Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kickstarter Stories

With Double Fine's Kickstarter success, the website has become the go-to place for aspiring game developers to fund their ideas. This panel, held at Polytechnic University and moderated by Katherine Ibister, discusses the pros and cons of the website, as well as the process of raising funding through Kickstarter for game projects.

  • Michael Astolfi is the game designer of Blindside, an audio adventure with no graphics and played entirely with sound. The game went up on Kickstarter with a pledge of $7,000 and was funded with twice the amount.
  • Michael Consoli is the game designer and developer of Against the Wall, a Unity3D game where you navigate up an infinite wall of large bricks. You can extrude bricks from the wall to jump on them and colored bricks come with specific limitations or power ups. The game was funded with $8,400 on Kickstarter.
  • Alex Thomas of Stoic is the game designer of The Banner Saga, a viking-based adventure game with role-playing elements, interactive dialog, and turn-based strategy combat. Stoic is made up of former Bioware employees. They formed in January 2012 and pledged for $100,000 on Kickstarter. They overshot their goal with $720,000 in funding.
  • Wade Tinney, CEO of Large Animal Games and NY chapter coordinator for IGDA, is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for Nomsters. Large Animal Games started in 2001 and has developed over 100 games. They typically work with a publishing partner, but they want to develop their own individual IP. Nomsters is an iOS and Android game built in Unity3D by a 5-man team over the last couple of months. The game has a pinball-meets-pool mechanic with various ball-shaped characters.
  • Cindy Au, community director for Kickstarter, was also in attendance at the panel. Kickstarter launched in 2009 and has recently been huge for the games community, funding up to $20 million for games. It is a good place to test ideas and find out immediately if there's an audience for your game.
  • Jerry Hultin, president of Polytechnic University, provided a keynote before the discussion began. NYC gives angel funds for the right idea and about $100 million of venture money goes into technology. He believes gaming is good for education and sees big markets for it in India and China. Only 2% of India get educated and he wants engineers and game developers to solve that problem. Polytechnic University started building the Game Innovation Lab in 2006 and in the near future, NYU will move all its gaming departments to Brooklyn.
Panel Discussion
  • Why choose Kickstarter? For Blindside, the developers started on PC/Mac but wanted to add gyroscopic controls, which requires an expensive license from Unity, so they turned to Kickstarter to get extra funding. Wade wanted freedom from publishers for Nomsters. In general, all panelists agree that Kickstarter allows you to see if you have an audience for your game before you build it. Use backers as a marketing tool and gauge the success of your product. Publishers usually spend money to find that out, but Kickstarter allows you to do it at almost no cost. 
  • Are there additional purchasers for the games after release or has everyone who's interested in the game already contributed to the project in Kickstarter? Cthulhu Saves the World was funded on Kickstarter for $6,800 but sold 300,000 copies after launch, so there's a good chance there's an additional audience not involved in the Kickstarter.
  • Against the Wall had a playable alpha build when the Kickstarter campaign started. This was to prove to backers that he can make a game, even without industry experience. The game was covered by the press, namely Kotaku, and was able to get funded.
  • The Banner Saga's campaign highlighted the fact that the developers were industry professionals and they were able to get more press from that.
  • What are some general tips for starting a Kickstarter campaign? Be prepared to talk openly about your project and support the campaign. Constantly updating your backers with news chews up a significant amount of time. Set up your own forums after the campaign has ended so you keep your community talking about the game.
  • Do they have fears of product failures and not living up to backer's expectations? Social pressure from backers is very motivating. Also, backers can change their commitment to the project at any time.
  • To run a Kickstarter campaign inevitably means putting an unfinished game out to the public. Do they have concerns of people stealing the ideas and beating them to the market? Making the game public is pretty much putting it on the market first. If you come out with the idea first, even in this manner, people would support you. It's not a big worry concerning other game developers stealing your ideas. Most developers already have a road map of games in their pipeline and it's too expensive to shift gears.
  • There are instances of Kickstarter projects where the creator backs their own campaign to get through the threshold for funding. Getting covered by the press is extremely important to drive people to the campaign. How do you get press and increase discoverability of your projects? According to the panelists, the community and friends are more important to the virality of the campaign than the press. Also, having zero backers is validation that the game idea is not very good.
  • If the project is not funded, you can still talk to your backers. You won't get backer reports like a funded project would, but you still have contact with your dedicated base.
  • How do you put a freemium game on Kickstarter if the model is that you pay upfront for the game? The Banner Saga and Nomsters are both freemium games. Nomsters will offer backers a package with in-game currency and no advertisements.
  • What are the panelists' favorite Kickstarter rewards? Usually a physical prize or the chance to be in the game. However, when you offer a physical prize, keep in mind that it would eat up a bunch of your funds. The prize that people crave is involvement in the game development process.
  • What are common mistakes of Kickstarter campaigns? Overshooting and setting high goals are common mistakes. You have to be realistic about what you need and be patient. You need to frame what the interesting thing about your game is and make sure to tell a story to the audience. Present yourself; you are your greatest asset.

1 comment:

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