You’ve probably heard this story already, unless you live in some strange eastern European country where the internet packets are delivered to your wood cabin by goat-mail. But in case you hadn’t :
Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert put up a Kickstarter project for a new Double Fine Adventure game. The type big publishers won’t fund anymore. Because the genre is ‘dead’. So DF decided to appeal directly to the fans. Their goal was a modest (for a video game budget) $400 000. This would buy a small adventure game produced over 6-8 months + a ‘behind the scenes’ documentary of the process.
Less than 24 hours later, the amount pledged stands at over $1 million. And it’s still going. I wouldn’t be surprised if it reaches $2 million. And, an important thing to note here, the game achieved its basic level of funding goal just through the bottom pledge tiers of $15/$30. Tiers which grant the pledger a free copy of the game/documentary and some little extras. For these fans, the burden is no extra than it would be paying for the game or the collector’s edition once it went on sale.
This is an amazing, game changing thing, in my opinion. Not because it will destroy traditional publishing, no. But because I see this as one of the ways to revitalizing the middle tier of game development. A gap has formed in the game development tiers. Big publishers have looked to fund only games with a massive return on investment, the Call of Duty’s of the world. They don’t see it as worth their time to make smaller games with modest returns. And that is understandable, their goals are not that of an artist, to make a comfortable living creating the art they love. Their goals are to maximize profits for shareholders. As much as we gamers might dislike that mindset, it’s a rational stance to take.
And on the other side you have the growing indie movement. Their problem is the reverse, passion and talent and willingness to take risks, but little funding. So you have this growing gap in the middle, between the massive AAA titles with their hundred+ person teams, and the tiny indies with their 1-10 man teams. The 20-50 person studio has been dying out, and with them the types of games that were profitable for that size developer but which can’t support the bigger fish.
This move hints at a way of bridging that gap. If you can earn your customers’ trust (and that’s what this DF thing has been, a vote of love and trust from fans to Schafer,Gilbert and Double Fine), you can go to them directly to help you bring to market the type of game that is too expensive to fund out of your own pockets, but too small to interest big publishers.
Interesting to read this quote from Gabe Newell 2 years ago. He’s not the only one who thought of it, of course, but it’s cool to see the idea start to become a reality.
Now let’s round up the Looking Glass folks and get them making proper sequels to System Shock 2 and Thief. And Black Isle! 😀