Interview

Developing on iPhone's a gamble, but crowd funding builds fanbases reckons Bravado Waffle's Stephen Dick

Developing on iPhone's a gamble, but crowd funding builds fanbases reckons Bravado Waffle's Stephen Dick
The press may get sidetracked by indie hits that appear out of nowhere, but working on smartphone platforms is still a major risk for start-ups.

Even if funding isn't an issue, there's still no guarantee that your game will garner enough attention at launch to build an audience for itself.

Crowd funding - calling on potential players to pull together and serve up money for a game's development - not only helps negate any cash-flow problems, but it can also build a title's fanbase before it's even seen the light of day.

Bravado Waffle, which is using Kickstarter's crowd funding model to fuel the development of its strategy game for iPhone RoboArena, believes crowd funding can deliver something of a one-two punch if pulled off.

We caught up with Stephen Dick - art director, and head of game design and marketing at the studio - to ask why crowd funding could prove a vital tool as the App Store continues to expand.

Pocket Gamer: Why did you decide to opt for crowd funding for RoboArena?

Stephen Dick: The signal-to-noise ratio on the app stores is getting out of hand. Big names are moving in, and there are so many apps that are released every day that the gems are easily overlooked.

There's a prevailing feeling among indie developers that releasing an app is nothing more than a gamble these days. There has to be a way of evening the playing field and increasing our odds for success.

As first time indie developers, it would be a rare miracle to find funding from a VC, but crowd funding allows you to directly engage your fans. This not only helps us with offsetting development costs, but it also builds a closer community of fans who become invested in your success.

Ultimately, the fans get to be part of building a better game and the developers get to minimize out of pocket expenses and financial risk.

Did you consider seeking more traditional forms of investment?

Yes...for about 30 seconds. I started looking into how to raise venture capital and felt a sudden overwhelming sense of panic at the shear complexity of the VC world.

As a brand new game studio, we're learning as we go and trying to keep things as simple as possible, and reaching out to investors just didn't seem reasonable or desirable at this point. I'd imagine many small time game developers feel the same way.

Raising funds from a place like Kickstarter seemed to be much less intimidating and within our reach.

What advantages do platforms such as Kickstarter offer developers?

There are so many advantages and so few disadvantages.

Free research, marketing, fund raising, and community building to name a few. I really think we are just seeing the beginning of this trend and it's very exciting. Everything that we are putting into this campaign can be reused elsewhere in our marketing, and we are getting tremendous feedback already, there is literally nothing to lose in trying.

Places like kickstarter.com, indiegogo.com, 8bitfunding.com, and appbacker.com provide exciting ways to raise much needed funding, engage your audience, as well as a place to discover if your ideas actually hold water.

It can be a much needed reality check for those times when we think we have a 'world changing' idea and it fails to garner much interest.

At the moment, the real challenge is getting your campaign out there and in front of your fans. If you are new, like us, you likely don't have a large fan base yet and it can be a real hard to build interest. As more developers start catching on, and the audience to these kinds of sites grow, I think it will get easier and easier for beginning developers to raise money if they have a great idea and a solid pitch.

Are you expecting crowd funding to engage the game's audience in any way?

That's exactly what we are hoping. Since this is our first game, we don't have much of a fan base outside of the friends and family to support us.

We are hoping that this campaign will help us to reach more fans and give them a chance to become a part of our core audience. These are the ones who will dictate what direction we take the games we are developing.

How much are you intending to pool from the venture?

We are aiming for $5,000. On Kickstarter it's all or nothing, so I hope that goal wasn't too ambitious.

Where will the funds be used?

The number wasn't pulled out of thin air but was a careful calculation of the cost of art, marketing, equipment for testing, and kickstarter rewards and fees.

Sometimes I see projects on these sites asking for $15,000 or more, and I don't really understand how they justify that amount. I think it's important to be transparent for how you plan to spend the funds, especially since they are coming from your biggest fans.

If RoboArena proves to be a cash cow, will you fund your next release internally, or is Kickstarter part of a longterm strategy?

Oh, please let that be true. If RoboArena turns into a cash cow then we will be green lighting some of our more ambitious projects, including making a very exciting game for the iPad and porting it into an actual board game as well.

I think we will use Kickstarter again as part of our marketing strategy, not so much to raise funds, but for community building and as a way to easily give back to our fans and provide awesome rewards to say thanks.
Thanks to Stephen for his time.

You can find out more about Bravado Waffle on the developer's website.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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