Can Shutterbug Bring Casual Gamers to Kickstarter?


Jeff Litchford of Idol Minds calls it a coincidence that the Shutterbug Kickstarter is introduced by Lead Cinematic Artist Webb Pickersgill. “He’s just comfortable in front of the camera,” says Litchford, the VP of Production at the veteran Colorado game studio.

That may be true, but Shutterbug looks like a game that artists and photographers will love. You play a wildlife photographer who wanders through exotic locales, taking pictures of butterflies, insects, and other creatures. As your camera skills develop, you’ll upgrade your equipment and collect creatures for your own personal garden.

It’s a simple game, but the lush visuals promise a immersive casual gaming experience. Check out the video and see what I mean:

The Origin of Shutterbug

Shutterbug had an unusual starting point. According to Litchford, the studio usually gets new game ideas by asking staff members for a paragraph describing a character or story idea. “I wanted to do something different,” Litchford said. “I told the team to scour the internet and find an image that speaks to you. They did that, and we got back really amazing pictures.”

How many games start with a humble ladybug?

“The one that grabbed us was a ladybug sitting on a mushroom with a surreal yellow background. The team told me, ‘That’s the picture! That’s the one we pick!’ And I though, ‘Oh, man. How am I going to make a game out of that?’ I was doomed by my own idea.”

As the team puzzled over how to turn a picture of a lady bug into a game, Idol Minds owner Mark Lyons remembered how much he loved Pokémon Snap as a child. The concept for Shutterbug was born.

Teaching Moms to Kickstart

Litchford sees three target audiences for the game: gamers who remember Pokemon Snap, nature photography buffs, and casual gamers who enjoy hidden object and collection games. This last group is the secret weapon of many game companies; my experience is that many of these casual gamers are women aged 35 and up. They don’t get a lot of press in gamer publications, but they are enthusiastic players who spend freely on the games they love.

The tricky part about reaching the casual gamer audience is that until now, Kickstarter funding for computer games has been dominated by hardcore gamers. There are plenty of  fans of action games, platformers, and RPGs, but an offbeat game like Shutterbug is going to have to bring casual gamers to Kickstarter and encourage them to try out a new way of paying for their fun.

“That’s the biggest challenge for this Kickstarter,” Litchford says, but Idol Minds has a plan.

Collection is a key part of the game, as seen in this concept art.

“We’re going outside the traditional gaming press,” he continues. “We’re talking to nature blogs. We’re getting a lot of support from the Butterfly Pavilion,” a Colorado zoo devoted to the care and conservation of insects and other small animals. Idol Minds is also rounding out its strategy with mom blogs and targeted Facebook ads, both tried and true methods of reaching the casual gamer audience.

Once successfully funded, the team is in good shape to hit its June 2016 release date. Idol Minds already has a solid working prototype running on the Unity engine, one of the most powerful and flexible game development systems on the market. The company’s 18 years of experience also means that a lot of problems get solved in advance.

“Our last several games include a tower defense game and a sci-fi strategy game,” Litchford says. “We completed all of them in six to eight months, and they’re all more complex than Shutterbug.”

Doing something different is always risky, but Idol Minds seems to have the skills and preparation it needs to succeed. If the game finds its audience and that audience finds its way to Kickstarter, then it should do well.

Kickstarter launched today and is running through September 10.

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Copyright 2015 The Roaming Designer