INTERVIEW PART 1: Tim Schafer talks Kickstarter

Leigh Harris
INTERVIEW PART 1: Tim Schafer talks Kickstarter

At the Game Masters event in Melbourne recently, MCV took the time to talk about Kickstarter's viability with Double Fine head Tim Schafer.

How do the budgets of those first four little games you did after Brutal Legend compare to the Kickstarter raise you got for Double Fine Adventure?

They’re about the same. Brutal Legend was like $20 million or more (when you include the marketing), and our other little games were about $2 million each (although Once Upon a Monster was a little more). So with Kickstarter, we got over, we got more than that actually, raising $3.3 million, but then some of that money goes back to Amazon and Kickstarter and the rewards (shipping all those t-shirts really adds up – it was like $200’000 in shipping), so there’s still more money in it, but it’s pretty equal to Stacking or Costume Quest.

So then the Kickstarter thing happened which has been amazing because all we need to think about all day long is the fans and how to make a better game for them (as opposed to the next green-light meeting which is coming up at some company which you have to make a demo for for a feature that you’re not ready to work on yet but you have to do it for them and that kind of stuff).

The Kickstarter landscape shifted dramatically after your wild success story. On MCV UK, there were a whole bunch of stats which detailed the numbers of projects which go up and don’t reach their funding goal. Do you still stand by it as a viable option for developers?

I think there’s been a door opened that will not ever close. There’s no turning back. Not everybody’s project will work out, but a good pitch is a good story. Whether you’re pitching to an investor, a publisher or a Kickstarter, it’s all about coming up with a good story to tell.

An interesting person doing an interesting thing in an interesting way is what captures peoples’ imagination. With ours, it was that here was Tim from Double Fine who used to make all these great adventure games in the past, and he hasn’t been able to make one in a while, and we could actually make something possible and fight the power. That was what I think captured peoples’ imaginations for us was that they could say ‘We can make something happen which couldn’t happen without us.’

I do see some people put up games on there where it’s as simple as ‘I wanna make a game and here’s my game’. It’s not enough to just be somebody who wants to make a game. Why is your game unique? Why is you unique? Why do you have a special insight?

‘I’m making a game about ambulance drivers and I drove an ambulance for 20 years’ – well, that’s a weird example, but that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. Someone doing something unique.

Some of them are simply not as clear in their goals and not as transparent. Some of them are just not even making a product – they’re making a demo for other investors, and I think that doesn’t inspire people’s imaginations as much. It doesn’t really feel like they’re doing something amazing.

There’s an art to it, I guess. I can say that because we tried it that one time. I should probably never do it again just to make sure, since I’ve got nowhere to go but down.

Advantages and disadvantages aside, are you going to be one of the people who misses the old model of build, fix, ship, then get paid?

Ah, no, because I never liked that! They always tear the games out of your cold dead hands. I always wish I could polish the games more.

It’s also the reality of the world because at that point, you’ve spent all the money. You get a certain amount of money to make a game, you get to the end of the cycle and you’ve got to ship it.

Do you think some fan-made propositions from several years ago might have had a better shot at getting made today?

Well, there were options even then, like a Paypal button and whatever, but there is some special ingredients to Kickstarter.

One subtle, important psychological factor is that if the project doesn’t cross that certain threshold, no one gets charged. So there’s something which emboldens you to invest or back on Kickstarter, just knowing that if the project falls apart you don’t lose anything.

 

Be sure to check out Part 2 going up on Friday, where Schafer talks about the Double Fine business model.

 

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Tags: interview , tim schafer , Development , event , Game Masters , Kickstarter , fundraising

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