Escapement Studios sheds light on using Kickstarter, PayPal for indie development


The three-person team at Escapement Studios wanted to bring its indie puzzle-platformer, In the Dark: Puzzles Past Bedtime, into the light for gamers everywhere this summer, but first it needed money. Kickstarter has helped generate funds for plenty of indie devs, and Escapement thought it would work for them, too -- with a goal of $10,000, they put In the Dark's future in the hands of the Kickstarter public, and they waited. One month later, they had generated $7,440, but they failed to meet their goal, meaning they earned nothing. Today, Escapement is using PayPal to pick up where they left off from Kickstarter, with a fresh insight on independently raising money online.

"Kickstarter's all-or-nothing funding is really meant for projects that can not be finished without reaching that goal amount," Escapement dev Mark Thompson said. "Using something like PayPal gets you your money right away; with Kickstarter you won't get anything until a week or two after your deadline. If your project is under way, this is a long period of uncertainty."

Thompson said one obvious advantage of using PayPal is its lower retention rate -- PayPal keeps roughly four percent of Escapement's funds, while Kickstarter's average is closer to eight percent, which played a factor in setting their goal there, he said. Escapement is selling their game for $10; if it were sold for $5 or less, Kickstarter would have been the cheaper option.

Thompson didn't anticipate one, more existential, problem with using Kickstarter -- having to explain what Kickstarter was to potential donors.

"Most people have never heard of it, and it can add an awkward extra step when pitching the game to people face-to-face," he said. "PayPal is much more widely known, and shouldn't require any explanation because the donation is done through your own website."

Kickstarter was our first serious attempt at fundraising, and even though it wasn't 'successful' It still got us far more attention than we probably could have generated on our own.


Some people associate PayPal with scams, Thompson said, and some donors felt more comfortable sharing their credit-card information with Kickstarter, which looks more professional than PayPal.

"I don't expect to get nearly as much support through PayPal, but if needed I could always run another Kickstarter to make up the difference. There is nothing preventing you from resubmitting a project after it fails," Thompson said.

"Kickstarter was our first serious attempt at fundraising, and even though it wasn't 'successful' It still got us far more attention than we probably could have generated on our own. They have a huge user base and just being on there increased our website traffic significantly. You really don't have much to lose, but it does have its problems," Thompson said. "My advice is if you are offering your game for less than $10 or are only trying to raise a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars, Kickstarter is the way to go."

Escapement is fundraising through PayPal now, using the same incentives from Kickstarter to motivate donors, directly through their website. Plans to release In the Dark have been slowed down, but not blinked out completely.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.