Sunday Thoughts: Crowd Funding

Perhaps the biggest story this week was Double Fine’s Kickstarter campaign. The aim was ambitious, to fund the creation of a point-and-click adventure entirely via Kickstarter. Although their target was set at $400,000 it seemed like they might make it over the course of the 35 days allotted, particularly as chipping in just $15 gets you a copy of the game.

Of course if you’ve been keeping up with this story you’ll know that they’ve raised a little more than their goal. In fact with 30 days still to go they’re sitting at $1,621,474 as I write this. Actually between loading the page and writing that sentence they’d raised another $418, for a total of $1,621,892.

[drop]That is quite frankly not only an absolutely insane amount of money but also a ridiculous rate for it to be climbing at. I would be surprised if even Tim Schafer expected this when they launched the Kickstarter campaign; to beat their target by so much so early in the campaign is one hell of an achievement.

I can understand why Double Fine needed to raise the cash, they’re an established developer and they’ve got bills to pay. They can’t take the approach of small indie teams, working in their spare time for nothing or very little until the game is released. Even other games who gather funding via Kickstarter have much lower, more achievable goals. Typically these other projects set their goals in the tens of thousands of dollars, and a quick browse of Kickstarter puts the next most funded game at $171,805 (which is still pretty remarkable given its goal was just $13,000).

Although obviously Double Fine are more than ecstatic about getting their project funded, I can’t imagine that it’s quite as special as it is when an absolutely tiny indie game reaches its goal. That’s not meant to take anything away from Double Fine, they’re getting to create a game that they’d likely find it exceptionally difficult to produce if they went through traditional funding routes. However, they’d have other projects they could work on if their Kickstarter campaign hadn’t come through; in fact it seems like they’ll be working on other projects whilst their point-and-click title is in production.

Beyond Double Fine’s project though it’ll be interesting to see if other more established developers to it for these kind of projects. There are surely titles at just about every studio that they’d love to work on if funding could be secured, but without evidence that there’s public appetite for the game it must be tricky to pitch it to developers in an increasingly competitive market.

The bigger question is whether or not publishers will start using this to judge the interest for their smaller titles. It doesn’t seem like they’ll use similar methods to fund the next Call of Duty or Battlefield, it’s utterly unnecessary and just a little greedy for something that is almost certain to earn significantly more than its development costs.

Even a title like Mirror’s Edge some how seems a little too large to entirely crowd fun, but taking early pre-orders for games has some potential. That does throw up significant issues for brick and mortar retailers if publishers start taking direct pre-orders for physical copies of their games, and is one of the reasons I wouldn’t like to see any large franchises take this route.

[drop2]However, there’s potential with smaller titles, although I still think it’ll come from the developers side. Going to a publisher with a pitch for a game is all well and good, but imagine going with a certain amount of sales and funding already guaranteed; any publisher that ignores that as a metric just seems foolish.

You might say that if a developer can raise funding that way why go with a publisher at all, but I really don’t want to see publishers removed from the game development equation all together. They still have an important role to play, and I’m not convinced it would be possible to crowd fund a physically distributed title (and that’s ignoring the problem of getting it on shelves).

Double Fine certainly aren’t the first developer to go this way, but they’ve made the most noise and attracted attention to the area in general. Even if we don’t see a huge take off of established developers funding games this way we can hope that Double Fine’s campaign will draw attention to indie titles seeking crowd funding through Kickstarter or similar services. I really think that can only be a good thing.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

12 Comments

  1. I could be a way to gauge people’s interest in localised games.

  2. If they’ve beat their goal by well over a million (and rising) I’m wondering what happens to that excess cash. Is it just considered a donation? Is it invested in the company? Given to charity?

  3. @sabbat7001

    They’re just growing the game’s budget to suit, so better graphics, better cut-scenes, movies, better voice actors & all the other stuff that eats your money up.

    • This is what’s awesome about this project, and many Kickstarter projects. If they get noticeably beyond their budget the quality and ambition of the project will just go up and up, because they have more funding and a known bigger market.

      $400,000 was the minimum budget for the project to be started, and they’re now approaching and almost certain to pass the $2 million budgets that Stacking, Costume Quest and the other ‘Amnesia Weekend’ games had, according to Tim’s twitter account. So the project should just get better and better!

      • more money also means that the game will be released on more platforms.

      • No way. I would so dig this on PS3!

  4. I need to remind myself to get the game!

  5. This is a really interesting scheme, and by God do we need another Mirror’s Edge!

  6. ” but I really don’t want to see publishers removed from the game development equation all together. They still have an important role to play”

    heh. Heheh. Publishers usually screw things through marketing and whatever else they do. Many games that are unique have sold poorly at the hands of developers who don’t understand anything else apart from their accountants and market segmentation. Along with the Hollywood production company, I think the end of the road is near, and publishers will start to suffer.

    • at the hands of publishers*, >_>

Comments are now closed for this post.