It’s about two weeks into the latest crowdfunding effort for the web series Video Game High School, (VGHS) and co-creator Freddie Wong is feeling optimistic. So far, the Indiegogo campaign has raised more than $300,000 of the $750,000 budget for season three of the CGI-enhanced action-comedy. The series has so far amassed 65 million views on RocketJump.com and YouTube, and is also available on iTunes, Netflix, Xbox and PS3, as well as Blu-ray and DVD.
But if the full $750,000 isn’t raised by the end of the campaign on Feb. 22, it’s no big thing. Wong and his RocketJump partner and VGHS co-creator Matthew Arnold (pictured, right) will still go through with season three.
“We’ve got production financing ready to go, so we’re shooting it March 1, regardless of what happens,” Wong says.
That’s because crowdfunding is just one piece of a VGHS financing puzzle that also includes brand integrations, ad revenue and merchandise deals.
“It’s not like merch or a Netflix or any sort of distribution or secondary market-type of deal is able to carry everything alone on its own shoulders,” Wong says. “All of that stuff meshes together and changes from season to season.”
Although Wong is confident the monetary stars will align, he still doesn’t have a final budget for season three, but he expects the crowdsourced funds will cover a significant portion of post-production costs.
For season two, which cost $1.4 million ($808,341 of which was crowdsourced from some 10,000 backers), VGHS had ad support from Taco Bell and product placement from companies like the makers of The Peregrine gaming glove and Razer, which provided most of the show’s peripherals (keyboards, mice and various other computer-related items). They also cut a deal with the Vitec Group, a maker of tripods, light panels and other video gear.
“They helped us out with some production equipment, so the trade-off is we gave them a lot of behind-the-scenes photos and (made) a little featurette about their stuff,” says Wong of Vitec. “We do our best and work closely with any brand that’s on board to make sure what they do is represented well and they get what they need out of the relationship.”
Last year, the marquee brand integration came from Dodge, which cut a deal with RocketJump to feature their revived Dart model in several episodes. Dodge won’t be back this year, but Wong says they’re currently negotiating automotive and other product integrations for season three that will be announced over the next few weeks.
RocketJump did well with Kickstarter the last two seasons, crowdsourcing upwards of $1 million, but it decided to go with Indiegogo instead this year. Wong says there were three reasons for the change: Indiegogo accepts PayPal, it allows them to embed the campaign on their site, and, unlike Kickstarter, it isn’t all or nothing – the funding doesn’t go away if the monetary goal is not met.
In the past, rewards for VGHS‘s crowdfunders have included the usual T-shirts, posters and DVDs and, for one lucky backer in New Jersey, a hand-delivered box of donuts. This season’s campaign offers more of the same, including a VGHS board game and “Class of 2014” yearbook.
“This time, I’m going to put a little culinary effort into it and bake a cake for someone,” says Wong, noting that reward has already been claimed.
But they’re not all small gifts from the heart — on the campaign, an executive producer credit worth $10,000 has been claimed, as well a producer credit worth $5,000.
As for more traditional investors who expect to be rewarded with a piece of the profits, Wong says they don’t seem very interested in VGHS or online series in general.
“I don’t think the web has the glamour side of it that financing of regular feature films with big name actors [has],” says Wong, who is getting his own taste of glamour on Thursday, Feb. 6, when he joins Felicia Day as the co-host of The 17th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards (a.k.a. “the Oscars of gaming”) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Wong says RocketJump has several feature film projects in development, but it’s not itching to jump into the arms of a major studio.
“We’ve figured out several ways of sustaining our own thing and having full creative control over what we make and the audience we put it out to,” Wong points out, “so it’s not something we’re to give up.”