Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Kickstarting Games - What Will and Won't(?) Work

 Now that Double Fine has shown Kickstarting to be viable, who's going to be trying it in the future, and who shouldn't be?

Coming off the heels of talking about Double Fine's terrific success at raising the money they needed to fund Double Fine Adventure through Kickstarter I think that right now there's a certain sense of headiness in the community; an undercurrent of 'someone finally did it' and 'this proves that this can work' seems to be the pervading tones in terms of this project right now. I'm not here to disagree with those statements by any means, especially in regards to the success of Double Fine which has been simply astonishing. What I am going to say though is that this needs to be tempered by a lot of factors before everyone rushes to join the bandwagon, and some of these factors are of course more important than others.

Perhaps most obvious at the moment is the fact that the project simply isn't done yet. Double Fine is set to get a lot of funding, but it still remains to be said what kind of final product they'll be able to put out. This isn't actually a huge concern given the staff behind it and the general circumstances, but if this doesn't turn out well -- perhaps even exceptional -- then it's going to dissuade a lot of potential interested parties from further testing the water.

That still isn't as big of a concern as two important factors: recognition and genre. It's something born of circumstance in a way, but honestly if this project weren't being backed by Tim Schafer then unless there was someone equally as recognizable at the helm I think it'd be pretty safe to say that it would not be getting this kind of response. To writ: other games have been funded through Kickstarter: small projects like some of the higher calibre flash titles like one might see on Newgrounds or Armour Games; the developers of those titles are of course asking for much more modest sums, perhaps at most five or ten thousand in a lot of cases. Someone asking for four hundred thousand dollars is something of an entirely different magnitude. Certainly even Double Fine's own expectations have been shattered in terms of response, but I think that this is more of an exception than something that we should honestly come to expect to happen every single time.

Like I mentioned above genre also plays a huge role here. The fact that this game is a point and click adventure title means that in comparison to a lot of the other types of games out there that it doesn't need nearly as much funding. That's not to say that a game like this can be made for pennies, that'd be ludicrous. But considering the multi-million dollar endeavours that some titles have become it's not surprising to say that I very much doubt that the next Call of Duty or Resident Evil or Uncharted will be using this method of funding.

Double Fine has essentially opened up the communities eyes to this. It's quite possible that independent developers will have a fair amount of success with funding in this matter. I could see guys like Team Meat or Mojang using this kind of funding application to great success, but I think that it's an extremely niche market: it's something that relies on having enough recognizably that people will want to fund what you put out even without a guarantee that it will actually be good, but it's also something that has to be small enough to be realistically funded in such a way. That being said though, this kind of scope also allows a development team or even a publisher to sort of feel out just how much of a market there is for a certain title or genre, perhaps allowing them to consider it less of a risk in terms of giving their funding to it as well. It wouldn't be out of the question to see partial funding for even some bigger titles come out down the road, with incentives given to those that feel brave enough to pitch their wallet into the ring early.

Where this ultimately goes is anyone's guess at this point, but it's certainly made the potential futures of some titles a lot more interesting, that's for sure.

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