Have you heard people talking about Kickstarter? Linking to their favorite projects or asking for funding on their creative endeavors. In case you don’t already know what Kickstart is here is a brief description of how it works:
Kickstarter makes it SUPER easy to find cool projects and become a part of their success by funding them into fruition. So what’s the big deal? I want to explore the impact of Kickstarter and how it could change entire product industries. First, let’s take a look at the largest Kickstarter project ever and see the potential scale of Kickstarter.
Tim Schafer (founder of Double Fine Productions) launched a Kickstarter project for a new video game. Schafer has helped to define and create the genre of point-and-click games but in the current market that style of game doesn’t sell. Enter Kickstarter. He put the project on Kickstarter because he knew that there weren’t any publishers that would actually fund the creation of the game so he bypassed publishers altogether and decided to let us (the consumer) fund the game if we wanted it. On February 8, 2012 Schafer set the goal of $400,000 ($300,000 to make the game and $100,000 to film the journey) and he set the project free on Kickstarter. Within hours they had met their funding goal and by March 13, 2012 the project received just over 3.3 million dollars in funding, catapulting it above any other record on Kickstarter.
Crowd funding is an interesting way for projects to get funded. You ask the consumer to pay money for the product (and possibly a little bit extra for some perks) and then you have to deliver on your promise. It essentially flips the creator and consumer roles around and the crowd becomes the publisher of the product. In the video game example with Double Fine it shows that its entirely possible to bypass a publishing company for your product and get it straight into the hands (and wallets) of your target audience. Some random guy from Vancouver, WA that’s never made a video game in his life isn’t going to be able to launch a project on Kickstarter and immediately raise millions of dollars, but Schafer has shown the potential of Kickstarter. Projects like this one raise the awareness of Kickstarter as a viable platform to raise money and fund projects for other people. As more people join the Kickstarter community it will make it easier to launch projects and get them onto the screens of potential buyers.
With projects as large as Double Fine’s adventure video game I think we could see a pretty massive shift of distribution and publishing in certain consumer industries. In Kickstarters first two years the video game category of the website raised $1,776,372. In the six weeks after Double Fine’s project was funded $2,890,704 were pledged in the video game category (that’s without including Double Fine, with them included the total is $6,227,075). In only six weeks Kickstarter helped the independent video game industry gain over 6 million dollars! There won’t be a massive shift overnight but more and more people are coming to Kickstarter to fund and buy new products. Large projects are pulling people into the Kickstarter community and those people are turning around and funding more projects that they are passionate about. Essentially if you have a great idea you can put it out on Kickstarter and let the consumers fund it rather than pitch your idea to another company and hope they will take a chance on your creative endeavor. Kickstarter certainly won’t kill giant publishing companies but it gives creative individuals a choice to let their audience fund the project. The graph below shows the average pledges in the video games category. The dotted line marks the launch of the Double Fine Adventure project. The graph excludes any pledges for Double Fine so this illustrates the spike in pledges for similar projects after Double Fine started.
A very interesting and unique aspect of switching the roll of the consumer is that we actually have a stake in the project. We feel as though we are invested in the success of the project, almost like we are actually part of the team that is creating it. That emotional connection to a product is something that traditional advertising and marketing try to convey but it’s incredibly difficult. For example, last year I pledged $75 dollars to the making of a documentary called Indie Game: The Movie. They’re goal was $35,000 and on July 23, 2011 they’re project was successfully funded at $71,335. By pledging my money I would get an advanced digital copy of the film, a special edition DVD with extra features, and my name as thanks in the credits. In the months following the completion of the project I visited their website almost daily (sometimes even twice) so I could get the latest updates and videos on the progress of the project. Eventually they announced that the film was selected at numerous international film festivals including some the biggest ones like Sundance and SXSW. Not only was it officially selected for these festivals but it won best editing at Sundance and HBO is in talks to pick it up for a possible television series. Whenever the film experienced success I felt like I won as well because I helped make it by pledging money.
If you are passionate about your product Kickstarter will help your audience find your project. There is still a lot of work you need to do in promoting it and increasing its visibility but having a place like Kickstarter to send people to in order to fund your project takes a lot of the work off your shoulders. Kickstarter is an amazing and very viable option for anybody that has a creative idea but doesn’t have the money to launch it. In the next couple of months there are going to be a lot of big projects on Kickstarter so be on the lookout for things you are interested in.
I encourage you to go to Kickstarter.com and just browse through some of the categories they have and see what catches your attention. Kickstarter creates an environment that is not very different from a local saturday market. When you look at most Kickstarter projects you need to judge whether you think the person creating the project is trustworthy and has a product that you want to pay for. See for yourself what you think of the Kickstarter platform and continue the discussion in the comments below.