Game Changer – The Football Match Fixing Game will soon be the subject of a 30 day Kickstarter campaign to raise the funding needed to complete the game and release it.
If you haven’t heard of Kickstarter yet, it’s a crowdfunding platform that is intended to help projects get the funding they need by going to the kind of people who would ultimately be using the end products for financial backing. For some products, this is the general public, or it could be people interested in relevant niches.
Kickstarter users pledge money towards the project’s goal and in return get rewards that come from the project they are backing. People can back projects at different levels, from $1 up, so it lets you feel like a Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank style investor looking for a pitch that impresses you, even if you are on a tight budget. Obviously the rewards get better the more you invest, but even a token investment makes you part of the project’s success.
Some of the projects started on Kickstarter go on to be huge (for example just recently a project for an Android based games console called Ouya raised over $8.5 million and is set to be a big deal in the games industry – incidentally, we do plan to release Game Changer for Ouya if we meet our goals…), so you get to have a ground up view of how major products are developed and launched, as well as being able to say you can pick a winner.
Kickstarter campaigns include all sorts of things from creative stuff like short films and documentaries (10% of the films at Sundance were funded by Kickstarter campaigns), art projects and music, through to inventions and, of course, video games. Kickstarter’s main requirement is that you can only submit true projects with end goals and deliverables, rather than seeking funding for a cause, to start an ongoing business, or to “fund your life” (for example asking for pledges for your education or so you can go to India and find yourself).
One of the interesting things about Kickstarter is that it is all or nothing. This means that if a project meets its initial funding goal they get the money and can go ahead and carry out their plans, keeping their backers up to date on what they are doing and delivering the rewards they promised. If they fail to meet their goal, even by a few dollars, they get nothing, the backers keep their money, and the project can’t go ahead unless they find another source of funding.
Projects can raise more than their funding goal, and many projects also have “stretch goals” – things they plan to do if they meet additional targets beyond their funding goal (in our case, we have stretch goals to release Game Changer on Android, and to translate it into French, Italian, Spanish, German and Chinese).
Other crowdfunding platforms, like probably the second most famous one IndieGogo, do allow projects to keep the money they raise (subject to their own fees) if they fail to meet their goals, however this can put a project in a difficult position where backers are expecting them to deliver a product and rewards but they don’t have enough money to complete things, especially within the planned time frames. While that might be doable with some types of project who can reduce scope and cost more easily, for a video game it is simply not going to work, so we’re happy to take the “all or nothing” deal.
Kickstarter has the widest audience of all the crowdfunding platforms out there, and the best media coverage (with the brand name being essentially synonymous with the crowdfunding concept) so we figure it is worth playing by their somewhat stricter rules to get Game Changer in front of more people.
So, that’s why we chose Kickstarter over other crowdfunding options, but why did we choose crowdfunding at all?
Developing a video game is expensive – a lot more expensive than a lot of people imagine. Even those simple little picture or word games you get for your phone cost thousands to make, and then you have the kind of AAA titles like FIFA 13 or the Call of Duty series you play on consoles that cost millions. The scale of game we’re making with Game Changer is somewhere in the middle, so even with the core team working on it for little or no money (which we have been for a couple of months now), we can’t meet the costs of the other resources we need to complete the game (unless we take years about it) all by ourselves.
So what options do indie game developers have to get the money they need to make their games? Aside from crowdfunding, you essentially either have to work with a game publisher or get private investment. In either case, you are giving away equity in return for the money, and they will want to see a quick return on investment. This is going to seriously affect the way the game is designed (particularly given that it’s a free-to-play game and we don’t want to put ads in it), and with an unusual concept like Game Changer‘s, could potentially mean we would have to change a lot of what we think are the most fun things about it to appeal to our stakeholder’s perception of the audience.
With crowdfunding, our stakeholders aren’t guessing at what our audience will want from the game, because they are the audience. In our backers, we will hopefully have a whole community of people who really want this project to succeed who we can take our ideas and updates to and get their feedback, helping us make the game as good as it can possibly be for the right people – the players.
We are currently in the last stages of preparation for launching the Kickstarter, so if you are interested in becoming a backer then keep a look out for our updates!