When crowdfunding fails: The story of Raylight Games

The Italian studio tells us how they won over an investor after Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns fell short of their targets
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With so many studios and independents vying for backer money, it's small wonder that many crowdfunding campaigns fail to meet their targets.

While some developers abandon hope, convinced they will be unable to fund their project via traditional means – after all, why would they be on Kickstarter in the first place? – one Italian studio persevered through the failure of not one, but two crowdfunding appeals.

Raylight Games, the studio behind various handheld games for 3DS, PSP, DS and GBA, attempted to fund its new IP – Illo: Birth of the Cool – via both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The game is a surreal puzzle adventure, designed for platforms with tilt, touch and microphone inputs, including iOS, Android, PlayStation Move, Kinect, Wii U, PS Vita and 3DS.

Both campaigns ultimately failed to generate the funds needed to continue development, but Raylight continued to pitch the game to potential partners and investors, eventually grabbing the attention of a small investor that has allowed them to take the next step.

We spoke to founder Massimilano Di Monda (pictured) about how you push forward when crowdfunding fails.

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We thought Illo fit the bill perfectly, but we then discover Kickstarter is not exactly what we thought it would be.

Massimilano Di Monda, Raylight Games

Why did you turn to crowdfunding at first to fund Illo: Birth of the Cool?

Today it is not like ten years ago when it was easier to get funding from publishers. Now publishers do not want to take risks and so they focus on sequels and remakes of their games with very small place for unique – and risky – game ideas. 

We had a certain perception of Kickstarter before we saw the site as a platform/forum for those with unique and innovative ideas to get funding to ‘kickstart’ their project – we thought Illo fitted that bill perfectly, but we then discover it is not exactly what we thought it would be.

Why do you think the Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns failed?

You need more than just a cool idea to get funding. Having a famous IP helps enormously, as does a famous name or studio behind the project. But the genre of the game has also become more important as people seem more comfortable backing a familiar ‘style’ of game. 

Another point is also the budget we asked for was $270,000, which was for developing the game from the concept, through the development and to market. We think it is a normal budget, but we were competing with almost finished projects that required less money. 

On Indiegogo we asked €30,000 for developing a demo of the game to be presented to the publishers, but we did not think people would not send money for something that wasn't guaranteed to be finished.

What did you learn from this? How would approach future campaigns differently?

We’ve just realised that for a project like Illo, Kickstarter may not be the best route for us to get the game made. So the plan after crowdfunding failed was to go back to a more traditional route of getting games made through a publisher. A lot of publishers expressed interest in the Illo concept but wanted a demo first before committing to the project. 

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We did not get all the funding needed to finish the game, but now we have the chance to pitch our demo to publishers, rather than just a cool idea on paper. 

Massimilano Di Monda, Raylight Games

How did you end up getting investment in your game? What attracted this investor?

We get investment from private subjects here in italy to make demos. Some investors liked our concept and believed in our technical skills to develop a demo that would reflect the cool idea behind it. 

Raylight is a small indie studio in Italy, but we have worked on many projects in the past and published more than 30 games on different platforms. We developed the Blueroses engine and in 2002 were a runner up for IGN's Best Technological Excellence Award on GBA with Wing Commander Prophecy. We developing 3D modeling and animation tools for Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, which are used by some of the most famous developer studios in the industry. So we can show some technical background.

What is the advantage of this over crowdfunding?

Well, we have the pleasure to work together with a good guy, which love games and followed us during the development.

What is the disadvantage?

We did not get all the funding needed to finish the game, but now we have the chance to pitch our demo to publishers, rather than just a cool idea on paper. 

What's the next step?

We showed the demo at the Gamescom 2014 and we got very positive feedbacks from several publishers. We also showed it to many friends and they are all happy with what we achieved, happy with the puzzles and with Illo's funny animations. 

We are now polishing the demo to be able to go pitching the game directly to the publishers that showed interest during Gamescom and hopefully offer a first hands-on to a selected group of media. 

You can find out more about the studio and Illo: Birth of the Cool at www.raylightgames.com.

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