Republique’s Success Demonstrates How a Kickstarter Can Adapt
It may have cut it close, but Camouflaj’s debut title, Republique, managed to reach its Kickstarter goal in the final hours before its deadline today. The project kicked off a month ago seeking $500,000 and, after an initial surge of pledges, found itself struggling to attract backers. Rather than accept the fact that there was not half a million dollars out there to fund a hardcore iOS title like this, Camouflaj adapted and now finds itself padding that $500,000 with additional pledges ahead of its 3pm Pacific deadline.
Republique was initially pitched as an iOS game combining stealth and survival horror in the style of a game from the PlayStation era. With an estimated budget of over $1 million, Camouflaj turned to Kickstarter to come up with $500,000 to help ensure it would not have to compromise creative control or hand over ownership of the IP.
It was a difficult sell for more reason than one. People who play iOS games are used to paying $0.99 or less. Rarely is there a game which exceeds the premium price point of $6.99 established by Infinity Blade and its sequel. Republique’s Kickstarter asked for $10 in order to be rewarded with a free copy of the game — a game slated for release during June 2013. Knowing that $10 (or more) could be spent on games available right this very second — and, despite what some people say, there are many quality experiences to be had on the App Store — would only make it more difficult to convince people to pledge money to a product from a brand new developer, even if it is one with a fairly well-known name attached to it in former 343 Industries and Kojima Productions employee Ryan Payton.
In one of the most recent updates, Payton remembered the project bringing in only $700 a day at one point. At that rate it would have taken two years to reach $500,000, but Camouflaj had a hard deadline as Kickstarter will only hand over pledged funds if the target is reached by the project’s end date. (If it does not, the money never leaves backers’ pockets.) The graph below shows what a crawl pledges came to in the two weeks following the initial flood coinciding with the project’s launch. Just over two weeks in, Camouflaj made its first attempt to lure in new backers by doing what many potential backers were asking for: It announced PC and Mac versions. It was made clear they would be designed with those platforms in mind, complete with new gameplay, controls, and story elements, as opposed to them being simple ports with mouse clicks in place of screen taps. This announcement resulted in the biggest jump in pledges since the first day up until that point, but there was still a long way to go.
While continuing to interact with fans and provide video updates, including footage of development team meetings, Camouflaj announced two voice actors working on the game that were sure to get gamers excited. David Hayter, best known as the voice of Metal Gear Solid’s Solid Snake, and Jennifer Hale, the voice of the female Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, will both be playing roles in Republique and signing the posters being sent to backers pledging at least $500. Word of this development on May 3 resulted in the biggest single-day jump at the time as fans of two huge franchises had been given reason to take more than a cursory glance at Republique.
By this point nearly half of the $500,000 had been pledged, but with only a week left there was still reason to doubt the game would be funded. Other, smaller steps were taken to bring in more money like introducing a $40 tier on May 9 which includes the game on iOS and PC/Mac, as well as the digital soundtrack and documentary. Besides simply giving fans what they want and potentially bringing in those still sitting on the sidelines, it was an intelligent way of encouraging those who had already pledged to bump up the amount they were willing to part with.
All of this combined with the groundswell of support from fans (helping to push a ‘Keep Hope Alive’ campaign named after the game’s protagonist, Hope) and the media — raising questions of what role the press should play in a case such as this — resulted in Republique surpassing its $500,000 goal earlier today with only seven hours to go.
A portion of the money coming in during the final days (more than half of the $500,000 was pledged in the past week) may have been from individuals like myself who chose to see how things would play out before pledging, yet Camouflaj did an admirable job in adapting and listening to what fans wanted as it attempted to reach its goal. Besides the fact that many people were counting it out weeks ago and continued to doubt $200,000 could be raised in the last three days, it’s also a testament to what Kickstarter remains capable of even amidst claims it has already outlived its viability as a method for funding videogames.