This interview with Playables co-founder Mario von Rickenbach is part of an interview series carried out by SGDA. The first interview is done by Philomena Schwab (Vice-president of SGDA).
On 28 May Playables’ latest game «KIDS» was released on Steam, iOS and Android. KIDS allows you to move with and against crowds until everyone is gone. KIDS is a short interactive animation drawn by Michael Frei and coded by Mario von Rickenbach, their second collaboration after the award-winning project PLUG & PLAY.
The game was published by the infamous game studio Double Fine. Co-Founder Mario von Rickenbach allows us a glimpse behind the curtain.
P.Schwab: How did your partnership with Double Fine came to be?
Mario: We got in touch through David OReilly, who published two games with Double Fine. Michael talked to him at an animation event and he thought it may be interesting for us to talk to them. Soon after a first chat with Greg Rice (who handles Double Fine Presents), we were invited to show the game at their event Day of the Devs during GDC 2018, where they could have a closer look at the game and meet us. Greg knew Plug & Play before and really liked it, and he was curious to see what we’re working on next. Soon after GDC we talked to them again and they proposed to publish «KIDS» under their «Double Fine Presents» label. We were interested in a light partnership, where they mainly help us out with communication/PR and some publishing logistics, so we could fully focus on finishing the game. Thanks to their non-bureaucratic way of doing things we quickly came to terms how our work together would look like.
P.Schwab: How did you fund Kids’ development?
Mario: «KIDS» is primarily an art project, not a commercial product. For that reason, we early on focused on getting funding from institutions that fund projects that are not commercially oriented, like art grants. For the interactive part of «KIDS», the first grant we received was part of the “Call for Transmedia Projects”, initiated by Pro Helvetia and the Federal Office of Culture. Later, SRF and ARTE joined us co-producing «KIDS», by funding a part of it. Additional funds came from the cultural commission of the Canton of Schwyz (where I’m from), the Cultural Foundation of the Canton of Thurgau (where Michael is from), and Migros culture percentage. In addition to all the external money, we also partly self-funded the project. The other parts (Film, Exhibition) of «KIDS» were funded through more specialized grants for film and art.
P.Schwab: How did the launch go?
Mario: We are very happy about how everything goes so far. The game was received well by a broad audience across platforms and regions. We had some nice articles, a good social media buzz, and heard of people who question their life after playing the game.
Currently, we don’t want to share specific sales data, but we can talk about the platform shares. Until now, the platform split is roughly like this: 55% iOS, 35% PC/Mac/Linux (Steam & itch.io), 10% Android (Google Play & Amazon). For iOS, it helped a lot that Apple featured the game worldwide at launch. The most important countries are USA and China (where it’s available on iOS and Steam only), which together account for a bit more than half the units sold.
P.Schwab: What are your tips for someone who wants to create games and make a living with it?
Mario: Do something different. Keep it small. Try getting funding. Take time to properly finish the project. Be selective about advice.