Kickstarter Q’s: Should you Start a Kickstarter Campaign?

Starting a business can be a taxing endeavor. Though Kickstarter can ease the process tremendously, contrary what some people (read as: my family) think of Kickstarter - the platform is not as simple as coming up with an idea and getting gobs of cash to make it happen. Creating a Kickstarter campaign requires a huge degree of effort. I oftentimes assist would be creators with starting their campaigns. I get bombarded with questions, but I seldom get the one that matters most: Should I (Insert Your Name Here) actually start a Kickstarter campaign?

The answer? It depends. There are several factors that play into the decisions including:

  1. What is your Mental Health like?
  2. Do you actually want to start a business?
    1. Do you want to commit the time?
    2. Do you have the resources?
    3. What benefits do you seek to gain through self-publishing?
  3. What are your motivations?

What is your Mental Health Like?

Kickstarter campaigns can quite mentally exhausting. The pressure to fund and be successful, especially in a culture that demoralizes failures is intense. Even though Kickstarter campaigns can be relaunched and improved upon no first-time creator goes into a campaign hoping that they miss their funding goal. It just doesn't happen. All creators go into their campaign with the dream of seeing their product become a reality - as they should. However, the difficulty with this is that most new creators think that having to regroup constitutes a failure rather than seeing it as a learning experience. Seeing your campaign go unfunded definitely seems to be disheartening.

Conversely, funding can be equivalently difficult for a creator. During a campaign most creators are tired - they've been working for months getting reviews, creating the Kickstarter page, etc. now all their hard work culminates with this campaign. Even when a campaign funds it is not unusual to try to hit stretch goals, which further puts pressure on a creator. Add to this that most people get anxious about beginning new adventures and Kickstarter creates a whole whirlwind of emotions. When a campaign funds it is a joyous occasion, but then gets to come the imposter syndrome that says maybe you're not good enough to do this. Maybe you don't know how. Maybe you'll make mistakes (spoiler: you will). Maybe it will be too difficult (unlikely, you can do it!).

Though having mental health problems might not be enough to warrant you deciding against starting a campaign it is also something that needs to be factored in. All creators need to weigh their options and make sure they can handle the stresses, but those with mental health issues particularly need to make sure that they don't put themselves in a bad position.

Do you Actually Want to Start a Business? 

A lot of game designers get into self-publishing because they find it difficult to find another publisher for their work. Though, not all designers are meant to be publishers. What is your passion? If your passion is designing games than likely publishing will hinder your ability to design as quickly as a large amount of your time will be spent on the business end of things. Additionally, if something does go wrong and unexpected costs arise would you be able to afford them? If you're not in a financial position to take risks than sometimes starting a company is not in your best interest. It is important to understand that a publishing company requires a commitment of a ton of your resources: financial, time, and otherwise.

Finally, a designer has to determine what benefits they look to achieve through self-publishing. Most designers seem to want their creative freedom, which can definitely be achieved greater through self-publishing. Though, a designer has to weigh the pros and cons. Furthermore, working with another publisher might also mean new eyes on the game and game development that makes it a better experience for players. Sometimes working with an established publisher for the first game or two can allow for a better product, and a less stressful environment for the designer to learn about the publishing process without having to worry about delivering a project to hundreds of backers.

What are your Motivations? 

Some designers want their game seen and played by as many people as possible while others look for the largest monetary gain and still others have different motives entirely. Being introspective and thinking about what motivates you will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

It is also a common misconception that self-publishing means greater financial gains for the designer. Though on a per unit basis that might be correct (assuming that the first time creator makes no mistakes and doesn't lose money operating their business) a larger publisher might be able to sell more units. It is possible that a designer could make a greater return working with a publisher who has skillsets that they don't have. Additionally, if that designer's goal is to produce a lot of different creative works they'll be more able to do that just focusing on design than trying to juggle design and publishing.

I hope that helps you decide what you think is your best path forward!

Whatever you decide - you'll do great. Believe in yourself and if you need help please do reach out to other creators - most of us are glad to help!

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