Star Command Dev Reveals Where the Kickstarter Money Went

Star Command Dev Reveals Where the Kickstarter Money Went

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An indie studio that raised $37,000 on Kickstarter got to use $4000 for actual game development.

$37,000 sounds like a lot of money to make an indie iOS game, especially when the Kickstarter funding goal was little more than half that amount - $20,000, to be precise. But money comes and money goes, and in the case of Star Command developer War Balloon Games, the money went a whole lot faster than they ever expected.

In an update to the Star Command Kickstarter page entitled "What the Hell Did You Do With Our Money?" the team explained that the 37 large was very quickly whittled down to about four grand that it could actually dedicate to the game. About $2000 was lost to "no-shows" right off the top, reducing the actual income to a still-respectable $35,000. Kickstarter and Amazon Payments then took their cut, bringing it down to around $32,000.

Then came "prize fulfillment," things like printing all the posters and shirts promised to backers and shipping them around the world, which cost a cool ten thou, a staggering number the team did not see coming. From the remaining $22,000, $6000 went to music [for the game, presumably, not the "Hit It Big On Kickstarter" party], $4000 went to attorneys, startup fees and a CPA, $2000 paid for poster art, $1000 was spent on iPads and $3000 was spent on PAX East.

That left $6000, but the pain wasn't over. Because that money counts as income, the tax man claimed a slice as well, to the tune of $2000. "So were right around $4000 remaining and even that cursory math isn't working as there are other things that weren't big tickets but sapped the coffers," the team wrote. "There's odds and ends etc, so that goes rather quickly as you can imagine."

Much of the bleeding can be attributed to the team's inexperience, although I'm a bit baffled as to how it didn't have the prize fulfillment costs nailed down, but that's almost inevitable in ventures like this; you learn as you go. The team said that if it could do it all again, it would "keep the attorneys out of it," and also advised other young studios to be sure of their costs before committing themselves to anything.

"We just didn't fully appreciate the cost of printing 200 posters, shirts, and more than anything shipping. Shipping is, A, expensive, B, a pain in the ass when you have [poster] tubes and C, time consuming," the update explains. "None of those things are productive. We don't resent having sent that stuff off - we think the posters and shirts are awesome and we are super proud of them and it seems like everyone loved them, so that's great. But they were a lot of work."

Still, the studio added that its Kickstarter experience has been a positive one and said the game wouldn't be where it is not without the funds raised. "We're extremely confident were going to hit our summer release date," it wrote, "and that never would have happened without you guys."

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And before anyone jumps in to decry their spending, yes, businesses really can be and are that expensive, and they're not the first to be surprised by the expense of t-shirts and posters and the likes.

Erana:
And before anyone jumps in to decry their spending, yes, businesses really can be and are that expensive, and they're not the first to be surprised by the expense of t-shirts and posters and the likes.

It's not that I don't appreciate the necessity but it's just a little baffling they only managed to keep $4,000 out of $37,000. Even Heisenberg should been able to compensate for those expenses.

something about this doesn't really seem 'optimized'

Andy Chalk:
An indie studio that raised $37,000 on Kickstarter got to use $4000 for actual game development.

In fairness, people should probably understand that's why it's called "Kickstarter" and not "Complete Project Financer." The reward budget was definitely a huge oversight (though, hey, who among us hasn't forgotten to include shipping or sales tax or extraneous fees at some point?), but people should also be taking a look at stuff like lawyers, CPA, and ancillary stuff like music and poster art.

To my mind, Kickstarter is doing exactly what it's supposed to if it's allowing small "companies" to get started with the work by helping them bypass these potentially-crippling upfront costs.

Well, isn't the amount misleading? They spent $6000 on music for the game, so that ought to count too, and if you do that, they had $10000 for the game, and massively overspent on music.

Furthermore, they went to PaxEast, and spent $3000. That's nearly 1/10 of their entire budget, spent on attending. Was that really worthwhile, or necessary?

Maybe I need someone to check my math, but I count $15,000 in development from the list in the article.

$4,000 indicated as directly to development.
$6,000 for music (which I would very much consider a development cost)
$4,000 attorneys, business fees, and accounting fees (the costs that go with running the business should be included as well shouldn't they?)
and then $1,000 for iPads (which I assume/hope were being used for development).

Maybe that's just me though.

Ciarin:
Maybe I need someone to check my math, but I count $15,000 in development from the list in the article.

$4,000 indicated as directly to development.
$6,000 for music (which I would very much consider a development cost)
$4,000 attorneys, business fees, and accounting fees (the costs that go with running the business should be included as well shouldn't they?)
and then $1,000 for iPads (which I assume/hope were being used for development).

Maybe that's just me though.

$ 2000 was lost to "no-shows" right off the top
$ 3000 Kickstarter and Amazon Payments
$10000 printing all the posters and shirts promised to backers and shipping them around the world
$ 6000 went to music
$ 4000 went to attorneys, startup fees and a CPA
$ 2000 paid for poster art
$ 1000 was spent on iPads
$ 3000 was spent on PAX East
$ 2000 Taxes
------------
$33000
------------
$37,000 -
-------------
-------------
$ 4000 dollars remain

young developer is young.

Ciarin:
Maybe I need someone to check my math, but I count $15,000 in development from the list in the article.

$4,000 indicated as directly to development.
$6,000 for music (which I would very much consider a development cost)
$4,000 attorneys, business fees, and accounting fees (the costs that go with running the business should be included as well shouldn't they?)
and then $1,000 for iPads (which I assume/hope were being used for development).

Maybe that's just me though.

It is never just you.

That is why I never sign up for those physical reward tiers with Kickstarter projects. Shipping is a bitch.

rhizhim:

Ciarin:
Maybe I need someone to check my math, but I count $15,000 in development from the list in the article.

$4,000 indicated as directly to development.
$6,000 for music (which I would very much consider a development cost)
$4,000 attorneys, business fees, and accounting fees (the costs that go with running the business should be included as well shouldn't they?)
and then $1,000 for iPads (which I assume/hope were being used for development).

Maybe that's just me though.

$ 2000 was lost to "no-shows" right off the top
$ 3000 Kickstarter and Amazon Payments
$10000 printing all the posters and shirts promised to backers and shipping them around the world
$ 6000 went to music
$ 4000 went to attorneys, startup fees and a CPA
$ 2000 paid for poster art
$ 1000 was spent on iPads
$ 3000 was spent on PAX East
$ 2000 Taxes
------------
$33000
------------
$37,000 -
-------------
-------------
$ 4000 dollars remain

young developer is young.

I sort of meant that I saw some of those deductions as development costs as they are directly related to the business of creating and releasing the game. Sure some of those things are unfortunate losses, speaking of the reward fulfillment, kickstarter cuts, pax costs etc, but the business costs are, from the perspective of a software developer, development costs as well, which is why I included the Attorneys, the music, and the iPads as going towards development.

Huh, there were about 100 people who donated enough for the shirts and posters (you had to donate $100), which is about $10,000 in donations. So they spent the entirety of those donations on prizes for those donors?!

Also, I don't think PAX East and iPads really count as expenses related to kickstarters for making the game.

Yes, you learn as you go, but only dedicating 4000$ out of 37000$ directly on the project at hand has me wondering how much they planned before they started their business. I don't doubt their intentions of creating a great game, but I question their ability to conduct serious business if they didn't anticipate the costs they were facing.

None of the expenses reek of obvious waste, I even get the Ipads, as the game is supposed to be released on IOS afaik.
Still, I would be a bit miffed if I had donated towards that project.

LorienvArden:
Yes, you learn as you go, but only dedicating 4000$ out of 37000$ directly on the project at hand has me wondering how much they planned before they started their business. I don't doubt their intentions of creating a great game, but I question their ability to conduct serious business if they didn't anticipate the costs they were facing.

None of the expenses reek of obvious waste, I even get the Ipads, as the game is supposed to be released on IOS afaik.
Still, I would be a bit miffed if I had donated towards that project.

These people are artists and game designers, not businessmen. And it's probably better that way anyway.

Scow2:

LorienvArden:
Yes, you learn as you go, but only dedicating 4000$ out of 37000$ directly on the project at hand has me wondering how much they planned before they started their business. I don't doubt their intentions of creating a great game, but I question their ability to conduct serious business if they didn't anticipate the costs they were facing.

None of the expenses reek of obvious waste, I even get the Ipads, as the game is supposed to be released on IOS afaik.
Still, I would be a bit miffed if I had donated towards that project.

These people are artists and game designers, not businessmen. And it's probably better that way anyway.

They hired a CPA though. At some point they probably could've asked him "hey, do we have enough money left over after necessary expenses to go to Pax East and buy those new iPads?"

Well, that's unfortunate, but there it is. Business ventures take a hefty startup.

dyre:
Huh, there were about 100 people who donated enough for the shirts and posters (you had to donate $100), which is about $10,000 in donations. So they spent the entirety of those donations on prizes for those donors?!

Also, I don't think PAX East and iPads really count as expenses related to kickstarters for making the game.

Seeing as they only bought what, three, maybe four iPads, one can assume that they are for development purposes, as they are making a game for the iOS, and iOS/iPad development is remarkably similar. And while it was a bit much for a budding developer, 3k on PAX is understandable, since not showing to such an event at least once a year is probably some kind of honor code/unwritten law/secret mandate for game developers trying to get in good with the public.

BehattedWanderer:
Well, that's unfortunate, but there it is. Business ventures take a hefty startup.

dyre:
Huh, there were about 100 people who donated enough for the shirts and posters (you had to donate $100), which is about $10,000 in donations. So they spent the entirety of those donations on prizes for those donors?!

Also, I don't think PAX East and iPads really count as expenses related to kickstarters for making the game.

Seeing as they only bought what, three, maybe four iPads, one can assume that they are for development purposes, as they are making a game for the iOS, and iOS/iPad development is remarkably similar. And while it was a bit much for a budding developer, 3k on PAX is understandable, since not showing to such an event at least once a year is probably some kind of honor code/unwritten law/secret mandate for game developers trying to get in good with the public.

I suppose those expenses are excusable, but what's really ridiculous is they spent $12000 on shirts and posters and buttons, when they probably only made about that much from people who donated enough for shirts and posters in the first place.

I'm not saying running a business is easy, but I'm sure they could've managed those expenses better :/

They seem pretty upbeat about the whole thing. And nary a screaming indignant backer to be found in the update comments, amazing!

Susurrus:
Well, isn't the amount misleading? They spent $6000 on music for the game, so that ought to count too, and if you do that, they had $10000 for the game, and massively overspent on music.

Furthermore, they went to PaxEast, and spent $3000. That's nearly 1/10 of their entire budget, spent on attending. Was that really worthwhile, or necessary?

I agree that business costs and music is "development" as far as I'm concerned too. Particularly with a small indie outfit that has to wear multiple hats.

From the update and comments it sounds like PaxEast was maybe necessary for them to demonstrate the working prototype. I guess attending was always part of their overall plan and in this case it was kickstarter funds that paid the bills. I haven't read all the details of their project though so not sure exactly what they were going for. Either way they've supplemented their income from other sources and the game actually looks really cool. I'd definitely consider buying this one if they port it to Android.

dyre:

BehattedWanderer:
Well, that's unfortunate, but there it is. Business ventures take a hefty startup.

dyre:
Huh, there were about 100 people who donated enough for the shirts and posters (you had to donate $100), which is about $10,000 in donations. So they spent the entirety of those donations on prizes for those donors?!

Also, I don't think PAX East and iPads really count as expenses related to kickstarters for making the game.

Seeing as they only bought what, three, maybe four iPads, one can assume that they are for development purposes, as they are making a game for the iOS, and iOS/iPad development is remarkably similar. And while it was a bit much for a budding developer, 3k on PAX is understandable, since not showing to such an event at least once a year is probably some kind of honor code/unwritten law/secret mandate for game developers trying to get in good with the public.

I suppose those expenses are excusable, but what's really ridiculous is they spent $12000 on shirts and posters and buttons, when they probably only made about that much from people who donated enough for shirts and posters in the first place.

I'm not saying running a business is easy, but I'm sure they could've managed those expenses better :/

I agree. You see me not defending that part? That's me thinking they could have planned it a little better. But, a commitment is a commitment, and shirts and posters still have to be sent to those that pledged the appropriate amount. Reasonable planning would have yielded shipping estimates, and they could have asked for a slightly higher offer for such things, to grant a little bit of extra on their end, but if you don't expect such things to be as high, then it will come back to bite you on the ass. Unfortunate, but still true.

Susurrus:

Furthermore, they went to PaxEast, and spent $3000. That's nearly 1/10 of their entire budget, spent on attending. Was that really worthwhile, or necessary?

Networking and industry exposure are pretty potent forces in most businesses. Attending PAX may have cost them $3000 up front but might net them someone willing to help or front other larger expenses with their investment.

OT: a fascinating look at the business end of gaming, if a bit narrow :)

dyre:
I suppose those expenses are excusable, but what's really ridiculous is they spent $12000 on shirts and posters and buttons, when they probably only made about that much from people who donated enough for shirts and posters in the first place.

I'm not saying running a business is easy, but I'm sure they could've managed those expenses better :/

I was tempted to lump the poster art amount into the reward costs as well but in reality promotional art is a development cost too. We don't know how many images they commissioned that they now own the rights to.

At least with the 97 odd people who ordered that tier (along with the 2 $1000 backers in the tier above) plus the $15 extra international backers would have had to put in, they were still well in the black afterwards. Not the best result, I agree, but these kinds of things are order of magnitude expensive at low counts like that. 100 t-shirts is astronomically expensive to print compared to the 13 thousand or so Double Fine will be printing. They say in their update they should have pitched that stuff higher. Live and learn.

UnderGlass:

dyre:
I suppose those expenses are excusable, but what's really ridiculous is they spent $12000 on shirts and posters and buttons, when they probably only made about that much from people who donated enough for shirts and posters in the first place.

I'm not saying running a business is easy, but I'm sure they could've managed those expenses better :/

I was tempted to lump the poster art amount into the reward costs as well but in reality promotional art is a development cost too. We don't know how many images they commissioned that they now own the rights to.

At least with the 97 odd people who ordered that tier (along with the 2 $1000 backers in the tier above) plus the $15 extra international backers would have had to put in, they were still well in the black afterwards. Not the best result, I agree, but these kinds of things are order of magnitude expensive at low counts like that. 100 t-shirts is astronomically expensive to print compared to the 13 thousand or so Double Fine will be printing. They say in their update they should have pitched that stuff higher. Live and learn.

Hmm, yeah, I shouldn't have assumed the poster art would only be used for the posters they're shipping out.

3000 dollars on GOING to Pax East? not worth it. that was poorly spent. lawyerSSSS? with an SSS? half a lawyer should of been enough. hell, copyright law pretty much ensures that youre safe without the need to patent shit. copyright law works automatically. the only thing you need to worry about is trademark, and i dont see how thousands of dollars for lawyers is required to trademark a game name. so pax east n lawyers...

and jeez, 2000 for poster art? im sure i could get you that for under 500.

and then, 6000 on music.....6000 dollars....on music....:/....what, did you hire John Williams to do it?

ok well...live and learn i guess. this is good for new devs to learn how to spend it.

draythefingerless:
and then, 6000 on music.....6000 dollars....on music....:/....what, did you hire John Williams to do it?

If that's the case, I may just have to finally go out and buy an iPhone.

At least on the Wasteland 2 kickstarter, they put up front for international supporters that to get physical 'goodies' they had to put in an extra $15 for shipping. They also amended the rewards for an all digital reward to bypass the shipping portion all together.

Scow2:
These people are artists and game designers, not businessmen. And it's probably better that way anyway.

There is a big difference between the "businessmen" stuck in big corporations like activision or Ubisoft and businessmen in small independent companies like mojang or theGamestation.

You need a certain level of business know-how to pull off a good game or service, and not beeing able to forsee the costs your dealing with is a good way to kickstart a project like Kim jong Un's failed satelite raunch....

Holy crap, shipping to outside the US is expensive, who would've thought it over there, huh?

Yeah, in excess of $15 per shirt to ship to here, so you already have $3000 wasted on shipping without even getting into the items.

I'd have more pity for them if they hadn't blown $6000 of their initial $20000 budget on fucking music. 30% of your budget is allocated to -music-? Jesus Christ. Get some open-source shit that you can use for free. Another 10% to poster art? Are you people -drunk-? Get somebody on DeviantArt to do it for $50. Jesus. Bam, now you've got $12000. Oh, and maybe forgo PAX East, now you've got $15000, 75% of your budget left after you pay off your lawyers and the government.

No pity.

Wait, this indie game developer was making a game for the iPad and didn't have ipads in the first place? Also perhaps it would be better going to events like PAX when the game is further developed, meaning you have a product to show. I understand it's networking and all, but I wonder if the people who gave their money knew it would be spent (in part) going to gaming events.

 

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