Kingdom Come: Deliverance was produced in a unique way: Instead of funding the game by big banks or major publishers, the small developer from Czech Republic talked directly to the people, who might care the most: Gamers! One of the first big success stories in crowdfunding, Kingdom Come: Deliverance was not only gather accolades at release but was developed in a unique way, hand in hand with the fans We talked to the developer’s Head of Communication, Jiri Rydl, about this unique process.
Wall Jump: Jiri, who came up with the idea to start a Kickstarter campaign to convince your investor to raise money for the development of Kingdome Come?
Jiri Rydl: Dan (Editor’s note: Daniel Vávra, Creative Director) is the man behind the Kickstarter idea.
Wall Jump: How did you decide on the amount needed to make the campaign successful? Was this negotiated with your investor?
Jiri Rydl: The original idea was pretty simple. It was the last option to prove the concept is good and the game can be successful. We knew it would be impossible to gain enough money to develop AAA title, so after short discussion with our investor we have chosen amount which would cover approximately 10% of overall development costs. That was enough money to show, they are people like us, who would like to play games without firewalls.
Wall Jump: How was your initial development financed before you started the Kickstarter?
Jiri Rydl: Thanks to our private investor.
Wall Jump: Was there any example on Kickstarter that gave you confidence in bringing Kingdom Come to the platform?
Jiri Rydl: Wasteland, Star Citizen or Double Fine Adventure for instance.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance on Kickstarter
Wall Jump: What was your initial expectation and how would you have proceeded without raising the full amount on Kickstarter?
Jiri Rydl: Well, the initial expectation was 300.000 pounds… (smiles) The naked true is that without support of our backers, the project would have been stopped.
Wall Jump: What was the initial feedback from the development community and your former colleagues when you announced the crowdfunding campaign?
Jiri Rydl: Our colleagues from gaming industry were little bit surprised first, but then showed great support, most of them even with their money! Czech Republic is small country and we don’t fight each other, maybe we like different games, but we all are working in a great industry and we want everyone to be successful!
Wall Jump: What was the initial reaction when you proposed the crowdfunding-approach within your studio? Was everyone keen to do it or was it a desperate move out of no other alternatives?
Jiri Rydl: Good point! We always believed that Kingdom Come: Deliverance is great game with great concept and only the fear of anything new stood between Warhorse Studios and publishers deal. But business is not about believe, it’s about money. And if you want to invest large amount of money into the project, you need proof directly from the market. And we have that now!
Wall Jump: Do you think that being an European-based company and trying to source money via Kickstarter is a disadvantage compared to US-based companies?
Jiri Rydl: I believe that the only disadvantage is that European companies are not well known behind the great see. We have the luxury of having Dan Vávra on board – the creator of a well known game Mafia, which even started new wave of games in this specific historic era. Fans from all over the world know Dan, believed in his new project and showed great support.
Historically accurate game with no dragons, elves or hobbits in it? Don’t be ridiculous!Jiri Rydl
Wall Jump: What was the main reason you did not get any publisher deal in place?
Jiri Rydl: Historically accurate game with no dragons, elves or hobbits in it? Don’t be ridiculous!
Wall Jump: You’ve mentioned in interviews that publishers requested you to include more fantasy-elements in your game. Why did you insist in not compromising your original vision, even you might have not been able to develop the game at all?
Jiri Rydl: We didn’t want to make any compromises. We believe that copying is not the way how to make successful projects.
Wall Jump: For how long did you pitch your game to publishers?
Jiri Rydl: I am pretty sure no deal is done in less than six months, much more probably in twelve months. When you first meet the publisher at E3, where you exchange business cards, then you meet again at Game Developers Session to show tech demo, after few months of discussing the business proposition you show another demo… The question is if you have enough time to wait for the final signature.
Wall Jump: How close have you been to any deal with a publisher?
Jiri Rydl: You never know. Till you don’t have your signed agreement you have nothing.
Wall Jump: Could you imagine working with publishers again in the future or do you believe that your model in gauging consumer interest to raise investor money and keep independence is a viable path to finance games in the future?
Jiri Rydl: Sure thing! We already have several AAA titles developed without publisher on the market, take Star Citizen for instance! Sometime even the developer can become publisher; take a look at Rovio Stars or Steam from Valve.
Wall Jump: When it comes to small and financially dependent developers, would you rather advise to try staying independent at any costs or accept a publishing deal when possible and if so, why?
Jiri Rydl: It’s could be risky on the both sides. If you are dependent on the publisher, you may have problems to convince him to make something new. When you are independent, you can do whatever you want, but you are also under strong supervision of your backers, fans or players. And you have to convince them, that you game is the only one, which could be big challenge!
You should go ahead when you have at least one strong gaming concept to show in a demo, something fun, but it’s just my opinion.Jiri Rydl
Wall Jump: You are a studio composed of experienced developers and funding from an external investor to give you a head start. Based on your experience, what is the best timing and necessary content to go out to the public and pitch your product to avoid the risk of not being able to showcase your vision properly, especially for smaller teams?
Jiri Rydl: Well especially for smaller teams it could be a problem. We were lucky to have resources to create a tech demo. It’s pretty tough to identify good game if you can see only a few concepts, that’s true. You should go ahead when you have at least one strong gaming concept to show in a demo, something fun, but it’s just my opinion.
Wall Jump: Do you believe smaller independent games that try to get funded will suffer from AAA productions rising money via the same crowdfunding platforms?
Jiri Rydl: Not at all, we are aiming to different audience. There are people who are not willing to pay more then 5$ for a game. On the other hand there are people who buy collectors editions with swords. No need to worry about it, the more options we players have, the better!
Wall Jump: Do you think Kickstarter will be staying as an option to fund games and generate interest with external investors for some time or do you fear that it is just a current phenomenon?
Jiri Rydl: To say the truth, I don’t know. When I revealed the secret of internet sometime 15 years ago, people like Marc Zuckerberg was just teenager and he changed the internet! I like the idea behind Kickstarter or Czech version Startovac.cz, but it has also its limitations of course. I believe angel investors or even the publishers will have their place on the market in the future, even in a little bit different form.
Wall Jump: Did your development schedule and maybe even the setup of your studio change based on the feedback from the community and the money you have raised so far?
Jiri Rydl: We were listening to our community carefully and we put some ideas from players into the designers manuals.
Wall Jump: You are cooperating with Chris Roberts Space Industries announced to share assets and technologies. Who did approach whom and is this something that’s only possible because there is no third party (e.g. a publishing partner) involved?
Jiri Rydl: We have been contacted by Chris thanks to common friends in Crytek, so it would probably happen even with a publisher, because it’s great opportunity to exchange technical info for both teams. We can make the game even better and any help from Chris and his team is really appreciated!
Wall Jump: Did you give backers a detailed look at how their money was used for development? Is the money solely used for product development or also to cover other expenses?
Jiri Rydl: We need to cover some taxes, we have to pay Kickstarter and of course we need to produce collector’s editions of the game. Have you ever created 150 swords (laughs)? Fortunately enough we had enough money left for creating the extra stuff we have promised – woman story, dog companion, motion capture, original soundtrack and more.
Wall Jump: How did people spend on your game – how much did they spend on average, which countries were the heavy-spenders, what was the biggest funding you’ve achieved from a single private person?
Jiri Rydl: We received 1,336,170 Euros from 35,158 crowdfunders – roughly 38 Euros per person. The highest amount was spent by three people: a whopping 6,000 Euros!
Wall Jump: Apart from Kingdom Come, could you name one project you would love our readers to consider backing right now?
Jiri Rydl: Star Citizen.
Wall Jump: Thank you for your time!
Jiri Rydl is marketing manager at Warhorse Studios, the developer of Kingdom Come: Deliverance., based in Prague.
An abbreviated version of this interview was originally published in issue 5 of the German gaming book magazine WASD.
This post is also available in: German