By Tim Youngblood
Xeno Crisis, a retro top-down shooter for Sega Genesis developed by Bitmap Bureau recently more than doubled its crowdfunding goal on Kickstarter. See how they did it!
A few months ago, I wrote about some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to making a Kickstarter campaign for an indie game. Xeno Crisis, developed by Bitmap Bureau, stuck by most of the principles I recommended and even did some things I would have been too timid to try. Although Bitmap Bureau was founded in 2016, the development team behind the company has a lot of experience, some going back over 20 years and they have some great marketing tricks for studios with a small or non-existent budget.
A Simple Game Trailer
I’ve harped on about game developers over-diverting time and effort into making extravagant cinematic trailers in the development and crowd-funding page. Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful cinematic trailer as much as the next person, but I think that they fit in better for the release. When it comes to generating interest while the game is still under development, gamers want to get a feel for how the game plays more than anything. If you watch the trailer below, you’ll notice that the trailer is just gameplay and sweet retro synth metal.
Keeping the Content Focused on Gameplay
Even if a game has the greatest story ever told, plenty of games with great stories don’t have the gameplay to match it. When reading through Bitmap Bureau’s description of Xeno Crisis, they make practically no mention of the game’s plot in the description and instead go immediately into gameplay style comparisons. That being said, the game itself probably has a decently in-depth plot, but for crowdfunding purposes, viewers can simply gather that there is an alien infestation and some badass space marine has to shoot up a lot of xenomorphs to save the day.
This GIF illustrates the procedurally generated levels. Not the prettiest marketing material but it gets the job done.
When is the Best Time to Begin Crowdfunding an Indie Game?
Knowing the answer to this question can save developers a lot of redos when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns. Bitmap Bureau waiting until the frameworks of Xeno Crisis were completed before seeking funding. This ensured that their game would be playable when they began marketing it, even if they are still adding more levels and features between then and the release. The framework for gameplay, menus, and procedurally generated levels are already in the game, meaning that the odds of a catastrophic programming error delaying the game’s release are much lower. Xeno Crisis is already more complete than many EA releases lately…
Addressing Risks and Challenges
Bitmap Bureau was quick to address what they felt would be the primary concerns of backers. Since Xeno Crisis will have physical copies for Sega Genesis (Or MegaDrive in the UK) and Sega Dreamcast, the logistics become far more complex than a simple digital download. There is nothing worse for backers than funding a Kickstarter, having the project reach its funding goal, and still having to wait years to get your own copy or model. if it ever arrives at all… Reaching a crowdfunding goal and not delivering on your product is a good way to never get funding again.
Bitmap Bureau got ahead of the situation by noting that programming Sega Genesis cartridges can be troublesome and this could cause delays in the release. Bitmap Bureau’s solution was simple and effective, they included a digital download of the game for all backers and buyers. This ensures that even if there is a supply chain disaster or hardware difficulties, players will at least get to play the game!
Physical game copies can cause additional challenges to arise when releasing a game.
Bitmap Bureau does a lot of little things with their marketing that allow a small studio to have success on a small budget. This goes beyond their Kickstarter campaigns and applies to their websites as well, which I’ll get into at a later date. If you’re a developer who doesn’t have much experience with marketing, emulating Bitmap Bureau is a good place to start!
If you know any tricks that Bitmap Bureau did that I left out, or if you know of any other any indie developers who you think market their games well, please share in the comments!
More Indie Game Marketing Tricks and Tutorials
Be sure to check in for more marketing tutorials and tricks. If there’s something you’d like to learn more about, let us know in the comments!
*All images courtesy of Bitmap Bureau and Kickstarter