funded. Otherwise they don't make sense.


All in all it was an interesting experiment and kudos to James Raggi for exploring the limits! 


Personally I supported a few of the winning bids, and even though I'm really pumped up about Vincent Baker's project, I'm sad I wont get to see what Monte Cook could do.

4 comments:

  1. It was indeed an audacious experiment, and I wouldn't expect anything less from Mr. Raggi! Leave it to him to want to bust through the proverbial envelope!

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  2. "When I think about an offer where I have to shell out $100+ in order to maybe get something, I withhold my funds. Come one. If I see no money on any project I would feel like an idiot taking the chance to put down $100."

    At first I was confused by this. After all, if something doesn't get funded, you're not out any money. Then I got it. When you look at this in the context of choosing between several projects. If all of them got funded, you'd be in trouble. If you put money on something that's not funded you lost the chance to put your budget towards something better.

    I think this is another big reason why those that didn't do well didn't do well. I imagine a few people liked some of the less popular ideas, but chose to go with something they thought was less cool but more likely to go.

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  3. Precisely. There are many moving parts in this whole shebang.

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