How to Kickstart a Game Project in 3 Easy Steps

Have a great idea for a video game but no money? No problem! Follow these 3 easy steps to Kickstart your dream game! 

1. Be a famous, world-class video game industry talent!
2. Have a sequel to a beloved and well-known video game!
3. Create a brilliant campaign to promote your game and grab the attention of your players!

Now, just lay back and wait for millions of dollars to roll in! 

Wait, what if you don't have the above? Do you feel a little discouraged?

If you're daunted by the above, you shouldn't even be thinking about making a game then. You think it would be *easier* getting  money from publishers or investors?!? You thought you'd stroll into EA or Ubi or Activision, pitch your high flying concept and they'd commit millions of dollars in development and marketing expenses? 

At least with Kickstarter, all you have to do is convince the actual audience for your game that you can make it. 

That sound you heard? It was the financing of video games getting turned on it's head. In case you missed, a few folks have enjoyed some success in funding their video games with crowd-sourcing.

So what if you don't have Tim Schafer or Brian Fargo on your team? Who cares that you're proposing a sequel to Day of the Tentacle or Full Throttle or Wasteland? You can use your amazing creativity (you're amazingly creative right - that's why you make games?) and your awesome skills (you've got the skill to implement at a professional level, right?) and boundless energy (you know this stuff is hard work, right?) to craft a brilliant campaign that grabs the imagination of your players and convinces them to part with some of their hard earned money so you can deliver them a game they will love. 

So, actually, if you think about it - not being burdened by industry heavy-weight talent and the legacy of well-known games is a good thing.

It means your plan only requires one step.

Now you just have to get to it.

Sean Dugan is The Boss Monster’s founding editor and all-too-frequent contributor.

Image by Amagill


  1. Nice post Sean!

    I would add a few things. You are absolutely correct that as a new developer, with a new idea you have zero chance of getting funding from a traditional publisher model (and you probably wouldn't want it if you did get it).

    Kickstarter is a great venue to get that project up and running, but it takes a lot of marketing to be successful there.

    You will need to focus your team's energy on PR, community and marketing to bring attention to the concept. Any crowd sourcing funding, is going to take a lot of effort and some amount of polish to be a success.

    My only advice to any new studio or new game, is you will have to take the game as far as you can on your own. As you pursue avenues for full development, make sure you pushing the game forward and moving ahead. You cannot wait around with a design doc think someone will eventually invest. If you believe in the project, continually invest and work to make it happen and push as long as you can.

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  2. Hmm, I wrote a response, but it was far larger than what would fit in the comments, so I expanded it a bit and put it on my blog:
    In sum, however:
    I know you're being somewhat facetious here, but the fact is that these well known developers were only looking (and able) to generate funds to develop low-budget, fairly retro games. In fact, the reason they couldn't interest publishers was, in part, because the games were too small. So developers with name recognition looking for funds to create sequels (both actual and spiritual) to beloved, well-selling games, i.e. the sorts of developers who are going to be able to raise orders of magnitude more money than anyone else, are still only able to fund relatively small, technically unambitious games that don't require a lot of art assets. Cliffy B. isn't going to get Kickstarter to scale up to fund the next "Gears of War" game, and unknown developers are going to be extremely lucky to get even a half-dozen "man-months" worth of development money. Still, it is quite an interesting phenomenon, and it'll be exciting to see how it develops in the future, but I think it'll be a while before it threatens to turn game funding on its head.

  3. I think there's a number of subtle and interesting things going on here. First, crowd sourcing is in its infancy. When you think about it, raising millions via such a niche method is remarkable. It can only increase and I think we might be surprised how quickly it becomes potentially viable for Cliffy B to raise money for GOW.

    I think it's also interesting is that it fundamentally changes the nature of the business. Entertainment media is hit driven enterprise. But if you've secured your financing, there's no risk to the creators. The only risk is to the consumer (if you don't deliver). That's a whole interesting thing - what happens if a project goes south?

    I think it's also intriguing that most game makers do it for intrinsic motivation. They're not first and foremost trying to make vast sums of money. Most, I would venture, would be happy to earn a good living. So with this kind of funding, you can completely change the focus of the game makers. There's still a potential upside if the product reaches an audience outside of the original funders but you don't need to create games based on ROI. Game creators can choose to produce a game just because they want to make it, not because it's a financially magnificent proposition.

  4. Other Dugan's opinion:

    20-50k should be very do-able for an indie team that already has something playable online. I'm somewhat biased because I've been on the open-web/social bandwagon for like 6 years; but if the prototype of your game is HTML5 or Flash with a server component and your Kickstarter traffic converts (probably with a high %) to people testing that proto, and they're so psyched by the concept that you get a k-factor >1 when they invite friends to play the proto with them, and of course your game embed links back to your fundraising page, you can roll that right up.

    Major caveat though, if you're really serious, and you're going to use your product to leverage the traffic (combined with tons of leg-work selling yourself on Twitter/FB/G+/blogs/email lists/network whoring, then why the fuck would you give up 5% to Kickstarter? Do you really think the Kickstarter bran is going to get you >5% extra revenue than the strength of our case and brand alone?

    Now some may be wondering how you get to that decent-enough prototype with the sever-side comp and social comp. You'll need a 3 person team, one to dev server, one to dev front, and one to do the initial art assets. If you're the 4th, you better be paying at least $500 to each per month for part-time work, so estimate a $3000-5000 investment from your own savings. Or learn how to code the client yourself. If you're already working in games, you should be able to save up that kernal, if you're in college, you can probably find your team members in similar financial situations where parental support obviates the need for seed pay.

  5. Oh, after reading the comments I'd like to add: a half dozen man months should be enough to get something out there generating revenue. We live in the age of real-time business, if you can't launch something and start measuring how well people take to it in 10 man-months, you have a problem. 3-6 of those man-months need to come/be paid-for from the people with the vision.

    The era of "look just give us a million dollars or whatever so we can find the genius and build content for 2 years" is over except for the luminaries from that age. Maybe I'll be proved wrong on this one.

  6. @Patrick: It seems like a half dozen man-months is the upper limit of what you might hope to get from Kickstarter right now, so for the most part it's not enough to be the main funding source, necessarily. (With self-funding making up the rest, presumably.) So that obviously means that certain types of games are non-starters (e.g. an FPS).
    "The era ... is over except for the luminaries from that age."
    Anecdotally that certainly seems to be true. Looking at the nostalgia-fest that seems to represent all the big Kickstarter campaigns lately, that dynamic also seems to hold there, too.

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