Kickstarter Post-Mortem: Neo's Land

Ragar looks at the recently cancelled crowdfunding campaign for the user-generated content focused MMO.

On Thursday, NeoJac Entertainment pulled the plug on the Kickstarter campaign for their new community content focused fantasy MMO, Neo's Land. With five days left in the month-long crowdfunding campaign, NeoJac had only raised CAD $15,813 of the CAD $100,000 they were looking for. The developers cited the unlikelihood of reaching their goal as one of the reasons for early termination, but focused primarily on how they had new ideas come up during the Kickstarter that they wished to implement.

I'm never happy when I see a project on Kickstarter that failed to meet its goal for any reason: I love the idea of crowdfunding and a community-driven MMO like Neo's Land seemed like a perfect fit for the platform. I was interested enough in the project that I interviewed the developers prior to the Kickstarter's launch and I followed its progress from start to this premature cancellation. The problem was that during those 26 or so days that I was following, I never pledged.

Normally if I follow a project as closely as I did this one, I'll throw them some money, whether out of interest in the finished product or because I'm a sucker for supporting independent developers. I just couldn't bring myself to pledge for this project and I started to wonder if other would-be backers had the same issues with this Kickstarter that I did. What exactly is it that turned away people from something that has a solid concept at the center?

Welcome! Here's All the Stuff You're Not Allowed to Have!

When you look through the list of updates for the Neo's Land Kickstarter, you notice a common theme with the post names, namely "Reward Removed For". If you look into the main project description, you'll find a large graphic listing Daily Tier Rewards. The idea behind this concept is that backers will receive the listed cosmetic/flavor items when they back early and, as time progresses, rewards will be removed from the list and future backers will receive only a truncated list of bonus loot. In theory this is supposed to incentivize potential backers to jump in early for extra loot and make older backers feel more valuable as they receive additional goods. In practice? There is almost no faster way to annoy me with your Kickstarter than to engage in this tactic (we'll get to the fastest way later on). You've created a list of generally meaningless rewards that should be used as stretch goal bonuses or "hit 1000 Likes on Facebook" incentives, but decided to divide your potential fan base with them instead.

Part of what makes crowdfunding work is the idea of sharing the campaign with your friends: I fund a campaign, then share it with my friends on Twitter or I email it to someone and say "hey, check this game out!" The last thing you want with that system is having to apologize to your friend for not finding out about the game earlier and causing them to miss out on some daily reward item. At the minimum you've given that new backer less incentive to forward your Kickstarter to a third person, but in many cases you discourage them from backing in the first place. When you're trying to get someone to donate to your cause, you want them to feel equally as valuable as the previous backer.

As a general rule of thumb: more is always better. Beside what's listed in the rewards for each individual tier, backers should only find out about new things that have been added periodically rather than taken away. If I backed a project at $40 then read an update saying everyone at $65 and up was getting a bonus in-game costume or some other cosmetic item, I might consider increasing my pledge. I've lost nothing with this new information - even if I stay at my original $40 pledge, I will be no worse off than any other $40 backer, past or future.

What's Going on While You're Crowdfunding

When I said that the "Reward Removed" update headline was common, I was actually understating that to some degree. Out of 44 updates, 20 of those were some flavor of "Reward Removed" post. My annoyance with timed rewards aside, this highlights a substantial number of updates that provide no content for current or would-be backers.

These are the Kickstarter equivalent of your crowdfunding blog; this is where you share vital details with backers like stretch goal updates, interview links, times for Reddits AMAs or developer streams, new concept art sketches, etc. None of us expect gameplay footage in each update (always appreciated though), but we do expect to get regular updates to show the project is moving forward in some way. If there's nothing new to show off game-wise that day? Do a Q&A stream or link to a YouTube video (like, say, the regular community roundtable videos with Markee Dragon that were completely left off the update page) to foster community interaction. All of these help move the project forward and make the backer feel important and the developers look both interested in fan input and competent enough to handle the task presented to them by this community-focused Kickstarter project.

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