Anchors in the Drift was just the second crowdfunding campaign on Fig.co. Fig, for the uninitiated, is a newer entrant into the gaming crowdfunding space. Featuring just one campaign at a time, they position their utility on the fact that they offer the potential of actual investment into the projects people back. Anchors in the Drift was to be the newest game from the skilled folks over at 5th Cell. They’re best known for the inventive Scribblenauts series but were also the brains behind Drawn to Life. When they launched their campaign, it was hard to know what to expect.
That’s not to say that what 5th Cell were pitching seemed horrible by any stretch. Honestly, the concept for Anchors in the Drift seemed fairly neat. The team described it as a free to play action RPG but that hardly sells the prospect by itself. Just as with their other highly-customizable, invention-focused games, this one was set to allow players to craft their own customized abilities to take with them on the journey. Abilities, crafted by collectible cards, looked set to offer all sorts variety to suit player tastes. The game world also promised tons of different environments, play types, and rewards along “The Drift.” It was a nice first taste of an upcoming game, but by the end there were a total of just 133 backers pledging $102,000. Not bad, except that the goal was set at $500,000.
So, what went wrong here? There’s a lot that 5th Cell could and should have done better, but Fig.co itself also must bear some of the burden. First, let’s talk about Anchors in the Drift’s failing points in and of itself. Although it managed to show the fact that it is actually in a playable state right now (this is a good thing!), there was not enough concrete information to get people especially excited about playing. Sometimes free to play games do disturbingly well on Kickstarter, but the most successful offer intensely polished campaign pages. They offer huge, gorgeous artwork and all sorts of demonstrations of the game at play. It’s not just about looks as descriptions are also important. Another trend for such Kickstarter projects is the ability to hype people up with savvy use of social media marketing.
Anchors in the Drift most certainly did not offer a glitzy page. It’s fair to say some of this is due to Fig’s website width. With such a small area for the actual project to sell itself to visitors, the animated GIFs and artwork feel small and cramped. More than that, the actual descriptions themselves don’t do all that much to excite people who aren’t already fans of 5th Cell and trust them to do good work. It’s just “yet another F2P game” — and that’s all people need to hear before leaving the page. 5th Cell did their darndest to get the word out via social media but they were the only ones and that seems like a disturbing issue all on its own.
Fig hand-picks the games that will go live on the site. A team of game developers (who make up Fig’s board of advisors) seriously look through applicants in order to find the cream of the crop. This is a huge perk when compared to Kickstarter which, as well all know, is full of the very worst to absolute worst projects imaginable. Unlike Kickstarter or Indiegogo, they also appreciate their projects on being so high quality that they are deserving of the attention (and $1000+ of funds) from investors. Bearing all this in mind, why on earth were they so tepid with sharing the project on social media? In total, the Fig Twitter account posted 11 tweets about Anchors in the Drift from October 8 until now. The project launched on October 21, and from that point on, only 6 tweets went live. Yes, they did a bit of retweeting others such as board member Tim Schafer, but this is hardly the behavior expected from a company hoping to help a game raise half a million dollars.
Weirdly enough, there were also 11 related posts on the official Facebook community since the project’s launch, and about half were links to content created by others. In many ways, it feels like Fig were confident that the pre-release buzz was doing well enough that they wouldn’t need to say much except announce the launch. Of course, as the days wore on and Anchors in the Drift failed to see a huge push, they should have realized their strategy needed a change. Sure, Fig isn’t harmed outright by a game failing to be funded as it’s not their own title. However, they’re being harmed in a much greater way — their reputation is being tarnished by a failure so soon out of the gate. Instead of keeping the faith when it was obvious Anchors in the Drift was in trouble, it feels like they simply gave up and let it fail in silence.
We can’t lump it all on Fig, of course. 5th Cell also harmed themselves by failing to keep people interested with tons of news along the way. During the campaign, they produced only four backer updates. Although I do not have enough information to “prove” this just yet, on Kickstarter, expensive campaigns appear to typically also receive a fair amount of updates during the funding period. It’s not to say that daily updates are required, but a good handful keep your game in the news and have the potential to attract even more backers as new things are announced. Why were there just four updates? Perhaps 5th Cell also saw the writing on the wall. To be fair, it wasn’t hard to tell after just a week.
It’s very apparent from my perspective that Fig’s unique concept alone is not drawing the attention they expected it to. When we check the backer versus accredited investor breakdown we see that there was $102,000 of investment and $5,000 in backer funds. Now, getting some small amount of people to pledge around $100,000 isn’t bad at all… except when you need 5 times that amount to succeed. Is it possible that more people would legitimately invest $1,000 (the minimum investment pledge) or more if they knew about Fig? Maybe. But as of right now it seems the audience of people actually interested in investing in a crowdfunding game are a relatively small group.
None of this even discusses the everyday backers who only showed up to the tune of $5,000. These two things, taken together, create a very problematic atmosphere for Fig. They must address this audience imbalance soon and are making steps to lure more investment. But there are reasons why I feel even those latest steps aren’t enough. There are larger issues with Fig and we discuss in my accompanying article, The Big Issue With Fig.co.