Crowdfunding has the power to bring about a funding revolution in certain industries. By crowdfunding the development costs of a new product, you can demonstrate clear demand for it (lowering the commercial risk), as well as creating a PR buzz to increase its chances of success.
Double Fine Adventure has achieved this utopia with gusto in the last few weeks. The US-based video game design company – Double Fine Productions – was seeking to raise $400,000 (£252,528) to fund the development of a new adventure game using US crowdfunding giant Kickstarter. What happened next was nothing short of astonishing.
The pitch hit its target within just eight hours and, at the time of writing, has so far raised over $1.8m (£1.1m) from more than 50,000 backers (Kickstarter allows high-demand projects to exceed their funding target). [UPDATE 27 February 2012: Double Fine has now raised more than $2.25m – with 15 days to go!]
So how did they do it and what are the lessons to be learned from this record-breaking fundraising?
Fundamental to any successful crowdfunding is the quality of the idea you’re trying to fund. Without a good idea you’re going nowhere.
A classic point-and-click adventure game is appealing but I believe that it was the ability for backers to participate in the development of the new game that really captured people’s imagination.
The project, whether it succeeds or fails, will unfold in real time for all the backers to see.
Double Fine Adventure told a great story. The main presenter in their introductory video was authoritative, entertaining and engaged the audience.
The pitch tapped into a section of society – adventure game enthusiasts – that feel they are underserved by usual corporate game producers. Thus the idea of democratising the funding by allowing ordinary people to support the games they want to see created is something that had mass appeal.
By seeking funding from the game’s future customers, it also gave developers the freedom to experiment, take risks, and design without any corporate bigwigs compromising their vision. Big games cost money and this is developed by the people, for the people. In short, it’s different.
However, I should add that this is an established company with bags of success making games. That track record made this a low risk ‘investment’ for people wanting to support the project.
This is where Double Fine Adventure was rather canny. It gave supporters something new, something different and something with a very high perceived value to its target audience – the unique opportunity to be involved in a game’s development.
‘Developed by adventure fans, for adventure fans’ was a tagline that appealed to its target audience; giving them a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in a ‘private’ community that will collaborate and input on the direction of the game. Double Fine further pushed this angle by promising to make a behind-the-scenes documentary of the making of Double Fine Adventure for their backers.
For a pitch to really take off, its owner needs to promote it effectively. The advent of social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook help, however it is still very difficult to make demand explode on the scale that Double Fine Adventure achieved.
Having a large community doesn’t guarantee an online outbreak of tweets and Facebook ‘likes’ though. The key to success is having a core network of highly-motivated, well-connected, social media-savvy followers and a great project that they will want to support.
Typically, the things that really take off are either funny, controversial, stimulate debate or appeal to our more basic instincts (sex). Double Fine Adventure was able to tap into a zeitgeist.
Added to this was a scarcity value – the idea that you might miss out on something cool – which prompted people to act fast. They then got the kudos of being the ones in the know when they told their friends – spreading the word further still.
There is no recipe for making something extraordinary happen online. You cannot make people share something – but you can give things a nudge in the right direction. If you can influence the key influencers, whether bloggers, active tweeters or thought leaders, your message will be in with a chance of achieving the crowdfunding Shangri-La: going viral.
Double Fine Adventure has a wonderful mix of these qualities and has created a perfect storm – which resulted in a crowdfunding sensation.
Luke Lang is the co-founder of equity-based crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube – the world’s first crowdfunding website to facilitate a £1m investment, in November 2011. Crowdcube recently partnered with Startups to launch a custom crowdfunding platform especially for Startups readers . Follow Luke on Twitter: @crowdcube
Image: Double Fine