Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crowdfunding gets its game on

(My daughter Astrid brought this to my attention. I found it interesting and asked her to write a Post about it. Enjoy!).

On Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 at 8:52 pm, the gaming world and the world of publishing any kind of media tilted ever so slightly on its axis. The main culprits of this shift are a small California based video game developer known as Double Fine productions and almost 50,000 fans and gamers who banded together to make the change.

For those of you not familiar with the gaming world, game publishing is a risky and unwieldy beast. Games, especially big name mainstream titles, take a lot of money to make and most publishers would never want to back a project doesn’t have 100% certainty of paying back the funds they’ve dropped into it.

Right here is where Kickstarter steps in. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Kickstarter is a webpage that brings creative projects out into the public eye and allows people to crowd-fund them. Projects range form comic books, to documentaries. The amounts requested vary small $1,000 projects to much larger projects up in the hundred thousand range. The projects don’t receive the funds until the goal has been met and once the project is complete, depending on how much you donated, you might get a sweet little bonus for helping them out. It’s a small, but useful set-up for creative people to be supported by the internet at large.

So when Double Fine Productions decided to ask for $400,000 in order to produce an old school point-and-click adventure game and a documentary about its creation, they didn’t expect much. Point-and-click adventure games are considered a ‘dead’ genre in the games industry. According to the industry, these games don’t sell, so in turn they don’t get funded or get made. At best, the company was hoping to barely reach their goal and be able to produce a game, realistically, they barely expected to make $2,000.

But the internet has a mind of its own and once word got out, things got off the ground in a very big way. Within 8 hours, the Double Fine Adventure project had reached its intended goal of $400,000. In 24, they’d climbed all the way up to $1,000,000. That’s one million going towards a game for a ‘dead’ genre, a genre the mainstream doesn’t care to even touch.

At the time of writing, there’s still almost a month left to continue to fund the project and once the money is assigned, Double Fine is looking at almost $1,800,000. And that number is still climbing.

Admittedly, a lot of the success of the project can be attributed to Double Fine’s impressive pedigree (Founder Tim Schaffer is a huge name in the point-and-click gaming world, and their staff is a veritable all-star lineup for this sort of project) and its loyal fan following (who are still waiting patiently for Psychonauts 2, if anyone out there is listening).

But despite that the impact of this on the gaming community, and any creative medium, is almost mind-boggling. Kickstarter had already been funding smaller independent projects, but this proves that it can be done at a much larger scale. It could open up a new avenue of pay-to-create media that would take a lot of gamble and guesswork out of a normally outrageously risky project. Double Fine proved that if there is an audience, funding can be found, and it changes the basic way we can think about something being a risk, or sellable, or viable, or anything. The internet is changing the world, my friends, and I like the way this looks.

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