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How Kickstarter campaigns find success

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If you want a model for a success, take a look at Planetary Annihilation. This large-scale real-time strategy game by Uber Entertainment, based in Kirkland, Wa., had a funding goal of $900,000 and closed its campaign with $2 million.

“I knew that we had something that was going to be pretty cool, but I had no idea that many people would notice this. I was really just blown away,” says Jon Mavor, self-proclaimed "tech commander" for the company.

Planetary Annihilation brings players to an intergalactic arena, where you build massive armies to destroy your enemies (and, yes, annihilate entire planets). While the industry has released great strategy games, many of them work on a much smaller scale, he says. Mr. Mavor wanted a large-scale game for a change, with massive battles and action.

What’s in a successful Kickstarter campaign? Mavor names three key ingredients: Credibility, a great pitch, and a hook.

“Kickstarter’s a weird beast,” he says. “You just can’t have some wild idea and go on the site and get it validated. The community’s a little resistant to original, crazy ideas, especially in games, if you want to make a substantial amount of money.”

One challenge with a Kickstarter is setting a budget. Mavor says one of the biggest misconceptions is that the funding goal is the actual cost of the project. While this is Uber's first Kickstarter campaign, the five-year-old company has made popular games such as the third-person shooter Monday Night Combat. With this background, Uber knew that a game like Planetary Annihilation would cost well more than a million dollars to make. But the company asked for only $900,000. Asking for the full amount, he says, can deter people from investing. An accurate estimate may seem insurmountable.

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