Revolution Software on Kickstarter: Don't overplan, double check everything, and don't count on getting any sleep
Revolution, as you're no doubt aware, has successfully utilised Kickstarter to fund the development of Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse and, thanks to the generosity of its fans, a new Beneath a Steel Sky, too.
So, what should studios on British shores expect from Kickstarter? How should they approach it, and what should developers looking to get from crowdfunding full stop?
We caught up with Revolution co-founder Tony Warriner.
Pocket Gamer: Firstly, how did you manage to jump the gun so to speak and take to Kickstarter even though you're based in York?
Tony Warriner: We took a long and tortuous path that involved setting up a US company and associated bank accounts.
An unholy combination of banks, lawyers, regulations, etc. Not for the faint hearted.
You managed to pass your target total, although some well publicised US studios have amassed even higher figures. Do you think UK developers in general will struggle to reach those same heights?
There's no doubt that there is, or has been, a big advantage to being based in the USA, but I think that will start to even out as more European projects begin to appear and gamers become more familiar with the concept.
One issue to be aware of is that while the UK has a strong culture credit card culture, this isn't always the case across mainland Europe - particularly Germany. This was an problem for Revolution as Germany is an important market for Broken Sword.
Hopefully kickstarter will integrate alternate payment methods, such as PayPal.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of brilliant developers in the UK and I'm sure we'll see campaigns that match US successes in the coming months. No doubt about it.
How have you found it as a promo tool? Did it generate more buzz for The Serpent's Curse than you would have benefited from otherwise?
I'd say it's absolutely phenomenal as a marketing tool.
Our campaign for Serpent's Curse has brought together nearly 15,000 of our most enthusiastic fans. We'll maintain a dialogue with this group right through to release which, in a social media era, will likely be invaluable.
As a small developer, we'd never have the financial resource to reach these gamers the brute force way, i.e. via print media advertising and so on.
Do you think involving gamers in the development process at such an early stage is a good thing?
Well I think it's important to listen and take in what people are saying. Sometimes they will be right, and sometimes they will be wrong.
We've shown already that we're very happy to implement the things that we agree are important and correct in the wider context - doing this in real time probably helped our campaign.
It's worth remembering that when the funding comes from a more traditional single source, then that source may also be making, and sometimes enforcing, its own demands that are not always the right ones. It's good to take it all in but then to have the choice, at least.
If the next Broken Sword and Beneath a Steel Sky go on to be massive, massive hits and flood Revolution with more money than it knows how to spend, would you use Kickstarter again, or should it be reserved for projects that genuinely can't get off the ground?
Here in York we're used to floods, but not usually of the money kind!
Given we've found the fan engagement particularly inspiring, I'd say we'd be pretty keen to Kickstart future projects for that reason alone.
What advice would you give to any UK studios thinking of taking to Kickstarter?
Firstly, don't over-plan the campaign. You need a rough roadmap of course, but all sorts of unexpected things will occur during the process that you will need to react to, and then show that you are reacting.
Therefore, don't make the update videos upfront - do them as you need them and publish the minute they're ready.
That said, think everything through and double check what you're saying. Mistakes can be hard to undo. With this in mind take a good look at all the existing campaigns - there are some high profile failures out there that are just as valuable to study as the big name winners.
Stay engaged with the backers at all times, and post comments as individuals that pledgers can relate to, rather than using the corporate Kickstarter account. Your key public personas must be visible and available.
Lastly, once it starts don't make any other plans for the next 30 days. Every waking moment will be consumed by Kickstarter. It is relentless.
Thanks to Tony for his time.