The Costs of Kickstarting Games in Expensive Cities

Recently Tim Schafer tweeted a little bit about the cost of his Kickstarted project which he raised over $3 million dollars for. Some were critical of the fact that this yielded only one episode of the game. Schafer gave a quick run down which you can read below:

There is nothing wrong with Tim’s math, and in fact it lines up with other industries that labor is typically the largest cost to an enterprise.

Kickstarting has its share of controversy, you are investing in something without an explicit return for that investment should it succeed. Yes, there are rewards and the product – but not equity for example. Still, it has its value and has certainly changed the scene. The question then becomes one of, when is it responsible as an independent developer to source from the public?Joshua Spinell recently broached this topic on Twitter about the same time I was thinking about it. See there is one noteworthy factor in Tim’s numbers. The cost of labor. In San Francisco. SF is not a cheap place. According to the Cost of Living calculator at Sperling’s Best Places, San Francisco is 2.4x as expensive as the nationwide average. For every two dollars and forty cents you donate to a Kickstarter in San Francisco, they get functionally a dollar for their needs.

If Tim were to make a game in Atlanta, the average dollar would actually go a tiny bit further, saving very large amounts on labor costs. Staying within the state and developing in Los Angeles would result in 33% cheaper costs. NYC is 31% cheaper. Chicago: 57%. Dallas: 56%. All of these are places with video game talent, with resources and opportunities. San Francisco might be where you prefer to be, but it is extravagant in comparison with other major cities. I can’t help but feel it is irresponsible to ask the community for funding a production which is taking place in one of the more expensive places it possibly could. I know there are other reasons for preferring a region, but the fact of the matter is you are passing that cost onto your fans, and in an inefficient fashion. Just imagine what 33-57% more budget could do for a game. Especially one where you set the dates, you control the vision.

It is a thing of beauty. Inflated costs of your game because of where you choose to live however, is not.