If you haven’t done so already, I ask that you check out the At the Gates Kickstarter page. Our goal is to innovate and take strategy gaming to the next level, but this campaign will be our sole source of funding for development. And hint, hint: the more successful ATG is the more articles you’ll have to read in the future!
To those of you who have already contributed and helped us reach our funding goal, I offer my most sincere thanks!
This post originally began its life as a humble comment on our Kickstarter page, but after writing for a bit I realized it would be even better as a full-blown article!
What Do You Have to Consider With a Kickstarter Campaign?
Many people don’t realize creators ultimately end up with a fairly small slice of the Kickstarter pie. You can immediately cut 20% off the top due to processing fees and failed transactions. Then there’s the cost of fulfilling rewards, marketing (yes, it’s important), both planned and unplanned contract work, licensing multiple software packages – the list goes on and on.
Oh, and as with everything in life, the taxman always wants his share. It’s particularly rough if you make a large amount of money from your campaign, and then nothing for the next two years, as you’ll be taxed at a much higher bracket than you would if the same amount of revenue had been spread out. Suddenly that amazing $1,000,000 Kickstarter haul starts to look a lot more like 300 or 400 thousand. Yikes!
In retrospect, I’m very glad I did extensive research on all of this ahead of time. I can see how teams end up in big trouble by overestimating the actual funding they end up with, either due to a lack of research or worse, just sheer excitement. The cost of physical rewards can really sneak up on you, and this is why we’ve been so conservative about what tiers we’re offering for ATG and the $ figures attached to them. This is a sad tale, and I imagine it will be one that’s increasingly common. It’s particularly depressing because I also have a personal connection with that project.
Kickstarter & At the Gates
In case anyone was wondering, yes, I have done my homework! $40k is not a large budget for a complex strategy game, but it’s possible because I know exactly where every cent will eventually end up going. Having a small, very talented team comprised almost entirely of your friends really helps! (Thanks again, guys!)
That’s not to say success is guaranteed – for us or anyone else. There’s risk with every large project. This is especially true for games, which can be both beautiful and well-engineered but end up being zero fun to actually play. It honestly surprises me how optimistic people are about the probability of most Kickstarter projects following through on their claims. The rate of failure here is likely to be in the same ballpark as traditional games development… and that number ain’t good. It might even be worse, as large companies have staff paid to ensure projects do succeed!
This is why I welcome and even encourage folks to challenge us on not only what we’re doing with ATG but also how we plan on doing it. (Yes, that is an open invitation – fire away, I promise I can take it!)
In my personal opinion, Kickstarter is neither charity nor even patronage. It instead serves as a means for customers to pre-order products directly from their creators, providing the funding necessary to develop innovative concepts. Patronage can be a part of that, but only when the chances of ending up with something at the end are very high. Accordingly, there’s no way I would launch a Kickstarter campaign without having a fully-playable prototype ready to show off. In my mind you just have to be able to demonstrate what you’re actually building, regardless of your track record.
This is also offers a built-in advantage to the developers. We’re already about halfway down the road of development, and much of what remains is simply polish work. Not bad!
The Future of Kickstarter
I often wonder how Kickstarter will change once the first big failures hit. I have great faith in the model and believe it’s how a significant chunk of future PC games will be funded. There are a large number of people who agree with me on this. But there’s no guarantee the larger community will maintain that opinion after throwing thirty, two-hundred or a thousand dollars at vaporware.
What about you? If games you’ve contributed to go down in flames with nothing to show for it, will it lower the chances you contribute to future projects? And what risks associated with ATG’s development concern you the most? Let me know what you think!
If you’d like to discuss this topic further (or anything else related to ATG) be sure to stop by the official Conifer Games forums - we’d love for you to become part of our community!