Last month, I reported on the folks at Far Sight Studios and the development of adding the Terminator 2: Judgment Day pinball game to their roster of virtual pinball tables in Pinball Arcade.
As of last week, the company met their goal and T2 joins the ranks of Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Twilight Zone as successful Kickstarter projects for the independent developer.
Vice President Bobby King was kind enough to take some interview questions to find out more about their great pinball games and what made their Kickstarter projects successful.
Amazon Eliza – Bobby, your company has developed some 20+ tables. Was there a balance between older and newer generation games? Or was this a passion thing about bringing back the games people loved?
Bobby King – “We’re up to almost 35 tables in the Pinball Arcade now! There’s definitely a balance that we’re trying to achieve. Our goal is to bring back as many of the top 100 tables of all time.
Ultimately, we want our game to be a virtual Pinball Hall of Fame. Different people are so nostalgic about tables from all eras… The classic gameplay that’s offered is addictive and many pinball players appreciate them and, of course, feel nostalgic about their favorites.”
AE – Do you have a favorite pinball game? Or two? Also, is there a kind of a hit list of games you want to add in the future? Maybe a dream table you’re looking to add either from personal memory or because you know it was such a big hit?
BK – “Well, I’ve got Creature from the Black Lagoon and Monster Bash in my office. I’m very hopeful that we’ll get to do Addams Family. Hopefully, that one will find its way into my office!
As far as dream tables, I’d have to mention Indiana Jones Pinball Adventure as well as a few Stern tables from the past 10 years that we’d love to add like Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. These are still a dream because it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be able to get the licenses required in the foreseeable future.”
AE– From your video, you guys literally tear the machine down and rebuild it virtually, so I’m guessing it’s critical you get an actual game in-house to work from? And does this process mean there are some rare tables you may not be able to get?”
BK – “We’d prefer to own each table and we buy the tables whenever it’s feasible. Not owning one will not stop us from adding a super rare table – like Pinball Circus and, obviously, Goin’ Nuts.
We have real pinball machines in our office for every pinball table added to the Pinball Arcade, except for Goin’ Nuts (a very rare, unreleased title) that we just released on mobile, coincidently. Only 9 or ten of these exist. Tim Arnold was kind enough to let us remove the glass from his table during a visit to the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago.”
AE – Kickstarter is used by a number of developers, even fairly established companies, do you feel like this is because some games are so specific or niche that it would be harder otherwise? Or is it a matter of being able to control your product without having to partner or be held to someone else?
BK – “There are a few reasons for this and you’re correct about one of them. Developing a game is a creative process and, yes, not having a publisher to deal with is very appealing. In my opinion, it’s not always the best thing for a game to not have a publisher looking over your shoulder, weighing in, and setting deadlines, but certainly appealing…
Digital distribution has allowed developers to self-publish their games easier. When delivering games to your customers required manufacturing (which generally includes a rather large investment), a distribution network, sales and marketing team – the making of a game was a relatively smaller part of making a successful game…
The third reason is just as important. It’s a trend that developers, that aren’t necessarily making AAA titles, have been noticing for quite a while. It’s actually caused many developers to go out of business. Big publishers are taking fewer risks when it comes to funding games. They’re putting their money into larger projects that can generate more sales and/or develop franchises…
I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to have games funded that, otherwise, would never be produced.”
“A great game doesn’t necessarily require a huge budget or a big publisher behind it.”
AE – Your company has done several successful Kickstarters, including T2, what would attribute that success to? Were there lessons learned from the first or did you have someone give advice etc. beforehand?
BK – “We like to think that we make quality games. We believe in our games and enjoy making them – we definitely have a loyal fan base that believes in us and what we’re doing. They’re a huge part of why we will continue releasing tables that otherwise would never be possible.
Our Kickstarter projects have not been perfect.
We’ve learned a lot from the first couple. We’re getting better organizing our tiers and promoting our campaigns – our first Kickstarter weighed too heavily on big rewards. For the Twilight Zone and Star Trek Kickstarters, we didn’t have a plan organized well enough to deliver the rewards. We are much better prepared for the T2 fulfillment and I think our backers will definitely notice.”
AE – Obviously not every Kickstarter succeeds, what advice would give ahead of time for anyone considering setting up such a project? Are there some gaming projects you don’t think would work on Kickstarter?
BK – “I suggest looking at other Kickstarter projects like the one you want to run and study successful Kickstarter projects, in general. Of course, the promotion of your project is extremely important and fulfilling what is promised in a timely manner.”
“Any project with merit, accompanied by a team that drives to deliver, will succeed.”
AE – The original article was about the T2 game and the license fee you needed to reach. Is that usually your biggest obstacle on creating a classic?
Are there some that you wanted to do, but fees like that or issues with the manufacturer just weren’t possible?
BK – “Issues with the manufacturers (Williams, Bally, Stern, Gottlieb, etc) of the pinball tables haven’t been the issue. The problem is in getting all of the licenses needed…
There are large companies out there that are used to getting six, or even seven, figures to secure a game license deal. These companies prefer to not make smaller deals for two good business reasons that I’m aware of.
One, they don’t think it’s worth their time when the minimum guarantee we’re offering… (it) barely covers their overhead (legal fees, approval process resources, cost to manage, etc).
Two, when a licensor can offer exclusivity, that IP as a license is typically more valuable… There are big properties out there that other licensees are paying a lot for because they’re using the license to create an entire game around it. We can’t compete with what they can pay…
Since our game recreates classic tables… we think that our game actually increases the value of properties. We feel strongly that a fun pinball experience in our game is not going to take any sales away from a larger game. Hopefully, the licensers we’ve had difficulty making traction with can eventually see it this way as well.”
Arcade In house or In Your Pocket
Pinball Arcade is available for download directly from www.pinballarcade.com on mobile devices (Android or iOS), PC, Mac or from your favorite console’s download store (Xbox Live, WiiU, and Playstation 3, 4, & Vita). All of their pinball classics can be downloaded per table, in sets or entire ‘seasons’.