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Skatebird is the feel-good success story of E3

A risky promotional strategy paid off in a big way


Getting attention during the week of E3 can be tricky for even large games, but the developer of Skatebird has somehow managed to get people talking about the game, launched a Kickstarter that has already reached its initial funding goal, and released a demo so fans can try it for themselves.

“I certainly didn’t expect to get this much press traction,” developer Megan Fox, whose previous credits include Spartan Fist, Lego Universe, and the crowdfunded Hot Tin Roof, told Polygon over text.

“I fully expected, at best, to get a little push on the announcement day, then for it to go quiet until after E3. Instead we’re going toe to toe for coverage with like, that Final Fantasy remake? Seriously? News readouts keep being like: BIG SQUARESOFT THING, oh hai little birb, DESTINY, birb again hello, HALO, etc. It’s wild.”

It helps that Skatebird is literally the only skateboarding game discussed at E3; both Skate 4 and Session were no shows. Not that Skatebird was ever meant to compete with the big names in skating games, especially with a concept that focuses on the absurdity of cute birds skating. The Kickstarter had a $20,000 goal, which Fox says will be enough to finish the game, although stretch goals may increase the scope slightly.

“I live in a small town west, over the water, of Seattle, and work out of the second floor of a barn,” Fox stated. “My burn rate is stupid low compared to anyone who lives in a city. It’s also just me doing most of the work — Alex [Price] does the birb, Nathan [Madsen] the music, Anthony Alfonso is creating the sticker art, etc, but outside of those razor sharp bits of asset work, it’s me doing the rest. $20k really was/is enough to finish the game as I wanted, as a result.”

The luxurious barn offices
Megan Fox

Keeping the game small had always been part of the strategy.

“Even with stretch goals, which could push launch more into summer, I want [Skatebird] to stay tight and small,” she said.

I’ve been playing the demo for a few minutes every night after E3 work to relax, and it’s the small details and animations that drive home the fact that this is a bird riding a skateboard that makes the whole thing work so well. It’s an inherently silly idea that’s treated with an outsized amount of respect, and it really does look and feel like that’s a tiny bird on that board doing the best they can to nail tricks and have fun.

And it was that level of polish on the obstacle avoidance that Fox said she was particularly proud of.

“Scoot birb up near a wall, and watch how the lean their butt around it, or lean back until their belly rubs along it,” she explained. “There’s no birb collision involved there, that’s pure raycast math calculating how much birb should lean, tuned juuust right so the belly rubs. That same math accidentally makes it possible to sort of pet the birb.”

This delightful action was an ACCIDENT?!

There is no specific release date for the game yet, and the Kickstarter is still active, with a number of stretch goals remaining. And you can always try the demo, regardless. It’s worth your time; that bird really is doing their best out there, and it shows.

[Disclosure: One of the stretch goals includes the hiring of Xalavier Nelson Jr., who is a frequent Polygon contributor.]

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