Eric Johnson

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One Year In, Spaceteam’s Solo Developer Hopes Fans Will Fund Him Directly

spaceteamIt’s the best multiplayer game you probably haven’t played, and its sales are dismal — but its developer confidently calls it a success.

Spaceteam is a “local cooperative” mobile game, which is a jargony way of saying it has spread out across multiple phones and tablets, one for each member of a collaborating team. The players, acting as the crew of a crashing spaceship, relay gibberish instructions from their screens and their shipmates into on-screen control panels, but everyone can see different controls, which leads to entertainingly frantic yelling and panicking. Jump to 0:35 in this video for a taste:

The free game is an indie darling and a common sight at gaming conferences, but has yet to cross over into the mainstream of mobile gamers in the year since its debut. Montreal-based programmer Henry Smith publicly offers up the game’s download and revenue numbers on his website; as of this writing, it has racked up fewer than 850,000 downloads, and only about $12,000 between Android and iOS.

“Spaceteam wouldn’t exist the way it does if I’d set out to make money,” Smith said in an interview. He added that keeping the game free and not, for instance, asking players to pay after a certain number of losses, has earned him a lot of goodwill in the indie community.

When his fans started tweeting their worries recently, the developer gently pushed back:

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 2.48.25 PM

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 2.48.50 PM

That post will likely acknowledge that he has also made money from game-competition prizes and a custom-commissioned version of Spaceteam for a company whose identity he couldn’t divulge. Plus, speaking at gaming conferences nets him free passes that would otherwise be expensive for an indie.

Now, Smith is planning a crowdfunding project for mid- to late January that would let the gaming community back him directly. His goal is to raise enough money to keep his solo operation going as he continues to manage and update Spaceteam and works on two new projects: A single-player game for tablets and another local co-op title.

“I want the freedom to make smart decisions about my time,” he said.

The only hitch is that the crowdfunding site with the most name recognition, Kickstarter, explicitly forbids “fund my life” projects. Its smaller rival, Indiegogo, has historically been more open to the sort of project Smith has in mind.

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