The folks who brought us Octodad know their way around crowdfunding. After all, Young Horses used a Kickstarter to crowdfund Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Years later, Young Horses is preparing to take us on a quirky journey once again with Bugsnax, but this time the studio is going the route of platform exclusivity. When we spoke to Young Horses CEO Phil Tibitoski about Bugsnax, he addressed the studio’s shift away from crowdfunding opportunities, as well as Young Horses’ move to exclusivity on PS5 and Epic Games Store with Bugsnax.
If you haven’t seen our exclusive interview with Young Horses CEO Phil Tibitoski about Bugsnax and its inspirations, you really ought to go watch it right now. It’s a cavalcade of facts about the inspirations of Bugsnax, such as how the game compares to Ape Escape more than any traditional first-person game. One of the other interesting factoids to come out of the interview was why Bugsnax went towards platform exclusivity and moved away from crowdfunding, a move which they felt came with a changed perception of Kickstarter.
Tibitoski raises an interesting point about crowdfunding and where it’s gone from back when Octodad: Dadliest Catch was funded.
“Our audience was great for Kickstarter… but now the perception of that entire system has changed,” Tibitoski explains. “When we were doing that [with Octodad], doing a Kickstarter in general was a news story and beat and now it’s like… unless you’re doing something especially interesting, so are thousands of other people.”
Tibitoski mentions that the studio has tried to look for marketing beats that will make its games noticeable to people beyond making a game that, by itself, is interesting. The matter of Fig comes up in the conversation too, a type of crowdfunding where funders are actually buying into revenue shares like investment. To that, Tibitoski mentions that the team has tried to stay away from where it has too many obligations to sources outside the studio.
“I feel like it’s hard to talk on stuff like that because we come from a place of privilege where our games have done super well,” Tibitoski explained. “And so, we’re not in a position where we need that kind of funding. If we can avoid outside investment, at least in directly deciding what we’re making, we will because the whole point of doing our own thing was to do our own thing without anybody saying, ‘Hey, could you make it a little less this or a little more that?’ We already have enough of that internally.”
Finally, Tibitoski speaks to the matter of platform exclusivity. Epic Games Store didn’t even exist when Octodad was made, and so Young Horses finds itself in a position of multiple exclusivity deals - a matter which Tibitoski claims is really up to a studio to decide on where it’s acceptable and how it helps a studio meet its goals.
“I think anything a developer can do that fits within their moral compass of right and wrong and also have their studio continue to be stable and continue to support the people they work with is probably a good thing,” Tibitoski continues. “I think for us, it’s been a lot about grabbing hold opportunities as they arise if they make sense for our studio goals. For instance, we were already talking to Steam with Octodad before Steam Greenlight was a thing, but then we chose to go through Greenlight anyways because since it was a new exciting thing… and we were confident in the game getting through it because it had already having gotten a lot of attention. It just kind of added to it and let fans own that fact that they helped push it across the finish line in getting on Steam.”
Despite his explanation for how the company approaches opportunities such as exclusivity, Tibitoski follows in saying that he understands the inconvenience to players, but ultimately the bottom line is to keep everyone in the studio working and being able to provide for themselves.
“I understand why it’s frustrating sometimes as a player, given that they have to wait x amount of time to buy or play a game,” Tibitoski concludes. “We know maybe we’ll lose x many players initially - maybe they’ll come back on later on a different platform… but it’s a risk we take knowing that ‘hey the eight or nine people I work with now have money to pay rent and do things that are essential.’ We’re not trying to be secretive about why we would take an exclusivity deal.”
In a time when crunch, burnout, and firings are such ongoing issues in the gaming community, it does seem as though the team at Young Horses is focused on sustainability as much as creating a good game. It’s an effort that seems almost unfortunately rare, but makes games like Bugsnax and Octodad seem pretty guilt free - something that certainly can’t be said of some of the best games out there right now, even just in 2020.