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Opinion: Kickstarter's open in the UK, but are its game devs too ambitious?

Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter launched without much fanfare in the UK earlier this week. Initial impressions suggest that many studios have set their sights a little too high -- but are staying positive about the outcome.

Mike Rose, Blogger

November 1, 2012

6 Min Read

Gamasutra news editor Mike Rose is happy to see developers in his native United Kingdom finally able to launch Kickstarter projects, though he worries that the first to step forward may have set their sights a bit too high. Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter launched without much fanfare in the UK earlier this week, with around a dozen video game campaigns popping up with pound sterling targets attached to them. Perhaps surprisingly, no big-name UK studios chose to delve into Kickstarter on day one, following the examples set by the likes of Double Fine, Obsidian and Revolution Software (the latter of which is in fact based in the UK, but circumvented the platform to launch with a dollar target earlier this year.) Initial impressions from those UK game projects that have been submitted suggest that a number of studios have perhaps skimmed over the top-funded game titles on Kickstarter, and subsequently set their sights a little too high with a long way to go until they reach their targets -- although those involved are staying positive about the outcome. Peter van der Watt, managing director at Blazing Griffin, has a Kickstarter campaign going for The Ship: Full Steam Ahead, a sequel to the original 2006 first-person murder party game. His team is looking for £128,000 ($206,874) in two months, and is taking the wait and see approach -- and with less than 100 backers in 24 hours, the studio may well have to put Plan B into effect. "I think that at this stage it's simply too early to gauge [whether the Kickstarter will succeed]," says van der Watt. "We've given ourselves the target of two weeks to determine the likelihood of succeeding or surpassing greatly and will make any decisions based on the data up till that point in time." "I think we went in with a reasonably realistic view of what we hoped we could raise," he adds. "I don't feel there would have been much benefit to everyone involved in going lower. We definitely didn't want to over promise and under deliver!" Of course, Blazing Griffin has the advantage of building off of past work. Maia is the first solo effort from Simon Roth of Machine Studios, and he's looking for £100,042 ($161,688). Despite not really having a big name to pitch to potential backers, Roth has already managed to raise over 10 percent of the target, in part thanks to a retweet from Minecraft creator Markus Persson. "The launch of the service needed a bit more fanfare," says Roth. "There was little coverage and they flipped the switch at midnight. The only mainstream press covering it failed to champion the service, and were a bit negative." Even so, Roth remains optimistic, although he's not 100 percent sure whether he has set his sights correctly. "By my estimates we should manage it by the skin of our teeth," he adds. "50 percent of our target audience is American, so a pound value is very alien to them and has been a slight issue with a number of backers," he notes. "I think setting our sights above the 100k mark was important though, on a psychological level, as it makes a project seems genuine and lets backers know we have designed a realistic budget." While Maia is definitely looking like one of the front-runners, other Kickstarter campaigns from the UK aren't looking so destined for success. The Sui Generis RPG from Bare Mettle Entertainment is looking for £150,000 ($242,505) and has raised less than 2 percent of its target in the first 24 hours. Elsewhere, Paul Firth's mmoAsteroids has gained some traction on Twitter, yet has only seen six backers. Clearly there is an element of interested parties spreading news of a title, yet being not so quick to empty their wallets. Kinesthetic Games is another studio with a favorable background, but one that has perhaps once again set its sights a little too high. The team of Ex-Lionhead and Codemasters staffers is looking for £200,000 ($323,340) for Kung Fu Superstar, a tactical combat game that has seen less than 100 backers and around 4 percent of its target in 24 hours. "We have a lot of faith in our game and in our ability to see it through, so we're optimistic that the Kickstarter community will share that faith," says Kostas Zarifis, game director at Kinesthetic. "We spent a lot of time and effort budgeting, so we're confident that what we're asking for is right for what we're trying to do with the 'Kickstarter version' of our project." By 'Kickstarter version', Zarifis is referring to Kung Fu Superstar: Origin, a sort of preview version that will be built before the full game. In fact, to receive the full version of Kung Fu Kickstarter, backers have to put down at least £40 ($67). "We are codenaming the Kickstarter game Kung Fu Superstar: Origin," he explains. "It'll be available on PC only and it'll be sort of like the 'Season 1 Pilot' of the Kung Fu Superstar saga. Provided that goes as well as we plan for it to, we will then build on that success to make the game available on additional platforms with additional content." Zarifis notes that the many benefits of using Kickstarter for his studio's upcoming set of games are obvious. "It can only mean great things for both the local and global development scenes as well as the end gamer. More ways for creative people to be able to realise their creations means more good games in the market. Monopoly kills creativity and diversification." For now, I find myself dubious of the UK games industry's current presence on Kickstarter. Many devs are seemingly failing to understand that you need a prior internet presence and community if you're going to aim for the stars with your target, and the majority of the game projects I found while skimming the new projects category are being far too ambitious. Simon Roth's suggestion that the pound sign is putting Americans off also rings very true with me. To add to that, it could very well be working in a negative manner at a psychological level -- any U.S. backers will have to translate the pounds to dollars first, and will then be left with a larger figure, potentially putting them off, as silly as it may sound. But of course, it's extremely early days, and we'll have to wait a couple more weeks to really gauge the full picture. For now, I would urge those UK studios planning to launch a Kickstarter in the next few weeks to skim through some of the smaller past Kickstarter successes, and consider whether the target they're considering is really in line with past expectations.

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