I’ve mentioned before that Prismata would be completely dead in the water without reddit. And it’s 100% true. But until now, I’ve never divulged any actual statistics on just how much of an effect reddit truly had.
To be honest, it’s because I’m pretty embarrassed about it.
For one thing, the Prismata Kickstarter just hit 100% funding with about 35 hours to go. We *barely* made it. And as it turns out, every single splke in our Kickstarter pledge activity actually coincides with a day we did well on reddit, meaning that we literally wouldn’t even have come close to our goal without the support of redditors. I feel bad admitting it, but reddit pretty much saved my career as a game developer. I truly have no words to express how grateful I am.
Let’s start with the worst… this graphic really puts a knot in my throat:
Outside of the initial spike when we first went live, the day-to-day interest in our Kickstarter was actually pretty terrible (more on that later). This graph highlights the fact that we were way too ambitious in setting a goal of $140,000; take away those big green reddit spkies, and we’d be tens of thousands of dollars short. The fact that we hit $140k feels miraculous.
But actually, this wasn’t the first time reddit came to our aid.
How it all began: our September “reddit explosion”
The entire series of events leading up to our Kickstarter began with an initial reddit post way back in September. Here’s what happened:
August 2014: Prismata had about 10 regular players, no matchmaking, and the Prismata subreddit had a single post (my own AMA), which sat there for months with only a couple of replies
August 28-31, 2014: We went to FanExpo (a convention/trade show in Toronto) to demo Prismata and try to get more users interested in it. People there loved it, and hundreds of them gave us their emails to sign up for the alpha. Total cost of attending the convention, renting the booth, promoting it, etc.: $6500, plus about 340 man-hours of work preparing for and attending the event.
September 2, 2014: We got back to the office and realized that, due to a known bug in Google Docs offline mode, I had accidentally deleted the entire list of emails off of the Chromebook we had used to gather them. We hadn’t backed them up. The whole product of our $6500 trip was pretty much gone. We were crushed. I felt really stupid.
September 11, 2014: After a miserable two weeks of feeling utterly hopeless, I dumped the story on the /r/TIFU subreddit at 5am after a night of frustrated coding. I didn’t include any links or mentions of Prismata in the original post, but when it blew up, redditors dug through my post history and outed me. This resulted in thousands of people swarming to our website and supplying their emails to our mailing list. We ended up gaining more than twice as many new sign-ups than we had lost!
September 12, 2014: The /r/TIFU posting got cross-posted to /r/bestof, where it became the most upvoted post of all time. We were #1 on /r/all and our mailing list grew by a factor of more than 20 in a single day. The Prismata community also blew up overnight, with our subreddit gaining tons of subscribers, people volunteering to be mods, fan-art appearing out of nowhere, and so on.
Since the “reddit explosion” (as it’s now known in our office), Prismata itself has grown by over 15,000%, from a handful of users playing around 50 games during a weekly 4-hour “brawl session”, to over 1600 daily active users and over 5000 games played per day. It’s been completely mind-blowing, to say the least.
But that was just the beginning…
After blowing up on reddit, we started streaming Prismata, giving out as many Prismata keys as our server could support, and working toward a Kickstarter campaign. We spent much of October polishing up the game, shooting video, and putting art together. Our Kickstarter went live on November 20. After a pretty good first week, interest slowed way down, until we blew up on reddit yet again when another /r/bestof link hit the reddit frontpage, giving our mailing list another huge boost.
Here’s a graphic showing just how big of a difference reddit made:
Two weeks later, somebody posted our loading screen animation to /r/gifs, where it also made the global reddit frontpage. When I heard that this had happened, I actually posted the source code and we released it into the public domain so people could play around with it. I did an AMA the following day, which received over 3500 upvotes.
So here’s the graphic you’ve all been waiting for: the one that explains where our Kickstarter traffic (and pledges) come from:
Of course, there were a ton of other blogs and gaming news websites that contributed smaller amounts of traffic. But reddit was, by far, the leading source of pledges for our Kickstarter—a Kickstarter that, I remind you, *barely* crossed the finish line with less than 35 hours to go.
What blows my mind the most is how close we came to utter disaster. I justified our initial goal of $140,000 by considering our mailing list size (about 30,000), alongside several post-mortems and case studies of past Kickstarters that had received an average of over $10 from everyone on their mailing list. Looking back, many of those studies and surveys were conducted back in 2013 or 2012 when Kickstarter was a lot more lucrative than it is now. The initial goal of $140,000 was actually way too high.
In other words, we fucked up. Royally. And reddit saved our ass. Again.
The best part of it all
The greatest thing about all of this isn’t the Kickstarter funding or the mailing list subscriptions; it’s the community that has grown out of literally nothing. Our subreddit, /r/prismata, has truly blossomed, and fills my heart with joy every time I step inside; it’s probably my favourite place on the internet. The folks there have offered brilliant feedback, alongside incredibly kind and encouraging words. They’re fucking awesome.
So thank you, redditors. For saving my ass twice. For saving my career. For being the most thoughtful and generous online community I have ever known. I honestly don’t know how to express my gratitude. The difference has been utterly life-changing.