So in February this year I launched a Kickstarter campaign for a game called Solar Dominion Fleet Combat, as part of a promotion they were doing called Make 100. Given that Kickstarter has been around for over a decade now, and has been the primary mechanism for funding small press board games that there would be some pretty solid standard advice for how to run a kickstarter campaign.

Ahahahaha nope.

Almost everything about Kickstarter’s creative tools are terrible. Their editor that they use for your “story” randomly adds and removes whitespace and merely mentioning it gives many creators PTSD. Image uploads fail randomly. The video editor has subtitles, but changing the video deletes any you’ve added.

The whole process is really poorly documented too. You hand them a load of information but there’s no guides or documentation I could find explaining how or when things would happen. It’s a giant black box asking vague questions and threatening to block access to one of the main sources of funds in the modern creative world.

No-one can agree on anything about how to set up your project. Everyone agrees you need a video, but no-one can agree on the length. Should you launch on a Monday? Friday? Last day of the month? 28 days or 31 days? Are short campaigns worth it or will they kill your project.

All projects have to go through review, but many get waved through by ~*~algorithms~*~. Kickstarter have a ton of rules about what you can and can’t do with CGI renderings and sometimes it feels like I’m the only person at all concerned about them because no-one is following any of them. They are also stupid rules. Did you know you can’t show mockups of packaging? You can’t show CG videos of product features that don’t exist yet but their example is of a drawing compass being used to draw a circle. HOW DO YOU MAKE A COMPASS THAT CAN’T BE USED TO DRAW A CIRCLE.

Did you know you can’t schedule the launch of your Kickstarter? You’ve got to press the button at the right time, manually. Hope you don’t oversleep!

There’s a million and one weird magic edge cases. Marking a pledge as having rewards that will ship means they automatically add a shipping address field to your backer survey that you can’t remove. You can’t test the backer survey before it goes out, and you can’t change it once you’ve sent it out.

Kickstarter also has a massive spam problem. I don’t know if these companies are buying accounts or if they’re actually backing projects to make their accounts look real, but I got about thirty messages through Kickstarter from people offering fulfilment or manufacturing or promotion. I still get about an email a week from someone offering me access to “tens of thousands of superbackers”. The ones that offer to “help get my project funded” are especially hilarious, several months after it closed at 300% of my initial target.

Although Backerkit, a purveyor of post-Kickstarter pledge management solutions, give every project on Kickstarter $1 as a symbolic “you got this”, which is nice. A bunch of people over the last few years spoke about the rise of backer-spam, where people back your project to leave spammy comments and then unpledge at the last minute but I didn’t see any of that.

It’s all bad. Everything is bad. They charge 5% for this, but also they do drive a lot of traffic. They still don’t have a good way of managing shipping within Kickstarter, there’s no way to limit total number of backers (or backers per reward vs. per tier).

There’s also the “magic” recommendation algorithm, which seems to heavily prioritise projects that fund quickly. This promotes projects to set their funding goals artificially low in the hopes that they get picked up by the ~*~algorithm~*~ and ultimately raise enough to actually pay for what they’ve promised. Most of the time it works. I think it’s like trying to catch a bullet with your reputation.

All of this aside, I’m almost certainly going to do another Kickstarter later this year. I was hoping to be done with the first one by now, but that’s a pandemic for you.