Skullgirls dev debunks crowdfunding misconceptions

‘I’m kind of annoyed that so many crowdfunding drives at this point have had 90 per cent of their funding from investors already and just used it as an interest gauge’
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Lab Zero Games' project lead Mike Zaimont has tried to debunk the misconceptions surrounding game development and crowdfunding after struggling with its latest Indiegogo campaign.

Earlier this month, the Skullgirls developer began a crowdfunding campaign for new 2D RPG Indivisible on Indiegogo, and is asking for $1.5m. The project, which is also being backed by publisher 505 Games, has so far raised $358,000 with 26 days left.

Speaking to YouTuber JBgolden, Zaimont responded to a number of questions from consumers about the game’s funding, and dispelled what he deemed were misconceptions about the realities of game development.

He said while $1.5m is a lot of money, this will be used to help cover the salaries of the entire team over two years. The studio aims to have over 23 staff – the amount used to make Super Metroid. It will also likely hire art contractors, and Zaimont said the team used some 70 external artists during the development of Skull Girls.

He said when taking salaries into account, to live on the $20,000 a year poverty line for just 23 staff for one year, the studio would need $460,000. Increasing income to $40,000 over three years – the same development time as Super Metroid – would come to $2.76m. Though this breakdown is slightly differnt over a two year period, the team plans to hire more staff in an attempt to make Indivisible over two years.

The costs listed above do not include running costs and expenses such as office space, internet, dev kits and computers.

“So adding to that stuff, and adding in office, internet, actual expenses we’ve glossed over previously, we arrived at $3.5m to make the game,” said Zaimont.

“And that includes trying to do it in two years instead of three years by staffing up extra. So that’s a real budget for a game.”

Zaimont also responded to accusations that the game would get made anyway given it already has the backing of 505 Games. The publisher has agreed to provide $2m in funding for the game, as well as take care of localisation, testing and marketing, on the condition that the studio can raise the rest of the development budget through Indiegogo.

Without this the game will not be made and the studio may close, he claimed.

"They are not acting in the traditional publisher role of funding the entire thing and making the entire profit," said Zaimont.

"They have given us a pretty dang good deal on the back-end that is much better than we would get from a traditional publisher, if we can raise this money. They are not putting in money unless we can raise this money. They will not fund the whole thing if this fails. We do not already have a publisher.”

Zaimont claimed that because the studio already had a prototype for Indivisible, it does not mean the title is anywhere near completion. He said the prototype was the product of three months’ work, producing a level with just four characters – the studio plans to add more – with no cut scenes, implementation of plot and it was modelled at a level not that of the final game.

“I would like to point out that our crowdfunding drive on Indiegogo is not flexible funding,” said Zaimnot.

“If we do not make the goal, none of it is kept. All of it is given back to the people who said they would support us, and we go cry and disband the company.”

Zaimont blamed crowdfunding campaigns by some other studios as the reason for the misconceptions surrounding development budgets.

“I’m kind of annoyed that so many crowdfunding drives at this point have had 90 per cent of their funding from investors already and just used it as an interest gauge, because that basically killed our ability to say we don’t have a publisher and this is not an interest gauge.

“People look at it and go Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was $500,000, why are you guys $1.5m? Bloodstained is $5m. It’s not $500,000. They had $4.5m already.”

It should be noted that the original crowdfunding goal for Koji Igarashi's Bloodstained was $500,000. The game smashed this target however and raised $5.5m through Kickstarter alone.

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