Spellirium, the game i’ve been working on for five long years, is available today to pre-order in a distinctly non-Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
YOCO (You Only Crowdfund Once)
There’s a carpe diem-ish, YOLO-like saying floating around out there: “run toward what scares you.” Back when Kickstarter was blowing up thanks to Double Fine, opening the floodgates for everyone and their dog to become digital panhandlers (including people who live in castles and have been to outer-frigging-space), i wrote an article called Why Kickstarter Scares the Crap Out Of Me.
The article talks about the time i canvassed the neighbourhood for pocket change to fund a book i wanted to write, and how things went terribly terribly 8-year-old terribly wrong. And today i find myself launching a crowdfunding campaign of my own anyway.
Feel the fear and do it anyway. This applies to both jumping into the pool, and asking millions of strangers on the Internet for money.
Let’s Get Ready to Tremble
i am afraid. It’s a very, very real fear of risking failure publicly, and of letting people peer into my brain and to see and to poke at and to criticize my creation (when i myself am so critical of stuff other people create). It’s like charging a fee to allow Everyone in the World to go into your bedroom and look around, without having had ample opportunity to clean the place up and to hide the more ugly, embarrassing, or illicit bits.
We appreciate your support.
i didn’t heed my friends’ warnings when they told me i could be giving up all kinds of traffic by not launching with Kickstarter. i ignored them when they pointed out that Kickstarter is a trusted brand, and that i’m just some schmoe with a website. Those were the two most common protests: that i’d be giving up traffic and trust by launching an independent campaign for Spellirium.
i was inspired by the Introversion Software campaign for Prison Architect, which i discovered in a Gamasutra article titled “Who Needs Kickstarter?”. During their ongoing independent campaign, Introversion raised 1.2 million dollars to fund their game. Let’s be clear: Untold Entertainment is no Introversion. But the reasons they gave to go it alone made a lot of sense to me, and i’d like to share them here.
Five Reasons to Damn the Man
1.Kickstarter is not available to Canadians.
We’re a Canadian studio based in Toronto. Kickstarter is currently only available to US and UK companies. Some Canadians have run campaigns with their American buddies. We’re not that tight with our American buddies.
Hey, any of you guys wanna manage a bank account for us? ... knvrmind.
2.Kickstarter requires a target budget.
The budget for Spellirium is elastic. That means that any amount of money raised will go towards improving the game. Unlike a Kickstarter project, we don’t need a specific amount to build the game – Spellirium is already built!
The money we receive will help determine how well we finish the game. Take this example of how different budget amounts might affect the quality of voiceover acting in Spellirium:
$100 – Friends of Untold Entertainment record voice over for free on their laptops using a microphone purchased from Radio Shack in 1993.
$20000 – Voiceover is completed with a cast of non-union actors in a proper recording studio.
$100000 – An all-star line-up of D-level celebrities voices Spellirium, including Andy Dick as Todd and Mr. T as Lorms. Betty White guest stars as the Mystic.
If you’ve ever backed a Kickstarter project, you may have noticed some psychological weirdness going on with that total. You look at a project, watch the video, and then silently judge the team’s chances of success. Then you compare your judgment with their ask. Sometimes you say “xty thousand dollars? They’re NEVER gonna make that!” So you decide not to back them.
But here’s the kicker: by backing a project you’re worried won’t succeed, you’re not losing any money. You only get dinged for the cash if the project is a success. But somehow, this psychological snafu keeps people from backing projects until the early adopters drive it to this magical 30% tipping point. I would much rather not have a target, sell pre-orders for as long as people are interested, and immediately invest their money into game production.
3. More Money Goes Towards Building the Game.
Combined, Kickstarter and Amazon Payments take 10% of all funds raised in a KS campaign. A flexible collect-as-you-go campaign on Indiegogo is something like 13%. But an independent campaign like ours loses only 3-4% to a payment provider like PayPal or Google Wallet. That means that more of your money goes towards improving Spellirium and funding MY cocaine habit, instead of the (alleged) cocaine habits of the fat cats at Amazon.
(Dear Amazon: please direct all libel complaints to Gamezebo.)
4.No More Gambling.
Kickstarter and sites like it are a gamble for both the creators and the backers. As a backer, you’re committing your money in the hopes that the project actually gets made (and not all of them do!) As a creator, you’re sinking at least a month into setting up your campaign, and another month into babysitting and promoting it. After a whole two months of effort, you might not clear that minimum amount, and you get nothing. Your time investment has gone down the tubes, and you’ve possibly painted your project with the smeary streaks of failure.
i'm going all-in on 24 red. Or this game concept.
The Spellirium pre-order campaign takes all that risk out of the equation: as a backer, you get to play the Spellirium alpha immediately, without wondering if the game will ever get made. It’s already made. We receive your support immediately, to put towards improving the game. The guarantee we’re able to make is that the release build of the game will be better than the alpha version.
5. We Ain’t Kickstarting Nothin’.
Finally, Kickstarter and other campaign sites are for people with ideas, who need the financial backing to bring those ideas to fruition. We’ve spent five years getting past that point – we had the idea, we sought funding, we worked hard developing the game into a full product, and now we need your help to improve what we’ve got so that Spellirium doesn’t launch with rushed cutscenes or missing voiceover. In every sense of the (made-up) word, we’re kickending this project.
Roll For Initiative
i read a very inspiring book in which the author described the decision-making process of a wealthy and powerful businessman: for any major decision, he lists the pros on one side of a notepad and the cons on the other. If the pros outnumber the cons 2:1, he does it. If not, he doesn’t do it.
i’ve listed five reasons why we should launch an independent crowdfunding campaign, which more than double the two cons (discovery and brand trust). That means that i do it.
i do it. i do it. i sell tickets to my bedroom. i let everybody in.
But if you are an intelligent player ... if you value exploration over action, if you prefer reason to violence ... if you prefer a carefully crafted story to endless procedurally-animated, randomized levels ... if you’re a dreamer, a romantic, and a believer in fantasy and humour and goodwill and adventuring, then i invite you in. Come in, and jump on my bed. You can leave your shoes on.
Ryan Henson Creighton is a Toronto-based game developer, and founder of Untold Entertainment Inc., specializing in online games for kids, teens, tweens and preschoolers. His next project is Spellirium, a graphic adventure/word game mashup. You can pre-order Spellirium and gain access to the alpha now by visiting http://www.spellirium.com/campaign.