Post news RSS Crowdfunding - Mission Failed! A Post Mortem

It was to be our first mistake because the $2000 we spend on advertising and press releases was essentially set on fire. We pushed the live button on Thursday night, by the time the media had recovered from the bank holiday a whole week would have gone by in which we had barely made 5% we waited for the cavalry to arrive and we got nothing.

Posted by on

So the title says it all – but it's no failure really, we gained 210 new supporters which is great. There are no guarantees in this business and we decided to go down the IndieGogo route rather than the Kickstarter route, but would it have made any difference? Lets look at some figures.

So the launch was botched for a start, we made a bad decision. I enlisted the help of a marketing agency who said ‘do not launch on a weekend and do not launch near a holiday’ I spread those words amongst the team and we concluded that ‘hey it means there will be more people by their computers, lets do it anyway.’ On that Easter weekend a rare miracle occurred; pretty much the whole of Europe was basked in sunshine, I drove to the coast to spend it with my family as did many of you it seems. But before I left I visited the normal places and shared the exciting news, 'no immediate takers' I thought refreshing the IGG page as I added my offering to the endless list of crowdfunding beggars - but that's OK I muttered to myself; because we have our following.

Launching on the bank holiday was to be our first mistake because the $2,000 we spend on advertising and press releases was money essentially set on fire. We pushed the live button on Thursday night, by the time the media had recovered from the bank holiday a whole week would have gone by in which we had barely made 5% and we waited for the cavalry to arrive and we got nothing. I don’t blame them; in a climate where crowdfunding campaigns are ten a penny why write about a failing one?

Well I say we got nothing, we got some complimentry kicks in the gut from a few sites who basically took the press release, pointed and laughed and used the opportunity to openly slate crowdfunding and our feeble attempt. I’m not mentioning any names and the articles aren’t even worth linking too. But then we did get a large number of favourable reviews from a few upcoming sites, like this review from sound lad Callum Goss.

Anyways the magic number is 3% folks, that’s the most essential piece of information that I was dying to know. 3% of visitors to our page converted into sales, it mentions 15,000 visits above but actually it’s around 6,000 because most of those are repeat visits. Now that 3% tells me that I’d need 194,000 visits to make that goal – nearly 3x the yearly total of this IndieDB page hmmmm.

But that's OK I thought because we have our following; we had 500 people here, 800 on the newsletter, 400 on Facebook, loads on YouTube - a reasonable following but come the day it didn't seem to matter. Now it's important to note that I don’t blame anyone, I wouldn't have pledged myself if it didn't seem like it was going anywhere and I think it really needs more time and a different approach. 'You need more exposure' people were shouting out to me, but here's the most irritating part of the deal folks: If I talk about my project it get's ignored as self advertising, you have to talk about it to each other. This point leads me to my final daunting realisation after all the videos, all the posts, all the effort: No-one really gives a hoot about Shallow Space.

So here’s me worrying about piracy, it’s all secondary, in fact it’s not even remotely a concern – if people do decide to pirate this thing I’ve dedicated a year of my life on (so far) it turns out that I should actually feel grateful. The truth of being indie is starting to dawn on me… DRM-free from day 1 it is then...

So we made a demo, we invested in marketing, we collected a sizable following before the event and we still failed. Tough luck eh. Although back when I started Shallow Space there were 16,000 games registered on this site now there are 26,000 – it’s getting harder and harder to stand out from the crowd (especially if you’re not part of the 8-bit zombie crew.) But I take my hat off to the IndieDB guys and if you have a game on here you OWE it to them to subscribe to the site, especially seeing as most people use ad-blockers turning off the required revenue to sustain this great site.

Anyways we’ve met a load of new supporters and we’ve opened up the website for preorders for those who do feel like contributing. The price starts at $15 and increases offering some digital incentives do check it out! Will I run the campaign again on Kickstarter? Maybe – they’ve verified my identity now at least, but it’ll probably be for some insanely small amount just to try and gather more of a following. You see it’s that all important following that is the obstacle, we have to shout out to 1000 people who don’t want to listen to find one person who does and the best part? They normally forget to click like or subscribe and so forget about you 15 minutes later.

Such is life, anyway I'm still focused I've got work to do – you can barely keep us out of the IndieDB top 100 – that’s gotta count for something right? New version of the demo about to hit your screens, Steam and Humble store pages to prepare, artwork specifications to manage, blog posts to write, social media to update - keep your eye's out for the 0.7.10 version of the demo, oh and did I mention you can preorder now for just $15? ;)



RonixRising - - 21 comments

Hi James,

Thanks for sharing your experience with crowd-funding. That was a really insightful read! We are actually in quite a similar situation as you guys.

Our team is making a unique space game and it's been tough getting the word out. You can check out our Kickstarter here -

There might still be a way for us to help each other out. If you are interested, what would be the best way to reach you?

P.S. If you have any feedback about the video or the campaign itself, please feel free to let us know. We would be happy to consider your advice ;)

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
gamescroller - - 46 comments

Hi James,

it's great to see you are taking the IGG campaign on the chin. We have talked about this on Twitter and I think you guys are now heading in the right direction.

With the right sort of backing and support you and your team will do well from this, you have a great game and the fact it runs so well at Alpha stage is outstanding and you can clearly tell you have all put a massive amount of effort into the game.

Luckily you have the Indie community to help spread the word, if it's one thing I've noticed since I started Gamescroller it's never forget the community you are part of/came from because they are your backbone.

Anyway the article is a great and interesting read, keep up the good work and come the end of the month I am 100% pre-ordering because I love your game :D.

Kind regards


Reply Good karma Bad karma+3 votes
mawhrin-skel Author
mawhrin-skel - - 522 comments

Thanks Adam,

btw if your going to regularly letsplay the alpha maybe we should come up with some way to inject traffic into your YouTube channel? I suspect the best way to do this at the moment is via the newsletter, I'll be sending out a burst towards the end of the week - I'll include it in that.

You're right about the community, with any startup you really need to relate to the customers from day one (but yet keep a professional distance which is really difficult actually) now when those 10 voices turn to 100's or 1000's that will become more difficult but I'll never be far removed from that eye-to-eye relationship we've seen so far.

I maintain that I'm a normal guy lucky to be a programmer, have an idea and a little bit of business acumen. Although I tell you, even with +1's in all those traits it ain't easy!



Reply Good karma+2 votes
Muffalopadus - - 15 comments

I've been following development of Shallow Space on Steam. While I knew that the fundraising campaign was coming up I still somehow managed to completely miss it. Learning about the failure is the first time I've heard about it happening at all.

Its unfortunate but you've got to move on, which is what you're doing. Keep up the hard work. Standing out in the crowd of fad-games shouldn't be your priority. Make the game that you would want to play and nothing less because that's what your supporters want as well.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+3 votes
mawhrin-skel Author
mawhrin-skel - - 522 comments

Many people did miss it sadly, we had to strike a balance between not telling people enough and spamming people and annoying them!

Really appreciate the kind words and you're right, it's not about standing out from the crowd of fad games but when it comes to publicity, getting the larger sites to write about you we are in effect just another indie game made by nobodies.

It's getting to the point now where we have such a following it will be difficult to ignore us and as the alpha blossoms into something truly special I'm sure they will come to us.

Thanks again! btw you can pledge over on the game page now

Reply Good karma+2 votes
Muffalopadus - - 15 comments

I already bought it! As soon as I read about what happened I chipped in my fifteen bucks. (As an aside, it is a bit confusing how your pledge tiers work. I buy the game for $15 then tip you an additional x to get to a higher tier?)

Being an indie nobody isn't as bad of a thing nowadays. There are quality games being released by developers no one has heard about before.

I'm sure you've discussed this with your team, but please be very careful about Early Access. Its a pretty hostile environment because a lot of trusting people have gotten burned by it. If a reputable developer like DoubleFine can renege on their Early Access game "Spacebase DF-9" then all bets are off. EA can be very successful if you're active and responsive to the community that is invested in your game.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+1 vote
mawhrin-skel Author
mawhrin-skel - - 522 comments

Excellent observations which is why I'll hit Early Access with something that can pretty much be called a game anyways. It won't really be buggy and you wouldn't even be able to call it an alpha by definition so the people that do hop on the wagon at that point will be pleasantly surprised.

Before we even get there I'll prove myself here, I've been running updates to the demo for the past 30 days and that will continue for a while - more ships, weapons, features etc. Most of the stuff has already been prototyped, I just need to reintroduce it to the code gathering feedback on bugs and playability from the field.

I understand that there is hostility to all routes to indie development right now: Preorders, Early Access and Crowdfunding alike. Every route has been smeared in **** by those who trod before me, all I can do is prove that I can be trusted before the fact.

Thanks for preordering dude, yes it the whole 'tips' thing is a little confusing but there's not much I can do about it right now. If you did wish access to the other levels PM me and I'll try and work something out.

Reply Good karma+2 votes
crazyminnow - - 1 comments

Good point about EA Muffalopadus, but a quick check on Shallow Space updates shows how devoted these guys are to this title. They are constantly updating -- something that so many devs fail to do or think about.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
dragonslumber - - 12 comments

It doesn't look like my kind of game, but Shallow Space definitely looks like a quality title. I'm sorry that your crowd funder didn't work. I noticed though that the lowest tier was 35$, which seems really high compared to the 15$ you're asking for preorders. Did you change your pricing scheme or was that a marketing decision?

Reply Good karma Bad karma+1 vote
mawhrin-skel Author
mawhrin-skel - - 522 comments

Marketing, to the consumer there is a perceived increased risk of purchasing from an unknown organisation on a website that isn't specifically themed for e-commerce.

The plan is to introduce the game at a price that can't be denied and increase it in a month or twos time once Early Access comes to bear.

That way we can mitigate some of the costs which are becoming cumbersome.

Reply Good karma+2 votes
BioDestroyer - - 2,858 comments

You mean to tell me that people keep pledging and supporting games that are the same thing as another game, or that visually looks incomplete, instead of supporting a project that looks great (I'm not talking only about graphics, when seeing these other games, it doesn't even look like what has been added has been completed yet) and that if you look at older images/videos, you can clearly see that progress has actually been done (which is more than what you can say of a lot of Early Access titles).

People are either plain stupid, or you just were just very unlucky with this.

I haven't played the demo, but just looking at the images and videos it already looks great.

I didn't pledge, but that's because I currently can't.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+3 votes
mawhrin-skel Author
mawhrin-skel - - 522 comments

I know man it's annoying, 'here's my hot air and artist representation' vs. 'here's proven development, in-game screenshots and a demo' little bit annoying!

Cut me like a knife at first I won't lie, but I'm over it now. Can't dwell on it, wrong place - wrong time.

Reply Good karma+2 votes
TKAzA - - 3,154 comments

Great article, thank you for sharing.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+3 votes
ByteConveyor - - 90 comments

I'm scratching my head over this one. There are so many extremely basic plataformers made in no more than a month -two tops- that have gotten insane amounts of funds thrown at them; and here's a complex project that could easily pass off as a AAA title, and couldn't break 10K?

Sorry it didn't play out, and I can feel your frustration -been there / am there-. Knowing what went wrong -definitely not the product- would be a great lesson for indies in the future.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
mawhrin-skel Author
mawhrin-skel - - 522 comments

Yeah it is strange, but from this I deduce that the best titles to crowdfund are the 8-bit sensations or the zombie shooters. The media loves titles that are topical, fit into a popular category on their blog that they can fill up with related posts for users that have already arrived on the site to be drawn to; click-bait.

Sadly this technique stifles innovation and is not great for a market that should encompass a diverse selection of options for it's userbase. But like any industry, the media serves its own interests ultimately.

It does explain why there are so many 8-bit games, cost aside - it's a self fulfilling prophecy for the developer. If I wasn't so committed to Shallow Space I'd **** one out in a week to capitalise.

Reply Good karma+3 votes
Andrettin - - 92 comments

Very insightful article! Thanks for posting it!

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Byte56 - - 2 comments

I'd say it failed because the lowest level you could get the game at was $30. I was waiting for the campaign so I could back it. But $30 for an indie game is too steep.

I assume you realized this since now you're doing a pre-order for $15. I think if you'd had a $15 level in your campaign, you would have had better than 3% conversion. More people backing means more people sharing it (to get their friends to play with them). I think overall it would have done better.

Thanks for posting this information.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
mawhrin-skel Author
mawhrin-skel - - 522 comments

Well actually I think $30 for the 'promise' of an indie game is too steep.

Quality has a price, no in fact; quality demands a price.

You could build the most amazing game in the world and price it too low and it will damage your sales. It sounds ridiculous I know but there are people who have done this before us that have written articles supporting that supposition.

We based that assumption on the number of people we had across the spectrum of social media, we based it on what we thought the game was worth and we didn't want it to turn into a Dutch auction by asking people to name their price.

In the end people will pay $30 and I promise you they will buy, the price is $15 at the moment because there is a risk to buying off a dude generating hot air for sale and I want people to feel comfortable in their pledge.

I always picture myself as the consumer, always. Sadly the pricing of the tiers wasn't up to me.

Reply Good karma+1 vote
jarrydhuntley - - 1 comments

Thanks for the article. Sad to hear but good luck!

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
curtisn - - 1 comments

Thanks for the info here. Really appreciate it. It will help us make decisions

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
Post a comment
Sign in or join with:

Only registered members can share their thoughts. So come on! Join the community today (totally free - or sign in with your social account on the right) and join in the conversation.