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DD: Do you think Kickstarter can be widely used as a way to break into the game industry or do you think your case was relatively unique?
JC: I think there’s a lot of danger in assuming that you’ll put this up, and the money will come, and you’ll get going, especially if you’re completely new to it. But I think that’s going to be more damaging to the individual than it’s going to be for Kickstarter itself; Kickstarter’s going to be around for a while. If somebody says, “We’re going to do this!” and then they can’t do it, and then asks for something else in the future, the chances are that they aren’t going to get it.
DD: How did you organize your PR for the Kickstarter campaign?
JR: There’s a touch of controversy there because there was the question of how fair it was for me to cover my own game on my own independent website. That was something that we all discussed within Rock Paper Shotgun. We ended up feeling that honesty was the only way to go with this stuff.
If I was open and honest about everything, and I want to make games, and I am making games and enjoy doing so, to not discuss it on the website that I own just seems bizarrely self-defeating, and as dishonest as not talking about it. It felt to me like I’m the owner of Big Robot and the owner of Rock Paper Shotgun, and I’ve got to just be open on both of those, and the people who read RPS are going to want to know what I’m doing with Big Robot.
I did want to heavily disclaim that and say, “Of course I can’t be objective about this because this is something I’m making myself. This is something that comes from what I’m interested in.” But our audience seemed to totally accept that. If the policy is honesty, and you stick with that then it works just fine.
I suppose the consequence of all that is that everyone is reading everyone else. So when that went up, we were able to get a whole lot of other people talking about it. I think what’s really interesting about that, though, and it’s probably something that a lot of people around the gaming press don’t really realize, is that a huge number of gamers, or a huge number of people who don’t read the specialist press at all, have essentially no feel for games stuff. They buy essentially what they see advertised or what their friends recommend to them. So what was fascinating about coming to Kickstarter is that I think the majority of people who backed it knew nothing about my RPS stuff, had no idea who I was, and no idea who James was.
In fact, I spoke to Ken Levine a few weeks ago and I said, “Aside from what we’re talking about now, I really want you to watch this video of this game called Sir, You Are Being Hunted.” And he said “Wow, I’d back that,” but he hadn’t connected it to me at all, he just saw it on Kickstarter and thought “Wow, that’s something I want to happen.” I think lots of people on Kickstarter have done that. I think one of the reasons that Kickstarter is so powerful is that its audience isn’t that audience of game sites that all read each other, and all reblog each other’s stuff, and all read the same press releases, and essentially have the same audience.
Being able to have people come in and be completely unfamiliar with us, who haven’t seen or heard anything of the game before, seeing those people on Kickstarter excited about it, has been an awesome thing for us to go through. So, although we were able to leverage Rock Paper Shotgun and the connections within the gaming community, generally I think actually just going on Kickstarter and the leverage of having that huge Kickstarter audience browsing the site has been just as important if not more important.
JC: I think we hit the wave with Kickstarter as well, that we came on right at the crest of that interest in it, and perhaps a bit before a bit of the backlash. We got in just before Christmas, and that seemed to be a good time to hit Kickstarter.
JR: There does seem to be some exhaustion with it now. People have backed a lot of stuff now and not gotten the games yet.