The Inevitable Evolution

26 Sep
September 26, 2012

Introversion have announced that their latest game, Prison Architect, is going into Alpha. As is fashionable (and smart, for some types of games), they’re doing the Alpha Funding.

But they’ve taken it a bit further by integrating a tiered reward system, ala Kickstarter. This is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of thing, but the last I remember had only 2 tiers, a basic and “premium supporter” tier. This goes all the way into Kickstarter territory with a wide range of rewards for all levels and limited slots for certain rewards. No timer that I can see though, which may be key in driving the psychology of Kickstarter. We’ll have to wait and see how effective the model is without that little mental push.

Interesting to see this evolution of the Kickstarter model, with more successful indies taking the model and using it on the individual level, away from the pooled audience of Kickstarter itself. And interesting to see how it turns out. Introversion often post revealing post-mortems on how their development has gone, challenges faced and overcome, stuff that worked for them etc.

I don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand, I’m fine with (certain types of) preorder incentives, alpha funding, collector’s editions and selling merchandise along with the basic product. On the other hand…it feels a bit like a gimmick. And for gimmicks, once people get used to them, you have to escalate things to get people to sit up and take notice again.

Pay-what-you-want indie bundles generated a huge buzz when they started. Now, you see another almost every week. Hell, recently I saw a bundle OF BUNDLES. When a new norm has been established, you have to go further to stand out.

Despite that, I think I still come down on the side of the positive, here. Giving the die-hard supporters avenues (and incentives) to support development is a good alternative to relying on publishers, who prioritize profits over the experience itself. For a developer that has spent the time building up an audience who trusts them and wants to participate, I think it’s a winner. But I also think this is a bandwagon that lots of developers who haven’t done the legwork required are going to jump on and be disappointed.

It certainly is an interesting evolution in drift toward “games as a service”. Game creation as an audience participation sport/show?

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