X-Com's Julian Gollop on the difficulties of Kickstarter
"Crowdfunding is much more difficult now that it was even a year ago. That's the reality"
The veteran British designer Julian Gollop warned the crowd at Digital Dragons to underestimate the challenge of crowdfunding at their peril.
In a talk called "Gooey Blobs and Chrysalids - milestones in my 32-year career in game development," Gollop finished with his experiences running a Kickstarter campaign for a remake of his 1985 Spectrum game, Chaos.
Ultimately, Chaos Reborn exceeded its $180,000 target, but it only did so by $40,000 and not until the final days of its funding period. Given his enviable track record - which includes the classic 1994 turn-based strategy title, X-Com - Gollop admitted to the Digital Dragons audience that he expected an easier ride.
"Your goal has to be quite low or you're not going to reach it"
However, Gollop did make a huge amount of effort prior to launching the Chaos Reborn Kickstarter campaign to ensure that it had the best possible chance of success.
"I had done a lot of work on PR and promoting the game: on my blog, on Twitter, I got journalists looking at the game so I had coverage in print and online," he said.
"For me that was an easier process than for most because of my history and people were interested in what I was doing anyway, but still, it was a lot of work. I even delayed the Kickstarter [twice] all because I didn't think the PR was sufficient yet.
"If you're going the crowdfunding route, you have to do your PR and promotion consistently for months before you even start."
And yet despite all of that effort, and despite having a playable prototype to show interested backers, and despite having the sort of reputation that allowed him to bring in a figure like Ken Levine to help with the cause - on TotalBiscuit's YouTube channel, no less - with just five days to go Chaos Reborn still hadn't reached its target and the donations had, in Gollop's words, "flatlined."
Gollop isn't sure what caused the final rush of donations that pushed Chaos Reborn across the line in its final days even now. However, he is acutely aware that he had a rare set of advantages over the vast majority of developers seeking funding from the crowd, and it very nearly wasn't enough.
Speaking to GamesIndustry International following his talk, Gollop admitted that Kickstarter now demands a level of diligence and time investment that Broken Age and Wasteland 2 didn't have to consider. Indeed, without his track record in the industry, it's entirely likely that Chaos Reborn would have failed to secure its funding.
"It would have been ten times tougher, for sure. Much, much tougher. Crowdfunding is very difficult, and much more difficult now that it was even a year ago. That's the reality.
"You need to look at the games that are doing well on Kickstarter and figure out why, and your goal has to be quite low or you're not going to reach it."
When asked how much money he might have made had he launched the Chaos Reborn Kickstarter alongside the early success stories, Gollop replied with a smile: "Oh yeah, a lot more."
"Many people have told me that. Brian Fargo told me this, Chris Roberts told me this. They said, 'it's not going to be as easy as it was,' and that's true."