Tim Schafer on battling Kickstarter fatigue – and why Microsoft needs to reach out to indies

Tim Schafer

Double Fine boss Tim Schafer has criticised studios for using Kickstarter as a source of “easy money”, and urged Microsoft to change its approach to indie developers.

Speaking before the launch of the studio’s new Kickstarter, Schafer explained that his studio has returned to crowdfund its next project because it offers unique interaction between creators and their audience, as demonstrated by the success of its first campaign.

“It’s been such a positive experience for us,” Schafer told us. “The money was great, but it’s also about community interaction and the kind of new era it helped usher in. I wondered if we should do it again and if it’s right to do it again – I didn’t think I could do another Kickstarter until I’d obviously finished the other project I was working on.”

Double Fine veteran Brad Muir is taking the lead this time around, and not only because Schafer wants to concentrate on developing the fruits of that first Kickstarter, Broken Age.

“I think some of the Kickstarters are overcomplicated, or seem to be treating it like it’s a store, or milking it for easy money,” said Shafer. “That’s why we’re putting a lot of thought into this project – it’s not another told timer coming back from the nineties, like me, and not an old game or tried and true licence, but actually a risky and new IP.”

“Broken Age is going to be going on for a while and I wanted to really focus on that. I really feel that there’s a trust between us and the backers and I wanted to finish that before I moved onto something else. But, y’know, that’s only one of our teams here at Double Fine, those other teams could either go back to publishers to fund their games, or they could go to Kickstarter. And because Kickstarter allows us to focus on the games and the fans, that’s really the road we want to take.”

Massive Chalice will be a PC, Mac and Linux title, with other formats to be considered later on. We asked Schafer whether he had had any dialogue with Sony or Microsoft on the subject of bringing his studio’s games to PS4 or Xbox One. “Sony has reached out to us and asked us our opinions about what we’d like to see with new platforms and they’ve been really good with indies – allowing them self-publish and entering into partnerships and stuff like that,” he replied. “Microsoft has been focused elsewhere up until now, I’ve kind of had my fingers crossed that hopefully they’ll change their minds about that because I think it’s really critical.”

“There are just too many options right now for indies as far as publishing goes. Steam is huge, mobile and all of those things are really profitable for indies so there’s too many reasonable and successful alternatives for indies to look towards – we don’t really need to go through the arduous process of acquiring a publisher that we don’t need just to be on a certain platform. I hope [Microsoft] figure it out.”

Would Double Fine ever return to the ‘traditional’ model, we asked? “We still have good publishing partners that we’re working with, but what Kickstarter means is that we only have to work with the good ones – we have other options and we don’t have to take a bad publishing deal any more,” added Schafer. “So as long as we still get good publishing partners we’ll still work with them, but it’d have to be a pretty good deal to compete with what you get from crowdfunding.”

You can read about Double Fine’s new Kickstarter for Massive Chalice here.