Original ideas always highly appreciated

The nature of crowd funding and how a Belarusian team collected $83,000 for its project
By Valeria Gavrusheva

When we need money, most of us approach the bank. Of course, other avenues of raising funds exist and, in Western countries, the trend is for ‘crowd funding’, whereby the public ‘vote’ for an idea by making financial contributions.

Belarusian video game developers recently presented their project via the most popular and successful platform for crowd funding: the American site Kickstarter. As a result, they managed to collect $83,500 instead of their target of $50,000. The Director General of Aterdux Entertainment, Alexander Dergay, tells us how they succeeded and what impetus crowd funding has given to their project.

Path to success
What stage had you reached before you tried crowd funding?
Two friends, who are fond of historical reconstruction and video games, created a role playing game called ‘Times of Discord’; sadly, they lacked promotion, so their game didn’t take off. In 2007, it was released again and, by that time, I’d joined them. They had an idea for a new game and I decided to invest money in their support. We made a business plan and, in 2010, began developing ‘Legends of Eisenwald’ — an RPG strategy game. However, we miscalculated and ran out of funds in March 2012. By that time, we’d released an alpha version of ‘Legends of Eisenwald’; it could be played, but had some bugs. We applied to several publishers for funding, but were told that a near complete version was required. Then, we learnt about Kickstarter, which we saw had a few foreign projects. We thought that we should give it a try.

In theory and in practice
Kickstarter requires that ideas ‘show some legs’, with presentation material available. What did your team do and how much time did it take?
To be successful, you need to work on original presentation material: videos, text and photos. We went to Mir Castle, dressed in armour, to create our video. It took over a month to prepare everything and, of course, it’s important to give feedback to potential donors: answering their questions and sharing information. Sometimes, you need additional materials during your campaign. For example, we received questions about the organisation of tactical battles, so we had to write an article about this and decided to shoot a video to explain the process.

Those who invest money expect a return or gift of some kind, depending on how much they donate. What did your team offer and how much did this cost?
For a $15 donation we gave a copy of ‘Legend of Eisenwald’, as well as the old game ‘Times of Discord’. We had other gifts relating to various levels of donation: $25, $50, $100, $250, and $500. For $2,000, you could write part of the game’s script or become a character. Two donors chose the last option — a Latvian and an American. For donations of over $10,000, you could become an executive producer and influence the course of the game. During the campaign, at backers’ requests, we added three more awards: for donations of $35, $75 and $175. According to preliminary estimates, we’ll need $4,000-5,000 to pay for these gifts. 

Silicon Valley in Belarus
Do you think this qualifies as attracting foreign investments?
Quite possibly: two-thirds of our investors are from the USA, followed by Germans and those from CIS countries. Many people ask why I haven’t moved the company to the USA or Germany but it’s actually cheaper to develop software in Belarus. It’s one thing to make a game for a couple of hundred thousand Dollars but another to spend a couple of million. The prime costs involved relate to personnel. In fact, a great many Russian, Canadian and American companies, including those involved in gaming, have opened offices in Minsk. Belarus is not well-known but, as it becomes more popular, we should see a real boom in the number of foreign companies arriving. With some simplification in the legislation of our country, we could become a new Silicon Valley.
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