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The Crucial Role of Video Game Prototypes in Crowdfunding

Creating a viable video game concept and developing it into a viable project is a complex task. However, securing the necessary funding to bring that concept to life may be an even greater challenge.

Funding for video game development can come from various sources, including bootstrapping, partnerships, investments, grants, and crowdfunding. Platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow developers to showcase their concepts to the public and secure funding from individual supporters.

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Crowdfunding on websites has become immensely popular among game developers due to its ease of initiation. Many projects garner substantial funds from individuals eager to witness the birth of new games. However, with intense competition, not every project manages to be successful. To run a successful video game crowdfunding campaign, having a compelling campaign is crucial, and this is where possessing a robust video game prototype becomes essential.

Video Game Prototype: Definition and Purpose

In essence, game prototyping is the fundamental approach to realizing a game design concept. It involves the construction of a playable version of the game, for instance, by designing rudimentary gameplay mechanics.

There are a few steps in prototyping video games:

  1. Start with brainstorming and set clear goals with your team.
  2. Focus on just 2-3 main features of the game.
  3. Sketch the game ideas
  4. Share the sketches and basic game design ideas with the team, stakeholders, and friends. Gather the feedback.
  5. Use the feedback to polish the initial game design document
  6. Build a production plan for a prototype
  7. Start building a game prototype based on agree main game features and mechanics
  8. Refine the game prototype based on the team’s and stakeholders’ suggestions.

Remember to document every step of the process from beginning to end. This keeps everyone on the same page and helps track progress.

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A video game prototype can help you test whether playing what looks good on paper is fun. It should provide you with insights regarding the following:

  1. How viable is your idea?
  2. What are the areas for improvement?
  3. What does the user journey feel like?

The objective is to ascertain whether the game concepts are effective. By testing the fundamental ideas at an early stage, prototype video game developers can assess if their game will attract players..
This approach saves time and resources by avoiding the development of features that are either unfeasible or unappealing. In crowdfunding campaigns, presenting a video game prototype demonstrates to potential supporters that the video game project is actively in production progress.

The Crowdfunding Landscape for Video Games

Crowdfunding is a go-to method for video game developers to bring their ideas to life. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are popular venues where creators can showcase their game prototypes to attract investors from the game industry.

Kickstarter vs Indiegogo: How to Choose Video Game Crowdfunding Platform

The biggest crowdfunding platforms are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Both are good, but their benefits make it hard to choose. Let's concentrate on selecting the one that best aligns with your needs

Funding Models

Nowadays, most people choose Kickstarter as the most popular crowdfunding platform. It operates on an all-or-nothing funding model, meaning a project gets funded only if it hits its goal. This approach motivates backers to contribute more since their money is only used if the project is successful. That, consequently, boosts their motivation and trust. However, even with greater support, all-or-nothing also carries the risk that creators might only get video game funding if they meet their target.

There is good news. As of April 2024, Kickstarter had successfully funded over 256,000 initiatives, with an excellent success rate of just over 41.34%. This number is undoubtedly exciting for game developers hoping to launch their platform ventures.

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On the other hand, calculating Indiegogo's success rate is trickier. Many creators use a flexible funding model, letting them keep whatever money they raise, even if they don't meet their goals. Indiegogo's success includes fully and partially funded campaigns, making it hard to compare directly with Kickstarter.


Indiegogo lets you start fundraising immediately, so waiting for approval is unnecessary. Before launching, ensure you have everything ready, like a video pitch, a description, and links to your social media. The more details you provide, the better your chances of drawing in backers.

In contrast, Kickstarter requires you to give a detailed project presentation through video and text. If something needs to be added or clarified, they might ask for changes. Your project will be reviewed for legal issues to ensure it can happen. If everything checks out, you'll get the green light to build your campaign page and start fundraising.

When picking a crowdfunding platform, consider what you're creating, how much money you need, your audience, and the costs or rules involved.

Success Stories of Games Crowdfunded Based on Prototypes

Star Citizen

Star Citizen is an in-development multiplayer, space trading, and combat simulation game. Chris Roberts, the creator of Star Citizen, took an unusual path to funding his game. Instead of using Kickstarter, he gathered funds directly from his fans and received some traditional investment.
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When the demand for Star Citizen crashed their initial website, Roberts turned to Kickstarter for additional support. Their site wasn't prepared for the massive interest, collapsing under the pressure. Despite the hiccup, moving to Kickstarter proved to be a smart move. Even after the official crowdfunding campaign ended, they raised money, adding millions more to their budget. This approach allowed them to keep engaging with their community and raise funds simultaneously.

Broken Age

Broken Age is a point-and-click adventure game. The player-controlled character can be directed to move about the screen, examine different objects, and talk to NPC to learn more about the game world.

In February 2012, Double Fine and 2 Player Productions asked for money on Kickstarter for a game first called Double Fine Adventure. They hoped to get $400,000 to make the game and film a documentary. But they ended up getting a lot more attention and money than expected.

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Broken Age, the game's new name, raised over $3.45 million from over 87,000 people in just one month. This made it one of the biggest video game fundraisers on Kickstarter at the time and showed that asking the public for funding could work for particular types of video games.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted

Sir, You Are Being Hunted is an open-world survival horror stealth video game. Six months into production, a Kickstarter campaign was started in November 2012 to help fund the game, aiming for £40,000. By December, they raised £92,551, less than their £100,000 target for adding character creation and customization.

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Challenges Faced During Crowdfunding Campaigns

Crowdfunding campaigns can run into several problems, making them challenging to pull off successfully. Here's a quick look at common issues:

  1. Choosing the Right Goal. Figuring out how much money to ask for is hard. Aim too high, and you might not get anything. Aim too low, and you might not cover all your costs.
  2. Making a Good Pitch. You need a story that grabs attention and explains your fantastic project. If people aren't interested, they won't back you.
  3. Keeping People Interested. You have to keep talking about your project and updating people to keep them excited. If you do, people might remember you.
  4. Keeping Promises. It's essential to know what backers will get and ensure you deliver. If backers aren't happy, they might give you bad feedback.
  5. Sending Out Rewards. It can be complicated to get all the rewards out to backers.
  6. Following the Rules. There are a lot of rules about asking for money, including taxes and who owns the ideas.
  7. Dealing with Delays. Sometimes, things don't go as planned. Video game projects get delayed. Talking honestly with backers when this happens can be tricky.
  8. Budgeting for Fees. Crowdfunding sites take a cut of the money you raise, and there are other costs. You must plan carefully to ensure you have enough money left for your project.

Solving these issues often involves careful planning, clear communication, and being proactive, especially with prototyping video games. Prototyping can help identify and address potential problems early, making the rest of the video game development smoother.

The Impact of Prototypes on Crowdfunding Success

Using prototypes in your crowdfunding campaign has enormous advantages, especially for video game development.

  1. Makes the Game Tangible. Prototypes show what the game will be like. This clarity wins backers' trust.
  2. Builds Trust and Credibility. Showing a working version of your game demonstrates commitment.
  3. Facilitates Feedback. Early feedback on the prototype can guide improvements in gameplay, design, and features.
  4. Generates Excitement. Prototypes can spark interest and enthusiasm among the gaming community.

Adriaan de Jongh highlights the importance of prototyping video games. His senior designer Kent Kuné, realized that just talking about his game idea wasn't enough to share his full vision with his team. He saw that making a prototype of the main character would be a better way to show his ideas in action. He decided to take matters into his own hands. Kent also thought that once he could see and play with the character, he might want to change some parts of the game.
Kent made many small decisions that brought his character to life without explaining everything in words. This hands-on approach let him understand the ideas better. Afterward, he could easily show the video game development team all the details, from big concepts to minor tweaks.

Building a Winning Prototype for Crowdfunding

Creating a compelling video game prototype involves elements that help convey the core concept. Here's a breakdown:

  1. Core Gameplay Mechanics. The prototype should focus on the fundamental gameplay mechanics. This is the heart of the game, demonstrating how players interact with the game world, what makes the game unique, and the rules that govern it.
  2. Minimal Viable Product (MVP). Include just enough features to make the game playable and enjoyable. This doesn't mean the game is complete, but there should be enough content to explain its functions and potential clearly.
  3. Visual and Audio Elements. Use simple graphics and sounds to make the game feel more natural.
  4. User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX).
  5. Feedback. Find a way to learn what players think of your game. This could be asking them directly or watching how they play.
  6. Documentation. Brief documentation explaining the game's vision, core mechanics, and any specific aspects you want feedback on can be helpful.

Following these tips, you can create a quality prototype that serves its purpose without breaking the bank.

Tips on Balancing between Development Costs and Prototype Quality

Now, about breaking the bank. Developers tend to skip prototyping video games in the development process because it might be time-consuming and expensive. While the benefits of game prototyping are clear, there are still some ways to make it more pleasant financially and time-wise.

To balance the budget and still make a good prototype, focus on the most critical parts of your game. At first, use free or cheap art and sounds and only add features that show off what the game is about. Build the game piece by piece, starting with the simplest version that works. This way, you don't waste money on things you might not need. There are also free tools online that can help you build your game without costing a lot.

It's wise to ask people what they think of your game early on. This feedback can tell you where to spend time and money improving your game. Use your team's skills to do things like music or art. Make sure you know what you want your prototype to do. Having clear goals helps keep your project on track and within budget.

Beyond Prototypes: Marketing and Community Building

Social media and community engagement play a big part in making video game funding real. They help spread the word about the game and get people excited. Interacting with the community can build a group of eager supporters to play the game. Sharing bits of your video game projects, like pictures or videos, grabs attention and keeps people talking.

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Showing off bits of the video game prototype in your marketing materials is a smart move.

  1. Create a Teaser Video.
  2. Use Social Media: post updates and clips of your prototype on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Don’t forget about relevant hashtags to reach a broader audience.
  3. Engage with Gaming Communities. Without being overly promotional, share sneak peeks and ask for feedback in gaming forums and on sites like Reddit.
  4. Live Demos. Host live sessions on Twitch, TikTok, or YouTube Live.

All these small steps make people more likely to support you. Listening to their thoughts during the crowdfunding phase is essential. Their feedback can help you improve the game. When backers see you're taking suggestions seriously, they feel more connected to the project and more interested in the game—and, as a result, in its success.

Challenges and Considerations in Crowdfunding

Relying only on prototyping video games for crowdfunding success can be tricky for a few reasons. First, there's the risk of fully demonstrating the game's potential or final quality. That could lead game industry investors to misjudge the project. Prototypes might not capture everything you plan for the release version of the game. This gap can sometimes disappoint backers if their expectations aren't managed carefully.

When you show your video game prototype to the world, you must also consider protecting your ideas. Sharing your game publicly means others can see (and potentially copy) your unique concepts. It's important to understand intellectual property rights to safeguard your game. This might involve:

  • copyrighting your game's content;
  • trademarking its name to prevent others from using your hard work without permission.

Finally, keeping your promises is crucial. During crowdfunding, you might promise certain features or rewards to your backers. If the final game doesn't deliver on these promises, it can lead to unhappy backers and damage your reputation. It's better to under-promise and over-deliver than to make commitments you can't keep. This means being clear about what stage your game is at, what backers can expect, and being honest about delays or changes to the project.

The Future of Prototyping and Crowdfunding in Game Development

The landscape of video game prototyping and crowdfunding is evolving, shaped by new technologies and changing funding approaches. Emerging tech like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) is changing how prototypes are made and experienced. Mentioned technologies offer immersive ways to showcase a game's potential. VR and AR allow backers to step directly into the game world. Therefore, we expect to see more prototypes leveraging these to create interactive previews of future video game projects.

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Crowdfunding itself is changing. Beyond traditional platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, new platforms like Gamefound, GameOnTableTop, and Pozible appear. Some focus on niche markets, including indie games or VR experiences, offering specialized communities for developers.

Others are exploring models beyond the all-or-nothing approach, such as continuous funding or equity crowdfunding, where backers become investors in a more traditional sense.

Experts believe that making a great game prototype and getting crowdfunding will become even more connected. How excellent and innovative your prototype is might significantly affect whether your crowdfunding campaign succeeds. This means that making a standout prototype could be the deciding factor in getting the funding you need. With Argentics' help, you could create a prototype that interests investors, possibly being what you need to secure your funding.

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