Crowdfunding as much a promo tool as it is a revenue raiser, says Spilt Milk's Andrew Smith

IndieGoGo can drum up cash and potential customers

Crowdfunding as much a promo tool as it is a revenue raiser, says Spilt Milk's Andrew Smith
It's fair to say Spilt Milk Studios' attempt to crowdfund forthcoming iOS release Smash The Block when its development was largely completed raised a few eyebrows.

According to studio MD Andrew John Smith, however, launching an IndieGoGo venture at this late stage is a move designed to better serve the developer's fanbase. The game will come out whether the $15,000 target is met or not, while those who contribute will be afforded a treat or two.

Indeed, Smith openly admits crowdfunding Smash The Block is as much about drumming up attention for the game as it is actually generating cash.

We caught up with him to ask what value he sees in funding at the end of a game's development.

Pocket Gamer: You launched this crowdfunding venture just as Smash The Block gears up for launch. Is this a measure that just came to you now, or did you always plan to whip up funding in this manner?

Andrew Smith: We've been planning it for a while, but the whole idea is more than simply funding.

While the game will release regardless of our success on the IndieGoGo attempt, we want to build awareness, send our lovely fans some cool stuff, but most importantly if we hit our target the team gets paid – or, rather than having to wait for revenues to come in.

The bonus is if we get more than we asked for - then we can plan to port to some new platforms and get more people to play Smash The Block.

Could your approach – seeking funding when the game is almost good to go – be taken as a statement that you don't think the more traditional form of crowdfunding works for indies?

It's not something we'll have a handle on until we've seen the relative success of this attempt.

One thing I think is interesting is that while usually people give funds to potential projects, we're shipping regardless of how much we raise.

We do have a fanbase, and so it's lovely to see the support they've given, but I'd fully expect it to be very different if, firstly, we weren't known and, secondly, Smash The Block wasn't playable.

Isn't there a chance people will see the game is already completed, is capable of monetising itself, and assume this is just something of a cash grab?

I hope that we've made the intent clear, but it is a danger I'll admit.

The main thing is getting the wonderful team some money ahead of launch, and that target is actually very small.

Once we - with luck and the generosity of the lovely people reading this - pass the target, any extra money will be thrown towards ports to platforms we'd otherwise not be able to consider for months down the line, if ever.

We'd love to be able to get the game to more players.

What made you fix on your $15,000 target?

It's literally the cost of development, including the expenses of hosting the campaign on IndieGoGo. My kind of maths - simple maths.

How did you decide what rewards to tie to the donations?

We asked the fans a lot - and it'd be a shame not to include cake, of course!

Essentially we tried to think of the whole thing as if Smash The Block was already a success, and what kind of fun and cool merchandise the imaginary 'fans' of the game would love to get. That's also why so many of the rewards are signed, numbered and limited - to make them truly special.

You say you'll consider further platforms if you surpass your target. What's the split between the money you're sharing between the developers and those set to be spent on working on other OS?

We're only going to commit funds raised to porting if and when we beat our target. Otherwise the money is simply going to the team, though my 'cut' will be the first to go if we don't raise enough for the guys first.

Truly it's first and foremost about the hard work of the team.
Smash The Block has gone through a lengthy beta testing process. How did that work?

As with these things, a percentage of the participants didn't contribute as much as we'd like, but the info and feedback we do have has been invaluable.

Not just from a gameplay point of view, but also with regard to the appeal of the game, ease of use, the occasional bug, and even neat ideas for features.

Not to mention the buzz it generates. I love getting the players involved early and it's something we'll do with all our games.
Thanks to Andrew for his time.

You can find out more about Spilt Milk's crowdfunding venture on Smash The Block's IndieGoGo page.

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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