As of tonight, we have decided to take down the Kickstarter for Icarus Proudbottom: Starship Captain. We apologize to our fans that were excited to see the campaign succeed.
Don’t worry – this isn’t the end of Holy Wow’s games, or even the end of Starship Captain. Boy do we have plans! But before we get to our future plans, let’s talk about why we’re cancelling the Kickstarter and what we did wrong.
Our goal was $50,000, but within the first few days it became apparent that we would end up somewhere in the $40k range if we pushed the campaign as hard as we were able. The key phrase there is “as hard as we were able.” Holy Wow is just two people, we both have full-time jobs so our time is extremely limited, and we’re both Really Bad at publicity. This experience has taught us that we really need marketing and publicity help – the next time we pursue a big initiative like this, we’ll make sure to find someone to help us out.
Of course, it is possible that, through some unforseen miracle, we could have barely broken the $50k goal. However, Kickstarter campaigns are about more than “getting [x] amount of money.” Kickstarter campaigns are a great way to gauge the strength of an idea. If we’re going to spend a full year developing Starship Captain full time, we want to make sure that it’s an idea strong enough for people to be ecstatic about. Just barely breaking the goal means that the public’s interest is literally the minimum we were willing to accept, but that’s not really what we wanted. We call ourselves “Holy Wow” for a reason! If we’re going to develop a huge game full-time, we want that game to get a definitive, resounding “wow!” We still believe that Starship Captain is wow-worthy, but in it’s present state it is clearly not.
We don’t blame anyone but ourselves for our failure! Our first problem involves how we pitched the game. Rather than showing gameplay, we tried to sell the game almost entirely through dialogue and jokes… we basically made a movie trailer. However, we didn’t invest enough in voice acting for this to work as well as we imagined. Our friends Kyle Munley and Simon Taylor did amazing jobs as Jerry and Mark 22 respectively, but we definitely should have invested in a real voice actor for Icarus. Also, once we decided to take the movie trailer route we should have made sure that all of the jokes were A+ material.
Why didn’t we show more gameplay? We would have loved to, but we were in a tricky place in the game’s development. We built quite a bit of the game’s foundation in Flash, but our plan was to rebuild everything in Unity after the Kickstarter. We’ve been doing lots of testing and exploration in Unity, but we don’t have anything we can show yet. Therefore, any gameplay we showed would have to be the Flash version. The Flash version is playable, but there’s not a lot of content in place – all we have is a mostly blank starfield with asteroids and a few enemy ships. So, if we wanted to show more gameplay in the trailer, we had two choices – we could either expand the Flash version (which is a huge waste of time since we’re throwing it away) or we could wait until the Unity version was built out more. Since it might take a while before the Unity version reaches parity with the Flash version, we decided that it was best to just show what we had – which means not showing much gameplay.
Not showing gameplay probably wasn’t our biggest problem. Our biggest problem is that we’re bad at audience outreach. We went into the Kickstarter fairly optimistic – if we could reach our existing fanbase, reach gamers who hadn’t played our games before, and court the Star Trek fanbase, wow, that seemed like good reach. Unfortunately, as we mentioned before, we’re really horrible and hopeless at publicity. Despite reaching out to lots and lots of places multiple times, we didn’t get anywhere near the press coverage we were hoping for. The only remaining course we knew was to spam Twitter and Facebook, but since it was clear from early on that our pitch wasn’t as strong as we had thought, it didn’t seem worth annoying our fanbase to plug a doomed campaign.
So, to summarize, we did badly at the Kickstarter. Luckily, launching a Kickstarter is free, so it’s not like this experience has left us financially crippled or anything. And importantly, we learned a lot from this experience. If we do another project like this, we promise we’ll do much better next time. And we hope to prove that to you soon!
So what are our future plans? Even before we launched the Kickstarter we had a few big ideas for what we could do if the Kickstarter failed. As soon as it became extremely obvious that the Kickstarter would fail, we began working on one of those ideas. It’s coming along really well and should launch within a reasonable amount of time – hopefully within a few months!
As for Starship Captain, we may do a second Kickstarter in the future. If we do, it will be once we have enough of the game built in Unity for us to show a lot of real, exciting gameplay. After spending just a short amount of time in Unity, we’ve already discovered tons and tons of amazing things we couldn’t do in Flash, so we’re confident that we’ll eventually be able to show off a great product – a product even better than the one we were imagining just a few months ago!
In the meantime, we’re going to sell the stuff we were planning to give away as Kickstarter rewards. We’re opening a store, probably through Etsy, where you’ll be able to buy stickers, posters, and more!
And as of right now, you can order your own 3d-printed Jerry statuette from Shapeways, right here:
We’d like to thank all of our fans and everyone who backed the game. Even though the campaign failed, it was still incredible to see the surge of support when we first launched. We’re just two people making games in an apartment, so the fact that we have any sort of fanbase strikes us as amazing. We hope you’ll stick with us in the months ahead!