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Honest summary of the campaign

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I’ve been keeping track of many successful campaigns in recent years and personally I think Xenonauts 2 campaign wasn’t prepared as well as it could be. In fact there were at least a few serious drawbacks. Maybe it’s a shame there was no discussion on the forums about the crowdfunding/marketing strategy before the campaign started.

The first one is the lack of PayPal payment method. At the end of the campaign funds come very quickly and then suddenly it’s being interrupted. Thus, a direct payment method is really important, because it can give you a few thousand dollars/pounds on top of the funds you get on KS. While being very easy to set up.

Second, there is no website where you can buy pre-orders. Although now, for reasons mentioned above, would be the best time for that.

Of course those issues can be remedied to some extent by setting up PayPal and a website store in the near future. As soon as possible, because if you do it soon enough, you will certainly get some additional press coverage. Also, it’s good to remember pre-orders can be a great source of funds (since for some pre-orders are enough for their studios keep up).

Third, the lack of solid press coverage. I haven’t seen any previews or interviews. It’s entirely possible I missed something, but anyway it’s obvious you started doing PR too late. There were only some gameplays on YouTube. Which are very important, of course, but they are still not the press.

Fourth, the video wasn’t good enough. It was okay but nothing like the greatest KS gaming projects. Just look at Project Eternity, new Torment or both Divinity games. Dynamic gameplay (in some), emotional music and good catchphrases. Also, in many videos, more team members talking, which makes an impression of a bigger and thus more professional studio.

Obviously, neither here is everything lost, because you can make many videos and trailers in the future. It just won’t be during the KS campaign, so it won’t allow to gather as much funds. But I have some suggestions here. I mean to look at most successful projects. In this case D:OS 2 and Star Citizen. They post regular >video< updates.  And I think Swen Vincke does it better, because he walks around the studio and talks to people in the form of light conversations. Maybe there is someone in your team, who would like to do it. And if you hesitate, it’s good to remember you can record the video as many times as you want. Until you feel comfortable enough. And Star Citizen shows how much money they gathered after the KS campaign, which is encouraging to pay more. You could see how it’s going and then think about putting some counter on the web page. Although seeing the counter and the next stretch goal is always encouraging, anyway. So there are some options.

The campaign wasn’t bad overall. I think the campaign description was good. Clear and interesting. Also, the updates were very good with the right amount of emotions. And the decision to reach the next stretch goal was the right move. A few campaigns already missed that opportunity to make a good PR and made a bad one instead. It always felt disappointing.

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Thanks for the thoughts. I think there's a few areas that need a bit of explanation, though. Firstly, for Paypal - as Max has linked above we're effectively banned from Paypal, otherwise we would indeed have added some kind of Paypal support.

You are correct that setting up a store on our website may be a good idea and that's something I do plan to look into, although I don't feel it's inherently likely to generate any PR and it'll only be a stopgap measure for six months until we're available for sale on Steam / GOG in terms of pre-orders. However this does have the advantage that we would be able to continue to sell the "custom soldier" tier where you could pay $20 and put a soldier in the game with a face from the Portrait Editor - I think that's a reward that people who discover the game later in development (e.g. on Steam) may want to pick up. It's even something we could continue to do after release if we upload the new soldiers once a month or something.

I think you probably just missed the press coverage that there was:

Sure, it's only two articles but they're the only two big sites willing to write about our Kickstarter and they drove about 20% of our non-Kickstarter pledges. There was also a newsletter from GOG that was apparently sent out to the 550,000 people who own the game (which was why we did the free giveaway on GOG about two weeks beforehand). So I don't think it's fair to say we started doing it too late or didn't do enough, I think you're just seeing that it's a tough market out there and a developer doing a Kickstarter isn't really a news item unless the circumstances are in some way exceptional.

Finally, you're correct that the videos were better for many other major high profile Kickstarters. But I think you're overestimating the size and PR capacity of our studio; there's only five full-time staff here at Goldhawk and two of those live well outside London and work remotely. The studios you're comparing us to there - Larian and Obsidian - are studios of 30+ employees with much bigger budgets than we have. Same for companies like Harebrained who did Shadowrun and Battletech etc, they're another big studio who do really successful Kickstarters but throw a lot more resources at them than we do. Those guys have full-time PR people and I'd be very surprised if they didn't have artists who work with video professionally on their staff full-time. That's not something we have access to; we don't even have a good location to shoot more video - for the video I had to borrow the meeting room in the office of a friend who works in a flashy tech startup down the road from us.

So, yeah - you are right that our video wasn't as professional as some of the others you saw, but those guys are setting a very high bar.

Broadly, I'm pleased with the way Kickstarter went. The amount of money a game raises on Kickstarter is generally only a small fraction of the sales that you get on Steam / GOG after release, and it's possible to chase the Kickstarter numbers too much if you're not careful. I was aiming to run a fairly conservative Kickstarter that was as efficient as possible - one that generated as much usable revenue for the game whilst sucking up as little of mine / the company's bandwidth as possible (because the key thing is to make the game). I think we did a pretty good job there; all the rewards are digital and most of them won't cause us that much trouble to fulfil ... which is a very different story to the physical rewards in Xenonauts 1.

I think if I was going to do it again I'd probably try and get a website set up on our site that did support Paypal, as there's third-party solutions that would let us do that. I'm not sure it's something that would have made a big difference but it's something we're looking at doing now anyway so in retrospect I probably should have done it in advance.

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Speaking for myself of course, the Xenonauts 2 GOG newsletter was near perfectly timed.

The summer sale had just finished which had introduced for the first time on GOG, XCOM - Enemy unknown @ 75% discount (both first release and the discount), which was literally an instant buy (I never bought the game originally because of the DRM).  I had nearly finished a full playthrough but had been looking at mods to help improve gameplay and a newsletter came in about Xenonauts 2 and a free demo.

Perfectly timed in my opinion, as I certainly had xcom based games at the top of my thoughts when that letter arrived.  I had a quick look at the demo but then dived into a new Xenonauts game (using the CE mod).  Both XCOM from Firaxis and Xenonauts are great games, but I remembered one of the things I very much loved about Xenonauts (The Weapon & Xenopedia artwork and writing is gorgeous and the CE "Lore+" mod with the additional images felt like part of the original release).

I'm wary of kickstarters and prefer to pay for the product once it is finished, so this is my first time pledging a kickstarter. 

On another note, I feel that the free giveaway would of been better done at the same time as the Xenonauts 2 alpha anouncement on GOG, but I don't know if this would of made any difference or not.

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18 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

Chris got burned by PayPal before. I don't know that he wants to open his company to getting burned again. 

Jeez, I thought PayPal is just a service that sends money from one place to another. But other KS projects use it all the time, so why can't you? I doesn't make sense. Couldn't they consider it again?

Anyway,@Chris, like you sad yourself, there are other ways to offer pre-orders. For example, one other game in development uses this: https://xsolla.com/ - although certainly there are some less expensive services on the market. Also you can use other crowdfunding services as I mentioned once in other thread. The biggest advantage of that, in my opinion, would be generating additional PR. It would also give you an opportunity to publicly talk about problems with PayPal and how you were mistreated (but you managed regardless) which could be even better for PR. And it would be enough for a few months of selling pre-orders. Or maybe even more if they would agree - I guess Fig would be most likely to go for that because they are in need of more PR ("We're helping devs mistreated by big corporation. We are the good guys").

When it comes to a store, I think it is better than just a simple pre-order in early access without any tiers to choose from. Or with two editions, for that matter. It can be seen especially during crowdfunding campaigns. People like to have multiple choices (there are two factors here; from a psychology perspective having multiple choices makes people feel they’re in control – and also it’s like in a supermarket, i.e. many products on shelves make people more likely to buy something) and they make good use of it. Now imagine there were only two tiers on KS. How much less money would you get?

The coverage. Yes, I did see those articles. But I mean these were only news, not any longer articles like some proper previews. Also, Swen and even Vince D. Weller (if someone doesn’t know, he is the creator of a hardcore indie RPG titled Age of Decadence) are doing interviews quite often.

The video. In my opinion it’s much easier than you think. I’ve just looked at D:OS 1 KS video and I can assure you it’s not something I couldn’t do. Although I’m definitely not a pro, so I’d need some practice with Adobe Premiere or something similar (I worked only with Photoshop and did a few amateur videos with some simple software) but, with an exception for the music, I know I could do it even by myself. Not to mention how easy it would be for a pro.

I know nothing about English market in that regard, but in Poland I know someone who could do it. Thus, if in England it’s too expansive or too hard to find anyone who does videos like that, you can surely find someone in Eastern Europe. Of course it would be much easier and more comfortable to find someone nearby who would do everything by himself. Otherwise you would need to get a camera, a lamp and a stand, record some talks with devs in front of their computers, record in-game footages, think of sentences to put in the video and then send it all to some Google Drive unedited. Then you could try to find someone experienced in video editing. I, myself, know maybe like three people I could ask.

Also, you can always (or one of you) learn video editing yourself. It’s obvious you don’t have much free time. But maybe you would benefit from it for years, which would make it worth your time?

And in gaming industry marketing trailers are quite an important factor. Few years back there was a study which showed trailers have a greater impact on sales than demos. It’s enough to look at Star Citizen to see how much hype and money trailers can generate. Thus, spending some time and money for making trailers and videos can be like an investment with a good return. And you don’t even need a good camera for making video updates. Just a good mic and simple HD webcam would be enough.

If you want, I could ask someone what recording equipment to buy. It won’t be expensive. Certainly not for you, relatively speaking. And you could use it for years.


Edited by Ravn7

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I think you're massively underestimating the amount of work that goes into making a Kickstarter video there tbh. Even the video we had there probably took the team a solid two or three weeks, from me writing the script and shooting the video to all the programmers fixing problems and implementing new features so we could have enough "good" gameplay footage to show, to the artist making the maps and staging the combat scenes and recording the gameplay footage and then slicing everything together. The content is the problem, not the actual cutting together of the video ... although that does also take time.

Your initial comment on our video was that we needed more staff talking (which we don't have) and more dynamic gameplay, which we didn't really have at the time either (no realtime geoscape or air combat). Also Sven can probably afford to spend plenty of time casually walking around the office chatting to people in his Kickstarter video updates because a) he actually has an office, b) he's probably not project managing the entire team on a day-to-day basis, and c) he's probably not replying to the Kickstarter messages / comments on a day-to-day basis either.

Realistically none of that could be easily fixed, which is why I think we did a pretty good job with what we had available to us. I don't have a problem admitting that our video and campaign isn't up to the standards of some of the bigger and more successful Kickstarters by bigger and more successful companies, but we don't have the manpower to match them - particularly when the team need to be focusing on the closed beta we now need to deliver in three months!


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Yes. Great job on the video.  I actually downloaded the video and went through it screen by screen to see what has been implemented, and I see why you said what you feel about the various changes.  Personally I think you did fantastic with so little resources and with much better communication with the community than many much bigger teams.  Enjoy my kickstarter backing!

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@Chris, I understand. You're right I may have been underestimating your work needed to be done there. Although I don't think the video was bad. It was totally fine and the script itself was really very good, actually.

I get it you don't have any professional who can spend all the time he needs to make videos. But maybe you could hire someone when the game will be ready and the time right? A team member could right down a few sentences about his recent work to answer the question "What have you been working on lately?". That is if you think you can spare that time and money. I guess it shouldn't be much.

Anyway, whatever you decide, good luck to you. I know the game is going be great, because the first one was and this one can only be better.

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Thanks. And I know you were just providing your thoughts to try and help us out - I was just trying to illustrate some of the problems we face that might not be immediately obvious to people outside the dev team :)

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