Electricpig’s Associate editor Ben Sillis waxes lyrical about the eerie familiarity that now runs through the majority of Kickstarter’s promotion videos. Time the formula had a shake-up?

You’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, the darling of the crowdfunding scene. Designers, engineers, singers, writers and all sorts of creative types up rock up, cap in hand, asking for money.

Sometimes, a star is born: the open-source games console that bagged £8million for development, or the $429,000 (£266,000) pledged to create a dress shirt with a thermostat built in. Yes, really.

Of course, for all these successes, there are lots of failures too. This week, I’ve been looking into Kickstarter projects that didn’t quite make it, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s not always because the idea isn’t up to snuff. Instead, I think Kickstarter pledges have become a cliche in themselves.

The project I’d been focusing on was Silverball Studio’s bid to bring Pro Pinball back from the dead and onto the iPad, in HD. It failed, but it did unusually well, picking up almost half of its $400,000 ($248,000) campaign goal – usually it’s all or nothing. Here’s the video:

Seem a bit familiar? That’s because it is. We’re starting to see a recurring structure in Kickstarter campaign videos, and one I’m not convinced always works. Tim Schafer started this on Kickstarter with his hilarious (and successful) bid to make a new point and click adventure game, in the same vein as the hit Monkey Island games.

The recipe works a little like this:

  • Take a much loved retro property.
  • Have the person behind said property walk through their HQ, explaining the concept.
  • Hijinks and deadpan comedy moments ensue.
  • Money rolls in.

Schafer didn’t mastermind this though. I blame the guys behind Dollar Shave Club, the American start-up that picked up venture funding earlier this year with this here pitch:

As you can see from the Silverball video, the concept is wearing a little thin by now. Once the CEO of Valve turns up in one, making jokes about the absence of Half Life 3, it’s all over. It’s like watching Taken 2, knowing that, deep down, Liam Neeson knows it’s a terrible concept for a film but goes through the motions nonetheless.

Gabe Newell may not be the nimblest of men, but when he appears, the shark has been well and truly jumped.

With Kickstarter, visibility is a huge problem. It can make finding funds easier, but the PR machine required to get it is just the same as always. Contacts. Elbow grease. Cold calls. Luck. And I’m no longer sure a viral video is the solution.

In fact, so long as the product is a good idea, a clear and simple video laying out the pitch still works. It worked for Ouya, and it worked for the team behind the Pebble smart watch.

The plan for Pro Pinball is a good one. It just needs to lower its funding targets, and just focus on the game in any future video.

Has anyone found the same to be true for categories other than games on Kickstarter?

Hot chat, right here!

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