American McGee on Kickstarter: “We turned it into Kicklauncher”

The Akaneiro developer thinks more Kickstarter projects should involve nearly finished games

Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is a unique Kickstarter project in that most of the heavy lifting of development has already been done. American McGee of Spicy Horse says that there is method to his company's madness.

When asked why launch a Kickstarter for a nearly completed game, McGee responded, "Because we're weirdos and don't like to do things like we're supposed to! Breakfast buffet? We go there for dinner! Kickstarter? We turned it into Kicklauncher! Truth is, we've been thinking about using Kickstarter for quite a while, watching how other developers have approached it and taking notes on what's been successful (or not)," said McGee. "Throughout the learning process we realized that starting from scratch, especially on something where we don't have an established track record (or other major questions might be raised about our approach), was a path to certain failure."

"If I told you 18 months ago that Spicy Horse was going to shift from development on a console 3D platformer game (Alice: Madness Returns) to an ARPG delivered via the web (and mobile) and utilizing a F2P monetization model, you would have told me, 'You can't do that!'  Without proof of our ability to deliver something so radically different from our previous work, a campaign like that would have crashed and burned quickly," he added. "By launching the game in the middle of the campaign we've been able to address that concern, plus benefit the project in a number of other ways like generating awareness and building solid connections with our audience.

"I think more developers should try this approach. If you're able to get through 99 percent of development on your own and are then near launch, a Kickstarter campaign can be a real boost to awareness and engagement. It appears to work quite well with rewards being linked to in-game items as well. That aspect of it is something we've seen done very successfully here in China, where a big MMO might have a real-world auction of virtual items before the game is launched."

Akaneiro has also seen the launch of an open beta during the Kickstarter, and McGee says this has helped combat some negative press attention. "I cringe to think what I'd be doing right now if we hadn't launched open beta at the start of the campaign. We had a lot of negative and misinformed press hit the wire along with the announcement of the Kickstarter campaign. If the game hadn't immediately come out and squashed those vicious rumors... ouch. The worst part about someone taking the low road and slinging mud is that you're damned if you attempt to defend yourself and damned if you don't. We were lucky this time around, and next time I'm going to be a lot more cautious when it comes to how we present information to the media."

Read the full interview at [a]list.

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Latest comments (3)

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 9 years ago
Turning Kickstarter into just another publisher...?

Um... No.

The entire point of Kickstarter is to fund dangerous and risky things.

(I cannot understand why so many game developers confuse core creative with implementation.)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 24th January 2013 9:04pm

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American McGee CEO, Spicy Horse9 years ago
Kickstarter isn't a publisher. Never said that. It's helping create exposure. All games need exposure.

Would like to see examples of "dangerous and risky" things that got funded. I've not seen a lot of campaigns succeed on insane ideas being proposed by people with no experience/proof of capability to deliver. If anything, it appears (to me), to be a platform which rewards ideas for clear presentation of understandable goals with development/production capability to act on and deliver towards those goals. KS backers, like typical investors, run away from "dangerous and risky things."

I cannot understand how any of what we did has anything to do with "core creative" or "implementation." Would love to hear you expand on this thought and how it relates to what we're doing with KS or in general. Intriguing.
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Sergio Rosa9 years ago
@Tim: Maybe for things other than games, Kickstarter is actually to fund dangerous and risky things, but game projects that have been fully funded so far are: from people with a track record who aren't so drastically changing the games they want to make ("hey we're Obsidian, we make RPGs and we want to make an RPG..."); games that have already gained a big fan base; games from not-well-known developers that aren't asking for a lot of money ($5,000 or so).

The article states how Spicy Horse came from 3d platformers to a web based game (in not so few words), and how such project would've failed had they launched it to fund the entire game. Maybe Tim Schafer got $3M to make yet another adventure game, but Camuflaj's kickstarter almost failed because it was "the halo dude making an adventure-ish game for the iPhone"

In any case, I don't see the problem with kickstarting a game that's in the middle of the development. There's no rule against that because making games costs money, be it to start developing them or to continue developing them.
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