Early on the boat | Mighty Box

Malta’s Kickstarter Kings – game development company Mighty Box – who successfully financed their board-game Posthuman in record time last year, are now attempting the same with the dystopian game’s digital counterpart, Posthuman: Sanctuary. We speak to the startup’s CEO Marvin Zammit about the game and the challenges they face in getting it funded

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
14 March 2016, 7:43am
Mighty Box, left to right: Fabrizio Cali, Mark Casha, David Chircop and Thom Cuschieri. Top: Marvin Zammit
Mighty Box, left to right: Fabrizio Cali, Mark Casha, David Chircop and Thom Cuschieri. Top: Marvin Zammit
Why did you decide to add a digital counterpart to the board game?

Our plan was to be a digital game development studio, so Posthuman was a digital game from the start. We had actually adapted it to a board game in order to test the market and see whether the IP would be successful. As it stands, the board game was far more successful than we had anticipated, so it delayed our plans for its digital counterpart.

Would you say the success of your board game crowdfunding campaign will guarantee the success of its digital game counterpart?

Before we even considered a crowdfunding campaign, we knew that funding the digital game would be far, far more difficult than funding the board game. There are several reasons for this, but to name a few:

1) Board games are on the rise – looking at sales and successful crowdfunding campaigns, board games have been increasingly popular and successful, whereas video games are increasingly more difficult to fund. This was a result of a saturation of games on the market, but also of the rise of certain other distribution platforms, such as Steam Early access.

2) Many people play on their mobile devices – one of the most common questions we are receiving is whether Posthuman: Sanctuary will be available on mobile devices. For the KS campaign we are promising development on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.

Eventually we intend to port the game to mobile devices as well, but the respective app stores don’t make it at all easy to distribute a crowdfunded game to its backers on those platforms. This means that we cannot directly offer the game on mobile platforms within the campaign. That’s out of our control and there’s not much we can do about it.

3) We had a starting audience who are tabletop gamers. Many of them are also video game players, but not all of them. Although this gave us a solid starting point for the digital game campaign, we need to reach many more people in order to fund. We are constantly trying to reach out to as many people as possible and ask our backers to spread the word about the game.

4) For the board game we had a goal of $27K, and the average pledge was around $58 per backer. This meant that we only needed 466 backers (approx.) to reach our goal. For Posthuman: Sanctuary, the goal is $40K (because it costs much more to develop a video game), and the average pledge is $15, which means we need at least 2,667 backers to get funded! So, mathematically, it’s almost 6 times as hard to get the digital game funded.

How would you describe Posthuman: Sanctuary to prospective players, and how would you say it differs and/or complements the board game?

Posthuman: Sanctuary is a single player game which is a survival game, unlike others. It has exploration, team management and combat elements, but it is also part interactive fiction, where the choices you make will shape the player’s experience. It takes place in a near future where genetic tampering has resulted in widespread mutation.

This led to a class war, which resulted in the mutants overthrowing human society completely and hunting down the last human survivors. In the game, you play as one such survivor, who starts out on his journey to find sanctuary. On the way he will find other people to join him, but though there is strength in numbers, each of them has her own outlook, and they might not be happy with the choices you will have to make to survive.

Although they have some similarities and common elements, the board game and the video game have a different focus. Whereas the board game is more rule-based and focused on the journey itself while trying to remain human (mutants can also cause you scars which eventually mutate you too), the digital game starts off in the same manner, but focuses more on the narrative within the world, and also on the challenges of leading a team with different psychological profiles through a hostile landscape where resources are rare.

You still have to watch out for your humanity – you can still become a mutant, in which case it’s game over and you have to start a new character. Overall, I’d say the digital game is intended to be enjoyed as a story that you shape yourself (not dissimilar to a choose-you-own-adventure book, or the famous Telltale Games, such as the Walking Dead), but with very different mechanics which have root in the board game.

Would you say that Mighty Box and its games are an anomaly for Malta, or do you think the local talent pool of digital game creators is wide enough to accommodate other, new companies?

There are already other game dev studios in Malta with a lot of talent and a lot of potential, and from the look of things this is an industry that will continue to grow. We don’t see ourselves as an anomaly – we’re just early on the boat, and we know of other talented people locally who are working on projects of their own which are very promising, both in the tabletop gaming world and the video game one.

To follow the Posthuman: Sanctuary Kickstarter, log on to: http://kck.st/1VJ0ohM. For more information on Mighty Box, log on to: http://www.mightyboxgames.com/

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...