Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Studios has started a Kickstarter campaign that looks to crowdsource, or fund through gamer donations, the development of their next point-and-click adventure game. The intention of the crowdsourcing was to remove publishers from the equation and maintain transparency.
Big games cost big money. Even something as “simple” as an Xbox LIVE Arcade title can cost upwards of two or three million dollars. For disc-based games, it can be over ten times that amount. To finance the production, promotion, and distribution of these massive undertakings, companies like Double Fine have to rely on external sources like publishers, investment firms, or loans. And while they fulfill an important role in the process, their involvement also comes with significant strings attached that can pull the game in the wrong directions or even cancel its production altogether. Thankfully, viable alternatives have emerged and gained momentum in recent years.
The project looks to create a point-and-click adventure within a six-to-eight month period, with the whole process documented by 2 Player Productions and available in video format for those who pledge above $15. For that $15, players will also get the full game code, the PC beta (all via Steam), and access to a discussion community. There are additional bonuses for those who go above that with limited gifts for those who pledge $1,000 or more. One person pledged $10,000 to be able to have lunch with Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert and a tour of the Double Fine offices.
Within eight hours of starting, the project hit the stated goal of $400,000. As of this writing, just over twenty-four hours after starting, there is over $980,000 pledged by a little more than 25,000 backers. There are thirty-three days to go for the project.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Since going live, the campaign has hit $1m with over 26,000 backers – CEB)
Kickstarter is a site whose stated goal is to be the “world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.” Double Fine has been responsible for cult favourites Psychonauts and Stacker, while Schafer’s résumé includes point-and-click classics such as Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango.
Full disclosure: the author of this piece will be pledging $30 to this project.
Analysis: I’m normally not one for fads: for instance, I’ve grown weary of the “indie bundle” wave. Everyone and their dog has their crummy indie game as a part of some sort of “innovative” way to sell video games. It’s grown tired.
This is one trend I hope picks up, and I don’t see myself getting tired of it.
I’ve stated in the past that a large portion of the blame for where the industry is at is in the lack of innovation. More specifically, the steady stream of sequels for boring, staid games with no imagination to them is on the gamers who suck these products up. Yes, a few indie and iOS games get noticed, but eventually, small companies get bigger just by inertia, and they have to change their business habits. Gamevil didn’t go free-to-play because they hate gamers; they went free to play because they’re on the Korean stock exchange and it made financial sense to do so. In short, we keep buying the things that eventually hurt us (e.g. Call of Duty: Elite and EA Season Pass).
So for the public to fund their own games is an amazing idea. This cuts publishers—the EAs, Activisions, and Ubisofts—completely out of the loop. As stated, this also leaves the developers as the owners of their project. They get their funding, more than enough funding with thirty-three days left, and players get their input as well with the understanding that Double Fine is in charge.
This could get ugly potentially if gamers start butting their noses in where they don’t belong. People on message boards demand that games do things their way or else, even if they don’t buy a single thing. I have a feeling it won’t be long until gamers start to say things like, “I donated $X.XX; I want Y and Z”. If that gets bad, I can see Double Fine regretting this experiment. But if things work out, then this is a great thing and will further damage publishers’ influence in the industry, something that I see as being a 100% net gain.