British video game development legend Charles Cecil believes there is no going back from the wave of crowd-funding brought about by Kickstarter – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
"Kickstarter and crowdfunding will change, and it is changing," he warned during his keynote speech at London Games Conference 2013.
"There are horror stories about projects and companies letting down their backers, audiences are becoming more wary about what they’re investing in, but the abliity of an audience and content creator to communicate is so powerful now that there’s no going back."
Most of Cecil’s talk focused on that relationship and how it has changed the way Revolution is able to develop its games, including the Kickstarter-funded Broken Sword revival.
"Getting money was important," he said, "but it was also key to get in touch with the community. That’s helped us no end.
"People who back a kickstarter project need to have an affinity with the product they’re backing. And they want to feel like they’re taking part. They start to refer to it as ‘their project’, rather than Revolution’s: ‘look how well our game is coming along’."
Feedback from these fans really shaped the new Broken Sword, Cecil continued, adding: "If a significant number of people tell you something, they’re probably right."
Examples of this range from the decision to avoid making a 3D games – "There was a real clamour from fans to move back to 2D," said Cecil – to things like the shape of the hero’s chin, or where NPCs were positioned in the background.
"From my perpsective, this was brilliant feedback," the developer said. "From their perpesective, they’re taking part in how their favourite game is made."
Cecil also offered some crucial tips on how studios can make their Kickstarter projects a success.
Firstly, the community will take on a life of its own, but you should never try to control it.
Secondly, expect spikes in backing during the length of the campaign. In Revolution’s experience, the big spikes were at the beginning and at the end. It also helped that they announced Broken Sword shortly after Gamescom, when people were hungry for new releases.
Developers should also plan how they’re going to market their game to fans – one images should sum up everything about your game and who it appeals to.
Most importantly, make sure PayPal is an option for backers. Many consumers do not use or have credit cards – particularly in Germany, according to Cecil.
Cecil concluded: "Five years ago, if a marketing agency said they’d give you access to 15,000 to your most intense fans, you’d have paid a fortune. It’s an extroadinary that everything has changed in such a short time."