Analysis: NZ game developer eyes US crowd-funding service

We’ve already seen Kiwi film maker Taika Waititi use US crowd-funding site Kickstarter to bankroll US release of Boy, with 1284 micro-backers pledging between $US1 and $US600 each in return for various trinkets – though mainly, one suspects, for the lure of having an influence on events and the satisfaction of helping out an NZ icon (read Boy takes New York)

Now, Mario Wynands, head of Wellington game developer Sidhe (pronounced “she”) is considering following the same path to fund a game called “Project Space.”

Mr Wynands told NBR there was clearly interest in Space. A YouTube preview clip has garnered more than 20,000 views.

Yet Sidhe has been unable to raise interest from game publishers (the companies that publish, market and distribute titles created by game developers). Mr Wynands said they are wary of its all-digital (that is-online) distribution model (which is certainly the way the industry is heading).

At the same time, over the past six months Kickstarter- which started life funding mostly arts projects – has become suddenly hot with commercial game developers.

ABOVE: A demo clip for Sidhe's Project Space.

Mr Wynands told NBR that Kickstarter (based in the US) was formerly the preserve of indie or iPhone developers looking for around $US2000 to $US5000 for simple mobile games.

But in October, “that rapidly changed” as San Francisco developer Double Fine sought $US400,000 to fund a game called “Adventure”.

It ended up raising $US3.3 million from an army of 87,000 backers – legitimising crowd-funding in the process.

Now, games are hot on Kickstarter.

The site’s home page currently features a title called Wasteland 2. With six days to go before the game’s funding deadline, $US2.2 million has been raised from 47,000 backers (impressive stuff, if still small beer next to the tens of millions the likes of Activision and Electronic Arts spend on each title).

But wait – it’s easy to see how people would shell out a couple of dollars to help a struggling independent film maker.

Why would they reach into their wallets to help bankroll a commercial game developer?

Mr Wynands said there were special rewards he could potentially offer big donors, such as their name being used for a character in Project Space, or a physical copies of art work used in the game.

But the norm is for a modest donation to essentially function as a pre-order for the game (for example, Wasteland 2 supporters who chip in $US15 are guaranteed a full copy of the game).

In the case of Double Fine, it also helped that the developer’s head, Tim Schafer, has a big following in the gaming community.

Window narrowing
The Sidhe boss is still mulling whether to go down the crowd-funding route or not, and won’t disclose what amount his company would seek.

But he did say “the window of opportunity is narrowing.”

Following Double Fine’s success, games developers are piling onto Kickstarter.

Right now, the going is good, but Mr Wynands suspects it will soon become saturated.

READ ALSO: Kiwi video game Path of Exile crowd-funds $US200,000 over Easter

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