Congratulations again to Double Fine and Tim Schafer, who have officially raised over one million dollars in a single day for a new game – through Kickstarter.
The reasons for taking the funding direct to the public were simple – Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert, who are famous for games like the early Monkey Islands, Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango – wanted to make an adventure game again, in much the same vein as the past. But when they went to secure funding for the project, apparently many laughed at the duo. Yes, people with that good a track record in the games industry, masters of the adventure game, were laughed at for thinking of reviving it.
But the public clearly want the return of it, if the Kickstarter page is anything to go by. In a single day, fans and supporters alike managed to raise over a million dollars for this project – and it shows absolutely no signs of slowing down, either. Tim Schafer had hoped originally to raise $400,000 to fund the project, and now there is a huge chunk of funding there for them to enjoy.
So, what are the implications?
Well, first, I think there are inherent risks with asking the public to fund games development, chiefly among which is because not all projects in the industry are completed. One of the worst-kept secrets in the industry is wastage – in terms of talent, money and licencing, and this can be written off in some places around the world in a business sense. When you ask the public to fund your project, you won’t have that luxury – most if not all the funding will be scrutinised, and the end product will be judged accordingly – moreso when so many have invested their money into its completion.
But that can also be a good thing. The public obviously want games like Maniac Mansion and Grim Fandango back – these are timeless classics, games that just are and forever will be – and if the traditional lines of finance are cut off because people don’t want to risk investing, then the public – who are the consumers at the end of the chain – can provide a far more reliable and sensible gauge of what it is people want. It cuts off the risk, if ten thousand people donated $100, that’s ten thousand people not only buying the game but funding it too, who will spread the word. It’s marketing genius. It has inherent risks, but is also financially sound at the same time.
What Double Fine have done goes even further than that though. They’ve cut out the traditional financiers – which are usually the publishers or private financiers looking for a share of the profits – which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Without hidden agendas, or greedy corporations hanging over their heads with a fixed release date, this allows a freedom – both professionally and creatively – that few enjoy in the industry. The public will of course expect a good product at the end of it all, but it is their project as well. They are financing it. They have spoken and said, “We want this game!”.
And in a sense, this is the kind of spark that could set the old guard alight. Activision made billions this year – but from a handful of old, faithful projects. They aren’t looking to take creative risks, because the returns aren’t there for them. EA are in some financial doo-doo right now (although that is hardly a surprise with some of their projects and purchases this year!), as are Sony. As purse strings are tightening, the industry trots out a parade of games which, mostly, seem rather much the same old same old. They don’t really ask us what we want – they just sell what sells.
In this sense, what will be sold is a project that people have willingly funded themselves. This will help to create new jobs – for translations, for ports, for work on the project and more – and create new trends that the publishers who have been playing it safe can examine and see working, which may break them from their monotonous recycling habits and have them take a few more creative gambles with their money.
It may also damage them, as if the public are willing to fund certain projects – it cuts them out of a big part of that project. They may find themselves struggling to obtain rights and licences when such things can be largely self-published, direct to the people who have made the project possible.
It’s a glorious idea. And it isn’t all going to be roses – but the potential is there for Kickstarter to be an incredible force for change in the market. We, the consumers, will be given the kind of power and privilege that up until now only the few have enjoyed – to look at a project and ask ourselves if we’d be willing to buy it, and/or fund it. It could be damaging if things go badly. But if all goes well, it could show those turning out an FPS every year that there is money, and hope, in other genres, and we are willing to put our money down up-front to make it possible.
That’s an exciting prospect. Time will tell… but for now, I am putting my money down too. Because hell, the track record from this company and duo should mean that the game we get should be pretty special…