Independent developer SiXiTS is turning to the crowdsourced funding website Kickstarter to help bring its passion project to life. It’s a game based on Doug Chiang’s Robota, a concept in the vein of Infinity Blade.
It’s an unusual funding method for a mobile game, but its a perfect fit for a both a story and a studio that buck the norm.
SiXiTS was co-founded by Euan Macdonald and Nathaniel Hunter to be more of new media production company than traditional game development studio, even though the company has built games for partners in the past. Both men have spent the last 20 years working in the film and gaming industry, adding names like EA, Activision, Lucasfilm, Industrial Light and Magic and Pixar to their resumes. But they were growing tired of working on projects that either lived or died according to their opening day receipts.
Macdonald and Hunter wanted to see if they could launch new intellectual property through mobile and social games, creating what Macdonald describes as “persistent experiences that are connected online.”
The test for this idea is their friend Doug Chiang’s epic story Robota.
Robota began life as a book created by Chiang and Orson Scott Card. But after Chiang had spent the last several years unsuccessfully trying to turn Robota into movie, Macdonald and Hunter convinced him to try bringing Robota to life as an epic mobile experience. It would be a mobile game called Robota: Vengeance, instead of a big budget console game or movie.
While it may be an ambitious goal, there are precedents like Rovio’s Angry Birds, Outfit7, Zynga and Halfbrick Studios. They have all spun off successful mobile and social games into product franchises by signing deals to create toys, gifts, pajamas, fruit snacks and yes, movies. Although movie level success is rare even for the most popular of franchises, that’s the ultimate goal SiXiTS and Chiang have in mind for Robota: Vengeance. The company just needed a place to start the ball rolling, which is why they turned to Kickstarter.
Originally created as a funding platform for creative projects like books and and plays, Kickstarter has generated plenty of headlines since Double Fine Productions raised more than $2.2 million dollars for its next game by using the service. For the SiXiTS team, Double Fine’s timing has been both a boon and a stumbling block. Kickstarter has been great for driving attention to funded projects, but Double Fine’s success also creates the risk that Robota will be overshadowed, even though its creators say it had been in the works long before Double Fine’s.
“As an independent company, we don’t have a lot of large backing and we just though it would be a great approach, given Doug’s history,” explains Macdonald when asked why SiXiTS chose to go through Kickstarter. “We don’t need a large budget – we’re not doing a movie or a console game and we felt [Robota] was a great project to take to Kickstarter to try and get the community interested.”
So far the plan for Robota: Vengeance is to raise $100,000 to create a high-end, action-adventure game for iOS, Android and Steam using Unity’s 3D engine that will rival the quality of hits like Epic’s Infinity Blade.
In the game, the player takes on the role of a robot who is rescued from near death, but has lost his memories. In exchange for his life, the robot is enlisted to help save his rescuer’s family, fighting through armies of enemy robots and genetically modified dinosaurs while trying uncover the mysteries of his own past. While the story is epic and has a conclusion in mind, according to Macdonald, the rescue won’t necessarily be the end of the the Robota: Vengeance story.
“That’s one of the big differentiating factors between what we’re doing and what the Double Fine guys are doing with their game,” he explains. “Their game is a very traditional game. When they release the game it’ll have some updates, but unlike a social or mobile game, it’s a completed product. Robota will have regular updates that will be fueled by input from the Kickstarter community and anybody else that’s playing the game.”
It’s actually the community aspect that Macdonald and Hunter find most exciting about the prospect of funding Robota: Vengeance through Kickstarter.
“With mobile and social games, you’re essentially involving the community from the get-go. You get very quick feedback and rapid iterations and that will gel well with what Kickstarter allows you to do,” Macdonald says. “You can build up a community before the product actually comes out and actually get people’s input.”
“The community feels like they’re actually part of building the product,” adds Hunter. “it’s definitely a different feeling than just buying a product. You’re actually helping to fund the product’s creation.”
The other big advantage to Kickstarter?
It allows the SiXiTS team to work on a large-scale project like Robota: Vengeance without having to strike a deal with a publisher first. “We don’t have massive budgets for the games we put together and we thought it would be a good way to circumvent the time sink that trying to work with publishers can be,” Hunter explains. “At the end of the Kickstarter project, it could be that a publisher is actually interested in Robota based on that exposure, and that would be fine. It’s not to say we wouldn’t want to talk to a publisher about it, its just we just didn’t want to sink all that time into it at the very beginning of the project.”
The Robota: Vengeance Kickstarter is currently $18,613 towards its $100,000 goal, with 13 days left. If successful, SiXiTS is estimating the project will take approximately six months to complete, with an estimated delivery date of August, 2012.