Henshin Engine is a new indie video game that found it’s origins as a web comic sometime ago. The creator, Sarumaru, blends whimsy, fun, and a love for video games in the comic which only made it a natural fit for a video game verison – and the results have been overwhelming for the team, like the decision to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their efforts.
I’d been talking with Sarumaru, off and on, for about about six months about their crowdfunding campaign and the kind of things they’d need to do to really stand out and find success. I had been fortunate in the past with several funding efforts, and he was all ears to my advice and gladly took my course that covers a lot of the key material you need to know before launching any kind of crowdfunding campaign. After the course, which is really just an easy way for me to communicate a ton of my own experiences, we sat down and talked more about his reward tiers, stretch goals, and the kind of video that might work best for him. Thankfully, Sarumaru believed in approach and quickly hired me to produce his campaign video and allowed me the courtesy of weighing in on their page design, and marketing approaching. Usually I charge a fee for campaign consultation on that level, but since he hired me for the video, by working with the rest of the campaign, it only made the video work better and sit seamlessly into the overall design – plus we had floated one other way of working together in the future – specific stretch goal.
Sarumaru has been a really big supporter of all my projects, during the development and crowdfunding stage and the subsequent releases, yet it still surprised me when he asked if I would be interested in creating a documentary about Henshin Engine, it’s evolution from comic to game, and a little bit about him too. Truth be told, I’m fascinated with documenting and witnessing the creative process so this was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to do at some point. Furthermore, Sarumaru worked with me on all the art assets I needed for the campaign vid, and that was a really great experience, making me feel that if we were to create a documentary, that we could infuse that with more of his graphic excellence in it, and really raise the bar. All that said, there was nothing to guarantee that this documentary would get the greenlight. In fact, their Kickstarter campaign goal was $16, 400 and they had a niche audience that would be the most excited for their game – fans of the Turbo Grafx and PC Engine. Having made their vid, and helped with their campaign, I certainly felt like they could hit their goal, but the documentary was a whole other goal that seemed lofty. Sarumaru set a stretch goal of $28,000 to “unlock” the documentary for all backers who pledged $15 or more. That’s close to doubling their initial target! Then four days ago, with one stretch goal down, a port of the game to the Dreamcast, the campaign zeroed in on $26,000 with a lot of momentum behind it. Could it be possible? Could this campaign actually hit the next stretch goal? I didn’t think so and suggested he take some other actions!
Knowing that we were within $2000, I messaged Sarumaru and said something like, “Hey man, I think you could do better if you switch your stretch goals around. Push the doc off until the $35,000 mark and move up that stretch goal to $28,000.” The $35,000 stretch goal was for another port of the game, but this time to the hugely popular 16-bit consoles, the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis. Both consoles represent the majority of retro gamers; it seemed like a no-brainer to secure that release and then maybe, if there was enough steam, the doc could happen. Sarumaru protested. Without skipping a beat, or delaying in anyway, he wanted to reward the people that have believed in the campaign with the documentary, since he was essentially going to give it away for free to anyone who pledged $15 or higher, which according to the numbers is 98% of backers. Let me make this clear, he could’ve funded another product for him to sell, and another way for the game to reach a larger audience but he chose to celebrate and thank those existing backers. At this point, there’s three days left in the campaign and we’re only a hair over the $26,000 mark. To add fuel to the fire, there was some shit disturber online, in one of the Dreamcast forums, trying to crap on the project, for some reason. This is a regular occurrence because “the internet” – need I say more? Thanks to Mr or Mrs Shit-Disturber, the pledges dipped. Some people even dropped out, citing that they only pledged so high because they were caught up in the moment. Sarumaru went into damage control mode – like a pro.
I saw updates, posts, responses to comments, all of which never once discredited the the troublmaker who decided to try and derail the campaign. Instead, there were thoughtfull, well-crafted, educational statements. The pledges rose once more. At one point, the campaign decreased to $24,900 or so, after climbing to $26,000 but now it was on the rise again. The stretch goal of $28,000 was in the realm of possibility! Wait a second, I might have to make another video game documentary? Holy shit!
There have been very few campaigns that I’ve watched with the attention of my own. Let me clarify. With my campaigns, I look at the numbers, backers, chat with folks, push to press and more, ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. Two campaigns have flirted with this level of attention in the past couple of years: The New 8-Bit Heroes, and Henshin Engine. I have a tethered interest in both, for different reasons, but I never expected either to emotionally arrest my attention. Never say never. So with the final three days for Henshin Engine, I was watching like a hawk as backers continued to mount and add their $15 to the total goal. $27, 542, $27, 557, $27, 572 and so on. Less than $500 from the stretch goal. I couldn’t take it. I went for a hike in the desert hoping that things would be okay, praying that no one else on the “interweb” wanted to try and derail this project. I was less than $500 away from another documentary on my plate, which was both thrilling and terrifying! After my desert walkabout, I returned home, and immediately checked Kickstarter: $28, 009. They did it. They hit their second stretch goal! I couldn’t announce anything though. No way, I could jinx it! I didn’t even message Sarumaru. Did he even see that he crossed the mark? The campaign still read the second stretch goal as locked, but we were over the mark! You see, with Kickstarter, you can alter your pledge. You can increase it and decrease it, as long as it’s while the campaign is live. This is great for creators who can incentivize current backers to up their pledge, but bad if other backers have bills they forgot about or some Ass-hat wants to talk smack and drive people away from supporting the project. With only $9 past the famed mark, I had to wait until there was a comfortable buffer. Ten minutes later, we had our buffer as another $400 hit the campaign total and several more backers. I was now charged with making a documentary on Henshin Engine. YARB!
Flash forward to today. There’s less than 24 hours to go in the campaign and it’s over $30,000. Given the momentum, it could actually hit the next stretch goal of $35,000 unlocking an SNES and Genesis version of the game! That’s SUPER exciting – pun intended. It’s been a great month to watch these guys learn and navigate the world of crowdfunding and cool to be apart of it but from a step away from the spotlight. Meanwhile, my brain is already hard at work thinking about the ways in which I can structure this documentary, what we can include, and how it can reward the backers who believe in the game and the universe of Henshin Engine. So, my many thanks to the backers, the Henshin Engine team, and of course, Sarumaru for having me along for the ride and choosing me for a future adventure. If you haven’t already, pledge $15, get the game, and this new documentary too.
- Henshin Engine: I might have to make another video game documentary? October 5, 2016
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- Nintendo Quest: The Game [September 2016 Update] September 6, 2016
- Box Art: Game On Expo Recap! August 13, 2016
- Box Art: Funding, Planning, and E3 June 30, 2016