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Developer Interview: Yacht Club Games - Kickstarter Can Show The Demand for Indie Titles

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Sean Velasco shares his thoughts on the crowdfunding platform

Over the weekend you may have seen a feature that we posted considering the increasing relevance of Kickstarter. The crowdfunding website has exploded in popularity in the past year, with many projects subsequently emerging that'll make their way to Wii U and/or 3DS. We spoke to two developers who've utilised the site to make their games happen, gaining their perspective.

We'd now also like to share the views of Sean Velasco from Yacht Club Games, the studio of former WayForward Technology employees that 's bringing Shovel Knight to both the Wii U and 3DS eShop platforms. As we couldn't incorporate these views into the original feature, below you can see Sean's opinions on the platform that brought his studio such success, in the form of a mini interview.

NL: What prompted you to go the Kickstarter route?

Sean Velasco: Two reasons, actually. We needed to fund development, but didn't want to be beholden to a publisher. We want to own our products and decide how we develop and market them. With Kickstarter, we are in control. Which brings the second point: community interaction! We wanted to develop a healthy following of fans that we could integrate into our design process. With Yacht Club Games, we want to share our process and get feedback early, helping us craft the best game possible.

NL: What do you make of the Kickstarter industry and growth of new projects?

SV: It's completely awesome! Ideas that had no other outlet can now go to Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites, and get made. It's hard to see this as anything but a good thing. Ideally, this will also show other sectors of the industry that there's a demand for these indie types of titles, and we'll see them respond in kind. We're already seeing loosening of restrictions from both Sony and Nintendo.

NL: Do you feel there's merit to criticisms of the concept, such as the risk of funded projects not being delivered?

SV: Absolutely. There is a chance that devs aren't going to deliver on their promises, especially those who haven't worked professionally. Games are a risky business and it's easy to let budget and scope spiral out of control. Once you are burned and lose your money, you will probably be less likely to back another project. I'm worried that there's a Kickstarter bubble, and it's going to burst as soon as projects go bad. However, devs have their reputations on the line, so I doubt many people are scammers.

NL: From your perspective, is Kickstarter a valuable alternative to standard development funding and publication routes, or is it a replacement?

SV: Well, we're certainly using it as a replacement for funding, but we'll likely need to pair with a publisher to get the game to foreign territories. That's a great role for a publisher; basically, they take care of the parts of game development that a smaller dev can't: foreign markets and localization, marketing, and physical distribution. It's all about flexibility!

We'd like to thank Sean Velasco for his time.

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User Comments (21)



Midnight3DS said:

By all the comments here, I'm wondering if Kickstarter fatigue is setting in.

Kickstarter is going strong in the boardgame world I know, but I'm not sure how it will hold up on a major video game console yet.



ThomasBW84 said:

@Midnight3DS I also think there's an illogical and automatic dislike of the word Kickstarter. The irony is that people cry out for games, then when Indies find a way to make it happen through crowdfunding, some decide they don't like it, or negatives are accentuated.

The last I checked, conventional publishing models had enough problems of their own with low quality and/or broken promises.



DarkCoolEdge said:

@ThomasBW84 I think that the problem is that most WiiU games announced are kickstarter projects and the people is getting burned because of it. At least here in NL.



ThomasBW84 said:

@DarkCoolEdge Burned how? I'm not being confrontational, I'm genuinely curious

If a year from now we have a catalogue of un-released games promised for Wii U on Kickstarter, fine, but it's too early to write it off. It's not going anywhere, either, as it's become invaluable for small developers and, ironically, is strengthening their stance against publishers that may that may have ripped them off in the past.



Dpullam said:

@ThomasBW84 (In response to your first comment.) That's a pretty fair point. I will say that without Kickstarter small indie developers wouldn't stand a chance of getting their dream game realized. As a whole, I believe Kickstarters are a benefit to the game industry since becoming an officially published developer can be quite difficult.

I have seen more than my share of potentially good games on Kickstarter to believe that this system is a positive and not a negative. After all, most indie developers are creating games because for one, they probably consider it fun and two, they hope to be successful.



SwerdMurd said:

whatever your feelings on kickstarter, shovel knight is gonna be incredible. Virt AND manami matsumae making an NES soundtrack in tandem!?!?!?!? /salivates



Azikira said:

I've currently backed 4 projects, all of which are large in scope and seem to have very reputable devs behind them. I'll basically wait and see what is delivered and what isn't, though I don't have many worries except time frame.



DefHalan said:

I want to see more titles on kickstarter support consoles. There are plenty of projects I would support if they announced Wii U or 3DS support.



Captain_Toad said:

I don't think there is a final say about kickstarter itself for the majority of the comment sections since none of the games has been released on the WiiU/3ds yet..
or if they're ever to release any at all HA!
But I do say I like that developers are free to do whatever without the tether of development time or publishers telling them what to do and what not to do. I can't wait for some of them.



BrightBeing said:

Kickstarter needs to be retooled for Games. If you contribute to a game, you get the game and a percentage of the revenue equal to your percentage of investment. Then there will be fewer frivolous developers asking for millions and giving nothing back.



aaronsullivan said:

Interesting idea, but what kind of percentage would you expect if there were 10,000+ people kickstarting a project. I'm guessing once you get down to the 100th of a percentage point the overhead of distributing royalties eats up any real gain.

Still, a game-centric kickstarting site might have merit if there was some improvement possible. Not sure what you'd do differently though.



aaronsullivan said:

Oh yeah, and I backed this and I'm psyched for it.

I may try out kickstarter for a project in the next year or so, so I enjoy discussing it. I don't quite understand the negativity about it that often pops up here on Nintendo Life. I'm trying.



Midnight3DS said:


I'm guessing negativity would be different if Wii-U was being swamped with AAA third party interest. Then it would be an exciting bonus rather than unknowns filling big gaps.



arrmixer said:

I don't mind the idea if there were some actual financial numbers thrown in to educate me on the actual costs... It seems every project has a different magic number.. Nothing wrong with that just give me at least an expense report..



aaronsullivan said:

@arrmixer Some kickstarters give an approximation of where the money is going and it can be helpful. I'd just suggest that it's wildly different depending on the individual project.

Some projects were started while the developers were still in school on student loans and now need to support themselves to finish a project. Some have been in the industry for years and need to match the amount of money they were making at their previous job to cover living expenses for their own family. Some are looking to leave a current job in order to work on a project full time but won't be able to really start it until they have the kickstarter money as a safety net. Some kickstarters are to bring in extra or better talent to work on certain parts of the game like music, or artwork, that would boost a simple project to something more impressive.

In other words, it's less about the cost of the completing a similar project and more about what the group of people (large or small) developing it need in order to start or continue it.

In the end, I'm not sure why it matters so much. When I contemplate becoming a backer (and I've backed several projects now) I'm either inspired by the story of the designers themselves and want to see them have a chance at success, or I just love the idea of the game and can't wait to play it, or I just want to support the type of game being developed because it's a niche that doesn't get enough attention.

Usually, there is a wide range of amounts to back with, so the risk can be low or high. I rarely pay attention to the actual goal except to see how close it is to reaching it. What does it matter how high the goal is if it can be reached? Will that change what I'm supporting or what I get out of it?



aaronsullivan said:

@Midnight3DS True, true. I love my Wii U, but I don't get to play so much. The "drought" to me is just playing a lot of Lego City which makes me laugh even though it's simple, digging into a Rayman Challenge, working on some of the later Battle Quest stages with my family, unlocking some more Sonic Racing, and I actually haven't spent much time with Toki Tori, Trine 2 and others that I quite like. In the old days, I'd be chomping at the bit more, that's for sure.



arrmixer said:

Exactly my point all these points are valid and should be disclosed but hey I understand most donors just interested in the game itself and if the actually devs put any thought to the actual $$ needed ... In other words actually planned the business out...
Either way lets see how long his mechanism lasts ... I personally think its great but some norms should be put in place...



aaronsullivan said:

I'm not arguing with you, really. I just want to add that even huge companies like EA, Activision, and Nintendo constantly miss their target dates by months and sometimes years despite having dozens of giant successful hits under their belts and a huge amount of capital. Indie devs can plan all they want, but most often don't have the experience to make very accurate predictions. The reality is they are going to get it wrong most of the time.



arrmixer said:

No yeah point taken Arron oh were just debating brother no worries.. Well I believe you gotta have deadlines if not ... No product... To me pressure even if a little is necessary ... I just feel some of these devs ( not all) are getting free capital without any real commitments



DarkCoolEdge said:

@ThomasBW84 Hi Thomas. Well, I understand that many Nintendo gamers are tired of seeing that most of the known WiiU games are kickstarter games instead of things like Tomb Raider, Dark Souls II et al.
Maybe there aren't more but the perception is that.

I don't feel that way, the more games the merrier, but I can see why others do. It has to be taken into account that many gamers are still reluctant to buy dl games and most of these kickstarter projects are destined to be eshop only.

(Please, tell me if I've written something wrong).



tasmans11 said:

Hands down kickstarter (i believe) is for the better. Without it we wouldn't have this completely awesome retro game to look forward to among many other projects. People have to realize they take a risk in almost everything they pay for, from not recieving their fries in a happy meal to paying for a game that is horse s***. Not everything always works out as planned but with kickstarter indie developers can at least give their best shot at putting money to good use with their ideas

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