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Money: The Stuff that Dreams are made of

by Tiare Feuchtner

Without having a publisher or a sponsor, it has become quite obvious, that the publishing of Schein needs to be funded some other way. We have been contemplating the idea of crowdfunding for quite some time, and have now decided to hop on the bandwagon. For those who don’t know: Crowdfunding is a financing model, where many individuals contribute small monetary amounts to make huge – and sometimes expensive – dreams come true (a more technical description can be found on Wikipedia). It’s truly amazing to see how many awesome projects have already been realized this way and it seems like such a great opportunity – we just have to give it a try!

So I was called into action to make it all happen. Even though the trend is comparably young, there are already quite many crowdfunding platforms to choose from, and their number seems to increase at an amazing rate. My main task for the last couple of weeks – or maybe even months – was to find the platform that is right for us. This meant browsing dozens of platforms, reading endless policies and terms of service and setting up a couple of testing accounts. The testing accounts were rather desperate measures when the platform’s info page, FAQ and policies just wouldn’t provide enough detail about the services they provide.

The most important issue for us was that our campaign should reach the whole world, so the platform needed to be international. Secondly, since we are based in Austria and Germany, the platform needed to allow campaigns from the European Union. A third factor is of course the incurring costs – the fees charged can differ quite widely, and taxes take away another great part of the sum. After comparing many platforms considering these aspects, I want to share some of the most relevant details I discovered.

Crowdfunding

Kickstarter is the most widely known and most popular crowd funding platform, and encourages funding for all kinds of creative projects. They go by the all-or-nothing principle, meaning that if the funding goal is not reached all funders get their money back and you get nothing – so nothing lost, nothing gained. Creating a campaign is free, but they charge a fee of 5% of all funds raised. Payments are made via Amazon, which charges another 3-5% for processing fees. The duration of a campaign can be anything from 1 to 60 days.
The amazing reach of Kickstarter is actually reason enough to make this the first choice for our campaign. However there is one very big drawback: This American-based platform is practically for Americans only. ..well, not quite. They have just recently opened up to the UK as well. You need to be a US or UK citizen with a bank account and residence in the respective country, to create a campaign on Kickstarter. It really beats me why it’s taking them so long to open up for other countries, but for some reason it must really be terribly complicated. Anyway, this unfortunately rules out Kickstarter for Schein (unless we still find a reliable US or UK citizen who would represent our game).

The second platform we considered for a while is Startnext from Germany. We learned about it at a Subotron event, where some people from Startnext were invited for a talk about crowdfunding along with a couple of successful Austrian game designers (such as Cliffhanger and Cyber Arena). They seemed like very likeable people and their platform made quite a good impression too.
Startnext is rather new and with a main focus on German speaking countries, it has substantially less reach. However, they tempt with the concept, that they don’t charge any commission fees. So the only costs that apply are the Paypal payment fees of 1.9-4%. And the most awesome part is that if you don’t reach your funding goal and all backers get their money back, you don’t need to pay the payment fees either. They also allow you to contribute funds to your own project, or put in funds in someone else’s name. Imagine how frustrating it would be, if your grandma gave you €50.- to support your crazy endeavor, and you had no way of adding it to your campaign, without her actually having to get a credit card (while in the USA it is absolutely normal to have two or three credit cards, quite many people in Austria or Germany don’t even have one)!
On most platforms you create your campaign page, get approval and start funding. Not so with Startnext. They split the funding process into 2 phases: the preparation phase and the funding phase. The funding phase, which may once again be 1 to 60 days, is the stage where supporters can finance the project. But before that, in the preparation phase which is fixed to 30 days, you need to collect likes on your campaign page and you may only begin with the funding phase, if you have enough likes. This is a great way to find out how popular your project really is, and increases the chance of reaching your funding goal. However only registered users can like your campaign – think of your dear grandma having to register first. Furthermore this process requires one whole month of additional time, which is nowadays a scarce and expensive resource.

The second most popular crowdfunding platform worldwide is Indiegogo, and by having “Indie” in the name it seems perfect for an indie game like Schein. This platform is also based in the USA, but it is international and allows people from all over the world to create and fund campaigns. As with the previous two, the campaign duration may be up to 60 days, but unlike the others it offers two different funding modalities: Fixed funding is the all-or-nothing principle as explained above, and Flexible funding where you may keep whatever you get, no matter if the funding goal is actually reached. We think Fixed funding is fairer though – wouldn’t it suck to contribute to a project which doesn’t get realized in the end? You would contribute and get nothing in return. With this model Indiegogo charges a 4% fee of all raised funds and once again the payment fees for Paypal apply. They also allow making payments in someone else’s name, so grandma’s contribution can be fully appreciated.

Actually, all we need to do is set up our campaign profile and we’re ready to go! The final decision of which platform will be our battleground still remains to be made however. And it needs to be made real soon.
Many of you have already contributed to our development process with valuable feedback, and we are confident that together we can overcome the obstacle of financing as well. So sit tight and publish this game with us!