Welcome to part three of our five-part interview series with Team Meat’s Edmund McMillen. Yesterday we discussed the games industry at large, and today we’ll be covering a fairly prominent subset of that: Kickstarter. It’s become a reliable source of funding for both indie developers and established studios, but does it make sense for everyone?
Have you guys ever considered using Kickstarter?
It’s funny, for me and Tommy when people are like ‘hey are you guys gonna Kickstarter your next game?’ Well, number one, we have money at this point. Meat Boy did really well and Isaac did really well, so I don’t need anybody’s money. I can do this by myself.
When people ask what changed with Super Meat Boy selling a million copies and The Binding of Isaac selling a million copies, well… I got a house. I have security and a safety net, and [before] I was just always working without it. Nothing else changed, other than the fact that I now have even more freedom, and that’s why I made Isaac. I wanted to do something really risky, and since I had the safety net there, I wanted to take bigger risks. Now I have the ability to do so.
I want to take bigger risks and do more challenging things, and the idea of Kickstarter, and people having already purchased my game, and now I have to do it? I’m not the kind of person that can deal with that kind of pressure, knowing all these people are expecting something and they’ve already paid for it. It would just hurt more than it would help.
Are there any other good sources of funding for indie developers out there?
There’s this thing called Indiefund, they fund a lot of games. [But] if you look at a lot of the games they funded from the start, like Monaco and stuff, and Fez, these games drag forever. Of course money’s not the end all be all, and usually not why people make games independently, and definitely not the reason I make games – but it’s a motivator. It’s something where… we’re working on Meat Boy,and it’s like “I have no money, I’ve got to get this done.”
I think there’s something to that where, if you aren’t starving, you’re a bit relaxed. You’re like “well, I can coast on this money for a few months, maybe I’ll add this and add this..” and it keeps ballooning. I wouldn’t doubt that Monaco and Fez were suffering from this. Phil [Fish] had a @#$%load of funding, and it’s real easy to get a little too relaxed and comfortable when you know you’ve got that safety net. It works for other people, obviously worked for Indie Game: The Movie, but it doesn’t work for me, doesn’t make sense for me.
Yeah. I mean, you’re where you’re at right now because you like the freedom and autonomy, so Kickstarter is the opposite of that.
Yeah. But it’s totally cool. Like Wasteland 2, the idea that these old dudes – the guys that started this whole thing in the US PC-wise – get to do whatever they want and have the freedom [because of Kickstarter]? That’s badass. That’s why I like Kickstarter. It totally should be there for those guys, and it’s also just cool to see these guys go indie.
“Wasteland 2, a recent Kickstarter success
I guess it helps that platforms like Steam and elsewhere are giving people the autonomy to make stuff independently, whereas before trying to sell a deeply personal game to a publisher would not be so easy.
The damage that consoles and the business side of games have done [was] pretty awful. But Steam has really brought it back up to speed. It’s given it some… steam.
It’s really true though. I was just doing an interview yesterday about The Basement Collection and I was trying to explain how, when I started working on Gish in 2003, there were no options. You sold it off of your website, and that was it.
Gish was a really big game back then. When it came out in 2004 it was the indie game to buy. And our best sales day was like… 109-110 sales. And it was “oh my god that’s crazy,“because the closest we’d come to that before was 90. Fast forward to Meat Boy‘s release, and our first sales day when it was 50% off on Steam we sold 140,000 copies. That’s the big change here…
Little bit, huh?
Stuff changed dramatically over those years. A lot of people are like “how do all these indies know each other? How do you know Derek Yu, and how do you know these people?” And it’s because back then when we all started, there were like 50 of us. That was it. Of course I knew Jon Blow, because he was one of a handful of people doing what I was doing. Now there’s a bazillion people doing that stuff, and it’s moving at a much greater pace, and it’s really cool. It’s great to see all this innovative stuff happening.